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Believe Pilot Review

Child actors are notoriously annoying. Even if the actor’s not bad, then it’s the character because so many shows mistake children being annoying for children being endearing. Once Upon A Time has this problem with Henry, The Walking Dead has it with Carl, The Good Wife refuses to accept that no one cares about Zack and Grace, and these are just a few. Even shows without kids in the main cast are obsessed with bringing one on in an episode to develop some kind of one-off relationship with one of the mains in the hopes of tugging at heartstrings which usually only produces an episode I’ll surely skip during rewatches.  With all these terrible precursors I expected the worst from Believe which features ten-year old Johnny Sequoyah as Bo, one half of the show’s main pair so it was a pleasant surprise to find Bo to be not only not annoying but likable.

Since Bo’s one half of the series’ twosome (alongside escaped death row inmate Tate played by Jake Mclaughlin), it’s important that she not be a total drag since she’s going to be onscreen most of the time. Though she’s far from an original concept with an overabundance of cuteness and her specialness, at least Bo’s specialness isn’t the kind of special that manifests itself creepily. She’s optimistic but not unnaturally so. She’s sad when it makes sense for her to be sad (though when her foster parents die she’s more disappointed since she hadn’t even been with them a month) and angry when it makes sense for her to angry, but she’s a generally happy kid without being overbearing and seeming painfully unaware of the seriousness of her situation. She’ll still run off if it means doing something she wants to do, but it was never with the sense that she was doing so just to be difficult but because there’s something she really has to do.

But perhaps it’s because Believe has a young girl as its star that it’s so simplified, a run of the mill battle between good (Delroy Lindo’s Winter and Jamie Chung’s Channing) and evil (Kyle Maclachlan’s Skouras). Neither side is well-fleshed in this pilot, existing as mere archetypes of their respective shades of black and white. Winter and Channing refuse to use guns even up against assassins who do because they’re the “good guys”. Meanwhile Skouras won’t even let his assassin/kidnapper have the night off to spend time with her mom on her birthday and just barely avoids twirling his mustache in the couple of scenes he has.

Tate (Jake Mclaughlin) is an even more typical character than Bo – slightly grungy, almost perpetually angry, incredibly cynical and overwhelmingly unprepared to raise a kid, even one as otherworldly and mature as Bo.  But even Tate isn’t immune to Bo’s charms as he started crying as soon as he saw her, and this is on top of the revelation that he’s Bo’s father, a biological connection neither is aware of. This allows for some suspension of disbelief in the whole saga of Winter breaking a convicted murderer (who claims to be innocent) out of prison so he can take the lead in caring for Bo. Surely Tate was telling the truth about his innocence (because him actually being guilty wouldn’t gel at all with Believe‘s juvenile depiction of the two sides in this battle), but Winter wasn’t that concerned about it either way.

The fun of the series will be in watching Bo and Tate’s relationship as it expands especially with the audience knowing about their relation before either of them does. Already the two have an interesting and humorous bond forming, though this was mostly carried by Bo who has some variety in her perceptions of Tate while he remained almost always annoyed by her.

Less fun aspects will probably be the episode’s inevitable faith-based stories as Tate and Bo hop all over the country to hide from Skouras which will probably end up being just as exhausting as the pilot promised.  Rami Malek guest-starred as a faith-challenged doctor considering quitting his job at the hospital after the loss of a patient and his comatose father’s disapproval of the profession, and Bo became fixated on convincing him not to give it up. It all worked out because Dr. Terry went back to work and saved the life of a singer, just like Bo promised he would. There’s nothing wrong with these procedural-ish weekly plots, of Tate and Bo encountering some person in crisis and Bo insisting on helping them through it, but Believe doesn’t promise anything especially new in this regard.

The pilot wasn’t much more than some table setting, busy establishing who and what and a bit of why, and besides some issues that could be ironed out with more episodes Believe could make for a nice midseason show.

Stray Observations

  • After Tate saw that assassin woman wasn’t Dr. Elliot (a black woman): “You alright? You look pale.”
  • I don’t know why it was so hard for Channing to believe that Tate lost a fight to a woman, and find it hard to believe she’d be so skeptical about it when Channing wanted to take on the role of Bo’s protector and is presumably combat ready herself.
  • Fingers crossed the bad CGI butterfly doesn’t become a recurring thing.
  • The pilot was cowritten and directed by Alfonso Cuarón who is now an Oscar-winning director, and his touch definitely showed in this episode especially in the crash sequence. Since he’s one of the creators and an executive producer, I hope to see him doing some more work on the show despite his surely busy schedule. 
  • Believe will be airing on Sunday nights, which is a busy on review-wise over here so I’ve not yet decided whether or not I’ll review it regularly.

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