All pictures courtesy of CBS
Limitless, Limitless, Limitless. What to say about this show. So much potential but it moves so slowly that it's hard to figure out where it's going or if it'll ever have something to draw me in week after week. Before we dive full-on into the show, let me remind as always why I originally anticipated this show (and for those that want a little more in-depth look, click that #Premiere Week up top and scroll down to CBS which should be the first network covered).
A quick refresher, Limitless (#Limitless) was originally a film starring Bradley Cooper that came out a few years back. In it, some guy stumbles onto a drug called NZT that enhances the brain's conscious activity, giving the taker of the drug superhuman intelligence and processing skills equivalent to a computer. Essentially, you take it you become "the smartest man alive" as is stated on the show. The show is produced by Bradley Cooper who briefly appeared on the pilot. And that was pretty much all this show needed to draw me in.
OK, so what do we get with Limitless? Well, in the movie Cooper's character had to stay on the run and intelligently fight off bad guys who manufactured the pill and who wanted their money, as well as the person whose pills he had. He was not supposed to have the pills and certainly wasn't supposed to have such intellect. Well, the series starts in much the same manner. We pick up with our main character Brian Finch, a 28-year-old burnout musician who sees his life passing by while everyone around him succeeds (I'm sure that hit home for more than a few Millennials). No girlfriend, no job, no real prospects of anything in life, he learns his father is sick from a mystery illness that has pulled him closer to death. Fearing that his father will not see him accomplish anything great, good or even decent in his life before the man passes away, Brian decides to finally forego his dreams of being a rocker and gets another temp job he hopes will this time turn into something worth while. There, he runs into an old friend/rocker buddy who has absolutely stormed the finance world of NY and is doing great. His friend hips him to this drug he's taking on the hush that helps him focus his mind as Brian is having trouble doing anything. And thus we have our inciting incident.
NZT is the mind-altering drug that allows a person conscious access to 100% of their brain. I say conscious access because while I know about the geeks who took offense with Luc Besson's film Lucy starring Scarlet Johansson saying that we only use 10% of the brain, we do only use about 15% of it consciously. The other 85% is subconscious or accessed at different points during the day for different activities. The drug makes it so that he can do everything. He can remember things that he saw at a glance 20 years ago while zooming by it in the back seat of a car. He can complete complex mathematical equations at the drop of a hat. He can learn languages in a day and even solve the mystery behind his father's disease. Apparently his dad had a genetic disorder that caused him to need a new kidney or liver (he talked kind of fast so I didn't quite get what he said even though he said it a few times and I got too lazy to rewind my DVR). Think Batman level smart, add Sherlock Holmes level smart and multiple it all by Spider-man level genius. Yeah, the kids wicked smart (where's Ben Affleck when you need him? Oh right, playing Batman).
And then the drug wears off and it's back to normal loser Brian, which he totally doesn't want to be because super genius Brian is way better. To add to the misery of coming down from NZT, like any other drug it has horrid withdrawal symptoms. He feels sick, sweats a lot and looks like his heart and brain are simultaneously about to explode within him. Though he learns that those feelings are nearly exactly what will happen sooner or later, I'm getting ahead of myself by telling you that.
In any case, he wants more of the drug. So, he ventures off to find his old friend again and ask him for another pill. Just loser Brian's luck, he arrives to his friend's apartment to find him dead. While he procures one pill from the man, he doesn't have much time to think as the cops and FBI are suddenly at his dead friend's apartment door. To the surprise of no one, he takes off running in a daring escape that sees him parkour-leaping down a fire escape, sprinting through traffic on a precisely calculated line better than Frogger ever could and hopping in front of a stopping subway train at just the right distance for it to come to a halt in front of him before escaping through a grate. Daring? Yes. Stupid? Oh yeah! Me likey? Me likey a lot. Was that weird? Did I just make this review weird. Sorry. I'll dial it back.
Anyway, he pieces together who did it by mentally re-running the company records that he had to file away while on his temp job. He discovers that his friend as well as another guy were both killed by a third guy who also took the drug and felt he needed the pills, so he'd kill his partners and take their supply. Though they're both super smart for the time, Brian manages to outwit the guy with the help of the same FBI agent who chased him. Why does he receive this help? Because they discover his little secret (he helps them with that too) and have secrets of their own.
See, the drug was apparently manufactured by a company that the government was working closely with. The drug's original clients were to be soldiers, FBI agents, law enforcement, etc., because it would enhance their ability to stop crime. Unfortunately, the company and the drug testing were both scuttled after tests revealed those horrific side effects I mentioned up top: the nausea, the sweating, the brain and heart explosion. The test subjects would get sick, degrade over time and would be dead in a year, often covered in sores and other hideous marks. They warn Brian that if he doesn't come in and either take another pill or gets completely clean from the drug, the same will happen to him.
And in steps Bradley Cooper. Nearly dying during a come-down from his latest high, Brian slips into an unconscious state and awakes in a large room with little furniture save for a hospital bed, some medical equipment and two chairs for him and Bradley's character. Cooper plays the same character from the film (making this one of those series-sequel hybrids like Minority Report) and has been on the drug for five years. How has he survived? During all that time he came up with an inhibitor of some sort that works on a cellular level to stop the drug from degrading the body's cells. One shot a month and Brian can take as much NZT as he wants without the horrible side effects. Cooper will supply him this new drug but in return he will ask for a series of favors as he knows Brian will soon be working for the FBI. Cooper's own station in life has led him to become Senator and possibly the next president. What he wants from Brian, is the show's threading mystery that is supposed to keep viewers returning weekly. The interesting thing about this is that though Cooper played the protagonist in the film, he wasn't fully a Leave It To Beaver good guy. Sure, he used his powers for some good, but he wasn't always looking to do right every time. And though I can't see the series making him any kind of a bad guy, who knows the depths that the people he employs will sink to for him.
