January 08, 2008

The Border: dreck

I can't for the life of me understand the hate-on that CBC's drama division has for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Of course you've got Little Mosque, including its Samantha Bee cameo as a confused CSIS agent; then you've got Intelligence, which had senior CSIS managers conspiring with Americans to sell off Canada's water supply. Intelligence was, by all accounts, a tightly scripted drama with some great acting. It's been followed this year by The Border, which continues the CBC tradition of slamming CSIS without using either of those things.

In Intelligence, evil was played by a tall white grey-haired crewcut CSIS manager (Matt Frewer); in The Border evil is... a... well, it's a tall white grey-haired crewcut CSIS manager again (Nigel Bennett).

The opener's plot was somewhere the far side of ludicrous. As I understand it, the terrorist responsible for bombing the Canadian embassy in Ethiopia (whatever) decides to test a new airline suicide attack method by taking a dry run himself, by flying with a dummy bomb strapped to his waist into Canada's biggest and most security-conscious airport. This doesn't seem a smart thing for a terrorist mastermind to do, but hey. Maybe he and Osama were meeting for a coffee at Tim's. The end result is the innocent Syrian-Canadian sitting next to him on the plane is, along with the mastermind, handed over to American law enforcement right there in Pearson airport and the teacher is extradited, apparently by them, to Syria. CSIS and the Americans then deny the innocent guy was ever on the plane to begin with.

The good agent's brilliant idea to get the teacher released is to re-arrest the character representing Maher Arar, who was once innocently sent to a Syrian prison, to get the Canadian media to pay attention to this new case. This bizarre little gambit works, apparently, the government admits they've sent another innocent to Syria again, and no one suffers any negative consequences. The wrongfully accused man then returns through Pearson to meet his family, waiting for him alone at the airport (the media having, apparently, forgotten all about him again).

The whole episode was a trainwreck of this kind of weak writing: the only way the character's goodness can shine through, of course, is if the whole plot takes place in this kind of consequences-free vacuum. Rather than trying to portray something recognizable from the real world, it's just another 24-ish exercise in sustained fantasy, just this time with a Toronto skyline.

Posted by BruceR at 12:00 PM