Limitless (2015, Season 1 Review)

By all intents and purposes the premise of show is sound : there’s a drug making the rounds that can give the user complete control of every neuron, every function and
every memory within the human brain. For 12 hours this drug can enhance the powers of mental reasoning and intuition. Failing musician Brian Finch (Jake McDorman) uses these abilities to assist the FBI in their investigations into complex and largely unsolved crimes. Meanwhile a mysterious Senator Morra (Bradley Cooper) provides him
with a periodic inoculation against the drugs deadly side effects in exchange for information, an act unbeknownst to the FBI.

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Fans of the 2011 film of the same name will already be aware of the effects of NZT. It’s a “Mary Sue” drug that gives it’s user perfect cognitive recall among other attributes. While this may be a Superman scenario for the show, the writers do their very best to put limitations on the extent of Brian’s abilities.

“You remember a lot more than you think you do. Every experience you’ve ever had, every idea that came to you in the shower and then slipped away while you were brushing your teeth… it’s all there for the taking.”

His Kryptonite in this instance being science realism over science fiction. For example – being on NZT makes Brian more adept at spotting the biological tells of a liar rather than reading the liars mind. A trait that Brian may have subconsciously picked up through tv shows or magazine articles over the years. Not becoming too fantastical and rooting it’s universe in fact is what keeps this show grounded.

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Brian’s immaturity and laid back approach to the enormity of his abilities against the no-nonsense attitude of the FBI agents provides constant entertainment throughout the series run and sets up some wonderful sequences, most of which occur in Brian’s mind or as a result of relating information to the other characters.
The shows comic book sense of humour is a stark contrast to the ethos of shows in the crime thriller genre. It would be irresponsible of me not to point out the similarities to Dexter (Jennifer Carpenter and Desmond Harrington aside) at least during the actual crime investigation side of the show.

Fundamentally i’m against the idea of the show in general. I find it difficult to get on board with shows derived from movies. They tend to end up the same as most computer games based on movies – watered down, flimsy and devoid of substance. I’m sure Stargate SG1 is fantastic craic but i really enjoyed the film as it was and don’t care enough to watch one of the variants (Is there 3 of them now??). That’s how i went into this show and found myself completely and pleasantly surprised by it.
The 2015 show began it’s 22 episode run with significant steam, however by episode 17 the cracks were widening. The Piper story arc never really seemed to pay off and
it felt more like she was there just to give Brian another influence outside of the FBI sphere. Her initial introduction was a welcome storyline as it took the focus off the Finch/FBI/Morra dynamic that could’ve severely bogged the show down. In the end it felt like the writers ran out of ideas to close the series. With that being said they also set up a lot of optimistic new threads that would have taken us into a second season.
Stylistically speaking the show remains faithful to the film in its subtle use of FX. This is apparent visually with its infinite camera zoom or the vibrant yellow
hue introduced when the NZT is takes effect. The soundtrack also lends a subtle synth reference to the big screen outing and is used sparingly.

At the time of writing, Limitless Season 2’s future is cloudy despite positive reaction and online petition from fans. Producer/cast member Bradley Cooper appears to be shopping it round other networks after CBS put the brakes on the project. Executive producer Craig Sweeney has hinted that the next season will not follow Brian’s character and will instead focus on the effects and consequences of the drug, but given the current status of the show this could be subject to change.

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