Will the new show from Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron make a believer out of you?
Part ‘The Fugutive’/’Nowhere Man’, part ‘Heroes’, Believe is the new show from Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity), Mark Friedman (The Forgotten), and executively produced by JJ Abrams. It centres around a young girl named Bo (Johnny Sequoyah), who has amazing yet unexplored powers of which she is not yet fully in control. Tate (Jake MCLaughlin), a man on death row for a murder he claims he did not commit, is approached by Milton Winter (Delroy Lindo), and helped to escape so that he can become Bo’s protector, to keep her safe from a group that is looking to get hold of her.
From a storyline in the pilot involving Bo talking a troubled Doctor out of quitting his profession, the pilot sets up the basic type of show we will get fairly well, with the two main characters travelling on the run from the mysterious group that is looking for Bo. This will be a show where the characters meet and inspire people along the way, through Bo’s mysterious abilities that even she does not yet understand, helping people before having to move on when the group gets close. It’s not hard to see this, and though it’s not a new thing, it is a tried and tested formula that if done well could make for a decent show.
You can tell that Alfonso Cuaron is involved as a creator with the series, as is JJ Abrams – Hopefully Cuaron will stay involved longer than Abrams normally does before losing interest and moving on. In particular the opening shot of the episode screams Cuaron, where Bo and her foster parents’ car is run off the road. It’s accomplished with an all in one shot, very similar to a scene from his movie Children of Men that sees the car go from a road, off a cliff and end up upside down in a ravine, all from inside the car. Unfortunately this impressive opening shot is about as good as the filming gets, though this is perhaps due to the limitations of filming a television series and not for want of trying.
There are some nagging problems though as far as the writing of the show goes:
At one point when trying to get away from someone whilst in a hospital, a fire exit which the main character shoulder charges, conveniently does not open. In a hospital? I’m sure that would happen – the writers need to come up with more plausible and inventive ways to create obstacles for the characters to encounter, and not just conveniently locked doors. Especially a fire door in a hospital. This may seem like a small thing, but when I saw it, I honestly spent a moment wondering why they could be so lazy.
The good guys make stupid predictable decisions. The main character, being a convicted felon, is fitted with a GPS tracking anklet by the good guys so they can keep track of him. Yeah, great idea, like no one else – including a group of people who it appears have a lot of means and technology at their disposal – is gonna think to try searching for a tracking signal, way to make the job easier for the bad guys.
And speaking of the bad guys, we see very little of them and get very little information on who they are or what they are all about. A surprise cameo is the appearance of Kyle McGlachlin, who it appears is high up amongst the bad guy group, but his appearance does little other than to inspire a ‘that’s Kyle McGlaughlin!’ moment and does nothing to explore that group or their motives. I’m hoping that this group is being kept intentionally vague to stop things being revealed too much too early, but have a horrible feeling that even the writers don’t know, and are setting up villains just to be the bad guys without actually having any plan for them. I’m hoping I’m wrong on this, but unfortunately don’t think I am.
Towards the end of the pilot, something about Tate is revealed by Milton, and this seemed odd that it’s something he would know but not tell Tate himself. He wants him to protect Bo, and surely telling him this piece of information would make him more amenable to doing this? The way this information is revealed in the episode shows the ulterior motives of the writers, which is to shock and surprise the audience rather than shock and surprise the characters, which is what they should do so that we as the audience will become interested in them and not just the show.
Believe shows promise, it has potential but suffers from conveniences, very basic plotting, and unrealistic characters in an attempt to create some form of suspense. A little less playing to the audience and focusing on the characters and this may become an interesting series that audiences will start to root for. Not a bad pilot, but I’ve seen a lot of others that were a lot more organised.
Believe starts in the U.S. on NBC 10th March and in the U.K. on watch 27th March.
3 and a half out of 5 Nerds