Often when a show comes back from winter break, the first episode will promise some huge upheaval in the commercials and then barely deliver on it once the asses are actually in the seats. It would have been especially easy for Limitless to pull something similar, as this episode featured the third of the much touted guest appearances by Bradley Cooper as Eddie Morra, that up to this point have been glorified cameos. However, as it has been doing all season, it defied expectations and delivered a story that introduced several new elements while delving into the emotional core that will hopefully be the driving force for the rest of the season.
As the episode began, we found Brian facing the possibility of the entire lie he’s built with the CDC and FBI falling apart. During a speech Senator Morra was giving on a Naval base, an assassin’s bullet ripped through his shoulder. He’s lucky too, it could have been his head if NZT didn’t help him pick up the assassin’s trail from thousands of miles away. (It’s the first time we’ve seen him use his abilities since the film.) Brian, already worrying about his supply of side effect repelling shots being lost, is warned by Morra’s associate Sands that he must keep his partners at the CDC off the trail of the culprit, a former employee of Eddie’s named Piper. When Brian ultimately tracks down Piper by decoding an NZT level riddle, she tells him that Morra is lying to him, and that if he gains more power he will be an unstoppable force of destruction.
As a result of all the tension, Brian found himself in quite a dilemma of loyalty, leading to the episode’s most interesting moments. Throughout the season, he’s found himself struggling with maintaining the lighter side of his personality, instead of veering all the way into “Bad-Ass Brian” but finally, the latter needed to take the wheel and make an important decision. This was especially true once he met Piper, (Georgina Haig) who as it turns out was on the team that invented the enzyme in Brian’s shots, and may have been framed by Eddie for the murder of her boyfriend. There was a nice parallel going on here, with Brian being faced with both Piper and Eddie’s perspectives on the matter in essentially back-to-back scenes, without one or the other being labeled as completely right. Dealing with all of this guilt was coupled with going behind his friends at the FBI’s back, which lead to his chilling realization that, “every time I [betray them] it gets a little bit easier.” Ultimately, he took Piper’s side while still managing to deceive both Eddie and the audience, faking Piper’s death in a very effective bait and switch. If anything, it was a bit of a shame that the show has seemingly written Piper out so quickly, as she could be a very interesting sounding board for Brian as this situation escalates.
However, the true show stopper of the episode was the final conversation between Brian and Eddie in the CDC office. As Brian entered, Eddie posed one simple question, “Why are you trying to hold on to the person you were before NZT?” Since he’s been threateningly looming over the course of this season, it’s been easy to forget that Eddie was once the hero of his own story. A dead-end writer who just needed a break, ultimately corrupted by the power he found in NZT. He was looking for an escape from the person he was born as, and took advantage of the one he discovered. Brian, by contrast, does not share this fatal flaw that here devices hero and villain, wanting to hold on to the flaws that make him Brian Finch. Confused by Brian’s responses, Eddie left the room by powerfully stating, “You’re above the kind of concerns that you’re letting weigh you down, put them down, and you’ll feel so much lighter.” Perhaps Brian is too strong to be satisfied in simply feeling light. For the first time, this didn’t feel like Bradley Cooper just showing up to make a guest appearance, but a natural progression of the character he played so wonderfully in the film. It was an utterly fantastic scene, my favorite of the series so far.
It’s easy to wonder how much longer Morra is going to simply be able to loom in the shadows of Cooper’s limited availability. I’m wondering not only because of the reveals that capped out the episode, (Rebecca starting to piece together Eddie’s story, Eddie running for president) but also because of how fantastic the dynamic between him and Brian has the potential to be. However, even in the scenes without Cooper, this was by far the best episode of Limitless yet. Engaging and dramatic without being overwrought, with just the right amount of the show’s signature humor to keep things popping along. Even though I’m sure there’s going to be a little bit more stalling before we truly get back to this storyline, I haven’t been this excited for the next episode of the show since the pilot aired. If it keeps up episodes like this, and the last, almost equally good episode, we may yet see a series that reaches 100 percent of its potential.