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DVD Review: Intelligence Season 1

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With the writers’ strike going on in the United States, viewers started looking for other shows to replace the plethora of reruns that plagued the evening/weekend viewing landscape. BBC shows got picked up for early American runs as well as being brought over for the first time. I ended up watching a lot of new shows myself, which makes viewing time even more complicated because now I’m trying to watch even more television than ever.

I’m thankful for the DVD market. It keeps me sane and makes DVR choices easier now that new shows are airing again. My home television library is burgeoning, though. With so much television hitting the entertainment shelves, I know I appreciate it when someone points out a winner to me, so I wanted to address Intelligence, a Canadian cop show with ongoing stories.

The other big market that’s pushed into the United States belongs to Canada. As it turns out, Canadian TV (where a lot of successful American shows are being shot) is capable of producing slickly made crime and science fiction shows.

Intelligence is part of the cream of the crop. The movie pilot came out in November, 2005 and the regular series was slotted for 13 episodes a year thereafter. The show ran for two years and was canceled in March of 2008, leaving a lot of unhappy fans behind.

An ensemble show of cops and criminals forced into collusion against the world terrorist threat, Intelligence offered some of the best human relationships that BBC’s Spooks (called MI5 in the United States) and twisting setbacks that 24 can offer. I’ve only watched the first season and will be picking up the second, but I can’t believe Canadian Broadcasting made the decision to axe this show. It had everything a crime/drama television fan could want. Star Trek’s franchise shows didn’t have anything on the plot potential and constant, threatened realignment of main characters that Intelligence had working for it.

The kernel of the story revolves around the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s decision to recruit informants within criminal branches to keep an eye on possible terrorist threat. This is the perfect setting for uneasy alliances, treachery, and sudden violence. I thought it was the perfect television formula, like when Jack Bauer has to use sources outside government agencies or when the Federation first started teaming up with the Klingons.

The two principle characters are Mary Spaulding (Klea Scott), the director of the CSIS’s Asian Pacific Region. She’s hardworking and loyal, a woman in dangerous territory because she’s dealing with people who take care of their own interests first. Not only that, but her immediate second, Ted Altman (Matt Frewer in a totally cold and menacing role), would cut her throat immediately in order to get her position. Spaulding comes from a long line of military-oriented people, though, and she’s extremely bright and capable, and willing to make an on-the-fly decision when the wheels come off of an operation. Her personal life is a mess, though, but that’s what endeared her to me.

On the flip side of the coin, Jimmy Reardon (Ian Tracey) is a career criminal. His hands are dirty and bloody. Reardon is a fair-minded man for a crook and has his own code of honor. But he will also kill anyone or destroy anything that menaces his family. But, as it turns out, his family is also his Achilles’ heel. His brother Michael is a drug user who just can’t quite kick the habit. His ex-wife Francine is also a coke user and falls off into the deep end on a regular basis. There’s also a lot of friction with Jimmy’s business partner, Ronnie, who gets increasingly unhappy with the deal Jimmy’s struck with the police. Jimmy feels like the real deal to me. He’s quick and vicious when he needs to be, but he takes his time when he can. I think his character is deep and layered, and I really love watching him get squeezed by family, the police, or the other gangs trying to take over his turf.

The ensemble cast provides a constant draw that I enjoy a lot. The odds and alliances continually shift throughout this first season. Spaulding and Reardon end up having to depend on each other during times when each comes under fire, but they don’t trust each other, and they resent the fact that they need each other. I like the fact that both of them are plagued by family problems because it gives them common ground to play on and earn my sympathies.

As this first season progresses, Reardon has to fight through family problems as well as increasing opposition from a local motorcycle gang (the Disciples) that is trying to take over his drug business. Spaulding continually gets whipsawed by CSIS as well as Altman and other police agents that don’t like her or want her out of the way because she’s a woman.

One of the amusing things for me as an American was the presentation of American intelligence agencies and the DEA being presented in a somewhat negative light. We like to think of ourselves as superheroes out to rid the world of evil. We often forget that outside of our country we’re often viewed as interfering busybodies or opportunists.

If you haven’t seen or heard of Intelligence, the first season is out on DVD now. Hopefully the second season will be along soon. If you want a smart, savvy show, Intelligence fits the bill quite nicely and will deliver hours of viewing pleasure.

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