There is story, somewhere, in NBC’s Believe, as it’s technically one of the requirements for being included in a storytelling medium. What that said tale is, however, still remains to be seen – but if you were to turn to the episode’s description, you’ll know more than those who simply watched the 60-minute series premiere.
Believe follows a girl named Bo (Johnny Sequoyah) who was born with special powers she’s net yet able to control. When her original protection is murdered by an associate of Skouras (Kyle MacLachlan), her other protector, Winter (Delroy Lindo) – who used to be partners with Skouras - seeks the help of a wrongfully convicted death-row inmate, Tate (Jake McLaughlin). With Tate now serving as Bo’s new protection, the two must stay one step ahead of the nefarious forces looking to use her for their own benefit. Now you know the rest of the story.
Let’s get this out of the way, right now: NBC’s Believe is mess. The acting, dialogue, action, pacing and, yes, directing are all painfully awkward and generally laughable. To say that one fully understands what Believe is after watching the premiere, is to say that one can fully appreciate a movie by simply watching its trailer; this, unfortunately, is what Believe’s first installment proved to be, more or less. Of course, there’s no way to talk about Believe without bringing up its creators, Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Friedman, who haven’t exactly had the best experience bringing this show to television.
There is a reason why Mark Friedman left the series in July 2013; there’s a reason why Alfonso Cuarón decided to step back and stay on as just "executive producer"; there’s a reason why Dave Erickson - Friedman’s replacement – left the series in December 2013; and there’s a reason why production on the show went on hiatus for over a month. Though we may not know exactly why all of this happened, the results of these decisions can be seen onscreen, and it’s almost impossible to believe that anyone involved in the series will be able to right this upended amalgamation of super powers and daddy drama which, if we’re all being honest, makes the worst season of Heroes look like an award-worthy endeavor.
Nothing is really explained in the premiere, so all of its many characters are, instead, expected to convey their importance by action. Good people do good things, while bad people do bad things – or simply talk on the phone while looking somewhat bad. Tate is more than just a wrongfully accused death row inmate, as the premiere eventually reveals; however without such exposition, there’s no way audiences would have recognized that there’s more to Tate than being a misunderstood brute. Fortunately, there are two saving graces in this series: Bo and Winter.
Neither Bo nor Winter are above the ridiculousness contained within the premiere, yet the two actors – Sequoyah and Lindo – have an energy about them that helps to carry the weight of the series. What’s actually occurring onscreen may be a confusing and downright poor showing for NBC, but if there’s a reason to you tune in to Believe’s second episode, it’s because of these two. Their positivity – no matter how forced – truly burns away much of the series’ unfortunate elements, leaving at least some reason to hope that the series will eventually find its way.
There’s no doubt that Believe, as conceived by Cuarón and Friedman, is as imaginative as fans all hoped it would be. This is not that show. What we now see is a corporate mind taking over control for the show’s creative soul, and no matter who is picked to replace Cuarón and Friedman – or their successors - there’s no way to replicate the sentiments which led them to stand behind this idea and want to bring it to television.
Is this a failure for Alfonso Cuarón? Yes – and NBC will make sure that you know the Academy Award-winner is involved in this show at every chance. But is he really? After all, Cuarón wrote and directed Gravity – a movie so astonishing that everyone wants to know how he made it. With Believe, everyone wants to know why he made it. Perhaps it’s because the story about a hopeful young girl with the powers to impact the world around her is a fascinating concept. Unfortunately, what made it to screen is anything but.
_____Believe returns next Monday with "Beginner's Luck" @10pm on NBC.