July 8, 2014

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


With a full season of experience and audience feedback under its belt, it’s not unusual for a TV series to improve in its second season.  What’s considerably less typical is for the reverse to happen.  Yet whether due to the addition of new showrunner Brad Kern (although series creators Sherri Cooper and Jennifer Levin were still around), network notes, or simple all-around incompetence, BEAUTY & THE BEAST went from its initial mediocrity to something actively terrible in Season 2.  Remarkably, although this decline extended to its awful ratings, which resulted in the series first being exiled to Friday nights and then to a burn-off of its remaining episodes during the summer, Beauty managed to get renewed for a (delayed, and probably shortened) Season 3–apparently because of strength in international sales and online streaming.

The plotting of Season 2 was irredeemably lazy and idiotic.  The first half of the season kept the titular characters, NYPD Detective Catherine Chandler (Kristin Kreuk) and Vincent Keller (Jay Ryan) apart through the contrivance of  turning him into a brainwashed, amnesiac assassin, secretly employed by Catherine’s evil FBI agent biological father (Vincent, who has a near-mystical ability to track people miles and days after they’ve been in a place, never figured out that the guy was using a voice distortion app)–and when that arc ended, things only got worse.  The season ended up just repeating the storyline of Season 1, as one-time assistant DA Gabe Lowan (poor Sendhil Ramamurthy), who’d been de-beasted at the end of the first season, went from being an unlikely good guy to an obsessive pursuer of Cat to a human murderer to not just an evil Beast again, but a super-Beast.  It got so bad that it would be hard to pin down just what the worst story turn of the season was, although Cat’s sister Heather (Nicole Gale Anderson) petulantly refusing to report that she’d been kidnapped by Gabe because that would ruin her bachelorette party would certainly be in the running.  (Also a strong contender:  Gabe, after having gone back to murdering innocent people, insisting that Cat go out with him on a date and taking her out to a cake-decorating workshop.)

The season finale, written by Kern and Supervising Producer Roger Grant, and directed by Stuart Gillard, accurately reflected how bad the entire season had been.  Much of it was a complete waste of time, as Cat decided that she and Vincent were repeating the fates of her ancestor and that woman’s own Beast 160 years ago, which literally meant that the two actors repeated the same scenes, wearing period outfits, until–oops!–Cat realized that maybe things weren’t fated to happen the same way, so in the words of Roseanne Rosannadanna, Never Mind.  This led to a “final confrontation” between Vincent and Gabe that was low-rent even by puny CW standards and which lasted about 60 seconds.  (Note to show:  having a character say within an episode’s dialogue that a story twist is ridiculous or disappointing doesn’t make it any less so.)  Based on the set-up contained in the finale’s last act, Season 3 will feature Cat and Vincent as a team tracking down evil biological mutants for some mysterious government agency, which doesn’t exactly raise expectations to an exalted level.

With writing so bad, it’s unfair to blame the actors (Kreuk and Ryan did a nice job with one off-beat hour that had them temporarily in suburbia, where they couldn’t resist solving a murder even though it meant blowing their cover), and although Ramamurthy couldn’t possibly make his contorted character work, Austin Basis and Nina Lisandrello had some fun with the unlikely romance they were given between the leads’ respective best friends.  It’s a chicken-and-egg question as to whether Beauty is so consistently cheap looking (no Canada-shot series simulates New York less convincingly, with some downright awful green screen shots in the finale) because of severe budget constraints or directors who can’t deal with them effectively.

It’s hard to look forward to Beauty‘s third season with any degree of enthusiasm.  All signs are that CW plans to keep the current creative team in place, so the likelihood is that the show will deliver more of the same.  One can only hope that this time, they’ll learn from their mistakes.

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."