Bo's "help an unhappy person" arc this week was too easy, and too dependent on coincidences. It seems the writers are more interested in focusing on the show's secondary characters—who aren't exactly riveting, but still more intriguing than our superpowered girl.
"Origin" was riddled with missed opportunities, and it feels like a step backward for the show. After the last episode, which added tons of nuance to Winter and Skouras' relationship, I had hoped that this episode, which flashbacks on Bo's mother, would shed light on their backstory. The show even teases us in the recap with Winter's line, "The past is a tricky place." Hooray! Complication! A tale of two men and their love for humanity clashing with their philosophical differences!
But when we finally see the two men together, there is little emotion to their backstory. Instead, we're presented with a series of facts: Skouras discovered Bo's mother Nina, a powerful telepath, and brought her into Project Orchestra while she was pregnant; Skouras hired Winter to work with Nina and tried to assure her that her telepathy was a gift; Skouras showed off Nina's abilities to some Department of Defense bigwigs; Nina eventually broke down from using her abilities; and Nina made Winter promise to look after Bo if she couldn't do it herself. It's all a bit by-the-numbers and doesn't reveal anything about the characters themselves, except perhaps offering a better picture of Skouras' ties to the military. Last episode gave us teary-eyed speeches about what's best for Bo, ones that made us question the various characters and their motives, while this episode gave us mere events.
In fact, the most interesting things happening to our secondary characters are happening in the present. It's cool to see that Skouras and Winter are able to meet on neutral territory; Delroy Lindo and Kyle MacLachlan do a nice job of conveying a sort of weary respect, a sense that each man thinks he can change the other's mind. Plus, Winter's forces are starting to crack; suddenly, Team Winter isn't so pleased about the risks its members have taken on and are starting to doubt whether keeping Bo on the move is worthwhile. The FBI team is proving the most fun to watch, though. They are smart, capable, and totally onboard with the paranormal parameters of searching for Bo. There's a toll gate that went green without payment? Check the cameras and there's Bo doing her psychic Bo thing. There is something incredibly satisfying about these FBI folks being so good at their jobs.
With the episode so focused on telling Bo's origin story, there wasn't much room for Bo and Tate themselves. Bo encounters a woman who became separated from her son after fleeing their home country, and Tate just so happens to steal a necklace that the woman's son gave her and that son just so happens to work at a pawn shop in Manhattan. When Tate points out that this was all way too convenient, Bo hand waves it away with the old "There are no coincidences" schtick. Sigh. I can get onboard with Believe as a largely feel-good show—the wandering fugitive format lends itself well to quick, happy endings—but make our girl work for it a little bit. Give the audience something to puzzle and stress over beyond whether Tate and Bo are going to get caught.
That's not to say that there weren't some nice details. Shohreh Aghdashloo was underused as the cold and proper grieving mother. And I like the barren safe house Winter set Bo and Tate up in—and that all the work he did to set Tate up with a fake identity goes up in smoke because the papers didn't quite burn up. I almost wish, though, that Bo was compelled to play Santa's little helper because she's so bored; there wasn't even a book to read in there. On the other hand, Bo refusing to climb down the ladder because Tate was angry with her felt like a logical, natural weakness for an empath, one that holds some promise for later episodes. Plus, it's great that Tate got himself arrested again, because it would be absurd to have a wanted fugitive gallivanting around New York with his face splashed across every TV set if there wasn't some kind of consequence. Although, it leaves me as perplexed as ever as to why Winter made Tate Bo's caregiver.
But I don't get Bo, or what purpose she serves in this narrative. The show has gone to great lengths to assure us that Bo is the central character and not some MacGuffin for more powerful (and, let's face it, more interesting) forces. However, her plot arcs aren't challenging, and it's hard to say where this avatar of human decency has room to grow. Even the newly revealed wrinkle—that she may "degrade" with continued use of her abilities—is introduced outside of the episode's Bo-Tate plot line. Believe either needs to double down on Bo and give her something interesting to do, or step back from the "healing of the week" stories in favor of fleshing out the conflicts over Bo.
I am intrigued by the promo for next episode, in which Bo's compulsion towards helpfulness gets in the way of her flight from the authorities. That's a tension that I can buy within the world of Believe, and it's one worth exploring.