Believe, Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”
Written by Alfonso Cuarón and Marc Friedman
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Aired Monday at 10PM (ET) before moving to Sundays at 9pm (ET) on NBC
As a producer, J.J. Abrams has been behind some of the more well-regarded series of the past decade, including Lost, Fringe, and Person of Interest. His involvement in a series alone brings a level of interest with it. The move of Alfonso Cuarón to American television, meanwhile, brings with it its own level of excitement. Fresh off an Oscar win for Best Director, Cuarón is well-respected in critical circles, and it will certainly be exciting to see what he does with television, as he returns to the medium for the first time since 1990. Believe, however, has the benefit of having both these individuals onboard, which gives the show a lot of potential. Aided by Cuarón, the pilot also points to a show with a lot of promise, with a few intriguing directions it can take.
The character of Bo, and the impact she has on the story, has the potential to be fascinating. With competing forces working to kill her and keep her safe, she is being pursued in much the same way as a powerful object would be pursued. She is not an object, however, and the pilot gives her a level of agency that ensures she will be instrumental in how the story proceeds. Her presence is already altering the way the two entities act, as it’s clear from the pilot that Winter’s anti-gun rule is less of a moral standing and more due to Bo’s reaction to them. It will be interesting to see, going forward, how Bo reacts to other matters, including the discovery of Roman Skouras and his motives behind going after Bo. Given that both Skouras and Winter are keeping information hidden from Bo, it’s possible that Roman isn’t the bad guy, and may be interested in harnessing her powers for a different purpose than Winter. This leads to the possibility that if she gleans Roman’s knowledge, she may come to see his way of thinking as the correct one, which is bound to have repercussions. If she does go down this road, or if she simply uses her powers for evil based on her mood at any given time, will be interesting to see, especially as she herself starts to get a better handle on her abilities.
An exploration of the relationship between Bo and Tate is similarly intriguing. While explorations of unconventional family units have been present in television for a while, the trials of a single father and his young daughter is still relatively unexplored territory. Bo and Tate’s relationship is already sufficiently distinguished enough from that of George and Tessa on Suburgatory, the only other notable example. This makes them unique in the current television landscape, and it will be exciting to see how the relationship develops over the course of the season and beyond. As Winter tells Tate in this week’s episode, it is Tate who will have to bear the familial responsibility to raise Bo, in addition to protecting her, and watching the bond that develops between the two as a result has promise. It will also be interesting to see how Bo and Tate deal with the presence of other individuals in their life as their relationship grows. It’s clear that Bo already sees Winter as a father figure, which is something Tate may have to reconcile with down the road. This also brings up the question of maternal figures in Bo’s life. Not only is there a possibility of Bo’s biological mother re-entering the picture, but Tate will also have to be wary of anyone who enters their life, in case they’re one of Roman’s agents, regardless of how Bo may feel about them, and how both characters deal with such an issue will reveal a lot about them.
Overall, this is a strong start for the series. Cuarón’s work behind the camera is noticeable in this pilot in all the right ways, as there are a number of well-framed tracking shots that serve to effectively add tension to the sequences. It will be interesting to see how the look and feel of the show changes as other directors come in over the course of the season. Giving the assassin sent after Bo a humanising touch at the end is an unexpected move, and adds a nice wrinkle to the good vs. bad fight. Hopefully subsequent villains also get a dimension added to them, as it goes a long way towards separating the show from others of its ilk. The supporting cast for the show is a strong one, and while Delroy Lindo gets the most to do in the pilot, the presence of Kyle MacLachlan and Jamie Chung is also promising, and hopefully they’re not wasted. The symmetry between Bo’s singing of the song and its performance at the end is a nice touch, as well as an effective foreshadowing of her capabilities to start the show. Tate’s relative inexperience in fighting is a nice touch, as the show’s avoidance of the well-trained assassin as guardian idea sidesteps one possible avenue of predictability. The handling of Dr. Terry’s storyline in the pilot is done well. While it hints at a procedural aspect of the show, the focus remains on Bo and how she relates to Dr. Terry, while the latter is also given some nuance before the conclusion of the episode. Coupled with the ability to better understand the nature of Bo’s powers, future procedural episodes will remain compelling if they continue these trends, and will keep from dragging the show down. An exploration of the true nature of Skouras and Winter, as well as a look at how Bo and Tate adjust to each other are both promising aspects of the show, and worth tuning in for in the first few weeks of the show.
– Deepayan Sengupta