Limitless, the TV Series which originally ran on CBS from 2015 to 2016, is a spin-off and continuation of the movie of the same title released in 2011. The series share a similar premise as the movie, where an average guy with a less-than-promising future got his hands on NZT, a mind-altering drug that can temporarily enhance one's cognitive and perceptive abilities. In the series, Brian Finch (Jake McDorman) crossed path with the FBI and was later recruited as a consultant, enabling him to solve crimes like no other agent had ever done before.
Brian Finch, the FBI Consultant (portrayed by Jake McDorman)
A goofy, more-than-once described as a manchild, Finch is the main character of the show who initially started off as a band singer in a band of a few people, before ending up in "a project of one people" to release an album (or so he said on the dinner table with his family). Eventually, just like how Eddie Morra (portrayed by Bradley Cooper) got his hands on NZT in the movie after crossing paths with a guy he used to know, a similar thing happened to Finch.
Finch was later recruited into FBI as a consultant because of his supposed immunity from NZT side effects. It's a lot of fun watching him solve crimes and connect the dots so seamlessly, and how he could easily be someone nobody bats an eye to in a room, only to suddenly become the smartest and the most cognitively impressive person within moments after ingesting the pill.
Finch was, most of the time, was very emotionally aware of the implications of his actions. Despite being a goofball and being optionally careless in reading the room, even without NZT, his actions on the grand scheme were often driven by the motive to protect the people who matter to him.
His morally-upright personality had been perfectly described by Agent Rebecca Harris (portrayed by Jennifer Carpenter) in the show. Within the first few episodes, she mentioned to Brian how the first things he did after taking NZT was to help his father. In the last episode, she mentioned to Brian that he is the most emotionally and morally mature person she has ever met. Anything less than morally-upright that Brian did, they were usually, arguably, done under duress. It's either he's afraid someone's going to come after his safety, or his family, or other people he cared about.
Rebecca Harris, FBI Special Agent and Finch's "Handler" (portrayed by Jennifer Carpenter)
Driven to find out what happened to her father, Rebecca is the "handler" of Finch and was the person who recommended the CJC (Cross Jurisdictional Command) headed by Nasreen "Naz" Pouran (portrayed by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) to take on Brian as a consultant.
The show hinted that she may actually be even smarter and cognitively more capable than Finch if she were to take NZT. It would make sense, considering that she was portrayed to be intuitive and analytical even without it. With NZT, Rebecca was able to turn off the pain sensors in her brain, something that Finch was never shown to do. Perhaps he would also be able to given the opportunity, but in any case, the show did her justice when she was temporarily superpowered in Episode 20.
Spelman Boyle, FBI Special Agent and Rebecca's Colleague (by Hill Harper)
Not much is known about Boyle, except that he is quite a by-the-book, we-should-follow-the-protocol type of agent. He has a mother who likely has Alzheimer's, and he once mentioned something like how perhaps he should give her NZT to give her a day of clarity. Perhaps more of his character would have been explored if Season 2 were to go on.
Nasreen "Naz" Pouran, FBI Special Agent In-Charge and Commander of the CJC (portrayed by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio)
The typical leader, "Naz" keeps everything in check and everyone in line (or at least, she attempts to). I'm pretty sure she had been secretly impressed by Finch over and over again, but the position she held needed her to maintain her composure and demeanor towards the kind of goofball Finch is and towards everyone else. As a leader, she occasionally allowed herself to cross some red tapes for the benefit of her people and for the benefit of CJC.
- She did Rebecca a few major favors: once when she didn't probe into how Rebecca found out about her father's file which was supposed to be accessed only with the highest security clearance, and another when she offered to backdate Rebecca's relationship declaration report to HR with Casey.
- She also basically forgave Finch twice: once when he went to Russia on a whim, and another time when she found out that he was actually not immune to the side effects of NZT and let him back in the CJC temporarily in the finale.
