Limitless has settled into an effective, but predictable rhythm over the past few weeks. Something of a juggling act between NZT fueled investigation, and a slow sorting of pieces for the show’s endgame. Side Effects May Include… is the first episode to break this formula since the pilot, focusing entirely on the main story as Brian and company made some fairly massive revelations that were in no small part brought upon by the return of Bradley Cooper’s Senator Eddie Morra (which I suspect is not coincidentally coinciding with the release of Cooper’s film Burnt this weekend).
It seems as though Brian cannot just coast along on NZT immunity any longer. The shot that Morra gave him in the pilot has worn off, and he’s starting to experience some pretty disorienting side-effects. One of the most fun aspects of this episode, these side effects not only toyed with Brian’s visual perception of his surroundings, a sequence where people’s facial features disappeared before Brian’s eyes being most effective, but his mental one as well. The voice inside his head became particularly worried, breaking Brian’s increasingly limited options down to multiple choice answers.
These options weren’t strictly related to Brian’s condition. Sands informed him that Morra wanted him to frame Rebecca in light of all that she has found out about NZT in search of the truth behind her father’s death. This moral dilemma kept him separate from Rebecca for much of the episode, as she investigated a strong lead Brian had dug up, who ended up being Andrew Epperly. A friend and supplier of Rebecca’s father, who found himself murdered all to soon at the hands of the gung-ho Sands. Frankly, this B-story was much less engaging than Brian’s struggle, and did eventually descend into a bunch of logistical and technical babble that flies rather easily over the head. It just further goes to show that Rebecca still struggles to carry attention without her goofier counterpart.
Meanwhile, Cooper’s return as Morra did not disappoint in the slightest, a good thing considering we will certainly see about a thousand flashbacks to it in upcoming episodes. As it turns out, Morra isn’t as psychotic as it seemed in the pilot, and is in fact planning some very beneficial experiments for human-kind. Along with helping Brian re-cooperate, he reveals that he in fact did not require Rebecca to be framed or killed, but was merely testing Brian’s “limits.” He wants Brian to be a partner to him, not just a pawn in his game like Sand’s, and shows Brain an experimental piece of rice that can feed a human being in full, essentially solving world hunger. Even if Eddie is manipulating Brian, and I have no doubt that he is, his angle here makes a whole lot more sense considering where we left off in the film. Eddie isn’t merely a power-hungry senator looking to impose his will on everybody, but is still a guy who is genuinely trying to follow through on the plan to change the world that he made in the movie. He’s just realized that perhaps some dirty tactics are required to get there.
This was certainly a much more uneven episode than we’ve been treated to in recent weeks. While the situation Brian has ultimately found himself in is certainly going to change the fabric of the show a little bit, there wasn’t anything particularly special beyond Cooper’s cameo. There needed to be a bigger, more exciting beat to really accelerate the climatic content of this story, which instead came off as more of a transitional hour. Perhaps the show is at it’s best when it’s a procedural/serial hybrid, and from the looks of next week’s episode, we’re getting right back to that.