If like me, you enjoyed the 2011 Bradley Cooper led film of this TV series’ same name, you’re likely to have been curious about it from the moment its TV adverts started appearing on your screen. The show may be a good half way through its run in the US, but things kicked off in the UK tonight…so let’s dive right in!
We meet the lead star of the show, Brian Finch (Jake McDorman) an aspiring musician - not particularly original but we’ll forgive the writers this time – as he’s dodging traffic and being chased by men in suits (I’m betting he’s done something worse than not paid his parking ticket!) It’s soon pretty apparent that he’s high as a kite on NZT, and the first WTF moment of the series arrives soon after as FBI agent Harris stops him at gunpoint in the subway. Nothing particularly shocking there I hear you say, and you’re right – but wait – Finch jumps onto the train tracks and stands in front of an incoming train – told you…
Fortunately we’re not left waiting long for an explanation as to what the hell is happening as a voice-over from Finch explains he used to be in a band with his friend Eli, who then dropped out. Subsequently, he’s been lying to his parents about the upcoming non-existent album while working a dead-end, mundane job at a nearby bank.
It’s at said bank that Eli puts in an appearance and offers him a small clear pill (here we go…) that he claims will “kick-start his life.” Perhaps somewhat foolishly, Finch takes said clear pill and the synapses in his brain instantly kick into overdrive. As he explains to us viewers: “Your brain is a miracle, but it’s not efficient…suddenly, I had access to every single brain cell.”
While under the influence of NZT, in a rather clever move by the shows’ directing team, we see the world as Finch does. The every-day dullness of his daily life is suddenly injected with vibrancy and colour; while thinking or puzzling over something, his thoughts, words and connecting images appear before us almost like they’re on an invisible chalkboard.
Two weeks’ filing is done in an instant (can this guy come and write my dissertation?) and he occupies his time with games of chess and guitar playing. As perhaps is somewhat predictable, his come-down from the high NZT gave him isn’t pretty and can only be compared to a major, thumping hangover, but on the plus side, he’s worked out the illness that’s crippling his father and it’s one that, in order to recover from, would require him to undergo a liver transplant. Faced with a crisis over what to do, he has only one solution…find and take another pill.
Cue him arriving at Eli’s apartment and in a scene reminiscent of its similarly screened one in Limitless' movie, Finch finds his old band-mate dead. That’s not the biggest problem though; that would be the money clip filled with pills being missing. Fortunately, his normal brain (can we call it that?) still works pretty well and je recalls Eli hiding their old stoner-stashes (like what I did there?) by taping them to the inside of his guitar. Minutes later, having taken a pill and with FBI agents breaking into the place, Finch is long gone having dropped down a fire escape.
It’s at this point that the episode comes full circle and we meet Finch again as he faces off against Agent Harris; her vision grey and dull, his blue and clear. Standing on the tracks as the train approaches, it's a nervy moment though we all know our star will survive whatever he's up to, and a few seconds later, we're in Harris’ office as she and her team try to wrap their heads around what just happened – just a note, kids, don’t stand on train tracks or try any of Finch’s shit, okay?
In the closing moments of the episode we then get a little more back-story surrounding NZT, and it turns out that in 2011, the FBU picked up a dealer who had a drug called NZT-48 in his possession. Rather than destroying the drugs as most might do, they opted, after discovering its cognitive boosting abilities, to start a test program with volunteers within their own ranks and that the project was shut down after two fatalities…
And that’s where we’re left. Now I don’t know about you, but I for one am immensely curious as to where exactly this show is going to go. First though, I really, REALLY want to know who the fatalities were…and what the hell as Brian got to do with it all?
Check back tomorrow for my recap of episode 2, but in the meantime, hit me up with your thoughts and views on the pilot in the comments!