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believe

The NBC show Believe faces something of an uncertain future with no guarantee that the series will be picked up for a second season. That’s unfortunate because after a slow start there’s some real potential if given the opportunity.

Created by Alfonso Cuaron, winner of the Academy Award for Best Director at the start of the year for Gravity, along with Markus Friedman the series is a variation on the classic on-the-run premise that has always been popular in television. In this case Bo is a young girl with telekinetic abilities who is being protected by a group of individuals. Said group wants to prevent her capture and exploitation by a stereotypical evil research group and, by extension, the military. Fans of The Pretender, an NBC drama from 1996-2000, will recognize some similarities in terms of a child’s mentor wishing to protect them from harm.

It is in fact rather clichéd in many respects and a slow opening episode did not help matters. Those of us with the patience to make it through the first two episodes have been reward with hints of a compelling back-story and some secondary characters who appear well worth the time invested.

Newcomer Johnny Sequoyah plays Bo and brings a winning personality to the role. Highly intelligent children are generally an annoying commodity in a show, hello Wesley Crusher, as the producers’ need and desire to showcase their talents invariably concludes with the dumbing down of the adults by comparison. Here Sequoyah manages to balance her character’s ability to impact the universe around her with a style that isn’t overly precocious. Trained acting or natural ability is hard to say, but it works and that’s important when the entire focus of the show is to root for the youngster. Regardless of the show’s success, Sequoyah should have a strong future in the business.

Jake McLaughlin is Bo’s father, William Tate, who is broken out of prison to be the protector of the girl and it is here that the show first stumbled. Tate is on death row for two murders he did not commit and while the level of the offense leads credence to his desperation to escape, should such a prisoner abscond the law enforcement response would have been significantly higher. McLaughlin is fine as the rough and tough Tate whose brushes with the law formed his younger life. So too is Delroy Lindo as Dr. Milton Winter the scientist who took away Bo from Skouras Worldwide and the clutches of Dr. Roman Skouras – a suitably suave yet wonderfully evil Kyle MacLachlan. Skouras conceived the Orchestra Project with the help of Winter and is now aided by Dr. Zoe Boyle; the conflicted Kerry Condon best known for her work as Octavia of the Julii in HBO’s Rome.

Throw in a couple of sidekicks on either side and an entire FBI investigative group and there’s enough of a base to really build some strong character development. Whether that happens is unfortunately I think debatable. The ratings just haven’t been strong for a show that required three full episodes to really get up a head of steam. This isn’t great television and nothing written here should imply that it is. There is however a likeable lead and a story with promise and it would be nice to see the show given the opportunity to explore that further.

- Wallace Poulter

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