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"Every time he takes it he basically becomes the smartest person in the world. That's a resource. Let's make it our resource."
Agent Rebecca Harris, "Pilot"

Limitless is a 2015 television series that aired on CBS, and a Sequel Series to the 2011 film of the same name.

Brian Finch (Jake McDorman) is lost in his life. His career as a struggling musician has tapered off while all of his bandmates moved on to better things, his siblings seem to have grown up while leaving him in the dust, and now his father is sick with a seemingly undiagnosable disease. But a chance encounter with one of his old friends leads to Brian taking the mysterious new drug NZT - a drug that allows the human brain to function at its highest potential. Brian thinks the drug will help him achieve something that will make his father proud of him in the time he has left, but his attempt to get more from his friend lead to him becoming the chief suspect in his friend's murder and on the run from the FBI.


Brian is able to gain evidence and turn it over to FBI agent Rebecca Harris (Jennifer Carpenter) in order to build goodwill, but soon after almost gets killed while pursuing the killer. Blacking out from his bullet wound, he awakes to find himself being treated by Senator Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper reprising his role from the film). Morra offers him one dose and a way to counteract the side effects, his only reason that Brian will be in a position useful to him very soon. Brian solves the murder and, at Rebecca's suggestion, is brought on as an informant while the FBI studies his apparent immunity to NZT's side effects.

The series also stars Hill Harper as Agent Spelman Boyle and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as FBI special agent Nasreen "Naz" Pouran. It is also produced by Bradley Cooper, who will be reprising his role from the film beyond his initial appearance in the pilot. The character sheet for both the movie and the show is here.


Was cancelled after its first and only season.

This series contains examples of:

  • 90% of Your Brain: The host of the NZT Party explains that this is what the pill does. Brian quickly corrects her that the 10% brain function is a myth.
  • Alice Allusion: In Finale: Part One!, Brian stands next to a "Drink Me!" contraption which pours a beer when the "Pull Me!" handle is pulled. He is waiting for his friend, who is buying LSD NZT from an Alice.
  • Almighty Janitor: In "Headquarters!", a janitor was part of the team assembled to catch the top 10 most wanted. Subverted in that the janitor just ended up making T-shirts for the team.
  • Ambiguously Evil: Is Eddie Morra a Well-Intentioned Anti-Hero who's willing to sink to any depths to bring about positive change in the world, or is he an Affably Evil Manipulative Bastard who just has some good justifications covering his thirst for power?
  • Applied Phlebotinum: NZT-48, as well as Morra's treatment to eliminate the side effects of NZT withdrawal. He tells Brian that each subsequent dosage makes the user's body crave it more, but Morra himself has been able to take a pill every day and was last sick two years ago.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When his father ends up in the hospital in the series premiere, Brian offers to do everything he can to help. His father asks him "How would you help?". This makes Brian face the truth and realize he is barely able to take care of himself and lacks any ability to help his family in the crisis.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Brian tries to figure out how a sniper performed an assassination so he uses Post-It Notes to built a replica of the crime scene, including a model cathedral. It looks really cool but provides only limited information that is not immediately useful. He could have save a lot of time and effort if he used cardboard for his models, used a computer simulation, or just have done the math in his head. But building the model was a much cooler challenge. It's later revealed he always tended to visualize his thoughts with arts and crafts even as a kid.
    • This is essentially how Brian describes the human brain when he takes his first NZT pill. "Your brain is a miracle, but it's inefficient."
    • In the episode "Headquarters!", Brian triggers synesthesia in order to visually track a scent. He tells Rebecca "it's completely useless as an investigative technique, but it's interesting." He soon proves himself wrong and subverts the trope when the trail actually takes him somewhere useful.
  • Awesome by Analysis: The effects of Brian, and anybody else, on NZT. It allows them to retain and access every memory, make connections between abstract pieces of information, and calculate everything around them. In one instance, it even allows Brian to turn himself synesthetic and visualize smells!
  • Becoming the Mask: Played for laughs in "Headquarters!" Brian sends one of his teammates to infiltrate a cult, and the guy's subsequent updates make it clear that he's slowly buying into it. The episode ends with a casual mention of him being deprogrammed by the FBI.
  • Better the Devil You Know: Brian was able to get Sands to use the information he gave him to get Naz back her job, simply because she would give him more freedom than anyone else to be an assets in the FBI. Brian even quotes this trope.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Boyle's old army buddy is initially presented very sympathetically. He is a veteran who lost an arm due to an IED and spent years trying to adjust to his disability before finally getting his life back on track thanks to an advanced prosthetic arm. The guy is then accused of a brutal murder and Boyle and Brian jump at the chance to prove him innocence. However, they then discover that the man was involved in a plot to sabotage the company that made the prosthetic arm and not only was he guilty of the murder of his wife but he also tried to frame an innocent woman for his crimes.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • Brian's first assignment at the FBI is to learn foreign languages like Farsi so the FBI can use him as a translator and analyst. This would be of great practical use to the FBI but its also rather boring. NZT users cannot stand being bored and Brian soon goes Off the Rails.
