“A girl lives among us. She will change the world. If she survives.”
So begins the pilot of Believe, created by newly crowned Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuarón and executive produced by JJ Abrams (dream team, amirite?). It’s a show that NBC is pushing to do well — they’ve given its premiere the prime post-Voice spot in hopes of drawing in viewers — and also the network’s apparent answer to what would happen if Touch and Person of Interest had a baby (kind of). Since I like both Cuarón and Abrams a whole lot, I was inclined to go into this with a generally positive attitude. It’s usually hard to gain a true sense of how these types of shows will evolve from the pilot, anyway, but NBC is asking us to believe, and, okay, I’ll give it a shot.
We open with the girl in question, 10-year-old Bo (Johnny Sequoyah), singing to herself in a car while her parents share some light conversation. The song is unknown, apparently one that she made up in her dreams and then remembered (screw telekinesis: that’s a superpower that I want). Bo sings that “life doesn’t wait for long.” I guess it doesn’t, because within seconds the car is driven off the road in a series of patented Cuarón action shots. (I know that Cuarón probably won’t stay overly involved past the pilot, but one can hope.) “Take Bo,” the father says to the mother, apparently realizing why they’ve been hit. “They found her.” A seemingly well-meaning woman who is actually a female assassin (Sienna Guillory) appears on the scene, her good intentions short-lived as she snaps the necks of both parents. While she disposes of them both, her attempts to steal the child are thwarted by the arrival of an ambulance.
At Kingsland State Prison in Georgia, a man by the name of Milton Winter (Delroy Lindo) poses undercover as a priest to speak to a man named Tate (Jake McLaughlin), who is currently being held on death row. Tate instantly dismisses him, claiming he doesn’t need a confession, but Winter isn’t here for that and instead tells him that he’s come to rescue him. Meanwhile, at the hospital, Bo is in the middle of getting some brain scans done when she wakes up and freaks out. Her reaction causes the system to go haywire and the technicians are a little freaked out (this seems to be a normal hospital, unlike Seattle Grace Mercy West, where people are used to dealing with strange patients).
Back at the prison, Winter — who is working with a team of people camped out in a van — explains the situation further. Bo’s foster parents were killed in a car accident, an attempt was made at kidnapping, and he wants to hire Tate to save her. “This little girl is very important,” he emphasizes. Tate remains wary, not even tempted by the promise of freedom until the very last second. “Why me?” he finally asks, to which Winter answers, “because I believe in you.” An elaborate escape ensues, which involves Tate being thrown into a sewer and then rescued by Winter’s helpers at an undisclosed location.
At the hospital, Bo wakes up and takes interest in a resident doctor named Adam Terry (Rami Malek) who is attempting (and failing) to resuscitate a man who has died. When he comes in to talk to Bo sometime later, he tells her that her parents are dead and we learn that she had only been with them for two weeks. Bo expresses her sadness before suddenly insisting that he can’t quit his job. “You’re a good doctor. You saved Singa,” she tells him. Terry doesn’t know who the heck Singa is, but Bo’s strange behavior causes him to more or less bolt from the room in fear. Later, we see another doctor asking Terry if it’s true that he gave notice, corroborating Bo’s words. It seems that in addition to her abilities to control things, Bo also possesses a gift to see the future.
On the phone, the assassin is relaying Bo’s whereabouts to a man named Roman Skouras (Kyle McLachlan), who appears to be her boss. Skouras wants her to go to the hospital and find Bo before Winter does, because contrary to popular belief, Winter isn’t dead. In fact, he’s on a plane educating Tate about his new charge as his prisoner tries to flirt with Channing (Jamie Chung, fresh out of Once’s Enchanted Forest) while getting a much needed haircut (Person of Interest flashback, ahoy! Down-on-their-luck, despondent man who is rescued because someone needs him for a “higher purpose” and is forced to clean up his act). Winter tells him that while they haven’t been able to figure out the true nature of Bo’s abilities (add levitation to the list), they do know that they’re controlled by her emotions. They also know who she will grow up to be, and are determined to hide her until she reaches that potential — and before the shadowy bad people who are searching for her find her first.
Tate still wants to know “why me,” as they prepare to infiltrate the hospital, while the assassin also prepares to sneak in after sabotaging a nurse. It becomes a race against time as they each try to find Bo and Tate succeeds first, apparently drawn to her for reasons that seem kind of obvious but aren’t actually confirmed. Upon seeing her, he starts to cry and Bo chooses that moment to wake up.
