Last night's Intelligence had a bit of a video game plot going on: each time the characters thought they'd reached their goal, they were presented with a new challenge. And yet, the fact that it was light on the emotional drama and heavy on the mission made this episode the best yet.
Congratulations, Intelligence, you managed to have an actual mission this week! AND scenes that made Gabriel's chip seem useful. That's a lot of progress for a single episode.
"Secrets of the Secret Service" had Riley and Gabriel going undercover as Secret Service agents assigned to ex-President Finnegan. Finnegan's going to Syria to negotiate for the release of two American journalists being held there. Wait a minute. This sounds familiar.
Anyway, while Finnegan's negotiating with the Syrians, Riley, Gabriel, and that-guy-on-the-team-that-has-no-defining-features are going to the facility where the journalists are being held. Gabriel goes to rescue the journalists, and the chip's usefulness is actually shown! He's tapped into their security system. From there, Gabriel's got a floor plan and has tapped the security camera feeds. You know, the map in the corner of Gabriel's vision made this look even more like a video game.
Of course, Gabriel immediately thinks he's tripped an alarm and freaks out, only for Phlox jr. to tell him that he's disabled the alarms. Seriously, they need to cut Gabriel off from home base on these missions. They keep undermining the show's attempts to make him cool.
When Gabriel gets to the cell, he discovers that the people they've been sent to rescue are not really journalists as they are "journalists." They're CIA, which really seems like something that their rescue team should have been told in advance. Anyway, one of the "journalists" pulls the "princess is another castle" card: She tells Gabriel that she refuses to be rescued unless her mission, which is apparently to get a missile systems scientist, is completed. So Gabriel and Riley have to find her before they can rescue the "journalists."
Once they figure out that the scientist they're looking for is an American woman married to a Syrian, they approach her in the market. But, too bad, there's another princess: the scientist wants her daughter rescued, too. Riley gets the daughter by posing as her aunt picking her up from school.
So now they have the daughter and the scientist, so they can get the "journalists." Except, oops, the CIA wasn't trying to rescue the scientist. They were there to assassinate her. And now everyone's on a plane together and the new princess is "save the scientist from the CIA agent threatening her with a knife." Riley takes out the CIA agent and the mission is success.
On any other show, this would feel like one (or more) too many plot twists. But since the last three episodes barely seemed to have plots, this was a welcome change. And this episode was completely devoid of any Gabriel-angst. Instead, we got a little background on Riley.
And that background shows up in the form of Michael Trucco, aka Battlestar Galactica's Anders. He's the guy in charge of Finnegan's Secret Service detail. And he's simultaneously an ex of Riley's and the dude who got a promotion off of her work in the Secret Service. So when he gets stabbed a little and is a bit of a wimp, it feels deserved.
Riley and Anders' history was only touched on in a few scenes, and she was refreshingly over any of the drama. Seriously, she was angry at him, but still capable of rationality and competence. In this episode, Riley is shown to be the anti-Gabriel. Plus, with the "emotional" part of this week's episode being carried by her, Gabriel mostly took a backseat. He was so much better there. So much. Leave him there, please.
Now some assorted notes:
- There was a weird thing early in the episode where they revealed that Finnegan had been the president who authorized the creation/utilization of the chip. Phlox jr makes a "Luke, I am your father" joke. Phlox instantly makes clear that, no, he's Gabriel's father. Get it? He is. Dude, don't be so quick to tell your actual son how important it is that you're credited as some other guy's father.
- Finnegan's Secret Service code name was "Tangent." Given that he and his Secret Service agent were absolutely tangents to the main plot, this is either a stroke of brilliant self-awareness or perfect coincidence.
- Speaking of Finnegan, early in the episode, he seems almost creepily into Gabriel and the chip. This goes nowhere, other than Finnegan inviting Gabriel to play golf with him later.
- The look Marg Helgenberger gave Phlox jr. when he bragged about taking out the alarm Gabriel set off was great.
- The CIA totally fucked up this whole thing, and yet CyberCom is the one punished by having to include the CIA in everything. Because the President's worried that Gabriel won't be controllable. I love that they salvaged the CIA's operation, and yet they end up punished.
This episode took all its cues from video games. Its plot was essentially based on a video game convention. Riley's back story was essentially a bunch of easily skippable cut scenes. Gabriel's chip essentially makes him see everything as a video game HUD. And HQ apparently has access to communication technology that cannot be cut, even when they're in DC and the team's in a secret prison in Syria. They act as the pop-up tips you get on a tutorial level. You know what? This show should seek a second life as a video game. It's not like it could do worse than it's doing as a TV show.