    • After Brian's attempt to use I Know Mortal Kombat ends in an Epic Fail, Brian is given self defense training by a veteran agent. He is taught to wrestle his opponent to the ground and then twist an arm or a leg in a direction the appendage normally does not move in so the opponent stops fighting due to the pain. Alternatively he can try to choke his opponent into unconsciousness. This is very effective but does not look as cool as the martial art moves shown in movies.
    • The series has Brian openly narrating just how boring real life hacking is and why TV and movies make it look more exciting.
  • Broken Pedestal: Boyle helps his old army buddy (who got a robotic arm to replace one lost in combat) when it seems to out of control and kills the man's wife. He's backed by how other arms made by the same company are also going wild. However at the episode's end, Boyle realizes his friend really did murder his wife and used the hacking of the arms as the excuse to cover the crime. Boyle acknowledges his blind spot to Army comrades and it took Brian to make him see the truth.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Brian is a snarky, awkward slacker who enjoys playing goofy pranks and has little to no regard for boundaries or rules. This is when he's not on NZT. The drug takes away his laziness, but replaces it with curiosity so overwhelming that he can't help but go out of his way to discuss miscellaneous topics with strangers for the fun of it. But he works with the FBI because he's the only person they know who's both immune to NZT's debilitating side effects and is willing to cooperate with them, and because NZT still makes him smart enough to help them solve cases while he goes through all of his quirks listed above.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Mike and Ike started out being used and abused by Brian just short of the point where they'd shoot him to put him out of their misery. He eventually starts showing them a bit more respect.
    • James Peckenpah, aka "Tech", the CJC's computer guy is treated fairly well by Brian but tends to come out the worst whenever Brian ropes him into a plan. So far, he's been accidentally indoctrinated into a cult, suffered severe wind burns after spending all night outside in freezing weather (Brian forgot to tell him that the assignment had ended), and constantly been stood up on scheduled game nights.
  • Call-Back:
    • The "I did it for the LULZ" cartoon Brian drew of himself in "Badge! Gun!" shows up again in "When Pirates Pirate Pirates", this time in animated form. He also brings it up several times as a possible motivation for the hacker in "Arm-Ageddon".
    • Doubles as Foreshadowing in "The Assassination of Edward Morra": Piper faked getting hit by a train thanks to Brian having had firsthand experience cheating death the same way back in the pilot episode.
    • In the series premiere Brian is working as a temp in the HR department of an investment bank. When he first takes NZT he makes their filing system more efficient and develops a way to quickly spot problem employees. He gives all the credit to his boss, a talented young woman who he predicts will become the bank's first female vice president. In the season one finale, The Stinger reveals that the woman is now the CEO of the bank.
  • Canada, Eh?: Brian suspects that a Canadian politician is a member of the League of Whom. He envisions the politician as a supervillain wearing costume made out of a Canadian flag and ending all his sentences with ",eh".
  • Canon Discontinuity: Eddie Morra is still on NZT after stating at the end of the movie that he had discovered a way to get off it. However, the implications are that he was just bluffing to Van Loon as a way to show he would not be under his thumb or influence. Turns out Eddie not only figured out how to make his own NZT stash, but created a supplementary shot to combat the negative effects.
  • The Chessmaster: Eddie Morra eventually reveals that he's playing an extremely long game to try and bring about real change in the world. He explains to Brian that he could simply debut revolutionary developments as soon as he comes up with them, but lobbyists and a poorly informed public would render all his efforts for naught.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: In "Brian Finch's Black Op", the CIA kidnap Brian out from under the FBI and force him into helping them with a black op. His FBI teammates spend the episode scrambling to get him back. The black op turns out to be an illegal operation on US soil intended to kill a witness who can implicate the CIA in a war crime.
    • The trope is subverted in the next episode, which shows that there are people in the FBI willing to let Brian be harmed if it means they can take advantage of him, or simply imprison him in a lab for testing and not utilize his skills at all.
    • Also deconstructed...those actions by the CIA? They cause SERIOUS trouble for both agencies. And the guy in the FBI who signed off, is fired, the whole CIA team is killed, and the guy who authorized it on the CIA thing is also in deep trouble.
  • Color Wash: Like in the movie, the perspective of NZT users is shown in orange and yellow, while reality is more dull and blue.
  • Comically Small Bribe: In Headquarters they get an imprisoned hitman to rat out his client for 12 Coney Island bagels a week.
