There are some new shows where you don’t expect much, and then get a pleasant surprise (like Almost Human), and others you expect a lot from, and are disappointed by (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). Then there are shows you don’t expect to be great, but have enough promising elements that you figure, how bad could it be? This is where Intelligence seemed to fall for most. Like many, the big draw was Josh Holloway (Lost), as well as a subversion of the intelligent computer formula with that of a computerized human. While expectations might not have been really high for the series, the reality fell short of the mark. But it’s only a pilot … hit the jump for more.
Pilots are tricky — you have to hook your audience, explain who everyone is, and essentially set up the reason for your entire series while also providing a workable weekly plot. On broadcast networks, the ante is especially high. Intelligence took this challenge, and went crazy with it. Its premiere felt more like a finale, and undercut the major point of its existence. A little too early for that, guys.
Let’s back up: Intelligence is about Gabriel Vaughn (Holloway), a man who has been implanted with a chip that basically gives him Google Glass in his brain (more on that in a bit). This mentally-weaponized human is now the world’s biggest secret, and the United States’ biggest asset. He’s overseen by Lilian Strand (Marg Helgenberger), who is the director of the U.S. Cyber Command. Lilian hires ex-Secret Service Agent Riley Neal (Meghan Ory) as a kind of babysitter / protector for Gabriel (in a role that feels somewhat like Watson to Sherlock on Elementary), though not necessarily as a love interest — she’s very outspoken about helping him find his on-the-run wife, Amelia.
That was really enough for a pilot episode, but Intelligence took things further by dropping us in the middle of some intense action. We hardly even meet Gabriel before we’re told all about his hero-status, while also being reckless, insubordinate and unpredictable (naturally…).
The show starts out relying way too much on exposition, and yet, we don’t really get a sense of who Gabriel is or what his abilities are. For most of the episode, all he seems to be able to do is essentially use an NSA database to read everyone’s emails and hack into their Facebook. The facial recognition software is helpful, but why doesn’t he have the ability to transmit anything he uncovers except by traditional means? Someone get this guy an encrypted WiFi network, please.
Another odd thing is that we’re shown immediately the limitations of Gabriel’s powers. Because he essentially has Google as a brain, he apparently also possesses its (questionable) quality of translations, when he mistranslates an important clue from the Chinese attackers, and Riley has to correct him. Nevermind where or when she became fluent in Chinese, someone has to be, right? Shouldn’t it be the super-brain, though?
The most baffling part of all is that there are pains taken early to show that Gabriel is one of a kind, then that’s systematically blown to bits. The doctor/scientist tells the Chinese that the chip can only work on a person with a certain genetic mutation. “Gabriel was a gift,” he says, dreamy-eyed. “We have a girl with that mutation,” the Chinese intelligence officer tells him almost immediately, breaking the spell. So much for that.
But then things don’t go quite as planned with the second chip, surely to show us again that Gabriel is special, and his situation cannot be replicated (he also doesn’t seem to have any issues integrating with this chip and its software — there seem to be no downsides, another suggestion of his perfect-match role). Yet, the episode ends with there being, potentially, another super-brained individual. So right off the bat our hero has a twin. What’s so special about him, then?
Intelligence‘s first episode was a mess, and the dialogue was disappointedly rote and stilted. The show has some potential to get better, even though it’s off to the rockiest of starts. It also lacks what Almost Human — its natural competition — capitalizes on so beautifully: humor. Josh Holloway provided great humor and, later, empathy on Lost, but he is not used for that effect here at all. That, or his attempts are drowned out by the dour natures and humorless faces around him. We’ll see if that gets fixed.
Episode Rating: C-
— Programming Note: Intelligence will be moving to its regular time, Mondays at 10 p.m., starting next week.
— Did anyone else recognize that forest from the beginning? I absolutely swear it was a set used on Battlestar Galactica, in one of their raids on a planet.
— Any show now that starts out talking about the Nazis and the Doomsday Project is immediately going to remind me of Zero Hour, and that is not a good thing.
— For those comparing this with Chuck, I wouldn’t.
— Riley is clearly going to complicate the Gabriel / Amelia love plot, isn’t she.
— I think we all could guess that Amelia was not dead nor really a traitor, but the fact that that all came up and was said out loud in this first hour was really unnecessary.