Intelligence moved the story along quickly by partnering Gabriel with Riley in the premiere, killing off Gabriel’s wife in episode 2 and bringing Mei Chen back in episode 3. All of those women have a huge influence over Gabriel’s life, though in very different ways.
I sat down and talked with Intelligence Executive Producers Tripp Vinson and Barry Schindel during the CBS Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour to find out whether or not Amelia is really dead, the possibility of romance between Riley and Gabriel, and much more. Read on for edited excerpts from our discussion.
‘Intelligence’ Exclusive Interview: PJ Byrne on Sibling Rivalry and Going ‘In the Field’>>>
No body no death, right? Would you say definitively that Amelia’s dead?
Barry Schindel: I don’t think in television anyone is ever definitively dead. I would not say that Amelia is definitively dead, no. I think that there’s a chance that Amelia survived that blast and it wasn’t what you thought it was, but then we’re not telling you that she didn’t survive the blast.
We don’t even know if she ingested the explosive balls.
Tripp Vinson: Right.
Schindel: There’s a bit of a hint at the end. [Lillian] talks to the kid at the Muslim social center and she’s asking whether Amelia was part of him helping Gabriel to save everything. If that’s true, her simply being a bomber makes less sense. There has to be some motivation for her to have wanted to save people. If she was really a terrorist that’s not — that doesn’t really comport with being a terrorist — a kind-hearted terrorist.
Good way to fake your death. I liked that it allows Gabriel to move on.
Vinson: That was the thing. That’s why we did it. We didn’t want the whole season to be about that. It felt like it would free us up and we could come back to that storyline at a later point and we could see where that goes.
Schindel: A lot of the show centers on the relationship between Riley and Gabriel and having a guy who’s obsessed with finding a wife that he hasn’t seen in six years kinda makes it more difficult for him to be kinda fun and explore that relationship more. Recognizing that the center of the show is the emotional connection between the two of them, we thought it would be better to kinda put a period on the relationship with the wife he hasn’t seen in six years.
Does that mean you are open to there being a romantic relationship between Gabriel and Riley?
Schindel: I don’t think it’s romantic necessarily as like a work wife. We are going for more of a work wife-work husband, as opposed to a straightforward romantic interest.
Vinson: That’s way more interesting. There’s a part of me that would worry if it were a real romantic relationship, it damages her a little bit in a weird way and him actually. I don’t know. There’s so much more fun for them — I like the work marriage analogy. That’s the way we look at it.
Schindel: And in the fifth season, who knows? Like any real life world where that relationship will ultimately ends up , but right now our thinking is not a straight up romantic relationship.
Can you talk a little bit about Mei Chen and is she going to be a long arc foe for them?
TV: She’s a player in the series. Personally, she’s one of my favorite characters. I just think when you see her in [episode 3], she’s progressed quite a bit since you last saw her. She’s a nice foil for Gabriel. Whenever you’re making a superhero — in a lot of ways this is a superhero show — you need someone who’s up to the task to be a real antagonist to your hero. And, Mei Chen has a chip that is next generation. She’s more powerful than Gabriel is. That’s a lot of fun.
Is she going to be working on her own volition? Or, is she still tied to someone who’s controlling her?
Vinson: She’s a free agent.
Schindel: And has a completely different relationship with the chip and a completely different point of view of her connection to the chip than Gabriel does. Gabriel was a volunteer for the chip. His motivations were to find his wife, but he was one of the volunteers for the chip. Mei Chen in the pilot is obviously not a volunteer for the chip, so she has a much different perspective of what’s been done to her. She has this second generation chip, so what she wants to do with that chip is not necessarily the kind of activity that Gabriel wants to do with the chip.
Vinson: One of the things we play a lot in the pilot is how the chip doesn’t really affect Gabriel’s personality. Gabriel is who he is. He’s very human that way. You’ll see that the chip has defined who Mei Chen is.
Is there a reason why more chips couldn’t be developed and put into other people who have the required gene?
Schindel: Well, no. The chip is in beta form. Cassidy was very reluctant — he never dreamed that the second chip was either ready or had somebody that it could be installed. They are still working on the nuances of the chip that they have, but I don’t think there’s a technological impediment to replicating it.
Something that we do play the first season is Gabriel’s success or lack of success with the chip and the decisions that he makes with the chip and whether they threaten the power structure has to do with whether the government is going to agree to fund more chips. It’s almost like Cybercom and Gabriel are in some measure on probation in terms of how he handles that chip.
Is there time where Gabriel is forced to either go along with the government or make his own decision? Is there any moral dilemma surrounding the chip?
Vinson: The chip is so embedded in him. There’s a later episode where he refers to it as just another sense to him. He owns it completely. There’s never — we don’t play with morality of him using the chip so much. I do think there are moments in the series where he goes rogue and goes and does what he wants to do even if that’s not what the Powers That Be want him to do.
Gabriel and Nelson have become brothers of sorts. Lillian’s father’s coming into the story. How do the character’s relationships play into the stories?
Vinson: I think that’s a far comparison. Cassidy is sort of a father figure to Nelson and Gabriel. And Lillian is a mother figure in some ways. Riley a sister. It’s a family dynamic in some degree. I don’t think in a lot of ways that was intentional on our part.
Lillian’s father is a particularly interesting character. He’s referenced in the pilot and he’s got a very interesting background and you’re never really sure where he’s going to come out on things. In some ways, he’s very much a product of the spy world. That to me is a character that’s very fun for us to have. There is great conflict between him and Lillian and you’ll see that as the series goes on.
What can you tell me about Lance Reddick’s character?
Schindel: Lance is the current director of the CIA and there’s always these turf battles within agencies and funding. And obviously Cybercom and Clockwork in particular has gotten an enormous amount of money and there’s a bit of envy on Lance’s part in terms of how much funding the government’s given to Clockwork and a suspicion.
He’s the Director of the CIA, so he has a natural suspicion and a natural wariness of Gabriel and his intentions. And certainly when Mei Chen comes on to the picture and you see the true capability that a chip can have and that you’re entrusting all this power into one guy, like is his guy always going to do what we want and what happens when he doesn’t listen to us. So he kinda comes in as a sort of antagonist is too strong a word. Sort of someone that thinks is giving checks and balances to the Clockwork program.
He’s skeptical of the program?
Schindel: And little wary of Gabriel. The power that everyone is ceding to Gabriel to make these individual decisions. And is he making these decision for his own personal reasons or is he making these decisions because those were his orders. He’s that military guy sort of watching over making sure he doesn’t get out of line.
Intelligence airs on Mondays at 10 pm ET on CBS.
(Image courtesy of CBS.)