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Limitless recap: Personality Crisis

Bruce Lee movies can’t make you a martial arts expert…even when you’re on NZT.

Posted on

Michael Parmelee/CBS


TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Jake McDorman, Jennifer Carpenter, Hill Harper
Drama, Sci-fi, Thriller

When the Limitless pilot aired, I wrote that the episode felt a lot like a superhero origin story (especially since it was directed by The Amazing Spider-Man’s Marc Webb). Interestingly, that superhero vibe hasn’t gone away as the show has progressed. Many of the challenges Brian has faced since he started popping NZT feel like they came straight from the pages of a comic book — like nipping romance in the bud because he’s afraid of people getting hurt. Even the style of the show feels comic-esque, with pop-up speech bubbles and saturated colors.

And perhaps the clearest superhero parallel is Brian’s struggle with identity since he’s become NZT Man. The episode opens with a video message from NZT Brian to non-NZT Brian, patiently explaining (with help from detailed clay figures and a “Mr. Sandman” soundtrack) that although non-NZT Brian may want to follow his heart and tell Rebecca that yes, her father was definitely an NZT user, that would almost certainly result in a) incarceration or b) death.

Back when Brian was still trying to make things work with Shauna, he confided to Rebecca that he felt like two different people and he’s worried that people only care about him when he’s on NZT. Rebecca, for her part, was an A-plus friend, telling him that he was the same person whether or not he was on NZT, but Brian clearly still sees himself as two separate people, as evidenced by the fact that he makes videos addressed to one self from another. It’s an interesting dynamic, and I’m glad the show is starting to explore it further.

“You can’t be Mr. Happy Nice Guy anymore,” Brian tells himself. “You gotta be Badass Brian. Badass Brian keeps the secrets private. Badass Brian looks out for himself. And most importantly, when all this is over, Badass Brian gets to walk away — free and alive.”

With that in mind, Badass Brian heads into the FBI, where Rebecca and Boyle hand him his next case: The FBI has been investigating meth labs, and they’ve tracked one to a Lower East Side housing project. It takes Brian all of about two seconds to pinpoint the exact apartment, and while Brian’s ordered to stay with FBI surveillance and to not drink too much cranberry juice, the SWAT team heads in. But even with Brian’s “impeccable control” over his bodily functions, he can’t control his bladder, so he ends up sneaking into the building to pee — where he runs smack into a kid running from the FBI. Brian calls on his perfect recollection of Bruce Lee movies, but he still gets punched. “I don’t get it!” he says from the floor. “I’ve seen Enter the Dragon like 15 times.”

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The kid who clocked Brian is named Chris Garper, and he swears he was only following his brother, Sam, who was with a guy named Norris Allen — the owner of the Lower East Side apartment. Allen’s a scary dude, who got mixed up in an anarchist group called Sons of Nathan in jail, and it’s starting to look like this is less of a drug ring and more of a terrorist group.

Chris says he hasn’t seen his brother recently, but he also says there’s no way Sam is mixed up in terrorism. The Garper parents weren’t around, so Sam essentially raised Chris. While they’re trying to track down Sam, Brian heads to his first self-defense class with a SWAT team leader named Casey Rooks.

Man, there sure are a lot of recycled romances on this show. Two weeks ago, Jake McDorman’s Manhattan Love Story co-star Analeigh Tipton showed up as Brian’s pre-NZT GF, Shauna, and now, Jennifer Carpenter has been reunited with Desmond Harrington from Dexter, who plays Rooks. Here’s hoping that Jennifer Lawrence shows up next for a guest arc opposite Bradley Cooper, as the glamorous but troubled wife of Senator Edward Morra. 

In addition to being in a relationship with Rebecca, Rooks is a certified badass at martial arts and teaches Brian everything he needs to know about self-defense: “Don’t get into a fight. If you do get into a fight, take it to the ground, get on top of the guy, isolate one of his limbs, and make it bend the wrong way until he doesn’t want to fight anymore. Either that, or you can choke him out until he falls asleep.”