Beauty and The Beast – Month 1

As previously mentioned I’m doing a rewatch of the original Beauty and The Beast TV series with CE Murphy. Below are my thoughts on the first few episodes.

The Pilot – It’s been long time since I’d watched this, but I still remembered the basics. However, there were actually quite a few things I had forgotten, both major and minor. The episode begins with a title card saying ‘Once upon a time…’ playing into the whole fairytale theme, which initially might make you think it will be akin to a warm and cuddly Disney film, like Enchanted, a film set in modern day. However it really isn’t, what with the murders, the disfiguration, and other very adult themes that are hinted at but never shown. But there is a fairytale feel to it, right down to Catherine vanishing into a spotlight from above that then fades, as if she’s just stepped off a stage.

I’d completely forgotten about Isaac Stubbs, the rough, tough, streetwise New York guy (played by Delroy Lindo no less!) who trains Catherine how to fight. He teaches her to protect herself with NY street fighting, which he describes as nasty, dirty and painful for the attacker. I’d also forgotten that the reason Catherine was attacked in the first place was due to a case of mistaken identity. I also blocked out that Catherine was a fairly spoiled rich girl who, after the attack, leaves her high society life behind and completely changes into someone that wants to help people. I go into more detail but I’ll leave it there for now. Overall I thought it was still an interesting and intriguing pilot, and it barely scrapes the surface of Vincent’s world but hints at so much more.

Terrible Saviour, Ep2 – Despite the obvious dating of the TV show, which is immediately visible through the clothes, cars, technology and even to some degree, the way characters speak, this show continues to impress me for a number of reasons. If there was a big dude in a hood who rode on top of the subway trains, rumours would have started. Someone would have seen him and people talk, and like all good fairy tales, in an age before mobile phones, and therefore a camera in every pocket, before widespread CCTV and instant media messaging, there were urban myths and legends. New York is a big old city that’s been rebuild many times over, so who knows what’s lurking down there under the modern sidewalks and subway tunnels from centuries back. The idea of Vincent’s underworld and a whole other city beneath NY gives it all a lovely rich texture and flavour.

I also like the fact that very early on in the first series they focus on one of the more worrying aspects of Vincent, his bestial nature. He’s a man, but not like any other. He has a wild side and potential ties to a heritage we don’t and may never understand, but you don’t need to quiz a lion to know it’s a powerful and dangerous animal. One look at it will tell you that and to some degree it’s the same with him. This episode carries over threads from the pilot, about Vincent saving Catherine, but in a rage he mauled three men when she was put in serious danger.

I also like the fact that we get to see Isaac Stubbs again, and we learn that Catherine was one of his star pupils. She can take care of herself, but they don’t overplay it, or feel the need to make her show it by throwing people around. It’s there, it’s stated and they move on, no displays of bravado are needed. Other characters treat Catherine differently now, from her boss to the IT girl, showing she’s moved away from the spoiled rich girl playing at helping people. There’s acceptance and now they just regard her as someone who is there to get the job done.

Siege, Ep3. – Although the reveal of this episode was fairly obvious, I still really enjoyed this episode for many reasons. This is the first time they’ve dealt with some of the difficult issues that have been alluded to. Vincent is a fully grown man, but he’s emotionally stunted in some ways, and almost teenage in some of how he deals with certain feelings, because he’s never had to deal with them before. He doesn’t know what to do and doesn’t have the emotional maturity, but he does get there a lot faster than a teenager would, and with far less moping. Equally I really liked how Catherine would walk up to anyone, give them a piece of her mind, and tell the bad guys, I’m going to take you down. She wasn’t intimidated by their thinly veiled threats and even when the crunch moment came she launched herself at one thug and took him down. She was only overpowered by two more, at which point Vincent showed up. So less a damsel in distress that needed saving, more a friend who was outnumbered. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, but even the old lady had a moment to shine and tell her story which gave me a chill at its conclusion. I spotted someone else making a cameo, and it was a sad one for me since the actor has since passed away. A young Rick Biggs, who to me was most famous for his role in Babylon 5, had a couple of lines as a reporter. Even before we saw the character I recognised his very distinctive voice. The show continues to surprise and entertain me and for all that it is sometimes tame in comparison to modern shows, it is refreshing in its tone and theatrical scene setting and lighting effects.

