June 15, 2014

THE SKED Series Finale Review: “Believe”


BELIEVE was one of the more regrettable failures of the 2013-14 broadcast season.  That wasn’t because of its premise (super-powered girl is pursued by evil scientists who want to weaponize her gifts, ho hum), but due to the involvement of the great Alfonso Cuaron as series co-creator.  But Believe was in trouble from the start:  Cuaron had better things to do with his time than write and produce a TV series (between the series pick-up and its first airing, he won the Best Director Oscar for Gravity), and that was even more true of uber-producer J.J. Abrams, who these days is more of a studio head than anything else, except on his own mega-movies.  Making matters worse, Believe‘s other co-creator, Mark Friedman, left the show shortly after the series order, and his replacement didn’t last long either.  That left Believe in the hands of Jonas Pate, an experienced writer/producer but hardly a visionary, and whatever ideas Cuaron may have had for the project initially (the pilot, which he directed, was at least visually impressive), the series itself was merely routine–and the ratings, very quickly, were worse.

Tonight’s series finale, written by Pate and fellow Executive Producer Hans Tobeason, and directed by Frederick E.O. Toye,  didn’t load on much spectacle (possibly because the show had run out of budget), apart from a cartoony pillar of flame that looked like a homage to Firestarter.  The script concentrated on the culmination of the storyline involving Dani (Mia Vallet), another psychically-gifted girl developed by billionaire industrialist Roman Skouras (Kyle MacLachlan) and his super-secret quasi-governmental lab for telepaths, Orchestra.  Skouras seized upon Dani as his best chance to track down Bo (Johnny Sequoyah), the most gifted Orchestra subject of them all, who’d been on the run all series long with the help of her father Tate (Jake McLaughlin) and sympathetic scientists Milton Winter (Delroy Lindo) and Janice Channing (Jamie Chung).  The only problem was that Dani was unstable, both mentally (she couldn’t forgive herself for using her powers to cause the death of her brother) and physically (her body, like all the telepaths except Bo, was quickly degenerating), and she was determined to destroy not just Bo, who she rightly felt was favored by Skouras, but Orchestra itself.

Believe always had a strong sentimental, even spiritual streak to go with its sci-fi (it was fatally similar to FOX’s failure Touch from a few seasons ago, what with Bo having visions that allowed her to emotionally heal the people who crossed her path), and the finale held true to that.  Bo didn’t vanquish Dani; instead, with the help of the otherworldly presence of her own dead mother Nina (Ella Rae Peck), Bo enabled Dani to communicate with her dead brother and get his forgiveness, and cured her degenerative condition for good measure (it wasn’t clear whether Dani had retained any powers).  Orchestra burned down, and there was the implication that Skouras’s evil doings were going to go public and might result in his downfall.  In any case, Milton told Tate and Bo to drive away, so they could live happy lives somewhere far from all those who would exploit her powers, normal except for Bo using her gifts to help people.

The only part of Believe that ever really worked was the easy rapport between Sequoyah and McLaughlin, and that remained strong to the end.  Both performers did fine jobs, even as their show was falling apart around them, and will no doubt be seen elsewhere soon enough.  MacLachlan and Lindo, for their parts, were professional in their hackneyed roles.  Believe was a reminder that networks nearly always go wrong when they overspend on big behind-the-scenes names who aren’t going to put in the work of producing the series they’ve pitched.  Filmmakers’ super-powers are only useful when they’re actually in use.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."