Kids in peril seem to be a theme of NBC’s midseason lineup, with no one more in jeopardy — or potentially better able to defend herself — than the adorable moppet in “Believe.” A collaboration between J.J. Abrams and Alfonso Cuaron, the series bears a more-than-passing resemblance to the “Terminator” franchise, with a child as the linchpin to the world’s future. Embracing mystical mumbo-jumbo and ignoring lapses in logic are required to enjoy the Cuaron-directed pilot, which sets up a “Fugitive”-style quest. “Think of all the people she’ll help along the way,” says one good guy. If the series lives that long.
Setting up a kid as what amounts to the show’s MacGuffin (something Fox tried not long ago with “Touch”), the premiere opens with the good guys’ leader Milton (Delroy Lindo) breaking a wrongly convicted death-row inmate, Tate (Jake McLaughlin), out of custody, assigning him to serve as the protector of Bo (Johnny Sequoyah). While Tate looks a bit like Jesus with his wild mop of hair and beard, Bo’s the one with messianic powers, and thus being sought by a wealthy industrialist, Skouras (Kyle MacLachlan), who apparently doesn’t have the good sense to dispatch more than one operative to secure her.
Fortunately for the sake of dynamic tension, the forces of good also function with a handicap, with Lindo’s character saying, “We don’t do guns. We’re the good guys.” Still, that rather arbitrary decision, aside from likely irritating the National Rifle Assn., also forces Tate to duke it out with Skouras’ rather unorthodox henchwoman who, alas, seems to like using guns as much as she enjoys snapping necks.
“Why him? Why not me?” one of Milton’s colleagues, played by Jamie Chung, asks regarding the big job saddled on Tate. And while the explanation eventually comes, it’s not particularly satisfying, any more than the secondary plot that has Bo using her otherworldly gifts — a range of powers, from telekinesis to seeing the future — to help restore the faith of a doctor who treats her.
In that respect, despite some beautiful images — starting with bright blue butterflies — “Believe” has the makings of a very old-fashioned procedural, with Tate and Bo destined to journey from place to place changing the lives of those she meets with her cryptic insights while staying one step ahead from those who would capture her.
The irony is that after a preview that follows “The Voice,” fast becoming NBC’s version of a debutante ball, the show goes up against a program with a much more provocative concept and more overtly religious overtones — ABC’s “Resurrection,” which at least initially operates without the kind of pyrotechnics Bo can unleash.
While it’s understandable that NBC would be slightly starstruck over the Abrams-Cuaron pairing (the latter also wrote the pilot, with Mark Friedman), especially with “Gravity’s” success, if that’s as good as it’s going to get, the network’s faith in “Believe” appears to be misguided.