Intelligence episode 1 review: Pilot

Review Caroline Preece 9 Jan 2014 - 07:00

Is new CBS sci-fi series, Intelligence, simply Chuck without the laughs? Here's Caroline's review of the pilot...

This review contains spoilers.

1.1 Pilot

Intelligence, the new CBS series starring Josh Holloway as a volatile government agent with a chip in his head, will inevitably be compared to Chuck. So, getting it out of the way, how does it compare to Chuck? Not favourably. Once you get past the shock that CBS – a US network that has previously treated genre telly with outright disdain – has made a show with any sci-fi shadings at all (I blame Under the Dome), it becomes clear that this is just another bland procedural with a familiar face, strident patriotic stance and an uninteresting soon to be will they/won’t they partnership at its core. It’s Chuck without the laughs, or the interesting characters.

As far as I can gather with just one hour to work with, the central theme of Intelligence rests on the idea that, rather than robots being more like people a la this season’s Almost Human, mankind will end up making people more like robots. That’s pretty nifty on paper, and it’s a shame that it isn’t backed up by a lot of smart ideas in the episode itself. Holloway is Gabriel Vaughn, an enhanced super-agent barely introduced before he’s handed over to his new handler, a reluctant Riley Neal (played by Meghan Ory), and he’s already pretty comfortable with his various cerebral enhancements when we meet him.

That makes a change from the usual obligatory origin story, but the point of putting a story on television is usually so you get to play with more time. It feels as if a big chunk of backstory is missing from Intelligence and, as a result, I felt myself leaning more towards Riley than I did to Gabriel. Josh Holloway is the big selling point here, with fan favour still hanging on from Lost and a complete lack of exposure in the intervening years, so it’s shame that, right now, his character just isn’t very interesting. All we have to go on are his feelings towards his wife who may or may not have turned, and may or may not be alive, and that probably isn’t going to be enough.

Otherwise, his performance is just watered-down echoes of Sawyer and, as I’m sure some people can’t think of anything they’d rather watch than ‘Sawyer With a Chip in His Head: The Series’, for that section of the audience this pilot works just fine. There are some cool set-pieces – most notably in the opening sequence – and the potential for many more as the series continues, and I get the impression that Intelligence isn’t going to bother getting philosophical about the meaning of being human and the slow, creeping world-domination of technology. It’s going to be a charismatic spy shooting people and strolling around his mental evidence wall each week – and I guess that’s fine.

It’s light and fun and quippy and, while that may turn a huge section of the target audience (the target audience being sci-fi geeks and not your typical crime procedural guy) off from the start, there’ll be a million more gagging for a broad, case-of-the-week action thriller that includes a genre hook they can latch on to. If there was ever a sign of geek culture seeping into the mainstream, then just look at the difference between how Intelligence pitches itself as opposed to Chuck (there’s that comparison again) or any other given spy-fi series in years gone by.

I, for one, would hope Intelligence has intentions slightly beyond what it demonstrated in this first episode, but I’m not holding my breath. It could well become as smart and entertaining as CBS’ other genre offering, Person of Interest, or it could just offer up an hour of action heroes saving the world with high-tech gadgets every week. With a little more meat on the characters, Intelligence has potential but, otherwise, it’s a concept we’ve seen executed better elsewhere. It’s popcorn TV, if there even is such a thing, and a show specifically designed to tickle your fondness for sci-fi without taxing your brain too much.

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It wasn't bad, but it was more than a little heavy on the cliché (in the dialogue especially). And I could have done without Riley being established as an exceptionally capable agent (with the story about how she took out four guys protecting the president's daughter) - and was then immediately reduced to a standard damsel in distress twice in the first episode alone.

With regard to the Chuck comparisons, I agree there are similarities. But by the same thinking it could be argued that Chuck was just another version (no pun intended) of the earlier Jake 2.0. Particularly after the 'I know Kung fu' finale to season two and the show's considerably less impressive latter 3 years.

Well it's the Pilot, it could improve. But still, it's just "Chuck" or the failed "Jake 2.0" if you are very blunt about it. Just like "The Mentalist" is actually "Psych" Typically both "Chuck" and "Psych" where aired on NBC channels (NBC itself and USA) and "The Mentalist" and now "Intelligence" on CBS.

I am so glad you started out with a Chuck comparison because when I first started seeing the promos, My immediate though was oh, its a non-funny chuck.

It wasn't a great start... rushed the origins of most of them... he's lost his wife to terrorists, she's a by the books secret agent with a rebellious past, the boss is straight out of the 80's balls of brass and no real family life so takes it out on the leading man.


come on, its better than the tomorrow people...

Did anyone notice that Riley's tragic and mysterious past was pretty much the same as Kate from Lost? Her parents seperated when she was young and her mothers new partner was abusive, and she was driven to kill him to save herself and her mother. The main differences are that (at least so far as we know) young Riley wasn't blamed by her mother and driven to running from the law for he rest of her life. Maybe if Kate had turned herself in the courts would have sealed her record and she could have got a job protecting the President too.

Just another story about spooks and agents with yet another male lead. Boring. How about a series where the dissidents and activists are the heroes, not the villains (I cannot believe that even Bridge 2 plays this demonising of alternative view points game)? Well, that wouldn't suit the powers that be, would it?

I couldn't really get into this from the very start. Getting a bit tired of the maverick who doesn't play by the rules military type figure.

Why the hell would a secret government organisation with unimaginable resources not properly vet the person that they put this incredible piece of technology in? A better story would be to have a straight laced, toe the line, sort of character that is given this huge responsibility and is forced to make increasingly difficult decisions before he can no longer play by the rules. That's a believable story with some character progression. This was just another tired, run of the mill procedural.

Also, this guy has all sorts of processing power and access to satellites etc but he can't call for back up when he is kidnapped? Jeeze

I'm a big marg fan but the show is awful

I can't get over the fact that no one remembered the chip inside the Chinese lady's head!!!! Come on, doc, you put it in her head yourself, which means you did brain surgery. HOW WOULD YOU FORGET THAT!!?? It was so obvious she was gonna wake up, and now the Chinese have a potentially more powerful chip with them. And did they really leave that traitor dude alone? He's in the same safe area as the new chip holder and seemed to be just chilling. He has tons of military secrets, and he's just a traitorous asshole! Finally, he also was the one who did the diagnostics on Gabriel when he came back from the mission involving the virus, and he deemed him fit. But keeping in mind that he's actually working for the Chinese, there may be a dangerous computer virus in him. I'm seriously annoyed these major issues weren't mentioned.

I think the show producers were trying to be ironic by calling this show "intelligence". It's perhaps the dumbest "geek" show on tv, how the script even got approval is a wonder and perhaps a more interesting story that the premise of this show.

The ginger lady from CSI only enhanced the "we're pretending like we know what we are doing" vibe.

This is an ugly caricature of sci-fi written by somebody more adept at making daytime tv.

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