Bo (Johnny Sequoyah Freidenberg) is a girl with growing psychic powers caught up in a battle between two factions out to control her…
In the latest series from the J. J. Abrams/Bad Robot production line there are traces of both The Fury and Firestarter in its focus on a young person as the subject of a covert war to control her psychic powers. Thankfully, unlike the recent, dreadful Intelligence, the opener for Believe kicked off in stylish fashion, setting up enough engaging questions to keep you watching.
The basic set-up is sound enough. Delroy Lindo’s Winter breaks wrongly convicted killer Tate (Jeffrey McLaughlin) out of jail to function as protector for 10-year-old Bo. There’s enough action in the prison break through evasion of hostile forces sequence to keep this opening instalment ticking over nicely. The ‘bad guys’ (or are they?) are represented—all too briefly—by Kyle ‘Twin Peaks’ MacLachlan’s Skouras, a business tycoon with an interest in Bo, and a former partner of Winter’s. There’s plenty of potential back-story to be unpacked right there.
The evident problem in the pilot is a tendency to mawkishness, and that may prove to be Believe’s achilles heel. It is very easy to see story-of-the-week instalments being built around Bo’s ability to diagnose someone’s problems and solve them in an overly schmaltzy way by episode’s end, as happens here with the surgeon-and-father sub-plot. It could become Touched by an Angel crossed with the Keifer Sutherland vehicle Touch. This is something Believe will have to do much to avoid if it is to succeed.
There’s very little evidence of Abrams’ finger prints on this one (although an elaborate back story vis-a-vis Winter and Skouras is sure to unfold), and even less of producer/director Alfonso Cuaron, director of the Oscar-winning Gravity. The episode has nothing stylistic to mark it out from any other contemporary television series, and it’ll be interesting to see if Cuaron sticks with the show in more than name-only.
Verdict: Believe has potential, but with the ever-threatening schmaltz factor it could quickly become disposable entertainment rather than ‘must see’. Will the pilot’s 10 million viewers continue to Believe?
Episode 1 ‘Pilot’: 6/10
Brian J. Robb
Screens in the UK on Watch from March 27.