Series Premiere Review: Limitless
Limitless is a new drama series from CBS based on the 2011 film of the same name. The movie, starring Bradley Cooper, centered around a pill called NZT-48 which allowed the user to access 100% of their brain capacity. I thought it was a fun movie that didn’t quite tap into its premise’s potential. I never expected it to spawn a continuation in television form. But, that’s exactly what happened. Instead of a traditional sequel, we get a TV show that takes place directly after the events of the film. The series focuses on a guy named Brian Finch who, at the beginning of the episode, is presented as a man that views himself as a disappointment. He hasn’t really done much with his life and is unsure of his future. That is until he finds himself in the midst of an FBI investigation and a high-end drug ring.
The premiere episode had an infectious energy to it right from the start, engaging me immediately. It opens with an on-foot chase through the streets of New York and down into the subway, culminating with Finch jumping in front of an oncoming train at just the right position to evade it. Unlike some shows that choose to start out of the gates with exposition and character introductions, Limitless grabbed the audience’s attention with an exciting chase, which I found refreshing.
That energy remains throughout most of the pilot. The show is light on its feet and just plain fun to watch; the film had a similarly breezy tone. The only times I felt like the episode was dragging its feet a little was when it was focusing on the FBI and their involvement in NZT. Those moments were a lot more conventional than the rest of the show, which felt fresh. Luckily, they are few and far between. For the most part, this pilot was a blast.
Jake McDorman stars as our protagonist, Brian Finch. I really liked him in the lead role. He was able to impressively modify his performance when he was on the drug compared to when he was off of it. It would have been easy for those two conditions of the character to fuse together into the same performance, but he was able to create an interesting dynamic; he felt like a completely different character when he was using NZT. That was important for the show to convey the drug as so drastic a game-changer for whoever took it. The show’s use of sharper images when Finch was using compared to a blue-tinted filter when he wasn’t was also effective.
Overall, I really enjoyed this premiere episode of Limitless. There are admittedly some familiar elements to it, both in terms of its procedural conventions and some plot points that were eerily similar to the film. However, its able to overcome these minor flaws with a strong performance from McDorman, some adrenaline-fueled action, and clever use of a certain movie star that is close to the franchise. I’m referring, of course, to Bradley Cooper, who’s character is intriguingly utilized in the show. I’ll be interested to see what role he plays in the series.