  • Converse with the Unconscious: After Ike winds up in a coma Brian tries talking to him in the hospital, wondering if Ike can hear him. Cut to Ike's dreams where, due to the stress of dealing with Brian, the words end up terrifying him.
  • Crazy-Prepared: One of Boyle's contacts in DC is a watchdog who holds on to copies of documents that might be important to exposing corruption or scandal within the FBI, just in case they need to be presented to a court.
  • Critical Research Failure: In "Personality Crisis", Brian notes that a 928 cell number is specifically Yuma, Arizona, a location connected to a suspect. Actually, 928 numbers cover most of Arizona outside of the Valley, with the Flagstaff/Coconino area having the biggest density - if choosing only one city, that would be the most logical assumption. The kicker is that this is fairly common knowledge, too, not something you'd need NZT to think of.
  • Day in the Limelight: Sands gets a much more flushed out backstory in "Sands, Agent of Morra".
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: When attempting to get a hacker deported from Qatar, Brian frames him for things like illegally importing bacon with the intent to distribute, wearing a shirt that encourages devil worship, and publicly offering to provide loans at reasonable interest rates. The humor comes from the fact that while most Americans would find such things to be barely noteworthy, these are considered serious offenses in majority-Muslim countries like Qatar.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Averted and played straight in the pilot. He in fact did think his plan through to the tiniest detail of to stop a train just in front of him. However after he sees the train coming at him his confidence in this plan working quickly decreases.
  • Dumpster Dive: Working on an espionage case Brian is tasked with looking through the suspects garbage. He lampshades the fact that, once you get used to the smell, you can learn a lot about people based on the things they throw out. He is able to crack the case because he finds it very suspicious that a person who is lactose intolerant would be throwing out so many milk cartons. He also lampshades the fact that the FBI does not need to obtain a warrant to search someone's garbage once it is in a public dumpster.
  • Dungeon Bypass: Brian is stuck in an FBI file room learning languages when he feels that he would be of more use out in the field. He cannot leave the room due to the two guards posted outside the door. He figures out that the file room is actually just one half of a much bigger room that was divided using cheap drywall. He breaks through the drywall and escapes.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: In the season one finale Brian keeps taking NZT even after he starts experiencing debilitating side effects because it is the only way to stop the bad guys and save Piper. He puts himself through hell but in the end Sands' organization is taken down, Piper is safe and Brian gets a booster shot that makes him permanently immune to NZT side effects.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Brian's first appearance is evading the FBI using the NZT powers, dodging traffic perfectly, and evading being shot at by jumping into the path of a moving subway train. Then it freezes, and the narration begins.
    Brian: The first thing you need to know is that I didn't do anything wrong.
  • Evil vs. Evil: Right in the title of "When Pirates Pirate Pirates". Naz's niece is kidnapped by pirates in the South China Sea, who are then attacked and robbed of all their possessions by a different group of pirates.
  • Expy: In episode 13, a hot-shot profiler from the BAU who's also an author shows up—much like the main character of another CBS show. Naz is rather dismissive of him, which veers into Actor Allusion territory as Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio was on that show as an ex-wife of the character in question.
  • Failed a Spot Check: In Headquarters Mike is too busy moaning about the food and feeling paranoid that the locals he's trapped with might eat him if the food runs out to actually notice that said locals are the man he's chasing and a known associate.
  • Fantastic Drug: Nobody, not even the FBI, know where the drug comes from or who is distributing it. Even government attempts to reverse-engineer it have failed and caused the users to burn out and die.
  • For Want of a Nail: If Rachel went to her father first rather than her mother with her concerns with Brian there is no doubt a majority of the problems could have been easily avoided.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: When a suspect flees to another country, Brian frames the guy for a series of crimes that while very minor are also very culturally offensive to people in that country. This ensures that the authorities in that country will not have a real cause to put the guy in jail but will instead deport him back to the US.
  • Functional Addict: Brian, which is why the FBI find him so valuable. He is the only one (whom they know of) that is functional with NZT.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Brian is one when on NZT, after looking up enough info on engineering.
  • The Ghost:
    • Page 44 briefly has Brian investigating the children of a billionaire who a friend of his was suspected of murdering, being shown studying the family tree and discussing their common motive (money), but none of them appear in person or get singled out during that scene, and even when they catch the killer (a lawyer who was conspiring with one or more of them) and offer him a deal the camera cuts away before he reveals which heir/s he was working with.
    • Some of the fugitives in "Headquarters" remain unseen save for brief photos.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: In "Brian Finch's Black Op", Brian ends up talking to two versions of his subconscious, both of whom are based on clay versions of himself he made in the previous episode. Mr. Happy Nice Guy Brian is the Good Angel, and Badass Brian is the Bad Angel.
