Real FBI work involves very little baccarat...but lots of Genghis Khan.
Credit: David M. Russell/CBS
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While most of Limitless’ pilot episode was spent rehashing the movie’s basic plot points — there’s this slacker dude who takes a magic pill and suddenly has brain superpowers — the second episode starts to set the tone for the rest of the series. Most noticeably? Limitless the TV show is a lot lighter than Limitless the movie. Seriously, try to imagine Brian Finch drinking the blood of a Russian gangster (which is something Eddie Morra actually does in the movie). Brian Finch is basically Parks and Recreation’s Andy Dwyer — and his fantasy of what FBI work looks like is straight out of Burt Macklin’s daydreams, complete with baccarat, tuxedoes, and villains named Colonel October. (Only Rebecca can snap him from his reverie, reminding him, “You don’t play baccarat with UNO cards.”)

It turns out that Brian’s real role at the FBI is a lot less exciting, and it includes a lot fewer villains wearing monocles. After the FBI pokes, prods, and tests him to try to figure out why he’s immune to NZT, they finally put him to work. Sort of.

Instead of a badge and a gun, he gets a stapler and a roll of tape, and he’s told that his new job involves staying exclusively in the FBI office. No missions, no field work, and certainly no badge or gun. While Agents Harris and Boyle get to go investigate a suspicious car crash involving a journalist named Stephen Fisher, Brian gets a VHS tape and an instruction to learn Farsi.

That doesn’t take long, so he starts looking into Stephen Fisher. Brian soon figures out someone planted an electronic chip on Fisher’s car and that car crash was no accident. Even better, he’s deduced that someone probably placed a small bomb on Fisher’s car to finish the job, and he’s got a few ideas of what that bomb might look like. Rebecca, however, still forbids him from leaving the FBI office, so he stages a breakout, and after making a quick pit stop in Atlantic City to learn baccarat and rake in some cash, he shows up at the crime scene, model bombs in hand.

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The good news? Brian’s models help link the Fisher incident to previous bombings carried out by a contractor named Taurus. The bad? They lock him back up (after they patch the Brian-shaped hole he put in the wall) and forbid him, once again, from leaving the FBI HQ. Only after the day’s NZT wears off is he allowed to go see his father, who’s finally getting out of the hospital after his liver transplant.

At this point, Brian’s father is really the only meaningful relationship in his life, and while his dad’s been fairly supportive of his son’s new career (how much does being an FBI consultant/NZT lab rat pay, anyway?), he isn’t stupid. After all, it was just a few days ago that Brian’s new employers stopped by his parents’ house to accuse him of drug-fueled murder.

This guilt over lying is clearly weighing on Brian, and by the time he gets home, he’s started to doubt the terms of his arrangement with Morra. Also, he’s just now wondering how often he needs to get those special shots? Shouldn’t that be the first thing you ask, especially considering that if it wears off and you keep taking NZT, you’re definitely going to die? Painfully? I know you were sober when you met with Morra, but c’mon, Brian. Do your homework.

Finally realizing he knows absolutely nothing about the man with his life in his hands, Brian turns to Google and searches for “Senator Edward Morra NZT” — which is when his computer immediately scrambles and shuts off. He tries it again later at his dad’s house, and not only does Morra’s name fry the computer, but it shuts off power to the entire house. While pilot episode Morra seemed more like a benevolent god, what with his magic injections and his Bradley Cooper-blue eyes, second episode Edward Morra is shaping up to be a lot more menacing.

NEXT: Bombs and Genghis Khan

Back at work, Brian casually drops that he figured out the identity of Taurus, the mystery bomber: A security expert named Darren Cullen, who often appears on the news to talk about bombings, fits the profile, so Harris and Boyle pay a visit to Cullen’s garage, where he restores vintage cars. Good thing Harris is apparently a vintage car expert, and she soon figures out that there’s something fishy about a particular Porsche. There, they find enough build-your-own-bomb ingredients to link Cullen to four different incidents, and he immediately fesses up to the Stephen Fisher bombing and says he was hired by a construction guy Fisher was investigating. But Cullen soon drops a, um, bombshell: He didn’t actually kill Fisher, and the chip he planted never went off. Instead, an FBI autopsy suggests Fisher had a stroke and crashed the car himself.

But otherwise healthy 28-year-olds don’t usually drop dead of strokes, so Brian stages another breakout to do a little more investigating on his own. By the time he breaks into Rebecca’s apartment again (surely she has a doorbell?), he’s put together most of the pieces.

It turns out that Fisher isn’t the only young guy to kick the bucket after developing flu-like symptoms and followed by a stroke. What’s even more bizarre: They’re all of similar descent, and they’re all tentatively related to Genghis Khan. So Brian proposes a crazy theory: What if there was a virus that targeted specific genetic markers? For everyone else, the virus would just manifest itself as the flu, but for people with the Khan marker, it would cause strokes and almost certain death.

The only other thing linking the three stroke victims is a coffee shop called Young Molly’s, and surveillance footage there reveals a mysterious man spraying coffee cups with a mysterious aerosol. His target? Not Fisher or the two other men, who turn out to just be collateral damage, but a woman. The Khan marker only manifests itself in men, so the FBI follows her to the actual target: the man she’s having an affair with.

He’s an army general, and by the time the FBI gets to him, he’s already in the throes of a stroke. He survives, but he was the swing vote on an army committee to direct research money toward biological weapons. If he votes against it, a nearby biological research firm would almost certainly go under, and the head of that biological research firm has a background in — surprise! — targeted viruses and the Khan marker. But even with all of that, the FBI still doesn’t have enough for a warrant to bring him down, so Brian politely asks his employees — who all hate his guts — for the files. And it works. Dope.

That’s enough to earn Brian his own FBI badge and, presumably, an official email address, and the only thing left to do is come clean to his dad. But when he tries to hire his father as his lawyer to take advantage of attorney-client privilege, his dad’s brand new nurse enters the room. Apparently she freelances as an in-home caretaker, when she’s not busy working for Morra and handcuffing people to hospital beds, and she makes it quite clear that if he breathes a word about NZT, she’s going to off his father. So maybe this show isn’t going to be so light after all.

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