TV Review: Limitless (1X05) “Personality Crisis”

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As I watched the first half of this episode, I was almost certain that this would prove to be the first episode of Limitless to come up a bit short. Don’t get me wrong, nothing in “Personality Crisis” was bad, but everything was starting to feel a bit routine. There was yet another case to be solved, more juggling of the FBI agents to keep them in the dark of Brian’s true activities with Senator Morra and company, and a brand new bevy of visual gags. It seemed as though the show was just clenching onto these plot points for an episode, foot steadily placed on the brake until Bradley Cooper makes his grand return next week. I was wrong. It may have taken a while to reveal itself, but this was actually one of the strongest individual story arcs the show has had so far. Brian witnessed the consequences of deception from both an outside and personal angle. His struggle with his more stoic, tactical approach to the danger around him fueled by NZT came to clash with his more emotionally fueled un-medicated side in full force.

In what proved to be a pretty brilliant device to establish the duality between the two sides of Brian, we began the episode with a morning video left by NZT Brian for his groggy counterpart. Using little clay figures of all the key players, Brian reminded both himself and us of the predicament he finds himself in having found out that Rebecca’s father was in fact an NZT user and distributor last week. He can’t tell Rebecca at risk of him ending up in jail for breaching FBI secrets, but does not want her to find out in a more rude way. In order to live with this secret, he asserts that he must become “Bad-Ass Brian” (as opposed to “Mr. Happy Nice Guy), who is perfectly capable of holding onto his secrets without being compromised. While this supposed personality change initially seemed to be a throwaway line just to get the plot moving along, it ended up being the thread that tied all of Brian’s new-found troubles together.

Enter his latest case. This one involved Chris Harper, the captured brother of hate-group member Sam Harper. You see, Sam had stolen some chemicals from a research facility that if combined, could create a weapon of mass destruction that could wipe out a section of the city. This would all be very worrying stuff if we didn’t have our super-powered detective on the case, but since we do, this whole thing definitely seemed a bit trite at first. Then things took a turn, because as it turns out catching Sam Harper proved to be more of a challenge to Brian’s heart than to his brain. Seeing as Chris was just about the only person who could draw Sam into the open, Brian needed to get Chris to agree to set up his brother to go to jail. A hard dilemma already, considering that Brian has a couple brothers of his own. Struggling to find an angle, Rebecca suggested that Brian bend the truth, and tell Chris that Sam will be given a second chance to pursue an education in prison. In other words, it was time to become “Bad Ass Brian” to get the job done.

Everything seemed to be going smoothly. Chris agreed, Sam took the bait, and the attempt to capture the later seemed to go off well at first. That is until Sam’s associate, shortly after Sam had been captured, came up from behind the squad and shot Chris in the chest. Now, normally on this type of show, this kind of thing would simply be a slap on the wrist for Brian. “See what happens when you lie?” the creators would taunt “your buddies get hurt!” Not this time. Chris dies in the hospital shortly after being shot, and in Brian’s mind, it’s all because of the lie he told to get the job done. The only person even willing to attempt to comfort him was Rebecca, the last person Brian wants to hear “sometimes you have to lie on this job” from right now. While this show can certainly be a big goofball sometimes, this tragic ending proved that it is more than willing to show consequences when necessary, something that has seemed a little up in the air since the pilot.


Meanwhile, we discovered that Rebecca is fielding a lie or two of her own. It was revealed that she’s been carrying on a relationship with hand to hand combat instructor Casey (Desmond Harrington) behind the agency’s back. While certainly a less damaging fib than the ones that Brian has been carrying around, it does require her to in a sense take on the persona of “Bad-Ass Rebecca” in order to keep it. This twist could have easily felt cheep and contrived in the hands of lesser actors, but Jennifer Carpenter and Harrington did a wonderful job of making these two seem completely well adjusted. Casey isn’t begging Rebecca to go public with this, or causing problems because of the new guy she’s been spending so much time with, he’s just a nice guy who clearly really cares about Rebecca without wanting to compromise either of their jobs. That said, I doubt it’ll be him doing the compromising, as Brian decided to let Mr. Happy Nice Guy win, giving Rebecca the file on her father at the end of the episode.

Despite a fairly weak start, this ended up being one of the most character driven and foreboding episodes of Limitless yet. It certainly was a great set-up for what is sure to be an explosive upcoming hour, as Eddie finally returns to check in on his pawn just as he starts to fall out of line. I just hope that Cooper is able to stick around for more than one scene this time, as his villainous presence has been one of the most compelling episodes of the show so far. One thing is for sure, we’re going to need a whole lot of Bad-Ass Brian next week.




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