There are certain actors that have that unquantifiable “it” factor. And from the moment Josh Holloway stepped on the screen in Lost, he had it. Sawyer could have easily been an annoying, disgruntled ne’er-do-well who didn’t live to see the end of the first season. But Holloway transformed the character into one of TV’s greatest bad boys and romantic leads. He completely pulled off Sawyer’s quippy one-liners, his endless list of nicknames, and surprising heroism. With a twinkle in his eye and a devil-may-care grin, Holloway oozes charisma.
Now almost four years after the ABC drama ended its run, Holloway returns to the medium that brought him fame with his trademark charm on full display in the new CBS drama, Intelligence. Holloway stars as Gabriel, an intelligence operative who has been implanted with a super computer microchip in his brain. He’s a former member of Delta Force whose been transformed into an “advanced intelligence agent.” “We gave a human the kind of power that had previously only been found in machines,” Gabriel’s boss, Lillian Strand (Marg Helgenberger), tells Riley (Meghan Ory), the new Secret Service agent assigned to protect him.
Comparisons to The Six Million Dollar Man are inevitable and appropriate. Despite its high-tech premise, everything about the show feels like a throwback. And wait to you see the opening credits next week. They have a distinct 1970s feel.
Somehow, the show works, and that’s solely thanks to Holloway. He’s clearly having a blast with the role, and that enthusiasm is palpable and infectious. Holloway can handle the cheesiest of lines. (“Don’t get excited. I’m just looking at the wound,” he tells Riley during a particularly close moment.) And Gabriel’s ability to know everything about a person within seconds doesn’t come off as completely creepy.
Helgenberger is stuck with a lot of exposition in the pilot. Ory, last seen as Red in Once Upon a Time, speaks for the audience. When Lillian tells her Gabriel is reckless, unpredictable and insubordinate, Riley replies, “And you put a computer in his head.” The woman has a point. Intelligence is absolutely the kind of show that won’t work if you think about it too much.
Romantic tension exists between Riley and Gabriel, and the show is bound to explore that. But Gabriel’s heart still belongs to his wife, Amelia (Zuleikha Robinson), a CIA agent who turned and took part in a terrorist attack she was sent to prevent. Gabriel believes she is innocent and that her participation in the attack was all part of her deep undercover work. He’s not even convinced she’s dead. This little plot twist should allow the show to work on two levels: Gabriel’s ongoing quest to prove his wife’s innocence and Riley and Gabriel’s weekly case that can be wrapped up neatly each episode. The opening case—the kidnapping of the scientist who created the microchip that’s in Gabriel’s brain—also provides ongoing intrigue. The Chinese now have a Gabriel of their very own who woke up in the episode’s final seconds.
And, by the way, Holloway clearly has a type when it comes to on-screen romantic partners. Riley confesses to him that as a teen, she killed her mother’s abusive boyfriend. Hmm… didn’t Kate do the exact same thing on Lost?
Currently Intelligence works as the perfect vehicle for Holloway’s charms. It remains to be seen whether the show is smart enough to become more than that.