TV Review: Intelligence – "Clean and Simple"

(Spoilers for the episode that aired Nov. 28)

Clean and simple is not a phrase I’d use to describe CBC’s complex crime drama Intelligence, with so many characters and plot threads that I’m almost expecting the characters to start wearing nametags in addition to appearing in those title cards. Even the dialogue and acting style is only deceptively simple, like we’re eavesdropping on snippets of conversation that are being steadily assembled into an intricate tapestry. An intricate audiovisual tapestry. Damned mixed metaphors.

However, “Clean and Simple” the episode is representative of the eye for an eye philosophy that underlies both Jimmy Reardon’s and Mary Spalding’s worlds.

Knowing the bikers were behind brother Michael’s throat slashing, Jimmy finally agrees with Ronnie that they should exact revenge to send a message that he’s not to be messed with. He wants and gets assurances that no one will be hurt, and of course when you ‘re combining guns, drugs, money, and bikers, I can think of no reason not to feel reassured.

Jimmy’s man Bob helps plan an interruption to the bikers’ currency exchange with a little robbery. After his cohort provides a detailed, complicated proposal, Bob gets clean and simple: “Why don’t we just steal the car?” “Or we could just steal the car,” the other guy nods, like that’s a pretty good plan B.

Mary eventually finds herself in an eye for an eye position as well. Her confidante and sometime lover, Vancouver cop Don Frazer, spells things out, pointing out that the old boys are never going to let her in, so she’ll have to kick the door down. “They fuck with you, you fuck with them. … That’s the only thing those guys understand.” Sounds like Don and Ronnie would get along well. It is definitely getting harder and harder to tell the difference between the bad guys and the good guys.

Ironically, the woman who’s selling her promotion to CSIS as an opportunity to build a spy agency that doesn’t rely on American intelligence must rely on a disgruntled former CIA agent to find out how intricately involved CSIS is with the Americans and other countries. The simple answer she gets to that convoluted question is: very. Ex-CIA guy uses a few more words, like telling her that CSIS bigwig Dick Royden, who we see coaching Roger Deakins on how to explain spilling the beans to the Chinese about Lee the mole, worked for the Americans.

In exchange for giving her bad news, ex-CIA guy wants to give her news she doesn’t want to hear: he’s on the trail of a cocaine importer, Luiz Falcone, and along with Mary’s friend Eddie, intends to capture him and bring him back to Mexico. She cautions him against getting caught with Falcone’s body in his car. “It’s not my car,” he says in one of the surprising laugh-out-loud lines that populate but never pierce the tension of the series.

Mary is covertly steering the homicide investigation into Lee the mole’s death, and discovers that others, up to the Minister responsible for security and his staff, know the contents of her secret files. Her biggest CSIS supporter, James Mallaby, encourages her to back off. (How did I not know Mallaby is played by the lead singer of Spirit of the West, John Mann? I guess because I’m clueless and it’s not mentioned anywhere on the website or press materials. Is it just the show rubbing off on me, or do I sense the work of the witness protection program here?)

Mallaby shows his teeth in a supposed smile as he tells Mary it’s time to start pushing her upstairs to that coveted CSIS role she’s been promised, while telling her she’ll need to hand over summaries of all her cases. After asking for support from an unseen senator and starting to secure the files for her prized informants, Katarina and Reardon, Mary is subtle but steely as she asks Mallaby when Deakins will be suspended, then refuses to pass on files until she gets an assurance that Deakins won’t see them. And Mallaby’s teeth suddenly look a lot more like a snarl. She also confronts Deakins head on with another subtle but steely challenge to expose himself with a public statement or prepare to slip away quietly.

If that weren’t enough, Mary finds herself roused by a 2 a.m. phone call from Eddie and ex-CIA guy, who think her unit is working an operation on their target Falcone. She lets them know the man with the coke importer isn’t one of her agents, but a DEA agent – meaning Falcone is protected, much to their annoyance.

Jimmy’s got additional problems, too. As we saw a couple of episodes ago, ex-wife Francine gave a lawyer the complete history of the Reardon empire, and now he’s contacted Jimmy’s lawyer to warn him. The lawyer, who’d earlier advised Jimmy to open his own offshore bank account to streamline his ATM business, now tells him they can direct that lawyer to take Francine on as a client, sealing that lawyer-client privilege, possibly containing Francine’s big mouth, but also showing Jimmy’s disturbing level of control.

Francine’s indiscretion gets Jimmy even more antsy over getting a safe house to stash their truckloads of ATM cash, which leads to an appallingly insensitive Ronnie offering Sweet a luxury condo. Only when it’s hit her that he’s making an enormous gesture does he burst that bubble and let her know it’s business. She negotiates to get her name on the deed instead of one of Reardon’s holding companies, which she explains as insurance – if she’s going to take the risk she wants the reward. I’m not so sure it’s much of a reward to have her name tied to the illicit dealings, but I’m no expert in illicit dealings and plausible deniability.

Mary’s undercover stripper seems to be causing her more problems than Jimmy, since she’s avoiding Mary’s calls again, despite overhearing his plot to hit the bikers. Her silence causes Mary to pass on a message through Katarina: another warning means a deportation order. Martin’s casual observation about helping with visas to one of Katarina’s girls, who’s working with him on the case of the biotech engineers who are trying to sell secrets to one country while unknowingly having them stolen by another, is a demonstration of that team’s disturbing level of control in those women’s lives.

The final minutes of the episode ratchet up the tension through the driving music and short scenes cutting from the currency exchange hit to Jimmy accepting that drug shipment from the undercover DEA operator. The eye for an eye in the biker wars results in the loss of another eye as the robbery goes wrong, shots are fired, and a man lies – dead? wounded? – on the sidewalk. At the same time, the car carrying Jimmy, the DEA operator, and a trunkload of pot catches the eye of the police, who arrest DEA guy and confront Jimmy as he sits waiting for his day to get even worse.

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One Response to TV Review: Intelligence – "Clean and Simple"

  1. heywriterboy (DMc) says:

    I’m thrilled that I still have no idea of where this is going. I’m not even sure if I’m supposed to root for Mary or not.

    And the turn in John Mann’s character in this ep was the best…

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