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DVD Review: Intelligence – Season Two

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When we last left Jimmy Reardon (Ian Tracey), at the end of the first season of Intelligence, the Vancouver drug boss and family man was in a bit of a pickle. Standing in the middle of a Seattle roadhouse with a disabled gun, surrounded by American DEA agents, his wife and daughter taken into custody, our anti-hero was definitely not in a happy place. Fortunately for the second season, James escapes this carefully constructed ambush, it does however take him about four episodes to return to business as usual following the incident though. First, of course, there's the tiny matter of getting smuggled back into Canada and keeping the Americans from extraditing him on a pair of trumped-up murder charges.

While Jimmy struggles to get back to business at the Chickadee Club, his handler and counterpart in the law enforcement community Mary Spalding (Klea Scott) has her own worries. Promoted to head the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service, the ambitious policewoman finds the politics of her new position even more treacherous than undercover drug work. Both our leads face dangerous incursions from American interlopers: for Jimmy, it's American drug dealers eager to wrest the Vancouver pot selling market from the Canadians; for Mary, it's a shady financial group evocatively named Blackmire that is working to eradicate the U.S./Canada border for its own duplicitous ends.

The plotlines merge as Jimmy, in his ongoing efforts to "go legit," becomes involved in an offshore banking set-up that the Blackmire Group is utilizing for money laundering. The imperialistic American drug dealers turn out to have connections to the CIA, while the primary player in Blackmire, George Browne, none-too-coincidentally also happens to be a "retired CIA agent." To learn more about the Group, Mary recruits an escort named Julianna (Pascale Hutton) to cozy up to Browne. Unfortunately, Julianna proves to be far less stable as an informant than Jimmy. Both Mary and her new second-in-command Martin (Eugene Lipinski) are forced to baby and manipulate the émigré informant — as they also try to shield her identity from the way-too-curious American agents.

As with its first season, Intelligence devotes a lot of time to parsing the shifting allegiances within its two shadowy realms. Jimmy and Mary both align with men who were actively working against them in season one: in Jimmy's case, the threat of the Americans has him allying with brutal biker dealer Dante Ribiso (Fulvio Cecere); for Mary, it involves promoting snaky alcoholic copper Ted Altman (the ever-watchable Matt Frewer) into her old position, even after Altman's repeated efforts to undermine her chance at a promotion. The strategy seems to bring both former enemies in line, though we certainly don't trust either of them to not betray their "friends" when given the opportunity.

Writer/creator Chris Haddock continues to balance his convoluted espionage storylines with the personal lives of an expanding family of cops and criminals. Jimmy's borderline ex-Francine (Camille Sullivan) continues to give him grief, especially after he hooks up with a younger woman. Chickadee Club manager Ronnie (John Cassini) learns he's going to be a parent alongside one of his dancers, though his happiness is tempered by the fact that he's lied to the lady about his divorce going through. The one M.I.A. player proves to be Jimmy's screw-up brother Mike (Bernie Coulson), who basically stays out of the story once he's helped Jim cross the border. The guy finally does something right, and he gets shoved out of the picture.

Much as David Simon's The Wire moved beyond its initial drug-focus to incorporate city politics, urban gentrification, union corruption, and the struggle in inner-city schools, Haddock pushes the boundaries of his story into broader areas. The sinister Blackmire Group, we learn, is invested in eliminating the border between Canada and the U.S., with an eye toward gaining control of Canada's fresh water rights. At one point in the series, we see Mary reading a report entitled "The War Over Water," and it's later revealed that the group has purchased several prominent Canadian politicos to promote this process of "deep integration." It would have been interesting to see where the show would have taken this provocative plotline in its next season, but, unfortunately, the Canadian Broadcast Company, citing poor ratings, refused to renew the show for a third outing.

Smartly acted (Lipinski's deceptively soft-voiced handler Martin particularly comes into his own this season) and meticulously scripted, Intelligence is the kind of ambitious, complex adult crime drama that garners critical plaudits and a fiercely loyal fan base without ever quite grabbing the big ratings. Acorn Media is promoting its season two 12-episode boxed set as the series' "concluding episodes," though it's clear from the way that Haddock winds up his final violent entry (tellingly titled "We Were Here Now We Disappear") that he had much more story to tell. The set also contains a series of behind-the-scenes featurettes, character descriptions and actor filmographies (I forgot Klea Scott had a regular role on Millenium!), but, unfortunately, carries on the first set's practice of not including closed captioning for its sporadically muttery dialog. Still, that's what the DVD remote is for, eh?

Back when I reviewed the first set, there was word in the air that Haddock had interest from Fox for an Americanized version of Intelligence. As much as I enjoy this series — and would love to know where a third season would've taken us — I'd hate to see the characters taken out of Vancouver. The specificity of its Northern setting is a much a part of Intelligence as troubled Baltimore was to The Wire. Here's hoping Haddock is some day given another opportunity to take us into Vancouver's particular urban landscape.

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About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.
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