There is a strange sense of calm that creeps in at the end of NBC’s new drama, ‘Believe.’ It’s this feeling that, for all the initial mystery, the later chaos, and a satisfyingly warm revelation in the finale, the pilot episode is fully self-contained.
By its conclusion, whatever missteps the show may have taken or clichés it embraced, you realize that the creators did enough to draw you in because on whole, there is closure – even with limitless possible storylines. And while that’s a good feeling to have after watching the first installment of this occasionally light-hearted, veiled thriller of a drama, you might also have gotten your fix and can move on.
Most of this is due to Alfonso Cuarón, the now Oscar-winning director who helmed the pilot episode of ‘Believe,’ and who is also a co-creator (J.J. Abrams also has his hands on this series too). He begins with a mesmerizing continuous shot of an intense car chase, following the characters on the inside before tracking the path of a mysterious bystander who is on site immediately.
Cuarón loves these tracking shots, slowly moving in on a character, and following their faces as they move about as other converse with them. It’s an effective ploy, giving instant humanity to for example a young, emotionally-plagued doctor, as well as a beautiful assassin.
He is an immensely-talented director, and before gaining worthy fame with his vision in ‘Gravity’, directed another noteworthy film in ‘Children of Men,’ which also includes an unforgettable uncut tracking shot (coincidently, the film is being loosely adapted to TV).
So as it happens, Cuarón’s direction is by far the best and most interesting part of a rather average show. He won’t be directing any more episodes any time soon, a notion that lends to the fact this episode feels so in its own little world. Without his deft eye, the moments of awkward dialogue (“She’s just a girl,” a victim says. “I don’t care,” replies the assassin) and tonal shifts (lives are at stake it seems, but characters can still josh and jab), will become all too apparent.
Nevertheless, as mentioned, the story can go in a lot of different directions. It begins cryptically enough, as a young girl named Bo survives an accident and suddenly becomes the target of various groups. She is special, clairvoyant, and nicely sassy (played with warmth and loveliness by Johnny Sequoyah), and sought after by the aforementioned deadly vixen and her advisor (Kyle MacLachlan), and by a ‘Mission: Impossible’-type crew of Winter and Channing (Delroy Lindo and Jamie Chung).
For reasons unknown, the latter group lifts a death row inmate by the name of Tate from prison (Jake McLaughlin, acting as the poor-man’s Josh Holloway), in order to assist with the capture and protection of Bo. “We’re the good guys” explains Winter to Tate and the audience (good we got that cleared up).
Even though there are some deathly moments (heads being snapped and bodies being shot up), ‘Believe’ is at its best with it maintains a light-hearted tone, which is does with some frequency, especially in a hospital scene where no one is who they say they are.
It’s riddled with familiar figures, though – the convict with a heart of gold; the adolescent full of wit; the wise, tempered leader; the untrustworthy headstrong woman; the rich, jet-setting mogul; and the sexy killer. The curious title also gets mentioned a couple times – “You know what happens when you believe in people?” asked a man who has run out of luck.
While Cuarón’s contributions are paramount to the pilot’s compelling nature, it’s with hope that the wit and charm will prevail. It’s unclear exactly to what extent young Bo is cunning and powerful – she can read minds, and maybe levitate, it seems – but thinly-drawn characters may fall of out of faith and favor pretty quickly.
'Believe' will air in its regular timeslot on Sunday, March 16 at 9/8c on NBC.