Believe's pilot was a disappointing pile of saccharine wrapped up in a story about a superpowered girl, but its second episode is much meatier. It suggests that there may be no true bad guys in this series—which makes the world of Believe much more complex and much more interesting.
One of my major issues with Believe's pilot is that it seemed to present a black-and-white view of the world, with Milton Winter wearing the white hat and Roman Skouras wearing the black. But the second episode shows us more of Skouras, and while we don't know his motives, he does seem to have some concern for Bo. When he watches video footage of Winter and Bo playing, he smiles to himself. When speaking to Dr. Boyle about Winter, he's surprisingly gentle and concerned, telling her, "I wish he hadn't taken her." When Boyle assures him that Winter cares about Bo, he seems genuinely dubious—and I find myself genuinely wondering about the relationship between these two men who were obviously once close and who share a profound emotion when it comes to Bo.
In fact, I found myself wondering whether Winter is really the white hat of this piece. His fears around Bo being used as a weapon appear to be justified, at least according to Boyle, but he may be too much of a prophet, too dogmatic. When we see Winter's group monitoring Bo and Tate (Tate's got that ankle monitor), it's faintly creepy, as if the wide world is just another lab for just another experiment. It's clear that Winter's people are in control of a lot, ready to catch Bo and Tate when they fall. But does Winter truly have Bo's best interests in mind? Or does he see her as the avatar of some faith of "goodness" he has stuck in his head?
I also wonder about the people who have followed Winter to Project Orchestra. Have they joined up with Winter because of a schism within the project, or because they buy Winter's pseudo-religious ideas about Bo?
We do know that Bo has the capacity not only for great healing, but also for great destruction. When Tate frustrates Bo, her telekinetic abilities crackle. And Tate seems more likely than anyone else to set Bo off. It's the reason that they have such good chemistry; he's the only character that she's not eager to please, and he's the only person not utterly charmed by her empathy precociousness. Aside from Tate being Bo's biological father, why has Winter paired the two. Does he feel that Bo needs to test her darker side in a semi-controlled way? Or is it because of some blind faith that Bo is better off with her father? Or did they pick him because he has a vested interest in staying out of the spotlight? After the pilot, where it seemed like we were supposed to trust that Winter was 100 percent in the right, this ambiguity is refreshing.
This episode also introduces another wrinkle in the competition between Winter and Skouras: the FBI. We're introduced to Agent Elizabeth Farrell, who has been tasked with finding Bo. Although she is certainly impressed by the telekinetic abilities of the subjects at Project Orchestra, she has both a healthy wariness of the organization (asking if Bo's emotional wellbeing might really be at risk in a government facility) and a respect for what works when recovering missing children. While Skouras may prefer to use secretive and dangerous operatives to recover Bo quietly, Farrell cuts through all of the cloak and dagger bullshit and issues an Amber Alert. You can't argue with the results; Tate and Bo are quickly overwhelmed by helpful civilians responding to the Amber Alert. Now we have three key people searching for Bo, all of whom may truly believe they're doing the right thing.
Also, the visuals in this episode struck just the right note of the fantastical without going too far. The Project Orchestra telekinetic who builds a lion out of bricks was a neat trick (especially now when we've all got LEGO bricks on the brain), and the scene where Bo makes the stuffed animals move for the sick boy was sugary sweetness done right. (It also helps that the animation on the animals was, itself, quite charming.) Bo doesn't fix everything; she just gives the boy a moment of joy and the funds to possibly get better.
Superficially, the title of this episode, "Beginner's Luck," refers to Tate's "luck" at the craps table, where Bo used her telekinetic abilities to manipulate the dice. But it refers more to Tate and Bo's overarching situation. Bo got to help her person-of-the-week because of a confluence of convenient circumstances: a woman who was unnerved by Bo's mind-reading abilities but was also inclined to roll with the situation and a sick kid who needed that craps-table money and a floating elephant more than anything else. Bo and Tate find themselves captured by the police, who turn out to be Winter and his crew. But the episode ends with Tate and Bo watching photos of themselves flash across the television; staying under the radar is going to be a lot harder now that everyone knows what they look like.
The second episode doesn't quite elevate Believe to must-watch television, but it does make me cautiously optimistic about the series going forward. The way the various factions are presented in this episode provides ample opportunity for shifting allegiances, and a possibly rich backstory for Bo. And ultimately, the series may be about Bo making her own decisions for herself rather than relying on Winter's values—and how Tate helps her to stand on her own moral two feet. That's far more interesting than what we were promised in the pilot.