Believe Needs To Quit It With The Happy Endings

Believe is a show built on quick, uplifting stories. Bo comes in, solves everyone's problems with her various superpowers and then moves on. But the show would actually be much better if it didn't insist ending each episode with a tidy and expected happily ever after.

Even though the A plot was bland, at least this week's episode of Believe wasn't as frustratingly enigmatic as last week's. We have a better understanding of the break between Winter and Skouras—and the lengths that Skouras will go to in order to achieve his goals. Let's start with Project Orchestra since, once again, this is the more interesting part of the story.

We learn that six months ago, Skouras employed negative feedback (in the form of painful electric shocks) in order to get Bo's powers to manifest in a predictable manner. It's a crappy thing to do, but it makes sense given what we've seen with Bo and her abilities. She doesn't have a lot of control over her telekinetic powers, but they do flare when she's scared or angry. Winter barges in on the tests and hauls Bo off in horror. I'm hoping we get a bit more backstory on the Skouras-Winter split because, like so many things in Believe, it seems to easy and too clean. Still, I'm willing to buy that this was enough for Winter to leave Project Orchestra; it's tough to trust the guy you're working with when he's secretly shocking little girls in his lab. Plus, it's what made a Project Orchestra physician ultimately decide to defect—although the FBI is quick to get that fellow to talk.

What's more disturbing is the Project Orchestra telepathy detector, or rather what happened when the Orchestra crew set out to test it. Dr. Boyle takes Josh, whom Skouras thinks will make a marvelous field agent in the search for Bo, to an unknown location and tries to have him read another fellow's mind, but Josh goes too far and ends up wiping the guy's brain. "Bank error in our favor," Skouras quips. The telepathy detector works—meaning that now Winter and Skouras can both track Tate and Bo—and he's got a potential field agent who can fry people's brains. So Skouras is looking, if not evil, at least a pretty bad dude when he wants something.

As for Tate and Bo, they're hiding out in Manhattan until Winter can smuggle them off the island undetected. He puts them up in a cold, cruddy safe house. Against Winter's orders, Bo explores the back yard, where one of those freaking blue butterflies leads her to a hidden envelop containing a love letter and a ring. Naturally, Bo decides that it's her job to reunite the sender, who turns out to be a veteran blinded in Afghanistan, and the intended recipient, his former lady love. The problem is that the woman is already engaged, to a man whom we know must be a jerk because, when he answers the door, he gives Bo a distracted "no solicitors" rant and slams the door shut. Tate is naturally unhappy that Bo has run off and put herself in danger for her latest quest, but that's not the only reason he doesn't back up her plan to rejoin the lovers. Love, he tells her, isn't what you see in Hollywood. It comes and goes. It's messy. And it doesn't always work out.

After that speech, I thought that maybe, for once, Believe would opt out of the expected happy ending. Wouldn't it be lovely if the lovers met up again, enjoyed warm reminders of their time together, and then parted as friends? The woman might decide that she wanted her ex-boyfriend in her life, to support him and love him as a treasured friend, but then marry her fiancé, whom she also loves. Bo could learn a valuable lesson about love, about the way relationships change and grow over time, how they can be better and deeper than fairytale romance. She could mature, on her path to becoming the person she will need to someday be.

Instead, Believe cuts through the Gordian knot of messy relationships by revealing that it was the woman's fiancé who hid that letter all those years ago, and that he's more concerned with providing a life centered around money and material comfort rather than love. The lovers reunite, and Bo smiles, seeing them in her minds eye. Good thing no one had to make any hard decisions.

It's a happy ending for Bo, but it's not a happy ending for the people who have to live in a world where Bo is destined to become some kind of demigod. Bo's naiveté is completely understandable; after all, she's a child. But so far, she has been indulged by the likes of Winter and Channing. When Tate asks some completely rational, practical questions, Bo chides him, saying, "You complain a lot." And Winter backs her up, telling Tate that he needs to take "life lessons from a child." Tate may be the only person in Bo's life who both feels affection for her and challenges her, and their relationship is the strongest part of Bo's arc. But the universe doesn't challenge Bo. It sends her messengers in the form of blue butterflies. (I actually wouldn't have a beef with those butterflies if they were merely manifestations of Bo's intuition, but that doesn't seem to be the case.) It gives her neat and clean endings, and then lets her leave before she can see the more complicated parts of the story. Bo isn't growing up to become experienced and wise; she's growing up to believe that she can achieve whatever outcome she desires by imposing her will upon the world. That's great if the story is about well meaning people who mistakenly raise a powerful being to be childish, but every sign suggests that Bo is instead supposed to a being of pure love.

The problem is, that's a rather shallow view of the world, and it's why Believe feels so artificial despite its pedigree. It could maintain a lot of its premise and its major characters and become a richer show if it would just acknowledge that people—including children—can be both noble and highly flawed, and that there is more than one way to have a happy ending. And not all endings have to be perfectly happy.