Tuesday, November 24, 2015

REVIEW: 'Limitless' - Brian Has a Difficult Conversation with His Father While Boyle Needs a Favor in 'Arm-ageddon'

CBS' Limitless - Episode 1.10 "Arm-ageddon"

When Boyle's former military buddy is accused of murder and blames it on the loss of control of his prosthetic arm, Boyle asks Brian to help determine if the artificial limb was hacked. Brian's father demands he stop working for the FBI.

Brian is so relieved to finally tell his dad about all the work he has really been doing for the FBI. He has wanted to do that since the very beginning of this arrangement. He was scared for a little bit because of Morra's threats. But that risk has lessened over time. A lot of that came from Brian and Morra's second conversation where Morra admitted to wanting a partner in this venture. It's still unclear if he was serious about that or if he was just manipulating Brian to see what kind of character he has. But it does mean Brian is more willing to share the truth with his father. He is no longer scared for his father's life. There is no lingering reminder of the influence that Morra really has over his life. A lot of that is helped by not featuring Morra or Sands in this episode. Instead, the drama that comes from telling Brian's father the truth comes from that family dynamic.

Throughout everything Brian has done his entire life, his father, Dennis, has been supportive of him. He is critical of his actions and his ambitions for the world. But he has always remained supportive. It's a relationship that Brian really cherishes. He wouldn't know how to live if he didn't have his dad in his life. That's what made it so heartbreaking to keep this secret from him and therefore threaten their relationship. Brian needs to tell his father the truth. Dennis does sit back and listen to everything that Brian has to say. He hears him out. They talk for hours. Brian truly does believe he is doing incredible work with the FBI despite a very rocky beginning. He has made some true friends at the bureau. That was proven last week when he was able to assemble a team of colleagues to help him on his venture to track down the FBI's 10 most wanted criminals. Brian believes in the work he is doing. He is also convinced that NZT is the only thing that makes him special. It does make him a resource that the FBI and most every other organization admires and wants to utilize. That's what makes Dennis worried for his son's life.

Despite everything Brian has put his family through, Dennis still loves him. He doesn't want anything to come in between that bond. Brian working for the FBI was a story that Dennis had difficulty understanding. And now that he knows the truth, he wants to get Brian out so that he can't be hurt, exploited or killed. Everything that Dennis does is out of love for his son. He sees Brian as having gotten himself in an awkward and precarious situation. All Dennis sees is a secretive and unstable drug trial. One that is a good and solid thing right now but could have major consequences in the future. He doesn't want his son to get caught up in that mess when it inevitably happens. Dennis has operated in high stake situations like this before through his legal background. He knows that no one will end up protecting Brian. So, Dennis needs to be the one to make sure his son is protected during all of this. He doesn't trust Brian's brain now that it is on NZT. He hasn't seen the incredibly things Brian can do on the drug. He just sees it as a potentially devastating program that could destroy the essence of the son he loves so much.

The paternal bond is so strong for Brian. And yet, Brian isn't a child. He is capable of making his own decisions. He won't just sue the FBI in order to end this working relationship because his father is determined to make it happen. That's an even more difficult conversation that Brian has to have with his father. He delays and delays until Dennis actually shows up at the FBI offices demanding to talk. They need to have this conversation. Brian wants his father in his life. But it's much more devastating for Brian to disagree with his father than it was to tell him the truth. It's hard for him. Even though he has gotten better at confrontations, he still just wants to be a good son for his father. Dennis continues to listen to Brian and agrees to back off a little bit. But Dennis isn't just going to go quietly either. This will change the relationship between father and son. They will need to figure out what it means moving forward. Dennis will continue to support Brian. But now, he's also going behind his son's back to make sure that Naz knows just how responsible she'll be if anything should go wrong with this program. Naz has proven herself to fight for Brian in his current capacity. But Dennis doesn't know that. To him, Naz is just a wealthy government agent who can escape this situation unharmed. He needs to threaten her just to show how serious he really is when it comes to his family.

All of the emotional dynamics of the Brian-Dennis story are really great. It is the highlight of this episode. But it also exists around the main story with is a very fun and cool idea with only somewhat interesting execution. The show seems aware of how difficult it is to tell hacking stories. They recognize that most movies just tell those scenes with dramatic music underscoring a person typing. Brian doesn't know how to hack but after a week he is a master and able to hack something that couldn't be hacked according to the experts. It's fun for Brian as he gets a peek at the technology of the future. He's in a world of prosthetic arms that can feel things and jet packs that can help people run faster. That's exciting for Brian. He's very distracted by these new, experimental tools. The main case at the center of the investigation is slightly boring. Brian is looking into a case of prosthetic arms being hacked in order to commit crimes and pranks. The resolution to the story is very lackluster. Brian does have a lot of fun with his new hacker friends in getting his suspect back in the country. But the reveal that Boyle's friend really did kill his wife felt like a weird ending. More insight into Boyle is good - as has been showcased in the last two episodes. But this story was never really about their connection. There were moments where it felt like a Brian-Boyle investigation. But that quickly made way for something else entirely. It presented an alternate job option for Brian at a time where Dennis wanted him out of the FBI. But again, that was only because the NZT made him desirable. That's the key dilemma for Brian this season. How can he maintain himself and his outer appearance to everyone else while also being reliant on this drug?

Some more thoughts:
  • "Arm-ageddon" was written by Dennis Saavedra Saldua and directed by Leslie Libman.
  • Why is Brian still working out of the same file room now that he has his own headquarters? That felt a little weird. Or does he have to get the NZT in that room every day for some reason?
  • It's great that Rebecca has come to understand how Brian acts when he wants to talk about something personal and serious but doesn't know how to bring it up. Their friendship has really gotten so strong over the first half of the season.
  • So basically anyone can walk straight up into the center of the FBI's offices? It was great to see Dennis there but how was he able to? Also, was Naz seriously fine with Dennis knowing the truth about Brian's arrangement with the FBI without him technically being Brian's lawyer? That was weird.
  • It was a great idea on the show's part to cut away from the Brian learning how to do something bits and replace them with videos of dogs and cats.
  • All the arm puns were pretty amusing - even Rebecca tried to make a joke.