Limitless has the potential to be a huge hit… if it chooses to unlock it like a dose of NZT.
Granted, my initial reaction to hearing that the 2011 movie that starred Bradley Cooper was turning into a television series was not filled with positivity. But that’s when I thought it was going to be a reboot.
Instead, Limitless Season 1 is more of an expansion on the Limitless film, picking up after the events of the movie but focusing on a brand new character in Brian Finch (Jake McDorman).
And Limitless Season 1 Episode 1 feels cinematic almost right away, even replicating the feel of the movie in its use of color (a blue tint for the real world and an orange one for when Brian is on the drug). There’s some decent action, including a very cool sequence of Brian dropping down off the fire escape, and I actually enjoyed the use of the two Brians communicating while he was on the drug.
The pilot certainly doesn’t require you to have watched the film at all to get into the story, especially because it focuses on Brian, a bit lost in the world and getting the opportunity to find some focus… and himself in a dangerous situation with other NZT users.
McDorman (who I can’t help but remember him from his days on Greek) does a solid job as Brian and one who should be able to carry the series. He’s able to portray the sort of down-on-his-luck character as an underdog with a care and compassion for his family above all else. And at the same time, when the drug is activated, there’s such a confidence and matter-of-fact smoothness that you can see the transition between when his brain is working normally and then super efficiently.
I’m a bit unsure about Jennifer Carpenter’s character, FBI agent Rebecca Harris, but I think with time we’ll get to learn more about her. We do know she has a connection to the drug, but hopefully as we progress she’ll be more than just the typical bad-ass agent and become someone we can truly care about.
And of course, the appearance of Cooper is an exciting one, and he makes fantastic use of what little screen time he has reprising his film role as Eddie Morra. If anything, his presence not only connects the movie with the TV series, but it adds it some gravitas, while offering some unique story possibilities when it comes to his character interacting with Brian and some larger mythology aspects, especially involving NZT.
I know the series will be much more focused on Brian, but I’m hoping we will get some more chances to see Eddie, considering his super secret conversation with Brian. Eddie’s definitely going to use him later at some point.
Overall, the hour does a nice job of explaining the concept of the drug, making you care about Brian, and wrapping up his little story involving helping his father. Though it may have been a little ridiculous that “robbing” a bank and holding it hostage, and calling on Rebecca specifically, would make everything work out so easily.
By the end, the pilot really is the setup for what will be the premise of the series: the FBI teaming up with Brian when he’s on the super drug. It should wind up falling in line with some standard procedurals, working cases and getting the bad guy, but I also hope it will eventually follow what something like Person of Interest was able to do: create a world, story and characters that went beyond just the case of the week.
I was pleasantly surprised by this engaging pilot, especially the concept of expanding the film’s universe. There are plenty of possibilities this show can take, and we will see if Limitless Season 1 can really unlock its full potential with its follow-up episodes. But for now, I'm definitely hooked.
Did you enjoy the pilot? What do you think is in store for the series? Sound off below, and catch it all again when you watch Limitless online.
Sean McKenna was a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. He retired in May of 2017. Follow him on Twitter.