  • Gotta Catch 'Em All: The premise of the episode "Headquarters!" featured Brian offering to catch the FBI's top ten most wanted criminals within two weeks in order to get his own headquarters CJC. Subverted at several points, however: he catches one of them before the timer actually starts, two of them are still at large when the timer runs out, one of them is innocent and subsequently exonerated by Brian, and the FBI eventually puts a stop to it because the CJC is making the rest of the Bureau look bad. He still gets the headquarters, though.
  • Heroic RRoD: Brian after his NZT immunity wears off, and he starts experiencing all the side effects of the drug at once.
  • Hidden Depths: Ike is quite the artist.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: A cartel assassin was making custom ammunition to use in his next murder but one of the shells blew up and he lost his gun hand.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Discussed. Brian lampshades the fact that movies like to use a montage to show a character hacking through Rapid-Fire Typing and then suddenly the hacker has gained access to the target system. Brian wants to learn how real hackers work and is disappointed when he learns that hacking in real life is Boring, but Practical.
    • The irony is that in Sands, Agent of Morra, Brian has to do some more hacking. Sands claims that the PC is running a Unix-based system. In reality, it's running Windows 10 and Brian is actually typing a lot of nonsense in a Power Shell, which all return errors. Although you can easily miss it, and it was probably not intended to be seen.
  • Hollywood Law: Discussed by Brian's father, who points out the FBI is essentially keeping him hostage and using him as a drug guinea pig. Brian doesn't want to actually push it though. Additionally, clearing the innocent man in "Stop Me Before I Hug Again" would be much harder with the evidence shown than they make out.
  • Homage: "Brian Finch's Black Op" is one to Ferris Bueller's Day Off, especially the beginning which recreates most of the film's opening scenes as Brian attempts to take a day off from the FBI by faking illness. He ends up naming his CIA kidnappers Rooney, Cameron, and Abe Froman (sausage king of Chicago). When his inner voice manifests as Rebecca, she's dressed as Sloane. Finally, Aleksey gets high off a combination of Belladonna and NZT, and gets a lift out of the forest from a school bus.
    • "Headquarters!" ends with one to 22 Jump Street, with the future adventures of the Bruntouchables being presented as cheesy movie concepts.
  • How We Got Here: The pilot begins with Brian already fleeing Eli's murder scene while being chased by FBI agents, and follows his pursuit into the subway. It stops just before the train (almost) hits him.
  • Idea Bulb: Literally shown with a bulb going on right by Brian when he hits upon a discovery on a case.
  • Idiot Ball: NZT makes a person super smart but it also makes them overconfident, arrogant and eager to show off his/her abilities. This causes Brian to do a number of things that are fairly stupid simply because he thinks that he will be able to mitigate the consequences. This is lampshaded in the pilot where after he jumps in front of a moving subway train, he realizes that it was not the smartest thing to do and in narration he starts rapidly downgrading his chances of surviving.
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: Averted. Brian watched a lot of martial arts movies but when he tries to use that knowledge in an actual fight, he gets punched in the face and knocked down. He then gets some actual self-defense training and lampshades that he has to forget everything he learned from the movies about hand-to-hand combat.
  • Imagine Spot: Brian has these occasionally, often when trying to make the boring parts of his job more interesting. Almost every time he has one it's shot down by his FBI colleagues.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: When a sniper takes a shot at Eddie Morra, Rebecca quickly realizes that the shot was "impossible". The distance to the target was considerably longer than the longest recorded successful sniper shot (to emphasize the scale of it, she says it would beat the record holder by six football fields), the rifle was not designed for shots of this nature and the conditions in general were unsuitable. She concludes that the shooter had to have been using NZT to account for all those variables.
  • Insistent Terminology: The reason "Headquarters!" is titled as such - Brian doesn't want an office, he wants a headquarters with an exclamation mark.
  • Instant Expert:
    • Played with. Brian is able to a lot of things he wasn't able to do before, but almost everything he accomplishes on his first dose was based on information he had been exposed to over his life, but was unable to access from deep in his memory. When he realizes he might be able to help his father, he actually needs to go through his brother's old medical textbooks before he has any idea what he might be looking for.
    • Thanks to NZT Brian is able to pick up new skills so fast that he looks like an instant expert to normal people. When he gets some martial arts training, by the second session he is able to duplicate techniques that his veteran instructor needed five years to master.
  • Internal Reveal: In "Headquarters!" Brian reveals to his dad about NZT.
  • It Amused Me: In the second episode, Brian escapes his FBI bodyguards by ramming through a thin wall into another room and running out of the building. Knowing that they'll be savvy to his plan the second time, he instead makes the sound of him running through. When they go into both rooms to head him off, Mike finds a picture Brian drew of himself with the caption "I did it for the LOLZ". Then Brian downs a shelf in front of the door to trap Mike in there while he escapes.
