The best thing about CBS’s new drama “Intelligence” is that Josh Holloway is back on TV. The charismatic actor who spent six seasons playing “Sawyer” on “Lost” is Gabriel, an intelligence agent with a supercomputer microchip in his head. The implant means that Gabriel can access any data, anywhere, from the internet to telephones and satellites. His ability to hack into all global information systems makes him both a powerful weapon and a target so Secret Service agent Riley Neal (Meghan Ory) is assigned to protect him. While the weekly action centers on their missions to protect the United States from its enemies, the real conflict is between technology and humanity. At least, it should be. The problem with “Intelligence” is that it’s playing dumb. It’s missing an opportunity to develop a promising premise by relying on simplistic bad guys and by giving Holloway little to do outside the role of action hero.
While some of the action on “Intelligence” is entertaining, in one scene Gabriel launches himself at the driver of a jeep by jumping feet first through one side of the car and landing on the other, the stunts are one of two things Holloway is given to do. The second thing is standing in a space and looking around with an expression of intense focus. This is to portray Gabriel’s ability to “render” data. In other words, he can create a scene (a shootout, for example) in his mind from all the information available, freeze it in time and walk through it as if it was actually in front of him—a virtual evidence wall. It’s not a bad special effect but after awhile the “walk-throughs” feel repetitive.
Gabriel’s boss at the cyber-security agency is Lillian Strand (Marg Helgenberger), who often sees the tech before she sees the man. Her primary motivation is to protect the chip so she conflicts with Gabriel when he favors emotion over logic. Gabriel, the supercomputer agent, doesn’t always follow protocol, because Gabriel, the man, is unpredictable.
If Strand is Gabriel’s mother figure, his father figure is Dr. Shenendoah Cassidy (John Billingsley), the scientist who created the technology. There is even sibling rivalry in the form of Cassidy’s son Nelson (PJ Byrne) who is sometimes jealous of his father’s relationship with Gabriel. So far, the show hasn’t taken this to any sinister levels but it could be an interesting way to develop the plot outside of predictable bad guys.
Riley’s role in this “family” is to remind everyone, including Gabriel, that he is more than a walking computer. Their partnership is developing into a friendship which allows him to be a person rather than a technology. The Gabriel/Lillian/Riley interactions are the closest the show gets to exploring the man/machine dynamic. But, they lose much of their impact because the cookie cutter villains take up most of the story line.
The smartest thing that “Intelligence” can do is refuse to dumb down its plots and give actor Josh Holloway a chance to do what he does best—use his natural charisma to explore what happens when man becomes machine.
“Intelligence” is on Mondays at 10 p.m. EDT on CBS.