Welcome to the first review of the show, Believe, a story of … I’m not really sure. Whatever it is, it’s bad. I apologize in advance if this review drips a little sarcasm. Yes, it may be unfair to judge a premier episode so harshly, but one of the biggest problems with the show Believe is that I’m not believing anything about it. (Stupid pun. Stupid, unavoidable, totally applicable pun.) With clichés running rampant, plot holes aplenty, and boring characters, this pilot is a reminder that it’s not enough to just strew unanswered questions around—they need to make sense and suggest at least the prospect that there are, in fact, answers.
For those of you who haven’t seen the Believe pilot, or who started watching it but after a few minutes realized that life was precious and shouldn’t be wasted, or who perhaps just can’t get enough of terrible television, let’s run through what transpired in the series premiere:
The story begins with an evil British villain (the best evil assassins are British!) killing Bo’s foster parents, then trying to kill Bo. Alas, she is interrupted by a bystander. When Bo is brought to the hospital, the doctors notice weird things about her (giving her a CT scan shuts of all the lights in the building), but after noting how mind-boggling it is, the doctors immediately forget and treat her like a normal patient. In the meantime, at a prison, a priest goes to hear the confessions of a murder convict on death row. But the priest isn’t really a priest (what? crazy plot twist, right?) He’s Milton Winter. Who is Milton Winter, exactly? I don’t know, and doubt the writers do either. The one thing we do know about him is that he wants to protect Bo, and keeps finding her foster families. Now he has chosen this murderer, Tate, to be Bo’s foster father, and offers Tate escape from jail if he accepts the deal. Facing a choice between accepting the offer or lethal injection, Tate does the thing that allows him to keep living.
After breaking Tate out of jail, Milton shows Tate some videos of Bo moving things with her mind. Milton notes, “We don’t do guns, Mr. Tate. We’re the good guys,” and sends Tate, unarmed, to rescue Bo from the hospital. Tate succeeds in finding Bo, but when he is about to escape with her, the British lady villain, dressed as a doctor, comes to get Bo.
Somehow, this little girl who supposedly has powers to read people can’t tell this is the evil villain who killed her foster parents. The villain tires of playing doctor, and goes back to playing her favorite game, murderer, trying to kill Bo. An underwhelming cat-and-mouse chase scene ensues. (It includes a riveting ride on a slow-moving public bus as a getaway vehicle.)
Finally, the villain corners them in a warehouse, where, out of nowhere, Tate displays an act of chivalry by acting as a distraction for the girl. Bo is almost able to escape but returns to save her stuffed animal, and the villain catches her. In trying to save her, Milton gets shot in the arm. (I wonder if that will change his mind about not wanting to use a gun.) Tate once again sacrifices himself for the little girl, and the villain is about to shoot him. To save him, Bo summons pigeons to swirl around the villain (because nothing’s worse that pigeons). With the help of the pigeons, they escape the villain. With no plan, yet soothing music that is supposed to be touching, Tate and Bo walk off in the moonlight.
At the end, we see that Milton and Stouras (the evil man who hired the villain to catch Bo) used to be partners, but now are rivals and still have antagonistic conversations over the phone to keep make snarky comments to each other. Then Terrence reveals that Tate is actually Bo’s father. What? Crazy!
Questions that the show wants me to wonder about that I really don’t care about:
When will Tate start to treat Bo as his daughter? How will Bo and Tate react when they realize they actually are father and daughter? How were the kind-hearted Milton and evil Stouras partners?
Questions I actually leave with: What exactly are Bo’s special powers? Why, if she has gone through 20 foster parents, do people keep adopting her? Why ever did NBC pick up this show?
The obvious answer to that last question is that now Academy Award-winner Alfonso Cuarón created the series together with Mark Friedman, and it’s executive-produced by J.J. Abrams (Lost, Fringe). Both Cuarón and Abrams have consistently attached themselves to quality material, but this choice left me wondering, “What are they thinking?” The 2000s have been a new era for television, frequently yielding better-than-film quality television, but this show was like a bad blast from the past. Hopefully, there are better things in its future.
Madina Papadopoulos is a New York-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter.