Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Limitless 1x09 "Headquarters!" (With An Exclamation Point!)

Original Airdate: November 17, 2015

One of the things that I find to be extremely impressive about Limitless is that it –– at any given moment –– can be the funniest show on television or the most heartbreaking. This new CBS hit series doesn't allow the fact that it's technically a procedural prevent it from having fun. In fact, I would argue that the first twelve minutes of "Headquarters!" is funnier than most of the half-hour sitcoms you'll find on television these days. The entire episode, really, was hilarious –– from Brian's incessant pleas for his own headquarters, to him assembling a team within the FBI that he named "the Bruntouchables" to Brian on NZT practicing synesthesia –– and yet it was also peppered with moments that managed to ground its slapstick shenanigans. That's what I truly appreciate about Limitless. On the surface, much like Brian Finch himself, this appears to lack substance. Without watching the series, you would assume that it is a show about people in the FBI solving crimes.

And though a lot of the show does involve cases and chase sequences and bad guys, the root of the show is Brian Finch himself, and he is much more complex than just a guy who takes a drug and works for the FBI. In "Headquarters!" we get to see more of Brian's family and the struggle that he is facing in his relationship with his father. It's one of the most poignant moments (and surprising) that the show has done thus far. But before we discuss that, let's talk about the episode.


I love that Brian Finch is a goofy person. I love that he's consistently silly, persistent, and yet also has a good heart. One of the most endearing things about Brian, though, is his sense of humor and dedication to his job. Again, on the surface it might appear that Brian is a slacker –– we would typify him that way, and it's tempting to look at the guy with dreams and a failed band and see him only as that. It's easy to see him as the kid who got kicked out of schools and took from people, rather than gave. But on NZT or off, Brian is loyal to the people that he cares about. He doesn't just want to make himself better, but he wants to make the world better. And he's yet to compromise his morals in an attempt to do so, which I find to be really admirable. There have been shows –– procedurals –– that portray characters who enter the crime-fighting world as good-hearted, pure, and optimistic, only to crush and break their spirits by letting these people get bogged down by the cynicism of the world and evil they see on a daily basis.

But what's really important is that Brian isn't that person. He maintains his humor, in spite of the tragedies happening around him. I think that is the thing that often makes him feel most like himself. No matter what else is happening around him at the FBI or in the field, he finds solace in making a joke or a sarcastic comment or a movie reference. It's the thing that comforts him. But Brian has done more than just find a coping mechanism for the work he does –– he has managed to maintain his grip on humanity and his optimism.

When Brian and his "Bruntouchables" begin to hunt down the top ten criminals on the FBI's Most Wanted list, the young man stumbles across something unexpected: a man named Lawrence, who Brian believes did not actually commit the crime he was on the list for. It's this really interesting sub-story of the episode, and it allowed us the chance to remember that Brian still gives people the benefit of the doubt because he's not an agent. He wasn't programmed to look at the world and see its dangers –– he still looks at it the same way a kid does: with threads of hope for humanity. So Brian's decision to believe in Lawrence and stick to that belief ends up (mostly) exonerating the man. That's what is so fascinating to me about Brian as a character. This is a person who genuinely does good in the world by being himself. It's not the NZT that makes Brian trust people and care about their stories; that is all HIM.

In "Headquarters!" Brian gets the chance to lead a team. And though some are reluctant at first to take orders from him (people like Boyle, for instance), everyone eventually does and they begin to click and function just like a team would. In the process, they travel to various parts of the world and capture the majority of the ten criminals on the list while having adventures and shenanigans (poor Ike was freezing in the Arctic while Mike got to sip drinks in the warm sun). 

Go team, go!


In spite of the fact that this episode was absolutely hilarious, what really struck me was the fact that it also was poignant. When Brian invites his entire family over for dinner at his new apartment in the city, he notices something odd –– his father is avoiding contact and conversation with him, and him alone. Ultimately, Brian's sister returns to his apartment and the two talk about why their dad has been shutting Brian out (sending a phone call straight to vocemail is cold). To be fair to him, Brian really IS trying to communicate with his dad. And when the man returns to the city to speak with his son, it's a really important and altering conversation.

Brian wants his dad's approval and to have a good relationship with him. Because Brian really and truly loves his father. He WANTS to be honest about Eddie Morra and NZT and the FBI. But he also remembers what happened the last time he was about to say something. And he remembers what Sketchy Sands said to him in the bar that one night, too. Brian's new life has not been something he revels in all of the time. Let's not forget that he carries this double life around like a burden. He's not happy that he has to shut the people he loves most in the world out, but that is what he feels is best. And Brian is finally in the kind of position in life where he can make decisions for other people –– responsible decisions. He never wants to jeopardize his relationship with his dad because of his secret... but he also would rather do anything else in the world than jeopardize his father's life by telling him.

