Airtime: Tuesday at 10/9 central on CBS
Tweetable Takeaway: Limitless slows down as things start to look familiar. Tweet
Fans of the first two episodes of CBS’ LIMITLESS might be disappointed by this third episode. The show took a step away from its interesting, original premise, moving in the direction towards typical police procedural. While I watched the first two episodes with a sense of uncertainty and intrigue concerning what will happen, I felt completely comfortable and assured watching the third episode. In short, I could predict the arc of the episode in a way I couldn’t before. I felt like I was watching any old police procedural.
Episode three of CBS’ series Limitless demonstrated a noticeable decline in a quality and simplification of premise. While the first two episodes of Limitless were fun, fresh, and a type of show I hadn’t seen many times before, episode three came across as a very typical light buddy procedural where a quirky outsider uses uncanny crime-solving abilities to help police. While the first couple episodes simply reminded me of Monk or Psych, this third episode felt like it was an episode of Psych or Monk. This was unfortunate, as the first two episodes had a streak of originality that really differentiated the show in an enticing way. Below is a simple equation, which I hope becomes less true in coming episodes.
The intrigue of Limitless is the possibilities of a drug like NZT that allow a person to use all of his/her brain cells. This episode seems to have lost that focus. It was more of straight-forward police procedural, and either failed to or chose not to explore the more interesting idea of ‘What if you had 100% of your brain?’. The odd thing is Brian Finch doesn’t use his astonishing brain power in interesting ways, he does not act in a self-interested manner to improve his own life. Conversely, part of the appeal of the 2011 Limitless movie were the interesting ways in which Bradley Cooper used his added bran power to benefit himself.
In this episode, Jake McDorman and Jennifer Carpenter investigate a cartel shooting. Through a series of brilliant deductions, McDorman is able to identify that the shooter is six foot five or taller, and then through his perfect memory recall, is able to identify the shooter as a Nordic Olympic Skiing silver medalist. I didn’t feel that Mcdorman was smart, so much as I felt he could suddenly read minds or possessed clairvoyance. In short, because McDorman’s thought-process was not one I could even conceivably make myself, but rather a series of impossibly minute observations, I enjoyed it less. In fact, I am finding that the entire depiction of McDorman’s NZT-state was less convincing and less enjoyable. The appeal of Limitless’ premise is the idea that ‘I could feasibly do that if I had 100% of my brain’.
The plot of this episode came across as much more formulaic than previous episodes; it consisted of an interesting crime scene with one outstanding peculiarity, followed by McDorman explaining how one small detail led him to do hours of research which yielded a totally ridiculous yet logical solution to the case. The episode was full of lines like, “Based on the several differing sizes of small cuts on your left index finger, I assume you’ve been around a recently-birthed litter of puppies and judging by the jumpiness of your demeanor when Harris entered the room, I’ll guess they’re Mastiffs”. The subject of these analyses will then turn away and gruffly correct, “Great Danes, actually”.
These sorts of highly hypothetical observations (which always somehow prove to be correct) are prevalent in so many TV shows now, that they fail to prove much about a character to me. In short, I do not find them an effective or clever way to communicate that Brian Finch is a genius, rather they seem to me like an easy wayto make a character look smart without actually being smart. In television, there seems to be a belief that if a writer crams logic and big words into a character’s mouth, then that character will automatically be intelligent. I would prefer to see a character’s intelligence demonstrated in more realistic ways.
While this noticeable decline in the nuance of Smart Brian’s portrayal annoyed me, the episode itself was still an enjoyable police procedural. The show maintained its strong visual sense of style and effective use of post-production. Also, this episode was funny. McDorman is a skilled comic actor. Playing off of stiff, suit-wearing FBI agents was a major source of comedy in this episode, and will probably continue to be for the remaining episodes. McDorman and Carpenter’s relationship still isn’t captivating, that is to say their scenes on screen together are far from magic, but they function well and will presumably only play off each other better as the season progresses.
Bradley Cooper showed up again—this time as the face on a political campaign pin. The writers will continue to find ways to use Cooper without actually having him in scenes. In tonight’s episode, a deep-voiced, bald, British black guy wearing a suit invokes the name of Eddie Mora, ominously telling Brian to ‘do exactly what he says or else’. Eddy Mora remains the intrigue of the series to me. While most scenes in this episode were rather bland, I automatically straightened in my seat and came to attention when Mora was mentioned. I suspect he will be a valuable serum the writers will use to rejuvenate the show whenever necessary.
Mike Gioia strategically plans trips to the fridge during commercial breaks. Since subscribing to Netflix, he has shown early signs of emaciation.
Mike Gioia | Contributor