by Mieke Trudeau
I have a confession to make. Before covering last weekend’s Beauty and the Beast panel at New York Comic Con, I had only watched one episode of the CW show, a re-imagining of the 1987 series by Ron Koslow, then starring Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman. I was a fan of the original series and even though the October 11th, 2012 pilot was pleasant enough, it didn’t click with me and I couldn’t see myself adding it to my already overbooked DVR.
Then I live-tweeted the show’s New York Comic Con panel, featuring both main stars, Kristin Kreuk (Smallville) and Jay Ryan (Terra Nova), along with executive producers Sherri Cooper and Jennifer Levin. Immediately, our feed was flooded with passionate mentions and replies from the Beauty and the Beast fanbase, or Beasties. The episode that was screened (Season 2 Episode 2) was much better than I expected, the panel was engaging and charming and the enthusiastic fan reaction intriguing, so I decided to give the show another chance. After a day or two of post-NYCC recovery, I binge-watched all 22 episodes of Season one, plus the two episodes of Season 2 in three days and I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised!
The chemistry between the two stars is palpable and obviously the driving force behind the show. And even though their star-crossed romance is the main story line, there is much more for fans to enjoy. There is a surprising amount of suspense and action. Kristin Kreuk’s character, Catherine Chandler, a New York City police detective, is very capable of taking care of herself. Even though she meets Jay Ryan’s character, Vincent Keller, when he saves her from bad guys that have just killed her mother, she is no damsel in distress. She kicks some serious butt and saves Vincent easily as often as he saves her.
For the first half or so of Season 1, the show is a police procedural, with a murder case of the week, to be solved by Cat and her partner Tess (Nina Lisandrello). Vincent, who was turned into a “Beast” through a top-secret government experiment to create super soldiers with animal DNA, assists and watches over Cat secretly, with the help of his scientist friend, JT Forbes (Austin Basis). Vincent has to stay in hiding because he is hunted both by the police, who see him as a dangerous vigilante and by Muirfield, the government agency that is looking to wipe out all evidence of their project gone awry.
Vincent cannot always control his beast-side and he fears how it could hurt the people he cares for. As Cat’s mother was a scientist for Muirfield and it now seems Cat’s father is also involved, Catherine and Vincent seem to have been destined to have their past and future linked. Their attraction and sense of responsibly for each other slowly turn to love, but everything in their world stands in the way of them being together. Cat has to lie to her superiors, sometimes resorting to breaking the law, and she keeps secrets from her partner and family. Vincent struggles with the violent, sometimes deadly beast within and with not being able to give Catherine a “normal” life, out in the open.
As the episodes wisely start focusing more on the story of Catherine and Vincent and less on the incidental police cases, it is clear that the main themes are ones of sacrifice for family and love, but also of guilt and secrecy. I was not a big fan of Cat’s partner Jess’ adulterous affair with her married boss, but I understand how it was to parallel Cat and Vincent’s secret relationship. Every character is touched by the choice between honesty , openness and the desire to protect loved ones, careers or the pursuit of justice and revenge at all cost.
As season one comes to a close and we have learned that there are more surviving “beasts”, there appears to be a chance for Vincent to be healed of his beast side, once and for all, but that cure comes at a cost. He will no longer be able to “beast out” and protect Cat or others who need his help and he may even die. As Catherine cannot accept Vincent sacrificing himself for her sake again, she stops the transformation just as a team swoops in to kidnap Vincent.
Season 2 starts with a bit of a reboot. The adulterous police chief is unceremoniously gone. DA Gabe Lowen (Sendhil Ramamurthy), a former “beast” who in season 1 tried to kill Vincent in order to cure himself, is back at work and pledging to be someone whom Cat can trust. Vincent is found after a three-month intense search. He has no memory of JT, Cat or their relationship and is lacking his scar and a lot of his hair. Catherine is heartbroken. She recently lost the man she thinks is her father and now she has lost the love of her life. Vincent is under the control of FBI Agent Bob Reynolds (Ted Whittall) who we know to be Catherine’s biological father.
I like the promise of the new season. Catherine and Vincent are both in fighting mode and even though they are separated for now, the fact that, even with no memories, Vincent chooses to save Cat over completing one of his missions, shows me that these two will find their way back to each other. The NYCC panel promised just that. Jay Ryan stated that Catherine is Vincent’s humanity and as Cat says in episode 2.02 : “Whether you remember it or not, we are meant to be.”
With that and the other NYCC teasers that we will learn more about Cat’s past and her connection to Vincent, plus that we will see more beasts, I have to say, I’m in! What do you say Beasties? Are you happy with where things are and where they may go? Comment below!