The best new television crime drama since HBO's The Wire came and went before many viewers south of the 49th parallel even heard of it. That show, originally aired by the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, was Intelligence. The series began airing in the summer of 2006, but was not renewed upon the conclusion of its second season. Fortunately, the pilot and first season are being released in a DVD box set by Acorn Media, with the final season hopefully to follow.
Intelligence was an innovative hybrid that combined the best elements of organized crime dramas like The Wire and Sopranos with the best of intelligence agency dramas like 24 and MI-5. The show focused on an uneasy alliance between two figures on opposite sides of the law in Vancouver, British Columbia: Jimmy Reardon (Ian Tracey) a third-generation, crime boss trying to hold his syndicate together against an onslaught of rivals until he can go completely legitimate; and, Mary Spalding (Klea Scott), head of Vancouver's Organized Crime Unit (OCU), who needs to recruit major underworld intelligence assets in order to secure the job as the next head of west coast operations of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS, pronounced see-sis).
Reardon and Spalding have plenty of enemies that want to see them fail. Reardon's criminal enterprises, especially marijuana trafficking and money laundering, are under pressure from a violent biker gang, the Disciples. Spalding has rivals within the government that want to see her fail; some for the sake of career advancement, others for reasons more sinister. Against these enemies, Spalding recruits Reardon as a confidential informant, protecting his operations and squeezing his competitors in exchange for intelligence to help her disrupt her enemies and solidify her position.
Series creator/writer/producer Chris Haddock (Di Vinci's Inquest, and Di Vinci's City Hall) was clearly not afraid to create smart characters and intricate plots. In a break from the usual for television crime drama, it's simply impossible for the viewer to get ahead of Mary Spalding very often. Spalding didn't get to the place that she is by being anything less than an outstanding strategic and tactical player. She's brilliant, but believably so. She's driven to succeed, but also believes in what she's doing. She's quick to reward those who assist her, but even quicker to undercut her those who stand in her way.
Jimmy Reardon has to be the most reasonable crime boss ever written (or written well anyway). He's a devoted father and brother, a supportive ex-husband, and a terrific manager. He owns a number of legitimate businesses including a timber mill, freight shipper, and a strip club, but the majority of his money, for now, is generated through marijuana and other illegal enterprises. Reardon's efforts to protect his family, friends and employees are under continuous pressure, and Spalding is one of his few cards in the hole. Season one ends with Reardon in a very tight spot.
Intelligence sports a large and dynamic cast of talented actors. The quality of acting is generally so uniformly good that the less than stellar performances of a couple of the bit players stand out like sore thumbs.
It's rumored that the government-funded Canadian Broadcast Corporation cancelled Intelligence because the series was perceived as anti-American. The show does depict the Canadian federal government as riddled with U.S.-aligned figures. Charitably put, these figures see the interests of Canada and the United States as benignly symbiotic, but even under the harshest light, the actions of the United States and its allies in the Canadian government are far less malevolent in this series than those of the Americans in the British series MI-5 (aka, Spooks). Accordingly, most viewers should be able to enjoy Intelligence: Season One without fear of serious distress at the portrayal of the United States.
This 4-disc release from Acorn Media consists of a thin cardboard box housing four individual slimline cases. There are no subtitles provided. The runtime for the double-length pilot and 13 first season episodes is 676 minutes.
Intelligence: Season One is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for widescreen. The image appears washed out and suffers from softness and some digital distortions, but generally is adequate.
This releases sports a 2.0 Dolby Digital audio track with good separation between channels. Audio quality is generally good, but dialogue is occasionally muddied.
The extras are fairly sparse consisting of 32 minutes of behind the scenes material, and click-through character biographies, cast filmographies, and a bio on Chris Haddock.
Acorn Media has provided a good release of an outstanding series which should appeal to a broad range of fans of organized crime dramas and intelligence agency dramas. Intelligence: Season One is on par with the best shows in either subgenre. Check it out and you too will surely be bemoaning its untimely demise.
Intelligence: Season One is highly recommended.