  • Just a Flesh Wound:
    • Averted when Brian gets shot in the leg in the pilot. He is able to make a run away from the shooter but quickly loses strength. When he tries to treat the wound, he passes out and would have bled out if Morra had not found him and got him proper medical help.
    • Invoked by Eddie Morra when he realizes that he is about to get shot and positions his body in such a way that the bullet will graze his shoulder but do no real damage. He could have avoided getting shot entirely but figures that a wound will give him a lot more public sympathy and advance his political ambitions.
    • Rebecca gets shot in the shoulder. It's explicitly debilitating but she is on NZT at the time so she uses the abilities the pill gives her to shut off her brain's pain receptors in order to keep functioning.
  • Karma Houdini: The two un-captured 10 most wanted fugitives the murderer of several DEA agents and a firebug.
  • The Last DJ: Eli sees Brian as this, the only member of their band who has not sold out and is still pursuing his musical goals no matter what life throws at him. The truth is that Brian is stuck and is unable to find a way to move on with his life like his friends did.
  • Lighter and Softer: The movie is an actual psychological thriller, whereas the series is notoriously lighthearted in comparison. This is helped by the fact that Brian is willing to help anyone he comes across when on NZT, and also goes out of his way to troll his FBI superiors.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: This is attempted twice in "Badge! Gun!". First a bomber sabotages a target's car so it looks like the guy lost control of the vehicle and it exploded after the gas tank ruptured. Second, the CEO of a biological weapon company uses a genetically engineered flu virus to induce a stroke in a general and make it look like the general died of natural causes. This would have worked with the middle aged general but the virus also kills three healthy 20-something men (including the target of the attempted bombing) which is so unlikely that Brian quickly figures out what is really going on.
    • Also, in "Arm-ageddon," Boyle's old army buddy claims his robotic arm went crazy and killed his wife. Soon, other people with the same robotic arms made by that company also have serious malfunctions and the team tracks down the hacker behind it. However, at the episode's end Boyle confronts his friend on how he had helped plan the hacking and used it as a cover to murder his wife for insurance. Boyle points out the man's key mistake: Every other place with the hacked arms had a camera there for the hacker to use but there was no camera in Boyle's house so how could the hacker be able to see what the arm was doing?
  • Manchild: Naz considers Brian, with his recklessness and petulant attitude, to be one. She even explicitly compares him to her own children.
  • Mean Boss: When Brian and Harris go to see a CEO in the second episode, they see a video of him in the lobby trying to gild the lily on recent layoffs. They know that he's responsible for murdering a general but have no way of proving it without files on the companies computers he refuses to turn over and will no doubt destroy as soon as they leave. Brian announces in the middle of the office that the boss will be arrested if someone at the company will anonymously send him the files they need and, within 30 seconds, ten of his mistreated employees have.
  • Mundane Utility: When Brian first starts working with the FBI he only receives random research assignments to make him an expert at specific topics, or grunt work such as reassembling shredded documents or going through a suspect's trash. While the drug does allow him to accomplish these much quicker than a normal person, it's still a far cry from the espionage and investigation that he was expecting when he agreed to come on board.
    • In fact, this is pretty much a once an episode thing, for the first five episodes at LEAST. His skills are in analysis and recall. So, they give him a huge set of information, he figures out which information is necessary in 1/10th the time, and they use that information.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: A NZT user facing the prospect of running out of the drug, quickly concludes that he needs to kill the other people he knows are taking the drug and steal their pills.
  • Mysterious Backer: In the first episode, Eddie Morra, who kidnaps Brian, patches up his gunshot wound, and offers to supply him with the formula that staves off NZT's side effects. In return, all he wants is for Brian to solve Eli's murder, as Eddie somehow knows that doing so will land him in a good position with the FBI. Somehow this all works in Morra's favour, whatever he's after. Then he starts asking for more favors...
  • Nice Guy: Brian is a nice person who cares deeply about his family. When he first takes NZT he reorganizes the file room at the bank where he works as a temp and then give all the credit for the increased efficiency to his supervisor because he recognizes that she is a nice and talented person who needs a break. He then spends most of the day reading medical books so he can find a way to save his father's life. When he goes on the run from the FBI, he is very apologetic about the illegal things that he has to do. When he is stuck on a bus for a few hours he chats up the other passengers and helps them with their problems. This is a big contrast to how many of the other NZT users act, though he still tends to lose his better judgement about respecting limits - oh.
  • No Fourth Wall: Brian regularly speaks to the audience.
  • Not Me This Time:
    • The bomber in the second episode admits to multiple counts of murder, but only attempted murder in the case being investigated. The victim had died due to something else killing him before the planned assassination.
    • A cartel assassin tells the FBI that he could not have killed the Victim of the Week because he lost his gun hand in an accident two years ago.