Correct in every assessment, Brian does end up solving the mystery, the FBI bring the murderer to justice and figure out he was on NZT. Instead of arresting him, they turn him into their latest guinea pig as they want to know what makes him immune to the drug's side effects. They will supply him with the drug every day and study him to see if his lifestyle is conducive to such immunity and use his improved mental capacity to their advantage on different cases. He, in turn, gets not only a new kidney for his father but something he's wanted all his life: real purpose. And that turns this into yet another procedural case-of-the-week drama--my third new one on Monday alone. I promise you I don't usually go for this many buddy cop shows but at least they are all different and have their own hook outside of crimes that need solving. Minority Report has the flashy future tech and Blindspot has the tattooed mystery that is Jane Doe. Limitless, however, has the weakest get of the bunch if you ask me.
What's a get? Simple, that thing that will get you to watch week after week, appointment viewing. At first I thought Minority Report had the weakest get as Agatha's vision does not readily cause me to care from one week to the next. But on second thought, Limitless is the show that has the least weekly attraction. For one, the cases are good and I would rate them better than Minority Report's which don't push the mind and only have the draw of the future and Dash's visions to wow the viewer. But Limitless flounders solely on the concept in the digital age.
To explain, each season we are hit with at least half a dozen to a dozen new procedural shows each with their own detective that is so well-versed and knowledgeable in his or her field that you know the writers just spent half of their day looking up bizarre and out of the box factoids that have no other use except as cocktail conversation at a dinner party where you're trying to look sophisticated and intelligent (funny side note: I actually knew about the Genghis Khan gene indicator used in the second episode to create a personalized viral strain). Geniuses populate our airwaves. In order to not seem so pedestrian in the midst of shows like Sherlock Holmes, The Mentalist, Blindspot, Scorpion, Minority Report, Sleepy Hollow, Bones and a few others, many of these shows have to adopt a specialized trait. Limitless has no real trait.
|This is his FBI partner by the way.|
What? But what about the NZT thing? First off, some fans might have objection to the fact that the show is tacitly making taking drugs and getting high cool, and that the only way to not die from that drug is to take another drug. I'm sure somebody over at CBS thought of this faux pas which is why it ended up on CBS at 10pm on Tuesdays as opposed to 9 or even 8 because it has no graphic gore, sexual activity or crude language to garner such a late time-slot (though that could change). But also, the fact that the pill makes him the genius is the crux of the show. In all the other shows, the character already possesses such mental ability but has some other unique trait about them that acts as the draw. Ichabod is a man out of time in Sleepy Hollow. Jane Doe is a girl who can't remember her life in Blindspot. A group of socially inept nerds are smashed together in Scorpion. Take NZT away and Brian is nothing.
Sure that can be the draw but there is a stated contract with the viewers that he will receive the pill at least the majority of the show's run, making him nothing special if he doesn't have to solve crimes without his aid. Even superheroes have more complications in life than this. He gets his brains handed to him on a daily basis--nothing special.
What's my grade? Unfortunately, I have to give it a C. It's average. I'll probably keep watching it but by the time the sixth episode rolls around I won't be surprised if I've forgotten to record it once or twice and shrugged it off. Some shows I have to see every week. And despite Jake McDorman reconnecting with his Manhattan Love Story costar from ABC's failed rom-com series last year, Analeigh Tipton, I could only halfway care about the third episode (and isn't that some kind of bad juju to have a costar from a show that lasted only 3 episodes appear on your new show?). That's also taking into account the fact that they have two black guys--one from the first Resident Evil film and one from last year's Constantine--that I thought truly were the same guy both on the show. Blew my mind; yes, they're black; yes, I felt ashamed of myself.
Should you be watching it? If you are just looking for another crime show now that the original CSI is done, and you want something a little more sophisticated than the NYPD, and you don't mind a few laughs or a few missed jokes like on the TV show Castle, then go for it. For everyone else, I'd say no. I wish it was more special.
What do you think? Am I wrong and this show is the most intelligent crime show on TV right now? Are you on the edge of your seat thinking about what might next happen to Brian if he doesn't get the NZT or the shot? Have you even watched the show yet? If so, what do you think Bradley Cooper's character's motives are? Let me know in the comments below (hint: click the no comments button to comment).
As always, check out my books on Amazon (if you’re looking for Halloween scares check #AFuriousWind, #DARKER, #BrandNewHome or #ThePowerOfTen). For those interested in something a little more dramatic, check out #TheWriter. The final episode of season one of The Writer is OUT NOW. Ahh! That’s right, all 15 episodes are out now available exclusively on Amazon. Join us on Goodreads to talk about books and TV, and subscribe to and follow my blog with that Google+ button to the right side.
Until next time, “you're on the verge of living a life most people could only dream of.”
P.S. Bradley Cooper in his most Morpheus-like role he's ever played and I don't even know if I'll continue watching it. I really like the music thought. I'll keep thinking of a good universal sign-off.
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