Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Limitless 1x10 "Arm-ageddon" (There's A Difference Between Complacency and Contentment)

Original Airdate: November 24, 2015

I love that when Limitless is making arm puns, it still manages to be poignant. This week's episode was a little bit lighter on the emotional weight that has pressed down on Brian throughout the course of the season, but that doesn't mean it was any less important. In fact, we got a little more of a glimpse into the relationship that Brian has with his father, Dennis, and a glimpse into the kind of man Dennis is. But what is truly setting apart Limitless as an outstanding procedural is its committment to the core of the show — Brian Finch. Of course the show would pay attention to him, you might be thinking. He's the main character!

What the show continues to do though is reveal different layers of Brian's personality throughout the course of its episodes, and "Arm-ageddon" is no different. Let's discuss, shall we?


Even though that particular quote above comes from Hamilton, its resonance in this week's episode is not lost on me. We pick up nearly exactly where we left off — with Brian telling his father all about the FBI recruiting him to be on NZT and solve cases. While Dennis listens intently to Brian's energetic ramblings and recounts, there is one particular thing that Brian's father seems to be honed in on, and that's the idea that the FBI is using Brian. They are, in a way, using the young man as a test subject for NZT. It's a top-secret project that nearly no one outside of Naz, Rebecca, and Boyle technically are supposed to know about. 

But Brian doesn't see it the same way that his father does. In fact, Dennis even goes so far as to see the situation as an opportunity to sue the FBI for using his son as a lab rat. And what surprised me most of all was that, for quite a while in the episode, Brian actually was willing to let his father find a way to extract him from the FBI's blackmailing. But Brian essentially answered that decision for me, when he tells the audience that he didn't believe his father would actually find a way to do that. When it becomes clear that Dennis is serious about getting Brian out, it's time for the young man to come clean — he doesn't actually want out. He feels like he has a purpose at the FBI, even though he is under the influence of NZT. He feels like he's found his calling for the first time and it's really interesting that Brian essentially tells his dad that "his calling" means being a drug addict.

There's no way to skirt around the fact that this is exactly what Brian is. He tells his father in this episode that he would never be able to actually be an agent on his own merit. He is only at the FBI because he doesn't have life-altering adverse reactions to NZT. That's it. And Brian's father continues to insist that Brian find something else to do with his life — that he not spend it complacent. What's really interesting to me, of course, is that Brian respects and reveres and loves his dad so much, but he also still seeks his approval.

Rebecca tells him as much, actually, when she tells Brian that if he's happy with his life and choices, he needs to tell his dad that. He needs to stand up to him and tell him that he's happy with where he is. He shouldn't be afraid to do that... even if Brian is standing up to his father. It's really interesting because we haven't seen a lot of Brian and Dennis' relationship at this point. We know Brian would do anything to care for and protect his dad. And we know — by the end of the episode — that Dennis would do similarly.

What was really great, though, about this episode of Limitless was that it reminded us that even the people we look up to aren't perfect. Even the people we admire are wrong sometimes, and even if they are right... it's okay to clash with them. Brian's been so afraid for so long of disappoining his father that he's managed to just be complacent in their relationship. This episode proved that Brian can take a stand and still love his dad. He can look his father in the eyes and essentially say: "I'm happy. Get on board, or don't, but this is my decision. Not yours."

Now, the show could have made Dennis into a villain by having him go against Brian's wishes. Instead, Dennis proved his love for Brian by approaching Naz and threatening her. Brian makes choices that Dennis doesn't agree with. But being a parent means that he protects his son first and foremost. So if Naz ever lets anything happen to Brian... she will be the one to pay. It was such a powerful, wonderful little moment that exemplified — simultaneously — how loving Brian's father is and also how ruthless he could be if necessary.


I couldn't resist an arm pun, of course. The case this week wasn't especially focused upon, but I thought it was really important nonetheless, especially because it involved Boyle. We are beginning to learn more about Spelman Boyle and what makes him tick. This week, we get glimpses into Boyle's time in the service, and then everything that happened after. His friend and comrade, Aaron, lost an arm in the line of duty, and we got the opportunity to watch Boyle and Aaron's friendship post-service develop. Unfortunately, this all comes crashing down when Aaron's wife ends up dead and he claims his arm was in control, not him.

The team spends the entire episode confident that they've found the killer (based on finding similar bionic arms being hacked around the country), but something doesn't add up. It's then that Boyle realizes the man he served with is actually a cold-blooded killer. What I really love about Boyle is the fact that he values loyalty above pretty much everything else. We don't know much about him, but each episode we are slowly uncovering little foundations of his character. And one of those foundations is that he actually cares more than he lets on. While on the job, he's by-the-book and very goal-oriented. He's much more relaxed, prone to smiling and laughing when off the job. And, because of that, his friends have become a sort of blind spot for him. Boyle admits that in the episode to Aaron. But he will always value justice and doing right by others over a friend.

What's really great about this episode, too, is that it draws a (slight) parallelism between Boyle and Brian as characters — both are loyal. Both are driven. And both care about others a heck of a lot more than they care about themselves sometimes. If that's not great... I don't know what is.

Bits & pieces:
  • "He's your friend. I'll help." This single quote tells us more about Brian Finch's character than pretty much anything else on the show and I LOVE it.
  • I went to Target yesterday and saw long, colorfully patterned cardigans. Immediately, I thought of Brian. I don't know what that says about me except for the fact that Brian has awesome cardigans.
  • "I'd like to think I'm somewhat of a late bloomer."
  • "Arm-pocalypse Now. ... Give it to me?" "No."
  • "It wasn't Ellen and it wasn't for the lulz!"
  • There were so many puns in this episode and they were all so amazing.
  • A portion of this episode featured Brian showing us — the audience — adorable Vines of kittens doing cute stuff. It was probably the best thing to ever happen on this show.
  • "There's a difference between complacency and contentment."
  • "BOOM! Boyle for the win!"
  • Brian and Rebecca have one of the greatest relationships on television. The fact that she a) immediately knew he needed to talk when he mentioned "beer-o'clock" and b) gave him solid advice, as well as c) presented him with the special tech at the end of the episode... all of it was absolute perfection. Again I say: I love them so much as platonic best friends. Thank you, Limitless, for being brave enough to write two wonderful characters and not feeling the need to descend into trope-y madness with a "will-they-won't-they" dance.
There you have it, friends! Are you enjoying Limitless as much as I am? Hit up the comments below and let me know your thoughts. For all of my American friends... Happy Thanksgiving! :)


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