“Believe” is NBC’s newest sci-fi adventure series, featuring 10-yrs old child supernatural prodigy Bo Adams and her newest guardian, fugitive William Tate. Yes, you read that correctly; it’s a show about a vulnerable child running around with an escaped Death Row inmate, it sounds crazy, but . . . wait for it . . . you gotta Believe in Alfonso Cuarón’s, Mark Friedman’s, and J. J. Abram’s ability to deliver on such a high-concept show.
If that’s all we have, though, I’m afraid there may be reason to worry.
Too Coincidental to Believe
The biggest issue such a TV show as “Believe” has to contend with is making sure their high-concept ideas don’t come off that way. Even supernatural abilities should be dealt with as a normal person would, and so far, the only person who does that is Tate . . . and he’s the crazy death row inmate with anger management issues, so who’s going to listen to him? When everyone’s running around acting like the fact that a ten-year-old girl being able to control animals, move things, and read people’s minds is something we should not only embrace and accept, but revere, it’s kind of hard to take you seriously. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what “Believe” does. Yes, people are shocked to learn about Bo’s abilities, but the only person who questions them or thinks about them deeply is the villain of the show, Roman Skouras (Kyle MacLachlan), who wants to use Bo for nefarious purposes yet to be revealed.
Another issue “Believe” suffers from is that everything that happens, all the encounters Bo has with strangers, they’re just too coincidental. She just happens to be in the hospital room across from the doctor having a career crisis, she just happens to meet the waitress with the leukemic son in need of operation money, she just happens to reconnect a mother and son torn apart years ago by a war. The first time, it was believable, but this looks to be a running theme, and an episodic structure for the show. “Believe” is really not about keeping Bo safe or even dealing with her powers; it’s about showing how her powers affect everyone else and help her make the world a better place! Except that’s just too much to, for lack of a better word, believe on an episodic pattern.
One thing that “Believe” has done well is their casting of the main characters. Bo and Tate sound real, even if their surroundings and the events they’re thrust into aren’t. Their banter is funny and witty, and they’re both quite likable characters in their own way. Bo runs the risk of being too sunshine-and-rainbows for my tastes, but her moments of sass toward Tate avert that. Tate sticking to his criminal tendencies -the non-lethal ones, at least- makes for an interesting dynamic. He stands out from among all the people who have apparently been shocked into goodness by Bo’s powers. Yes, three episodes in and Tate’s already softened the edges, but at least he’s not completely buying into the whole thing. He acts believably as someone who’s doing what he needs to keep the freedom suddenly bestowed upon him. This leaves room for character development, if nothing else, and it gives the show a refreshing sense of authenticity.
Whoa! Slow Down!
But authenticity is hard to maintain when so far, all the episodes have happened over a span of three days and we’ve covered massive ground: bailed a Death-Row inmate out of jail, rescued the most wanted 10-year-old girl in America, and went around at least three different cities on the run from the evil Orchestra Project. Everything is happening just a little too fast. At this rate, it’s just going to be too exhausting watching an episode of “Believe” when Bo’s life is going to be in danger every ten minutes. That worked for maybe the first two episodes, but I sincerely hope that this isn’t part of the formula for every single one. Yes, I understand her powers are dangerous, but what good is Winter and his gang if they can’t give the girl even a week’s peace?
Overall, “Believe” is just a little much at the moment. They could do with taking things slow a little bit, and focusing on the things that make the show interesting: the relationships between Bo and her allies, especially Tate. It would also do the show a whole lot of good if Bo’s powers are either explained a little bit more, or maybe given some limitations? It’s hard to take in the fact that this girl could potentially destroy missiles just by thinking about it, so maybe don’t do that?