Limitless follows Brian Finch, a young man who takes a mysterious called NZT which increases his IQ and gives him perfect recall.
Warning there may be spoilers.
First of all I need to mention that I haven’t seen the film. So if there are any clever tie-ins I probably missed them. I did however notice a poster of Bradley Cooper on a streetlamp very early in the episode which I thought was a nice touch. And his cameo later on in the pilot was perfect. It was short but made a great impact on the show. Having not seen the film I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t enjoy Limitless as much but I don’t actually think it made a difference. The transition between the two seemed very smooth and everything was explained very clearly. They did better on this count than Minority Report, the other debuting show spun off from a movie. The whole story, in fact, was very easy to follow. That’s not to downplay the complex and interesting nature of the show. It was indeed very exciting, but the narrative was executed almost effortlessly which made it really easy to become drawn into.
Right off the bat Limitless threw an action scene our way. Main character Brian is being chased by the FBI and it leads to a very thrilling climax where he is stood in the path of an oncoming train. We don’t get to see the result of that until later in the episode. Of course we know he’s not going to die, he is the lead of the show after all, but it made for a great opener. After the suspense of the train we learn more about Brian’s life and back story. They spent more time on this than I thought they would and the pilot was so much better for it. We really got to grips with the character; his desires, his flaws and his motives. There were even scenes with his family whom eventually play a big part in the episode. Normally in action drama pilots like this, establishing and developing a character is not a top priority and as a result there’s a bit of a disconnect between the audience and character. But I have to give credit to Limitless; they really got the right balance of plot and character.
A big part of this was probably due to the fact that we had Brian, played by Jake McDorman, narrating throughout. The narration was actually a really useful plot device as well and I’m wondering (and hoping) that they continue to use it in future episodes. McDorman really is great as Brian. He’s definitely proven that he can hold his own as a lead on a show. He’s believable, relatable and very likeable. At his core the character is a man who would do anything for his family which I think is a trait we can all root for. And that’s what I found myself doing throughout the episode. I mean the guy went through a lot; learning that his dad was dying, finding his friend dead, getting framed for murder and being shot. But he kept going, and I had to applaud him for it. He went from this quite lost person to someone quite heroic. McDorman made it easy for me to invest in the show because his character was so easy to invest in. A job well done!
Other characters included FBI Agent Rebecca Harris played by Jennifer Carpenter, Special Agent in Charge Naz Pouran played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and FBI Agent Spellman Boyle played by Hill Harper. Carpenter got a lot of screen time and we got to learn about her background and her personal experience with NZT which definitely made the character more endearing. Harper, however, was seriously underused in the pilot. The man is a very talented actor so I’m hoping we get to see more of him in future episodes. It was very nice to see Ron Rifkin, who played Brian’s father, again on our screens though.
Limitless delivered a great pilot and I definitely enjoyed it much more than I thought it was. The cast were strong, the plot intriguing and writing intelligent. It will be interesting to see how they develop the show; I’ll definitely be watching.
Pilot Rating- 4.5/5