Bo asks Tate if he’s her new foster dad. Negative. She refuses to come with him until Tate mentions her protector, and as Tate tries to get Bo out of the hospital, he comes face to face with the assassin. The two end up in an all-out fight, and I’ll give the pilot credit for its well-done action scenes — very much in the style of the man who directed Gravity and Children of Men, which helps to move the hour along. Bo saves the day by injecting the assassin with a sort of sedative and they escape onto a bus, where the girl expresses her worry at what she’s done. Not one to be slowed down by Tate’s apparent disinterest in her compassion, Bo is suddenly distracted by a street performer, which leads her to declare that she knows who “Singa” is. “We have to find Dr. Terry and tell him,” she insists, before disappearing off the bus.
At Terry’s home, we find out that his dad is bedridden by a serious illness. He’s unconscious, but his son talks to him anyway, enlightening us through a windfall of exposition about the guilt he has over the man he was unable to save, and how he carries around his father’s words that he’ll never be a good doctor. Terry was going to prove him wrong by fixing him, but with that having failed, it’s enough incentive for him to quit.
Tate finds Bo looking up Terry’s address, but before Tate can properly lose it, they’re picked up by Channing & Co., who bring them to a warehouse where Winter is hiding out. Winter tells Tate about his ideas to ship them off to Buffalo, and Tate’s still not having any of this, especially after Winter implies this isn’t exactly a one-time gig. “I’m not Mary Poppins, all right?” he retorts sarcastically, while Winter hints that he knows Tate felt something when he first saw Bo. This freaks Tate out even more, so the two are sufficiently distracted when the assassin (who has gained intel of the warehouse from Skouras’ men) drives her car straight into the place. She takes out a bunch of guys (R.I.P., random helpers who aren’t Jamie Chung) before going on a search for the girl. Tate uses the opportunity to attempt to run, much to Winter’s dismay, while Bo realizes that she’s lost her stuffed turtle and reveals herself by running straight into the line of fire.
Winter and Channing try to help, but they find themselves seemingly useless thanks to Bo’s telekinesis abilities. Tate steps in to save her, engaging in another fight that sends Bo’s emotions into high gear, which in turn gives us the moment we’ve seen over and over again in trailers: Bo screaming shrilly as a hoard of wild pigeons descends around the assassin in a scene that causes too much of a flashback to Hitchcock’s terrifying 1963 thriller The Birds. Winter, Channing, and Tate, having seen actual proof of her abilities in person, are in awe.
They manage to escape with Winter telling Tate that he can’t go to Buffalo after all, and that he’s going to have to remain on the move because all of their locations have apparently been compromised. Tate’s injury from his fight proves to be somewhat beneficial in that it leads the two to Terry’s house, where Tate is able to get help. Bo sees Terry’s father and uses her abilities to read his thoughts, telling Terry his dad is proud of him. Bo then again tells him he can’t quit his job because of a singer named “Singa.” Terry still has no idea who this is, but Bo insists that he will, and that “she’ll live because of you.” She then goes on to tell him that his father does think he’s a good doctor, and knows that he did try to save him. At this precise moment, Terry gets a call from the hospital and goes back to work, his passion and confidence seemingly renewed.
Bo tells Tate that they’re going to Philadelphia, and we get the full extent of what we’ll probably see often if this series continues: a lot of mouthing off and bantering comments. (If nothing else, the relationship will probably be a strong plus for this show. Both McLaughlin and Sequoyah have good chemistry, and I found their scenes to be the most interesting aside from the Cuarón direction.) At the hospital, Terry saves a woman named Agnes, who is — surprise! — a singer. In a nice tie-in, during her recovery, she coincidentally performs the same song that Bo was singing at the beginning of the show.
The assassin, meanwhile, is still searching fervently for Bo with no results. Winter calls up Skouras and tells him that Bo’s protected again, though Skouras remains calm and unaffected throughout the whole conversation. (I guess when you’ve been married to Bree Van de Kamp, this is nothing.) The exchange made me wonder if that meant the two shared some history together, and sure enough, Winter tells Channing that they used to be partners. We can assume that this will lead to some interesting confrontations and flashbacks later down the road, yes? Channing expresses her disbelief that Winter put their precious cargo in the company of a death row inmate, which leads to the reveal of the hour (if you haven’t picked up on it already): Tate is Bo’s father.
I admit to liking the pilot more than I thought, enough to be curious to see how the next few episodes unfold. What did you think? Will you be giving Believe a chance? Are you entirely uninterested because you called Tate being Bo’s father within the first 10 minutes? Are you just really over the trend of gifted orphaned children in television shows, or did the hour make you a believer?
Believe airs Sunday nights at 8 p.m. on NBC.