I recently stumbled on this show by accident while doing an IMDb search on an actor. Being your typical insular American I had never heard of 'Intelligence' or even the CBC, but I have to say that after watching the first two seasons I am very impressed. Sadly, rumors are that the show has been canceled so I suppose some things about Americans and Canadians are the same; 'The Wire' was never appreciated by viewers here either. The show is an extremely smart (or intelligent; get it? hah hah hah) approach to the world of espionage and organized crime. Shows that I've seen in the past dealing with these topics were most often disappointing in their shallowness and over-simplification of a complex and difficult world. As an example, one of my pet peeves is that often when you watch a show about the CIA you would think that there are exactly 10 people working for the agency. 5 covert operatives and 5 analysts/technical operators. Studio execs will tell you they compress the number of characters so that audiences don't get confused, but to me the whole thing usually just comes off fake. "Meet Joe, he's our computer/linguistic/explosives expert who joined the Navy Seals after getting his Phd's from Harvard and is now a US senator." Fake.
Not so with 'Intelligence'. The show has a large and diverse cast, allowing the show to explore the facets of characters in a more organic way. Of course, a large cast also means some characters you would like to see more of just can't get the screen time you would like but that's the trade off and, in my opinion, it's well worth it.
I've always been fascinated with the spy world, all those secrets within secrets makes for fascinating mental games, and the back story of Canada attempting to create their own international spy ring provides great opportunities for story lines. Add to that the very realistic portrayal of life in a drug kingpin syndicate and there is always plenty of interesting plots developing, often independently, in each episode.
Ian Tracey plays Jimmy Reardon, a weed drug smuggler who has built quite the little empire in Canada. Jimmy has done quite well for his "family", but the difficulties of success are beginning to make his life difficult. His life plays out like that of any successful business exec; constant meetings all day, inept employees, and logistical nightmares of running an organization with hundreds of employees. Contrary to popular images of drug dealers Jimmy is quiet, reasoned, not prone to fits of anger, and prefers to make well informed decisions that avoid violence whenever possible. Eventually, circumstances conspire to bring Jimmy into contact with Mary Spalding, played by Klea Scott.
Mary is, in basic personality, much like Jimmy. Quiet, tough, and highly capable, she is currently running the Canadian Organized Crime Unit, but is being tapped for a leadership position in the newly forming (or organizing, I'm not really sure which) Canadian intelligence service CSIS. Working in an old-boys network along side some of the worst vipers you've ever seen, Mary is a human intelligence specialist. She recruits confidential informants and, soon, spies. Events unfold that allow Mary to recruit Jimmy as what may possibly be the agencies most valuable asset. Occasionally their interests merge and Jimmy and Mary can help one another, though they maintain a careful cat and mouse routine between the two of them, not really trusting the other.
The truly fascinating thing (for me) to watch is how the CSIS agency builds itself into a real force to be reckoned with, and the ethical dilemmas that begin to unfold as they succeed. At first many of Mary's recruits approach her, or are in situations where they can help one another, but as soon as her higher-ups realize she's making it happen specific requests start pouring in and the decisions get harder. The agency begins to resort to blackmail and extortion to accomplish it's tasks. It raises interesting points. The CIA has (often rightly) taken a lot of heat here in the states for its actions in the past, but those same critics want intelligence agencies to be affective in preventing the next domestic attack on our nation. There is a definite moral and ethical trade-off that takes place with effectiveness at some point, and the show does a great job of highlighting that.
I won't bother going into the other characters on the show. As I said, there are a lot of them, but I'll say that most are well created and interesting. The show has enough action to keep the pace up in most episodes and the filming quality is decent though a bit of a step down if you are used to American production values. Definitely worth watching if you get the opportunity.