  • Not with the Safety on, You Won't: After months of babysitting Brian, Mike gets a little rusty and forgets to turn the safety off on his gun when confronting a robber. This almost gets him killed.
  • The Oner: Brian complains that the Bruntouchables don't appreciate how much work went into shooting his video on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List in one take.
  • Orgy of Evidence: Brian gets suspicious about Black Flag Baby being the Arm-pocalypse hacker because they found all the evidence right on her company computer. He even claims it was way too easy.
  • Out of Focus: In Episode 11 it focuses more on the people around Brian and Brian is more of a side character in each story.
  • Papa Wolf: Brian tries to get out of telling his dad what's going on by telling him it's too dangerous for him to know. His immediate response is tell him, "I'd die for you." After telling him everything about his situation with the FBI, Brian's dad starts working on a way to get him out. Once Brian tells him that he doesn't want to get out, he tells Naz that he will make sure she goes to jail if anything happens to Brian.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": A hospital stores radioactive materials in a storage room on its premises. The door has a secure keypad lock that can only be unlocked using a numeric code that is randomly generated and changed each week. Brian quickly figures out the current code because it is written on the door frame.
    Brian: If I had to memorize a 9-digit code every week, I'd cheat too.
  • Police Are Useless:
    • Deliberately averted. Brian might be able to quickly learn new things and become hyperaware of his surrounding while on NZT, but his lack of training means that he can disregard information that Harris and Boyle would consider to be important.
    • In the pilot, the FBI almost catches Brian despite him being on NZT and their own investigation would have probably revealed Eli's killer if Brian did not blunder in and steal evidence. Conventional investigation is shown to still be useful, and Harris herself is pretty smart and perceptive. In one instance Brian calls Harris up to tell her about a piece of evidence he discovered that will prove that an accident was actually a murder but Harris tells him that they already discovered all of that an hour earlier through conventional crime scene investigation.
      • Though it's notable in this last one that Brian discovered that on a fifteen minute break after spending three hours studying Farsi. So he could have saved them two hours at the very least. This is part of a trend where Brian on NZT is shown to be not necessarily better, but faster than the traditional methods.
    • Averted once again in "Sands, Agent of Morra". Where despite Brian secretly helping Sands as the FBI are on the same case, Sands and Brian beat the FBI to the location only by mere minutes.
  • Public Secret Message:
    • In the second episode at the end when Brian finds out the nurse working for her father is also the one working for Morra. Her statement about how his father is getting better is clearly meant to be a threat to Brian and to tell him to keep his mouth shut.
    • In "Pirates who Pirate Pirates", Brian wears a sandwich board in the middle of New York. However, it's not written in English, so only the former pirate captain and his crew can know what he means.
  • Rapid-Fire "No!": Set to the opening riffs of "Nobody But Me" as Naz repeatedly turns down Brian's request for a headquarters.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Brian quickly learns that real criminal investigations involve a lot more drudge work and fewer Tuxedo and Martini spy tropes than he expected. Which is why when he remembers something he always makes it look more awesome.
    • When he confronts a criminal on his own, Brian assumes his perfect recall of kung fu movies gives him an advantage. He's taken down in five seconds and realizes that all the "recall knowledge" in the world doesn't help if you've never had any fight training.
    • This is the reason why Eddie Morra claims he hasn't used his abilities to revolutionize the modern world. Politics and human stupidity make it impossible for one man to bring about change without being drowned out by the baying masses. He needs to be much more subtle and play a longer game.
    • When he tries to get into a computer hacking, Brian's narration notes how movies and TV shows do hacking as a montage because "in real life, hacking is boring."
    • Information about NZT is strictly need-to-know but Brian regularly interacts with a number of highly skilled and observant FBI agents. Even Locked Out of the Loop, some of them put the clues together and conclude that Brian's bursts of super intelligence are the result of a super secret drug he is taking.
    • A trained FBI agent will Shoot the Hostage Taker who has a gun pointed at a hostage's head. If a situation has deteriorated to that point, the agent's priority is to save the hostage's life rather than trying to talk the hostage taker down. In Brian's defense, he insists that Casey's last act was to lower his gun, proving that he would have done so eventually had he been given more time. It becomes more muddled when it becomes evident that while on NZT Casey saw the bullet coming and could have avoided being killed. Meaning that it was more likely that with his career gone down in flames, and long term prison the result of his actions, Casey decided to take the only way out left to him.
  • Recovered Addict: Rebecca Harris's father was a drug addict whose addiction ruined his life and cost him his family. The last time Rebecca saw him, he was in recovery and seemed to have put his life back together. However, he then apparently fell Off the Wagon and was murdered soon after. Rebecca now suspects that he was an early NZT user and was killed because of it.
