Limitless is yet another Specialist Male/Cop Female show to come out this year, but unlike the others, the thing that makes the male a specialist is happenstance. As audiences flocked to Blindspot and shunned Minority Report, what will the public make of this offering?
...not a whole lot.
A pilot needs to do a lot of things; establish characters, arcplot if there is one, and deliver a fun, entertaining, compelling reason to come back next week. But, when you’re bouncing off an established known quantity like a movie, surely you can do more than that. Surely, you can move quicker, be smarter, establish quicker and make something stand out.
Unfortunately, Limitless doesn’t do that. It is a standard, by-the-numbers male specialist/female cop show. It is Forever. It is Castle. It is Rosewood, Lucifer, and Minority Report (all new this season). It is a staple of failed shows across the Networks (Castle being the exception to this rule), and yet they continue to be made, time and time again.
The main difference between this and the other offerings is that the hero isn’t a successful author, immortal, a prized forensic specialist, a mentalist, or a zombie; he is someone who has been given his specialty and whose connection to that specialty is tenuous at best. He operates at the whim of someone else, the nurse who will be Bradley Cooper’s proxy ‘cause why would Bradley Cooper want to slum it in Network TV for a season.
The episode does throw up some questions, mostly “why” and “how”, but not in good ways. After finding his friend dead, our hero Brian Finch makes his way to a Subway station were FBI agent Rebecca Harris is waiting for him. Eh, how? They then make a big deal about the fact that an FBI agent didn’t shoot someone who, at this point, wasn’t even a suspect. At that point, they didn’t know his name, who he was, or his connection to the case. Also, how did she know his identity? She didn’t see him run from the apartment and even if there was a description of him, would it be accurate enough for her to be certain enough to shoot him?
Why did the bank employee listen to this (likely) smelly rocker temp guy about this new filing system or about anything to do with her personal life? It was all unproven and an invasion of privacy.
Why did Finch’s friend give him a pill of NZT when he was running out? Had he not felt the effects of withdrawal? Say on his first dose, did he know how long it would last? And if he did, then someone must have warned him against the come-down off NZT?
Why does the villain shoot one guy and then stage the other as a suicide? He’s on NZT. He’s ON NZT! He should be the smartest guy in the room... but he’s so definitely not.
The plot isn’t the only thing at fault. The script leaves something to be desired as well. Finch breaks into the FBI agent’s home and she finds this somehow ingratiating, as Finch uses information he couldn’t know to manipulate her. If this was any other situation, a smart character would think that Finch is playing her and he is not to be believed. Indeed, the most likely explanation is that he killed both people and is trying to muddy the waters by using the Sharon Stone Basic Instinct defense.
And when Finch gets shot by the villain, he calls the FBI agent for assistance, and she magically knows he was shot in the leg.
After our hero gets shot by the villain, Bradley Cooper shows up to give him a magic pill... for the magic pill. Why him? Why chose Finch? No clue. No evidence is provided. It’s just massively coincidental.
The second magic pill (okay, an injection) makes Finch immune from the side effects of the first magic pill, but still gives him the limitless powers (roll credits). They even go so far to say that his brain is uneffected, but wasn’t it that the more magic pill you took, the better you became? At least, that was the world building in the movie. Yes, there was side effects, but that was from withdrawal.
Also, there is no reason for Cooper’s Senator Morra to select Finch. Think about it. Morra has the limitless abilities, so he could have done the same as Finch did at the start of the episode; get his “people” to go through a bunch of files and find the perfect candidate for whatever undisclosed and likely unwritten master plan he has. Selecting Finch is nonsense. The only thing which makes him special is the injection which Morra’s sassy black nurse will give him. Without that, he’s nothing.
If I was in a generous mood I’d say that there is no connection between Morra and Finch, which makes it perfect for a “strangers on a train” like scenario... but then any of the candidates in the files would also be similarly strange to Morra... they could make sure that in a world of six-degree-of-separation, Morra and the candidate are seven steps clear.
And then, how does the hero save the day? By robbing a bank. He puts a bunch of people’s lives in danger (either they think he’s going to hurt them or the highly militarized police may hurt them when the storm the bank) all to get illegal access to the safety deposit box. This is an illegal search. This is inadmissible. The villain WALKS FREEEEEEE! Even if this was allowed, who has the snuff-box the pills were from? That’s right; Finch. How can we know that someone who can pick locks didn’t pick the locks? There is no evidence connecting the villain to the murders.
(Even if they got a warrant for his apartment and found a bunch of bullet holes which lined up with Finch’s account, it would all be thrown out as fruit of the poisonous tree.)
The core of the problem is the level of intelligence each character has and the decisions the make. Too frequently shows create characters saying they are incredibly smart, genuises even, but then they do stupid, stupid things. Based on their actions herein, the villain was a moron, the FBI agent is gullible, Morra is presumptive as hell, and the hero... well... he robs a bank to prove his innocence... and he thinks that he had a bargaining chip to play to get his Dad a new liver. Excuse me, we’d like to take a piece of your brain or we’re sending you to prison for the next ten years.
The last thing is, well, the reviewer/blogger/early audience reaction to the show. I’ve seen “awesome”, “amazing”, and “best of the year”. Now, the “best of the year” I can let slide because, well, this year isn’t that impressive. But, if it’s the case that these bloggers are just looking for some comfort viewing tripe to help their digestive process after a tough day at work... then we really need to come up with some different words to describe it. “Adequate” or “Acceptable”, for example.
These are the same people who laud shows every year, when history tells us clearly that they are going to be mostly shit. Do we accept they just want clicks, are they part of the native media marketing machine, are they dishonest narrators to our culture or are they that deluded that they think this year, this year, it will be all different? Only they can tell, but they no longer have credibility in my eyes.
As for Limitless, it’s a dud. It’s a oh-no-where’s-my-pill, pop-pill, solve-case. Rinse and Repeat.