This review contains spoilers.
Nine years ago, Catherine Chandler – waitress and aspiring lawyer – is changed forever when gunmen appear and murder her mother, a noted scientist, right in front of her. They chase her into the woods, intent on killing her too but a beast of some kind stops them dead – literally.
What’s great about Catherine’s origin story is that it takes a girl who was terrified and attacked and lets her utilize that as a drive to become a cop and fight back instead of letting it break her. Not just any cop either, but a detective at a reasonably young age who gives the impression that next time something bad happens, she’d be ready.
Worse does happen on a strange murder – the details of which are fairly unimportant – except for the fact that they introduce the fingerprints of deceased doctor and war vetern Vincent Keller. Looking for answers, Catherine and her partner Tess follow the leads to the ramshackle wearhouse complex owned by Vincent’s best friend JT. By doing so, she finds herself on the radar of some very dangerous people – three of whom attack her when she returns to the warehouse.
Catherine’s alone on a subway platform when it happens. Though Vincent the Beast does come in and save her, you’ve just watched a normal human woman hold her own against three people who had the element of surprise and wanted her dead. It’s not unsurprising that she lost because let’s face it, most normal humans – even a detective – would lose a three-to-one fight so Vincent’s beastly arrival doesnt feel like a damsel in distress; it feels like she was infantry and now the cavalry finally arrived.
Taking down two of three assailants and not being able to get up after you’ve been thrown onto the train tracks doesn’t make Catherine feel like the girl in the tower. It’s not like Belle with the Disney cartoon wolves either, because Catherine gives as good as she gets. She takes off after him as Catherine is a woman of action and she needs to know what is going on. Afterwards she ends up back in the warehouse where she keeps asking questions, refusing to let go of the subject until she finds that Vincent is the last survivor of a military experiment gone wrong.
Another tick next to Catherine’s character is that she doesn’t find the fact that Vincent followed her progress after the initial attack nine years ago charming and romantic, but creepy and something to be angry about. Her behaviour around Vincent is actually appealing. There’s a decent amount of chemistry between the pair because this is a romance show but Catherine will not take his “Oh woe is me, I cannot tell you my horrors” nonsense.
On a similar note, my favourite moment of the episode is towards the end when Catherine corners Vincent after the case is done and more shadowy government types appear. “I don’t need you to tell me everything,” she shouts but since she’s involved now, she needs to know something and refuses to back down. It actually makes me like them together – because she stands up to him and he always seems to respond.
The side characters are fine so far. Vincent’s friend and sole confidant JT is a stereotype dork but he’s also a working teacher, and it’s refreshing to see a science-minded person in a science-related job. Catherine’s partner Tess has a thick accent that I think is Brooklyn and makes me want to go get pizza and beer with her. That aside, she’s generally charming, though if the writers aren’t careful she could easily turn into a caricature. She and Catherine talk like girlfriends but do their jobs with a vicious precision. The police work itself is mediocre but let’s be honest? You dont watch a show like Beauty And The Beast for the cases.
Vincent himself is mildy sympathetic but so far, I dont actually care about him as a character. I care about him in relation to Catherine but as a hero or a tragedy – the show has yet to make me emote. Part of that can be blamed on the highly predictable 9/11 reason he enlisted in the military and that the exposition as to the genesis of his monstrosity was given way too quickly and clumsily. You really expect us to believe that a guy who was a doctor in civilian life didnt ask any questions before he got injected with stuff? It’s less believable than him being a less green, less scary version of the Hulk.
Also, we never do see much of his beastliness in this pilot. Ron Perlman wore a full-on lion face as the original Vincent and acted through the prosthetics (well, I might add, because he’s Ron Perlman and can act through anything). However, the current Vincent doesnt even have that shocking a form to turn into thus far. He’s a cute guy with a bad scar. The show is set in New York. Vincent could walk down the street wearing nothing but Mickey Mouse ears and Never-Nude denim cutoffs and no-one would notice. We’re supposed to believe that a scar or some mottled flesh would make a ripple? In the city that never sleeps? Please.
Despite the lack of promise on the beast lines, the show was fun. I finished the pilot feeling very invested in Catherine – much more than I was expecting to considering how much I disliked Kruek in the roll of Lana Lang and so far, she’s strong enough to hold up the show. So long as that continues, I’ll continue to care.
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