  • Refuge in Audacity:
    • Brian escapes the FBI by running straight into traffic and then jumping in front of a moving subway train.
    • Brian needs to get the FBI to search a bank safety deposit box that might contain evidence that would exonerate him. He walks into the bank, steals a guard's gun, declares that he is robbing the bank and then tells the teller to trigger the alarm and call the FBI. When Agent Harris arrives, he breaks into the box in front of her. He is in a ton of legal trouble for the stunt but the FBI is free to use the evidence to arrest the real killer.
  • Run for the Border:
    • When Brian starts tracking down the people on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List, he discovers that some of them have fled the country. One is hiding out in Costa Rica, another is somewhere in Africa and another decided to hide out in Greenland of all places.
    • A suspect flees to Dubai counting on the fact that it does not have an extradition treaty with the United States. However, Brian finds a way to get the guy deemed an undesirable by the Dubai government which promptly gets the suspect deported back to the US.
  • Running Gag: Brian finds realistic hacking to be an intensely boring process, so to keep the viewers' attention he likes to narrate what he's doing over a montage of unrelated clips. Themes include explosions, cat videos, and a dog saying "I love you."
  • Safe Word: Naz uses "pomegranate" with Brian when there's a chance that he might have to go into hiding in her safehouse. She uses the same word with her daughter.
  • Secret Test of Character: Eddie Morra from the film has been watching over Brian and using Sands to test him to see if he's merely a drone who'll do as he's told or if he has a mind of his own and will do whatever he can to find an ethical solution to his problems. He passed.
  • Sherlock Scan: Brian is able to do this while under the effects of NZT. The only problem is that he isn't a trained criminal investigator so what he considers to be noteworthy might not necessarily be relevant to the agents he works with.
  • Shout-Out: Brian has a Zoltar Speaks machine in his headquarters."
    • And uses it in a case, during a montage.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Although not specifically named in dialogue, the container that a quantity of stolen radioisotope was taken from is labelled "Iridium-192". Ir-192 is a medical isotope and is the one most commonly investigated for going missing in quantities large enough to create a dirty bomb.
    • Brian accurately describes the real threat of a dirty bomb, unlike portrayals in other TV series and movies: not that one made from medical isotopes are particularly more dangerous than a regular bomb, but that its social impacts represent the far more significant effect.
    • It's a Freeze-Frame Bonus, but the message sandwich board Brian wears in "When Pirates Pirate Pirates" is written in grammatically correct, proper textbook Malay.
  • Spanner in the Works: Brian is, by nature, a meddler and NZT makes him hyperaware of things that need to be "fixed". This trait means that he can completely derail intricate plots without even intending to.
  • Status Quo Is God: Brian resolves to treat Mike and Ike with more respect and even addresses Ike by his real name. Ike then says that he's gotten used to being referred to as "Ike".
  • Sticky Fingers: One of the first skills Brian learns, and utilizes in the Pilot, is pickpocketing. Specifically, he explains that the best way to do it is to draw the subjects attention to something else during the action so that they don't notice the theft occurring. Rest assured, if Brian points out some innocuous detail or fact to somebody while talking with them and you can't see his hands, he'll be showing off the phone or wallet he lifted to Rebecca a minute later.
  • Sue Donym: Brian's favorite fake name to use is "Mike Ikerson".
  • Suspect Is Hatless: Subverted. Brian spends a lot of time building a model of a crime scene but the only new information he can figure out about the killer was that he was very tall. This is of no immediate use to the FBI but comes in handy when they find a suspect who is indeed very tall.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Brian has a lot of character traits in common with Eddie Morra, down to getting NZT from a friend, being mistaken for his murderer, and stealing his stash. Which may be part of why Morra decided to help him.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: Rebecca and Brian investigate a hospital's radiology department. All the radioactive materials are behind a locked door with a 9 digit passcode that changes every week. The staff writes the code on the door frame. Brian even admits that if he had to memorize a 9 digit code every week, he'd use a cheat sheet too.
  • Talking to Themself: Unlike the movie, which only shows Eddie's actions and not what he's thinking, whenever Brian takes NZT, he occasionally talks to an hallucination which is implied to be his subconscious helping remember things he knows. It's taken even further in "Personality Crisis" when NZT!Brian starts leaving video taped messages for Normal!Brian and then Normal!Brian leaves one for NZT!Brian.Usually it's just one version, but there can be more.
    • In "Brian Finch's Black Op", he ends up talking to two versions of himself at once in a version of Good Angel, Bad Angel - and also a version of himself that looks just like Rebecca, though she insists that she's just a manifestation of his inner self as well.
    • More appear in "The Assassination of Eddie Morra". Rebecca joins Mr. Happy Nice Guy Brian (in a matching sweater) and Sands joins Badass Brian (in a matching leather jacket). Then Ike wanders in holding the sweater and complaining that it's itchy. After Normal Brian freaks out and tries to get all the voices to shut up, another one emerges: his father, who helps him calm down and think about what he has to do.
