Spring 2014 Review: Believe

21 Mar

I Want to Believe

I’ll be honest. I try and hope I did my best to evaluate this show fairly after viewing it, but it rubbed me the wrong way right from the title and poster. Call me a cynic, a pessimist, a Rust Cohle, but I’m kind of sick of being asked to Believe. It’s not entirely that I don’t want to believe, though that’s probably part of it. Shows earn belief, they don’t ask for it. Believe checks off a bunch of boxes that happen to be personal pet peeves – it ties in big time with fate, it simplifies life to essentially good and evil, and it uses some magic to make us believe big things are happening. No lesser than Oscar winner Alfonso Cuaron directed and co-wrote the pilot, and I hate to disappoint Cuaron, whose work I admire, but this was not for me.

Let’s step back a bit. Believe stars a little girl (eight years old maybe? I’m terrible with ages), Bo, with powers. Why, how, and the extent of the powers are unclear, but they’re super powerful and she is only just beginning to learn how to harness them. She can definitely at the very least read people’s minds, see the future, and scream loud enough to make a flock of birds go all The Birds on someone.

The girl is naturally the target of interest for forces good and evil, among the select few who even know about her existence. On the side of good is Milton (Delroy Lindo) and Channing (Jamie Chung). We know nothing about them except that the two have been tracking and interacting with the Bo for a long time and seek to protect her and use her power for good, whatever that means, somehow or other when she’s older.

On the side of bad is Skouras (Kyle McLaughlin), who wants the girl for, well, I don’t know, evil.  It’s not really clear other than he’s just a bad guy. He has an assassin who is attempting to steal the girl throughout the pilot, killing anyone in her path.

The good guys break out convicted death row inmate William Tate (Jack McLaughlin, unrelated to Kyle, but doing the best young Nick Cage impression I’ve seen in years, and I can’t decide whether I mean that as a compliment) minutes from being put to death and recruit him to find and protect Bo. He’s not really interested in spending his time protecting a young girl, but it sure beats the death penalty, and they keep him on the job with the threat of turning him into the authorities. Apparently they have the power to somehow ensure he doesn’t get caught if they don’t want him to, because, well, just because. He’s still pretty grouchy about having to babysit a girl, even if she has powers, and Channing wonders why Milton went through the trouble of breaking him out of prison (which was surprisingly easy). It turns out that he’s her birth father, so he’ll go on presumably learning to love her while still being a bit of a whiner.

Believe was oddly reminiscent of Fox’s touch, another show about a kid with powers and fate gone overboard, and I don’t mean the comparison as a complimentary one.

Maybe there’s someone who finds this heartwarming, but it’s not me. I have nothing against the girl but it the show seems vaguely full of itself and simplistic. At one point, Milton tells Tate that they don’t use guns, because they’re the good guys. What? What does that even mean? You won’t find a stronger gun control advocate than me, but I don’t understand at all why good guys use other weapons by not guns. What are the rules? That line just ticked me off in a way that’s emblematic of what bothers me about this show and shows like it. I’m supposed to feel inspired but I just feel bored and confused.

Will I watch it again? No. I don’t want to believe. Well, that’s not really true. There are plenty of things I believe in. But Believe is not one of them.

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