November 26, 2013

THE SKED Midseason Finale Review: “Beauty & the Beast”


New showrunner Brad Kern (working with series creators Sherri Cooper and Jennifer Levin) has made plenty of changes to BEAUTY & THE BEAST, but mostly they haven’t been improvements.  The gothic romanticism of Season 1 (and every other rendition of the tale) has been largely gone, replaced by a colder action-movie aesthetic.  Season 2 Vincent (Jay Ryan) became essentially a hired killer, assassinating other beasts at the orders of a shadowy handler, and Catherine’s (Kristin Kreuk) struggle to hold onto his humanity has turned her into the girlfriend from a million rogue-cop movies who delivers the sign-post dialogue.  (“This is exactly the line that you can’t cross–if you do, everything is lost.  Everything.”)  Beauty was never top-drawer CW melodrama, and now it’s significantly less engaging.

Tonight’s midseason finale (actually episode 8 of the season’s 22-hour order), written by Co-Executive Producer John A. Norris and directed by Stuart Gillard, wrapped up the first chapter of the season’s story.  It was mostly concerned with FBI Agent Reynolds (Ted Whittall), who apart from his Bureau duties was both Vincent’s secret handler, sending him out on his missions to kill all the other beasts, and Catherine’s secret biological father, who’d had nothing to do with her life for decades but who was suddenly supposed to be obsessively concerned with protecting her.  It must have seemed like a good idea on paper that both Vincent and Catherine would go so many episodes without ever guessing who Reynolds really was, but in practice it just made them both look dumb.  Meanwhile, Whittall came off as far more of a bureaucrat than a supervillain, and there was never any juice in Reynolds’s character.  Unfortunately, he survived the finale, so although he’s in jail, he’ll no doubt be a major force in the back half of the season as well.

Among Reynolds’s nefarious actions was wiping Vincent’s memory, so several episodes were spent on his gradually remembering who Catherine was and what he felt for her, a very tiresome journey through territory covered in Season 1.  (It’s hard to believe, at this point in TV history, that a show’s writer/producer could ever think that amnesia was a good idea for a fresh storyline.)  Since Vincent didn’t know who he was, sidekick JT (Austin Basis) was greatly diminished, while a de-beasted Gabe (Sendhil Ramamurthy) became some kind of quasi-DA/cop, nursing a crush on Catherine.  Catherine’s sister was jettisoned and so was much of the banter with partner Tess (Nina Lisandrello), making Catherine considerably duller than she was last season, despite Kreuk’s earnest efforts.

There were a few decent ideas.  Vincent meeting beastess Tori (Amber Skye Noyes), with whom he has an instant hormonal attraction, could have been a fun triangle with Catherine if Tori hadn’t quickly switched from a naive girl unfamiliar with her own powers to a homicidal representative of the dark side.  (The show can’t even get its own rules straight–just an episode after Vincent and Tori weren’t able to keep their hands off each other without spontaneously transforming into their beast-selves, the two of them were strolling around town like casual buddies–a similar uncontrollable supernatural bond, between Renard and Juliette, was handled much better on Grimm.)  It was a nice touch to introduce a potential romance between Tess and JT.  But Beauty & the Beast is ultimately always going to be about those two characters, and when even the viewers think they’re better off apart, the show is going in the  wrong direction.

The show’s ratings this season have been at the bottom of CW’s line-up, and that’s a very deep bottom indeed; it’s hard to envision a third season for Beauty & the Beast barring a sudden turnaround.  No doubt this season’s changes were intended to engineer that kind of rebound, but instead they’ve distanced the show from its strengths and introduced new weaknesses.  Short of a miracle transformation of its own DNA, this Beast is unlikely to find redemption.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."