Thursday, November 8, 2012

CW's Beauty and the Beast -- Yay or Nay?

Posted by: Jax Garren
An illustration for Beauty and the Beast
by Walter Crane
I love shows with just a touch of paranormal or sci-fi in them--where most things are perfectly in line with the world as we know it, but there’s this one thing... I also love variations on Beauty and the Beast (my first trilogy, in fact, starts with How Beauty Met the Beast, releasing from Carina Press on Nov. 19!). Put the two together, and I was eagerly awaiting the CWs new Beauty and the Beast with Kristen Kreuk and Jay Ryan. In the show, Catherine Chandler, an NYC cop, is aided in solving crimes by Vincent, a doctor turned experimental super-soldier in hiding from the government.

I’d heard it was a reboot of the old Perlman/Hamilton CBS series, which I was a little too young to watch live, but I’ve since seen in reruns. Cheesy 80s as it was, I really dug the show with its shy beast and the magical world below the streets (in which the costumes are somehow inspired by a Ren Faire, but hey, George R.R. Martin was one of the writers, so I suppose that makes sense). If anything, the original series was too sweet for me, with Vincent’s chaste love for Catherine lacking any edge and Catherine’s goody-two-shoes-ness bordering on hyperglycemia. But that’s the 80s for you. Plus, as beautifully done as the makeup was, I’m not so into the “lion” look they gave Vincent or the complete lack of explanation for how that occurred. So I was excited for a modernized re-boot with a chance to remove some of those eye-rollers  and make a really cool premise something more solid.

As for the new cast, I remember Kristin Kreuk from the early days of Smallville, which I watched for the first couple seasons. She’s definitely gorgeous enough for the title of “Beauty” and I think she’s a fine actress. Unlike a lot of original BatB series fans, I actually liked the tougher heroine from the third and final season, and I was fine with the CW combining the two female leads that way to make the new Catherine Chandler. Jay Ryan I’d never heard of before, but he fits the CW’s standard for impossibly beautiful actors. As many people have pointed out online, though, that’s the first place where the new series goes wonky, IMO. Beauty and the Beast is traditionally about finding the beauty within somebody despite their external appearance. When the Beast is a hunk, a new theme must be found.

And I’m not sure what CW’s BatB’s new theme is.

Jay Ryan at Comic-Con
By Genevieve from Wikimedia Commons. 
I’ve seen people speaking of the “beast within” and giving comparisons to Jekyll and Hyde or the Hulk. It’s true that when Ryan’s Vincent gets his adrenaline pumping he goes all green-eyed violent. But four episodes in, this Vincent is no casual killer. When his alter-ego is activated, he does go for the throat, but we’ve yet to see him harm anybody who wasn’t committing violence on him or Catherine. And each time, right after the bad guys are taken care of he morphs straight back to his angsty self. I don’t in any way believe he’s a threat to Catherine or anybody else who hasn’t gone violently on the offensive against them. Which is okay. It’s hard to skate the “don’t make me angry or I’ll hurt you” trope without coming across as abusive.

But then again I have to ask, what is this story about?

Catherine is savvy, tough and already sees Vincent for the man inside instead of viewing him as a hunky yet creepy science project. Vincent is brilliant, heroic, and seems to have his beastly instincts reasonably under control. So where’s the obstacle? The shadowy government plot has some merit, although I’m not sure what the mystery is anymore. They killed Catherine’s mother because she worked on the super-soldier program (which was obvious from the first episode, so I hope that's not considered a spoiler). Is there some other secret I’m missing that Cat and Vince have yet to discover? There was one reference to Vincent falling in love before and that being a Bad Thing, and I can see how adrenaline making him go beast-y could cause problems as things heat up between them. That’s got some Buffy-Angel angst potential, and I keep hoping they’ll go there. But so far they’re as platonic as the original series (one of the few similarities between the two). Without strong conflict in the paranormal/sci-fi aspects of the show, it's just a police procedural with unaccountably attractive cops solving so-so mysteries.

Anyone else watching CW’s Beauty and the Beast? Anybody else figured out what the conflict actually is? I’m not saying the show’s got no potential, but I’m not sure it’s found where it’s going yet. What are your thoughts?

8 comments:

  1. I wanted to love this series so much (I loved the original with Linda Hamilton!), but I watched the first episode and quit. I missed the fairytale element that made the original so special, but more, I couldn't get over how easily the heroine tracked him down. Yet this "shadow" goverment agency has been looking for him supposedly for years and not found him? I just found that ridiculous.

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    1. Ha! Yeah... I think that whole "everything is easy" for the leads is my biggest beef with the series. Just like that scar on Vincent's face that ostensibly marks him as the "beast," all the problems seem superficial and understated. The first episode was my least favorite so far, so it has gotten a little better since then (IMO), but other than the same character names and the NYC setting, it is nothing like the old series. I dunno. I keep hoping it'll dig deeper and find something heartfelt to build the story around.
      ~ Jax

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  2. I love the beauty and beast trope and was sooo looking forward to this but after watching the first couple of episodes, I'm done. This Beauty is a strange combo of tough and TSTL - she takes HUGE risks that put other people in danger. And the Beast isn't particularly beastly. He's just unrelentingly angsty. This show reminds me of hanging out with someone who is serious ALL THE TIME.

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    1. "unrelentingly angsty" hahahaha! David Boreanaz's Angel can get away with that, but it's rare I've seen anyone else manage it. I miss Angel!!

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  3. I've had a problem with the show since I saw a hunk was playing the beast, but I watched anyway and, maybe it's because my expectations were so low, I don't hate it as much as I thought I would or everyone else seems to. It needs a lot of help to become a "great" show imo, but the potential is there. **Spoilers** I did not understand the last episode at all, with the shadowy agents tracking Vincent down but after he and Catherine beat them all up (were they killed? I wasn't even sure), everything is OK now, at least for a while? Wha?! I think the conflict could come from more sexual tension between them, but so far, the show isn't going there. And some of the plot holes are big enough for me and my fat cat to comfortably dive through. Fix those elements and it could be a winner.

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    1. Yeah, I think it COULD be a good show, it's just not currently living up to the potential. Maybe it will hit its stride? I completely agree with the last episode WTFery. *spoiler* I think they're dead. But I was really frustrated that Cat and the friend took Vincent's choice away from him and forced the issue. Those deaths are, imo, all on their heads, not Vince's. And did they say that all the people who know Vince is alive were there? So... he's basically safe now? Again, I ask, what is the major conflict? *end spoiler* *shrugs* I'll keep watching it for a while longer to see if they start developing things.

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  4. I haven't watched it. I guess what is holding me back is that the male lead is a bit too good looking to be a true beast from the small clips I've seen. When I first heard that it was coming to TV I had a tiny hope they would do a twist, and maybe the girl would be the beast for once...but nope.

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    1. Ooh... that would be fun to see a girl beast. Yeah, the pretty-boy beast has been truly strange. They started last night's episode with a shirtless Jay Ryan. It was both completely wrong for the traditional plotline and nice to look at at exactly the same time!

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