I found myself with a hole in my television viewing a while back, when Once Upon a Time and Castle both went on hiatus at the same time. I needed something to fill in for my fairy tale show and my crime mystery show—so I decided to watch Beauty and the Beast. Because it’s a show that manages to hit both themes at once!
The story centers around Catherine (Linda Hamilton) and Vincent (Ron Perlman), the two title characters. In the opening show, Catherine is attacked by muggers and left for dead. Vincent rescues her, carrying her below New York to a secret society living apart from the rest of the world. They grow close, forming an empathic bond—but their friendship is complicated by the fact that Vincent is a…well, “lion-man” is probably the best descriptor. Catherine returns to the world above, inspired to change her life, and leaves her cushy corporate position for a job with the DA, bringing criminals to justice and protecting the victims. She and Vincent still have their bond, but struggle with their inability to live in the same world.
This isn’t a show that I ever loved, but I liked it a lot—at least for the first two seasons (more on that later). Sometimes it’s cheesy, sometimes it’s implausible, but I enjoyed watching it. A big part of that was Catherine’s character. I do love it that, after she’s attacked, she takes self-defense classes. I think that encapsulates her character. She’s determined not to be a victim, and to fight back against corruption, violence and anyone trying to exploit or harm the weak. Granted, it does help that she has a lion-man who can sense when she’s afraid and come to the rescue if things get out of hand…but she’s hardly a passive heroine just waiting for him to show up and save the day. And I love that she doesn’t just become fierce over night–she has to learn how to defend herself.
Vincent is in some ways less complicated, because he’s so much the classic character with the off-putting appearance and the beautiful soul. He’s a scholar (there’s some lovely poetry quoting), he’s kind and caring…and for a man with a face of a lion, forced to live below the city streets, he’s actually remarkably free of angst or self-doubt. At least for most of two seasons…more on that later.
Weighing on the non-angst side, if you have to live in tunnels and caves below New York, it’s not nearly as dark a thing when an entire community of misfits and outcasts lives there too. Which explains a lot of Vincent’s character. One thing I enjoyed as the series progressed was the wider glimpses we got into the belowground community. Gradually we meet more and more recurring characters, each with their own reason for leaving the larger world behind. (That includes a character played by Armin Shimmerman, which amused me all out of proportion because I was watching Deep Space Nine at the same time, and he plays Quark too.)
Catherine and Vincent’s bond also develops over the course of the show. He’s plainly in love with her from the outset, but her feelings grow more from friendship to love—although to be honest, I’m not sure exactly at what point the leap was made! The opening narration includes Catherine’s voice describing their bond as “something stronger than love or friendship” which leaves things rather undefined…
This didn’t exactly turn out to fulfill the fairy tale slot or the murder mystery slot. It has almost no resemblance to the plot of the original fairy tale (slightly in the first episode, but even that is stretching), and it isn’t exactly a mystery a week. It’s some kind of crisis a week, and usually the crisis touches both the DA’s office and the underground community—but it’s not the neat pattern of a case a week that Castle has.
So about the last season. Spoilers coming! This show runs two and a half seasons. Things start to get more angsty towards the end of Season 2, but it’s still a good show at that point. And then Season 3 happened. And it shouldn’t have happened. I blame George R. R. Martin (honestly!) He was a producer for the show and—can you guess what’s coming? Catherine dies at the end of Season 2. The actress wanted to leave the show, so they killed the character…and then tried to carry on. We got a new female detective, who was a decent addition but no replacement, and a lot of episodes of Vincent brooding. Also trying to track down Catherine’s murderer, but they spun maybe three episodes worth of plot out to nine or ten episodes. I finished the last season purely for the sake of completion, and if you watch this—you may not want to bother.
For two seasons, though, this was a fun show, if only vaguely fairy tale. And I love having a heroine who wasn’t naturally tough, but learned how to fight!
Den of Geek
Buy it here: Beauty and the Beast