Limitless went the Ferris Bueller route this week and I have to admit, I kind of loved it.
The episode once again showed that Limitless is really trying to use humor as a means of setting itself apart from the numerous other crime-related procedurals on television. It obviously does have its darker storylines, we’ve seen them particularly in the last few episodes, but Limitless puts just as great a focus on its comedic elements, something that can’t be said for many of its television counterparts.
We all know that Limitless has struggled a bit with balancing all of its crazy plots and sub-plots, but the show’s humor has remained consistent throughout, which is something that I actually really appreciate as a viewer. There’s enough doom and gloom out there so it’s always fun to mentally shut down as Brian mentally boots-up.
This week’s episode broke away from its usual melting pot of storylines and plot devices so let’s just jump right into what went down in, “Brian Finch’s Black Op”. Spoilers ahead!
Fiiiiinch. Fiiiiiinch. Anyone?
As mentioned, Brian finds his inner Ferris Bueller this week in an attempt to get, in his mind, a much-deserved break from the FBI. Evidently, now that he has the small stash of NZT provided to him by Senator Morra last week, Brian feels that it’s high time he has some fun with the drug instead of taking it to become the FBI’s best consultant. Feeling that he’s more than deserving of a day off, Brian feigns sickness in a sequence that is nearly identical to the opening of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Much like the character he’s paying homage to, Brian is successful in getting Mike and Ike off his back and, more importantly, out of his apartment.
(Side note, have I already brought up how annoying it is that Brian also scored himself a dope crib- exposed brick and all- in his deal with the FBI? Because come on, really?!)
It was an admirable effort but Brian’s plan for rest and relaxation almost immediately goes down the gutter when he gets the, “bag over the head,” treatment and is whisked away to the woods where he’s asked to help the CIA find Aleksey Basayev, a terrorist who’d snuck into the states a few weeks ago and is now hiding in the forest. Brian of course isn’t all that thrilled with the request, understandably considering he was tased and essentially kidnapped by the people requesting his help. Voicing his disbelief over the whole situation, Brian ends up relenting to the request when shown a, “permission slip,” from the FBI demanding that he be brought back alright after his black-ops mission as well as two nice NZT pills given to his temporary boss to give him for the task. Evidently the CIA and FBI were already in cahoots where Brian was concerned.
After a somber, if slightly pathetic, “It’s supposed to be my day off,” Brian pops his pill and gets to work, quickly figuring out that they’re in nowheresville Pennsylvania and that the faster he helps his kidnappers-turned-teammates, the faster he gets home. After Brian’s brief rundown of Basayev to the audience, he figures out that the terrorist is likely in a specific area of the woods that gives him easy access to the three essentials: food, shelter, and water.
They manage to track Basayev down easily, capturing him in a scuffle and tying him up in a small cabin to interrogate him. Brian being Brian decides to listen in on the conversation, using his NZT high to recall his knowledge of the Russian dialect and learning that the men plan on killing Basayev the first chance they get. This doesn’t sit well with Brian in the slightest so he turns to the implied, “weak link,” of the group, who he’s so humorously dubbed Cameron (another nod to FBDO) and tries to convince him to help keep Basayev alive. “Cameron,” agrees and says that he’ll put out a distress call to the forest rangers, bringing them in and making it more difficult for the others to kill Basayev and get rid of the body.
Brian’s a trustworthy doofus in this instance and actually believes him, meaning it comes as a bit of a surprise when Cameron kills Kellerman, the leader of the group, and reveals that he and Petrov (Goon #2) plan on selling Basayev for ten million big ones. They tie Brian up for insurance purposes, knowing full well that neither government agency will bomb or attack them with him present. Brian’s NZT alter-ego appears in the form of Rebecca this time around and tells him to convince Cameron to take out his partner and trick him into thinking a poisoned berry is really his last NZT pill.
While Brian is experiencing the worst camping trip in the history of ever, Rebecca and Boyle are chasing down leads to figure out where Brian is and what the hell the CIA is really up to. After finding out that Basayev was essentially set-up and mislabeled a terrorist, Rebecca demands to speak with Brian, which is when the two plots intertwine. While traipsing through the woods, Cameron gets a signal from the CIA boss and opens up a video feed. Brian takes the opportunity to give Rebecca a code and clues her in to where he is without alerting his captors.
The end of the video feed leads to the end of Goon #2’s life when Cameron shoots him and demands Brian give him the NZT pill. Of course, he hadn’t thought to check on Basayev first, who ends up slashing his throat with little fanfare. Basayev then demands that Brian give him the pill so he can find answers to his predicament, and Brian does but warns him that it’s been poisoned with the berry juices. Basayev decides to take his chances, popping the NZT and leaving Brian to fend for himself.
Which, as it turns out, he isn’t really capable of doing once his NZT high wears off. Brian wanders aimlessly around the woods until he collapses in defeat and is once more visited by NZT’s Fauxbecca, who basically tells him to pull himself together and figure something out. Eventually real Rebecca finds him and brings him back to the relative safety of the FBI headquarters in New York.
Limitless did a better job than usual sticking to single plot this week and perhaps my thorough enjoyment of this episode really stems from the fact that I didn’t feel the need to take diligent notes whilst watching it. Limitless is a complex show balancing plots left and right and weaving these tiny details into every episode to the point where viewers are often left trying to puzzle out the intricacies of it all. “Brian Finch’s Black Op,” was a concise episode of television that emphasized the show’s strongest features, humor and self-awareness, and let the sometimes-convoluted web of sub-plots fall to the wayside.
Though there arguably was a sub-plot to the episode in Rebecca and Boyle’s tracking down of CIA operatives to uncover the secrets behind the mysterious black-ops mission, it was wholly relevant to the overarching storyline and actually tied into it.
Hopefully Limitless will continue to focus on a singular storyline per episode, alluding to the overarching ideas on occasion, and take a step back from giving viewers a million things to focus on.
Because unlike Brian, we don’t have NZT to help us concentrate.
Episode Grade: A-
- The numerous Ferris Bueller nods were on point, particularly Brian referring to the CIA operatives as the iconic film characters after their refusal to tell him their real names.
- I’m starting to really enjoy the weird little animations and visual explanations that accompany Brian’s voiceovers (this episode had a comic sequence that provided a cool visual breakdown of Aleksey Basayev). I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the voiceovers are here to stay, but think that Limitless has wisely paired them with cool graphics to make them a fun kind of explanatory.
- “Damn, man. What’s in those pills?” The question of the show evil black-ops dude in the woods. The question of the show!
- White, leather, fringe jacket. Another killer nod to FBDO but man, that’s one thing that should have stayed in the eighties. Even Fauxbecca agrees. “Brian, I have to be honest. I wish you didn’t dress me like this.”
- What the hell happened to Brian’s family? His dad was the focus of the Pilot and then there was that ominous reveal of his new nurse (AKA Morra’s employee) and then poof! Nothing. Haven’t seen or heard much about him or the other members of Brian’s family other than the occasional vague mention. Do you think that was just a sub-plot that was deemed drop-worthy or do you think we’re going to get some more familial conflict down the line?
Sound off with your thoughts and speculations on Twitter or in the comments below!