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Photo from episode 2 of Limitless

Limitless, Season 1, Episode 2 - A Police Procedural with a Gimmick

HaydnSpurrell HaydnSpurrell In the closing scenes of the second episode, Brian Finch's charm and boyish mannerisms finally settle in and add the comical element the show is definitely gunning for. But central to the show is his relationship with his father, which is certainly not forgotten in an improved outing from the pilot.

The episode reaches its rock bottom moment, when Finch's (Jake McDorman) father, played wonderfully by Ron Rifkin, turns his back on his son, unable to look at him through the lies. This is where the heart of the story truly is, and despite a semi-cliffhanger that promises improvement in that relationship, it's easy to see the series losing its touch.

This is when considering the protagonist's dependence on the drug AZT to actually achieve something great may actually cripple the show's sense of achievement. When Brian isn't on the drug, everything is very real and emotions can at times run high.

When he's on the drug, it's more an excuse to throw one liners around, and play to McDorman's boyish strength. The comic effect hadn't struck me until late in the episode (though I did love the scene in which dialogue is replaced by comic book word bubbles), when Brian convinces a room full of employees to rag on their boss.

A lot of what happens here is hard to buy. Brian getting clearance at the FBI? Sure. Getting a badge? Maybe not so, but it's sure to happen. Being allowed out in the field soon after coming so close to being fired? Not buying it. Despite having an entirely fictional drug at the heart of the show, it's very clear this is set in the real world.

Jennifer Carpenter continues to play the confident Agent Harris well, pairing her with Brian in order to provide a foil for him. When this relationship deepens, it will open up plenty of possibilities and answer plenty of questions. I'm curious about the open-ended conversation from the pilot, in which Harris alluded to her families history. None of that is brought up here.

Instead, we get an investigation into a drug-related (eventually) homicide, and Brian gets to show off his AZT skills to pretty much solve the case on its own. It's a well crafted plot, too, managing to give Brian obstacles and keep us guessing despite the skills he's harnessing.

Limitless is certainly not trying to take itself too seriously, spending most of its time either narrating us cleverly through new dilemmas (with the same swift editing prowess of the pilot) or poking fun at the whole FBI establishment. The fact that this guy can waltz in with no experience and do the job (AZT or no AZT) says little for the agency.

The downside comes from the premise and direction. This is a police procedural series. Another one. This just happens to have a gimmick. But it's unlikely that gimmick can keep everything feeling fresh for too long. Hopefully, the future of the show tackles its niche head on sooner rather than later, rather than using the drug as a useful superpower for crime solving.

An improvement on the pilot, Limitless is still making us ask the question of 'why we need it in the first place'. But this time, it matters less because this is, for the most part, an enjoyable episode. The balance is almost spot on, even if it perhaps needs to find a little more emotion and intrigue to hold it all together. At this stage, each episode is still going to feel make or break. All we have to do is wait and see which way things turn.


Posted in Limitless,

HaydnSpurrell HaydnSpurrell

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