TV Review: Intelligence – "Don’t Break Your Brother’s Heart"

(spoilers for the Oct. 24 episode)

In which Michael Reardon breaks his brother’s heart and then saves his ass.

CBC’s Intelligence is a very different beast from fellow spy shows 24 or Alias. In fact, any comparison to those shows is as ludicrous as Jack Bauer’s ability to go an entire day without visiting the men’s room (not that I’m hoping for that particular scene). Intelligence builds its characters and intertwined plots slowly and elaborately, without relying on shock value or ever-escalating, super-charged drama. Instead, we’re given bits of intelligence on these characters each week, and the tension builds out of their motivations and actions appearing to be on a certain collision course.

What we learn about Michael in “Don’t Break Your Brother’s Heart” – for example, that he’s a junkie and enough of a screwup that Ronnie wouldn’t be sorry to see a contract out on him – adds layers to what we already knew. When he’s doing any thinking at all, the motivation for his bone-headed actions is to prove himself to his brother Jimmy. Unfortunately, mostly he ends up proving what a menace he is to the carefully constructed Reardon empire.

In this episode, he continues his plan to bring the bikers’ pot across the US border, and on his return, tolerates – barely – lectures by both Ronnie and Jimmy. The episode title comes from Ronnie’s speech about getting into rehab “before you break your brother’s heart any further.” Mike guzzles his drink down and vows its his last. Ronnie looks skeptical but resigned.

Later, Jimmy asks Michael to clean up, if not in rehab then by getting exiled to their grandfather’s farm on the Island. Mike guzzles his new drink down and vows it’s his last. Ian Tracey’s simple cocked eyebrow conveys Jimmy’s skepticism beautifully.

And proving that they may be a match made in heaven – heaven for stupid people – Rebecca the bartender can’t seem to grasp Michael’s cunning plan to have his vodka soda served as if it’s 7-Up.

Through these exchanges, we learn more about Ronnie, too. Like the fact that he was the owner of The Chickadee until the Reardons bailed him out of financial troubles. He’s also more excited than is perhaps warranted about his new purchase, bullet proof vests for himself and Jimmy. (Foreshadowing alert!)

Jimmy isn’t quite as impressed as Ronnie by their stylishness, functionality, or comfort. He doesn’t want to be in any meeting where he has to wear one, saying, perhaps naively, perhaps arrogantly, “they’re not going to bring guns in here.”

At first, he’s right. A meeting with a couple of Vietnamese guys, and deals made through the front of his lumber company help Reardon make quick money hand over fist, and things seem to go smoothly when Jimmy sets up security for his new bank machine money laundering venture.

We learn things aren’t going to go so swimmingly for Jimmy, however. Francine is her usual jittery and pathetic self when she finally visits a lawyer in the custody battle she precipitated. She makes it clear she’s not particularly interested in the sole custody of Stella she’s asking for, but she is very particularly interested in getting to Jimmy through Stella.

Relying heavily on lawyer-client privilege, Francine is very open about the fact that she was fully aware of Reardon’s illegal activities and supported him through the building of his criminal empire. “I know things that would put him away for life,” she says, before adding, “I don’t want to screw him completely, I just want to let him know that I’m here.”

We learn a little more about the ice queen, Mary Spalding too, including flashes of – is that warmth underneath that iciness? Klea Scott plays her with such tightly controlled fierceness that her more human moments reveal there’s more going on under the surface than first appears.

She celebrates with her escort agency informant Katarina when the visas for her mother and daughter come through, encourages informant Casey to leave her husband – and therefore lose her source of intelligence – when he becomes abusive, and looks decidedly un-icy in her hotel room while she and Vancouver cop Don Frazer share a post-coital moment where he oh-so-romantically warns her not to piss off too many people in her empire-building quest.

Jimmy gets the goods on Mary from his narc informant, who recites Spalding’s impressive achievements and her family status. “I like her. Don’t trust her, but I like her,” Reardon says, speaking words that could very easily be said by her about him, too (well, with different pronouns).

Mary’s weaknesses are spelled out in “Don’t Break Your Brother’s Heart,” too. When she meets with a contractor to bug the house of her wireroom mole – and who calls her by the not-inappropriate nickname Queenie – he reminds her that mole could cause the destruction of the Vancouver Organized Crime Unit she now runs, and damage the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service unit she plans to run.

Her meeting with the CSIS analysts she will soon be running allows her to demonstrate her confidence and strategy, while also demonstrating what she’s up against – a roomful of 60+ white men who keenly feel her tactlessness in dismissing their past efforts and are skeptical about her future plans.

But her biggest vulnerability is one she’s not yet aware of. Her deputy, Ted, played with admirable oiliness by Matt Frewer, and Roger, the CSIS guy about to lose his leadership role to Mary, are plotting with the American DEA to go after her prized informant Jimmy Reardon and support their efforts to overthrow Mary and install a gosh-golly-maybe-I-would-consider-the-job-now-that-you-mention-it Ted instead. In exchange for intelligence the DEA wants from the Canadian agency, of course, because information is a commodity in this world, after all.

Though the tension in Intelligence tends to build more from the intricate revelation of information, the episode ends with a bang, literally. Mike gets suspicious of a guy who enters The Chickadee and gets his opportunity to prove himself by jumping the guy just as he shoots at Jimmy. Before they can rouse the clubbed shooter to find out who sent him, Ronnie brings news that the police are on their way.

So they, and we, have to wait for more information until at least the next episode of Intelligence, which airs Tuesday, Oct. 31 at 9 p.m. on CBC.

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