  • Techno Babble: Amusingly averted. Brian has to explain to a scientist how he hacked his "unhackable" project; he prepares to deliver a long monologue, but no technobabble reaches the audience - a large "TECH TALK" blinking sign appears and a warning klaxon drowns out all of his speech.
  • That Man Is Dead: Eddie Morra tells Brian that the pre-NZT Eddie does not exist anymore and only the new Eddie matters. Morra is quite perplexed by Brian clinging to his old life rather than fully embracing the "new and improved" Brian.
  • Translation Convention: Brian occasionally points out that the audience is watching a scene play out in English for their own convenience while he and everyone else are actually speaking different languages.
  • Troll: Brian can't resist doing it.
    • When he was first being examined as to why he was immune to the Side Effects of NZT one scientist clicked a counter every time he ate a cheeto. Just for a laugh he pulls the cheeto out of his mouth after the guy clicked it.
    • Then he made papier-maché dolls of Mike and Ike just to annoy them.
    • After stealing ADIC Johnson's phone, he responds to an incoming text from a senior FBI official text by pretending to be Johnson bemoaning his Unfortunate Names. And that he has a micropenis. And then Brian forwards the text "confession" to everyone on the contact list.
  • Tunnel King: Lawrence Drake, a former engineer, manages to tunnel out of Rikers Island in Headquarter.
  • Unfortunate Names: Assistant Director in Charge Johnson in "When Pirates Pirate Pirates". ADIC Johnson.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom:
    • Rachel, Brian's sister, accidentally causes a huge amount of trouble despite having the best of intentions. Brian ends up going on the lam as a result.
    • Also his mother, who spout out a lot of classified information she wasn't supposed to know, revealed Brian's hidden stash, and made note of Sands all right in front of Brian's FBI handlers. Needless to say Brian gets in a lot of trouble, loses his stash, tips the FBI to his involvement with Morra, and then she kicks him out of the house which causes him to go AWOL.
  • Villain Ball:
    • The killer in the pilot keeps an incriminating piece of evidence in his apartment in a location that is highly noticeable. He then brags to Brian about being too smart to keep any NZT in his apartment which clues Brian in on where he actually keeps it.
    • The evil bomb designer in the second episode appears on the news after every bombing to report on it, and also happens to hold the patent for the highly distinctive bombs he uses. He seems to have designed at least the bombs to be unrecognizable after they went off, may be addicted to the attention, and could just say that the bomber based their work on his patent, but it's still pretty darn risky. His garage for "restoring classic cars" has the wrong parts, and the cars are just shells to keep his tools and supplies in, which Harris notices in seconds.
  • Volcano Lair: Brian imagines the Legion of Whom as super-villains who use an active volcano as their base.
  • War for Fun and Profit: Downplayed. The Council of Whom plans to make a fortune by causing an international crisis between Canada and Greenland. This has the potential to sour the relationship between the countries for years but is unlikely to cause an actual war.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Brian's father loves him and is very supportive of him but has accepted that Brian's life is not going anywhere and that Brian will probably not accomplish much. Brian desperately wants his father to be proud of him again just as when Brian was younger and him starting his own band was a major accomplishment.
  • What You Are in the Dark: NZT lowers inhibitions and allows users to act on their innermost desires, mostly in the form of greed for wealth and power. Brian is an exception to the rule because what he wants, more than anything, is for his father (a morally upstanding man) to be proud of him so he goes out of his way to help people like he saw his father do in the past.
  • Whole Plot Reference: The first episode seems to be a shorter version of the film. Guy gets NZT from a friend, friend ends up dead and he is framed for it, needs to both get a supply of NZT and solve the crime before the side effects destroy him.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Brian is repeatedly stated to be 28, but is only eight years old in a flashback to 1998. If this series is intended to be set in 2015, Brian should have been born in 1987, not 1990, and thus eleven years old in the flashback.
    • This error could be due to the series originally being written to take place in 2012, the year after the original film was set in/premiered, only to later be updated to the year it aired.
  • Wrongful Accusation Insurance:
    • In the pilot, Brian ends up doing a lot of highly illegal things proving his innocence. However, he is so valuable to the government as someone who is immune to the side effects of NZT that they offer to drop all charges in exchange for his cooperation.
    • In the process of capturing an escaped prisoner, Brian discovers that the guy is innocent. After Brian proves the escapees innocence, they guy still has to face the legal consequences for his escape. Fortunately, he seems to have committed no major crimes while on the run and gives information to help capture the man he escaped with so he will probably will be sentenced to time-served and will be able to walk free. He still has to spend some time in a minimum security prison while the legalities are resolved.


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