No Way Down, Ep 4. – The core of this episode was relatively simple. Vincent is injured and left effectively blind on the surface, unable to get home as he can’t see where he is going. He’s captured by some unpleasant people but he managed to escape and then has to rely on the kindness of strangers of the surface, a place he and everyone else who lives under has fled. The world above is cruel and harsh, Father has always told him this, and that he would be feared and shunned. Many people who now live under the city came there from above ground, including Father, who found it a horrible place to live. And now Vincent has to rely on others to help him while Catherine frantically searches for him with Stubbs. It was a great flip of the usual scenario you sometimes see even today in modern dramas where the girl in danger and the man comes to her rescue. Suddenly he is weak, injured and despite his strength, leaning on people to help him down the street. A kind security guard, Lucy, a street walker with a kind heart, a slow but gentle giant. There is still fear and sometimes horror at Vincent’s appearance, but people still help him. One of the most distressing moments for me was actually seeing Lucy cry after she has betrayed Vincent to save herself. Sure it was hokey in places, and the dialogue was dated, but there again Catherine took out two gangbangers herself when they tried to get cute with her, using the skills Stubbs had taught her. She is no damsel in distress. I sound like a stuck record, but I continue to be touched and impressed by this series and am looking forward to seeing what happens next.

One thought on “Beauty and The Beast – Month 1

  1. Ooh, you remembered very different things than I did! I remembered that Catherine was a spoiled rich girl, though I didn’t remember the mistaken identity aspect of the attack, and we talked on Twitter about some of the emotional beats that I remembered and you didn’t from these episodes.

    Your commentary is much more thoughtful than mine, I’m afraid. *laughs* Mine’s all “OMG the HAIR and the CLOTHES” and things. O.O 🙂

    I actually kind of loathe Terrible Saviour; it’s one of my least favourite episodes, mostly because I always felt that Catherine should’ve trusted Vincent more than she did, given what he’d nursed her through, and their mysterious connection. I even felt that way as an adult, re-watching it, which almost surprises me. I’d have thought that maybe now, less taken by The Doomed Romance of it all, that I might have been more willing to accept her caution, but meh. No. 🙂 Possibly for me it actually would have worked better if they hadn’t done that storyline until later, when Catherine had had a greater exposure to Vincent’s darker side. I just could never believe she was that mistrustful of him.

    Seige, OTOH, is one of my very favourites. I *love* Elliot Burch, who is such a charming smarmy bastard, although equally to the previous episode’s emotional wobbles for me, I wasn’t absolutely convinced, either, that Catherine would start falling for him that fast. But Catherine is terrific as the damsel-not-in-distress in both of these episodes, and that’s something I’d also really forgotten about: I’d remembered her as needing rescue far, *far* more than she actually did. She’s utterly fierce, and it’s *not* because she knows Vincent is lurking to save her–she faces down bad guys in broad daylight, when he’s *never* going to be able to be her hero.

    Seige also kills me because it’s where we really start to see Vincent’s vulnerabilities and Father’s protectiveness. I don’t think that relationship could have been played by two finer actors.

    Damn good thing for Vincent nobody had camera phones in the late 80s, because seriously, the dude is exposed in like every single episode. Either he’s just been flat-out insanely fortunate his entire life or Catherine really is causing him to take much greater risks than he’s ever done before. I know he *is* taking more risks, because Father gets all upset about it, but even so, he sure seems to be pretty out there in the world for a man who has to hide all the time.

    But one thing I truly love is how many people, when faced with Vincent’s countenance and his heart–because that’s what’s on display when he chooses to help, even when that help turns violent, particularly as in Seige–choose themselves to see the beauty instead of the beast, and choose to keep his secrets. It’s…I don’t know if it’s realistic (there are episodes later, certainly, when people do not make that choice, and whoozis, the actually bad guy in Terrible Saviour, was clearly not of that mind himself), but it’s a thing that gives me hope, even in fiction, and I find that to be worth a lot.

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