Brian's father hands his son a box of mementos from childhood (we see Brian was always a fan of art projects) and with heartbreak evident, tells Brian that in spite of all of the bad decisions the man made as a child, he was always honest. ALWAYS. "I loved you for that," Brian's dad tells him. And we begin to grow misty-eyed as the young man does, because we want him to tell you, too! Brian explains that the situation is complex because it's dangerous. And this is what Brian's dad gives as a response:
"I would suffer for you. I would die for you. You're my son. You're my Brian."
This is such a beautiful sentiment because it exemplifies not just sacrificial love, but the fact that someone else is willing to carry the burden of Brian's secret, too. When Brian tells his father that the truth is dangerous, there is a shift –– now Brian isn't the one making all of the decisions, forced to carry all of the burdens. Now, his father is actively picking up that secret and saying that whatever happens next, it is his choice. Having a relationship with Brian is more important to his father than being in the dark. I think that's really important. 

Because this means that Brian's dad doesn't just say he loves his son –– he proves it. Everyone does, in this episode, too. Everyone proves that Brian Finch is a person they care about and are willing to support, no matter how seemingly silly or intensely significant the cause.

Bits & pieces:
  • I often laud Jake McDorman for the way that he portrays the emotional nuances of Brian Finch, and though he knocked the scene between Brian and his dad out of the park, what I really have to commend him on this week is his comedic timing and delivery. He doesn't get nearly enough credit for how he carries the show's humor. He sets the tone, really, and I absolutely love it. I was laughing out loud throughout most of the cold open and long after that.
  • This episode was REALLY funny, you guys. I need to re-watch to catch all the jokes I missed in my first viewing.
  • Favorite thing? The gag of the bell dinging every time Brian said: "HEADQUARTERS!"
  • "DAY THIRTY-FIVE!" That gag was also so on point.
  • "... You can keep me out of this title."
  • The Brian Finch and Rebecca Harris Amazing Major Crimes Squad = perfection.
  • "Sorry, Rebecca, I didn't mean to imply that women can't be horrible criminals, too." "... None... taken."
  • The Mike and Ike fist bump was adorable.
  • THEY MENTIONED HAMILTON IN THIS EPISODE. Honestly, I am rightly and truly obsessed with this musical so good on you, show.
  • "Like, all these tweens are so totally psyched they caught a bad guy."
  • "You're gonna pick up the scene by... actually picking up the scent?"
  • In non-comedic news, I like that we are getting a bit of insight into Boyle being conflicted over whether or not he wants to take NZT. Hill Harper briefly mentioned this at our press table in Comic-Con and it'll be an interesting topic for the show to pursue (how the other agents handle NZT) as the show continues.
  • "What color am I? Am I pink? ... I'm not pink, am I?" This, for some reason, was the most adorably-delivered line ever.
  • According to Jake McDorman, my synesthesia aura is "an electric cobalt."
  • "I'm like... 59% sure you're innocent."
  • Seriously, the end of this episode had me cackling.
Basically, I loved this episode of Limitless and I'm loving the show itself. What did you all think? Let me know below or tweet me! :)


  1. I am so glad you've written so passionately about this show. I might not have tuned in because I have to pay to see a lot of US television.

    I really enjoy how much fun they all seem to be having making this show. It seems to ooze out of all the performances. The comic book sequence at the end was priceless. I especially howled with laughter when Brian was trying to save Naz's life with CPR. It was such a great nod to her amazing role in the Abyss. (Gosh, I love that movie.) And all those little touches are done in a such a loving way.

    I am so in love with all the cardigans that Brian wears. I know it might sound weird but it just makes me love him more.

    I love that he kept calling the FBI the Enemies of Joy. And the little touches like how all the colour becomes more saturated when anyone takes NZT.

    The scenes with his dad were painful and I was so glad that they finally got everything out. I was in tears. It would kill me not to be able to talk to my parents and I felt it in my gut when Brian's dad said "I would suffer for you. I would die for you. You are my son." My son looks at me weird when I get choked up over stuff like that but it is so true.

    This is certainly my fav new show is awhile. Many thanks for helping me to find it.

  2. The nod to the movie The Abyss was hilarious!