In 2011, before Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, and American Sniper, Bradley Cooper starred with Robert De Niro in a “little” thriller called Limitless, based on Alan Glynn’s novel The Dark Fields. Now, Cooper is executive producing a CBS series of the same name about the powers of mind that one man inherits when he takes a special pill (think The Matrix with less machines and less… kung fu). Starring Jake McDorman as Brian Finch, the show revolves around Finch’s unlocked mental prowess as it’s applied to helping FBI agents Rebecca Harris (Jennifer Carpenter) and Spellman Boyle (Hill Harper) stop crime.
The film received reasonably high marks from critics but it wasn’t … mind-blowing. The series substitutes the drug NZT-48 for some kind of Buddhist enlightenment (see, Neo?) and implies that humans are much smarter than they think they are, even though they depict Finch as pretty unmotivated, mindless, and unlikable as a super slacker in the beginning. While the film is supposed to lead into the show (yes, Cooper makes a cameo), it seems more like a reboot that drags through the premiere. (Honestly, that’s what I’m finding to be true for many pilots these days – everything is set up, so you almost have to discount that first episode.)
The premise for Limitless is interesting enough that I’m willing to forgive the exposition of the first episode. What I would like to see is whether or not, over time, Finch gradually understands his world and his powers any more clearly without NZT-48. Can Finch actually adapt over time, or is he merely a drug user in need of a fix? In the pilot, the crash off off NZT-48 was pretty devastating…
Overall, the production was terrific, and the acting was well done. Finch’s internal monologue is hilarious, and the scenes where the different aspects of his brain talk to each other was a solid presentation of the idea. My biggest concerns are that either the show doesn’t develop Finch properly or it settles in for a case-by-case examination of crime (a la Person of Interest) without developing its own mythology.
What do you think?