Jarrod Sands, Morra's "fixer", later the rogue leader of The Legion of Whom (portrayed by Colin Salmon)
A former MI6, Jarrod Sands was appropriately portrayed as an intimidating, ruthless, and seemingly emotionless character. He is essentially the main antagonist of the show, and although he was first portrayed as Morra's "fixer" to do his dirty work, he later went rogue and went on to establish his NZT-powered team of criminals, whom Brian named The Legion of Whom.
It's interesting to see the uncovering of his softer side he had for his biological son in Episodes 16 and 20. He was also portrayed to have romantic interests: Anastasia, and potentially another woman from The Legion of Whom.
Eddie Morra, the Senator, previously the main lead of the movie Limitless (portrayed by Bradley Cooper)
Now, the Senator is mysterious and is reminiscent of the omniscient Dumbledore who seems to know-it-all, but does nothing and hides away so that he can hand off the plot and the stage to Harry Potter, or in this case, Brian Finch.
It's unclear whether his motives are actually driven by the greater good, or whether he had always authorized every single action Sands took in his name. There were moments where I felt he was almost... psychotic, when he kept going on and on about the greater good and how much can be done with NZT. His character plot is quite the cliffhanger, since he basically disappeared in the finale, once again handing off the stage to Brian Finch.
"Mike" and "Ike", respectively FBI Agents Darryl and Jason, Brian's bodyguards, and later part of Brian Finch's Crime Squad (portrayed by Michael James Shaw and Tom Degnan)
(Yes, this would make sense for those who have watched the finale.)
Cliffhangers & Questions
- The biggest cliffhanger certainly goes to the question: What happened to Senator Morra?
- Why does the NZT in the series seem different in quality compared to that from the movie? In the movie, Eddie had dozens and dozens of NZT before getting any side effects, and he mentioned if he kept maintaining the dose, he would not get any of them. In the series, Brian only had one or two doses before developing side effects that appear to be worse than the ones experienced by Morra.
- Piper went all the way to Russia for the last ingredient to make the immunity shots and she took one single packet of the extract of the rare flower. Was that all she needed to make as many doses as she needs in the future? Or could she somehow duplicate and synthesize the extract limitlessly?
- The episode description of the first part of the finale in Netflix states that New York was suddenly flooded with low-grade NZT. How was it low-grade? As I recall, there was no reference made in the episode where the NZT that flooded New York was inferior to the ones that Brian had been taking from the FBI.
It will be interesting to explore what would happen now that NZT is public knowledge. Perhaps the show could explore how there would be NZT-powered everyday criminals that the Brian Finch Crime Squad has to handle. Or perhaps the government now wants to regulate the drug, while Senator Morra wipes them out of the streets once more using Brian's help.
CBS Entertainment President Glenn Geller reportedly told the media that the series has "failed to connect with viewers as well as other shows had." I personally think Brian Finch is very easily likeable, his personality and motivation was easy to follow, and the storyline did not bore me one bit even on my second rewatch.
Regardless, I don't think the ending for Season 1 was unsatisfactory—it had the right amount of closure as well as cliffhanger. The closure was good enough in that all the plot lines introduced in the show drew to an end, while the cliffhangers were simply elements peripheral to the show and mostly involve Senator Morra and his otherworldly Dumbledore-ness portrayal.
Whatever the case, the whole premise of the show has always been interesting to me, and I would certainly welcome a Season 2. The possibilities and the directions this show could take on is limitless.
For some reason, in my second rewatch, I thought there were only 10-ish episode to the series, but I was glad to find out that there are actually 22!
Here are the list of episodes of the CBS TV Show Limitless:
- Badge! Gun!
- The Legend of Marco Ramos
- Page 44
- Personality Crisis
- Side Effects May Include…
- Brian Finch's Black Op
- When Pirates Pirate Pirates
- This Is Your Brian on Drugs
- The Assassination of Eddie Morra
- Stop Me Before I Hug Again
- Fundamentals of Naked Portraiture
- Sands, Agent of Morra
- Close Encounters
- A Dog's Breakfast
- Hi, My Name Is Rebecca Harris
- Finale: Part One!
- Finale: Part Two!!
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