‘Beauty and the Beast’ Review: ‘Down For the Count’ Talks About Fight Club
Recap and review of Beauty and the Beast – Season 4 Episode 3 – Down For the Count:
The first rule of Fight Club is that you don’t talk about Fight Club. Well, Beauty and the Beast talks about Fight Club, and a whole lot more in the visceral “Down For the Count”. Of course, the big shocker of the episode isn’t any individual plot development, but rather the surprise of its structure. The climax is a series of character-building scenes that further develop the conflicts at the heart of this season. It’s not the most thrilling way to end an episode, but it’s an experiment worth exploring, since it shakes up the show’s usual formula of taking down the bad guy, and then leaving only a few minutes to deal with the fallout.
Naturally, I’m somewhat divided on the action of the episode itself: on the one hand, I absolutely loved the Fight Club scenes, including the main event, in which Cat (Kristin Kreuk) goes up against a rugged, determined MMA fighter. On the other hand, there wasn’t enough action for what’s ostensibly an action-oriented episode. There easily could have been another couple minutes of action, with Cat climbing through the ranks of the tournament to reach the finals. Maybe the fight scenes created a logistical problem for the production, or maybe director Don McCutcheon simply felt less was more. Still, I felt like the episode could have used more action than we got, particularly since the story surrounding it left plenty of room for an extra fight. And let’s talk about the story, because I really enjoyed it, even with my issues about the less-than-anticipated action.
The case this week involves Cat going undercover at a Fight Club in order to track down Pierre Medjani (Saad Siddiqui), the operator of an illegal fighting ring that Tess (Nina Lisandrello) has been trying to shut down since she and Cat were partners working the streets. Cat and Vincent (Jay Ryan) theorize that this is the guy who put out the Beast bounty, so Cat enters the fight tournament in order to track down Medjani. Sounds straightforward enough, but there’s a twist. Cat is essentially going it alone. For one, Vincent is barred from accompanying Cat to the main event fight after she wins her qualifier. Second, and perhaps most importantly, Cat has been deputized by the Department of Homeland Security, officially making her a special agent. She’s no longer a detective for the NYPD, which means she’ll be taking jurisdiction over the hunt for Medjani. So this can’t be a joint investigation with the NYPD, because Cat needs to keep this quiet due to the potential Beast implications. In essence, the show strands Cat in a situation where she’s in a fairly hopeless situation (I mean, these are fighters who’ve specifically been training for this tournament), and challenges her to get out of the mess using her own skills.
And you know what? It works really well, narratively. Sure, Cat and Vincent make a great team, and the show tends to be at its strongest when Kreuk and Ryan are sharing the screen. But I liked how the show essentially incapacitates Vincent for a stretch by rendering him unable to track Cat once she’s taken to the secret location for the main event. This also allows the other members of the team to get involved, since it’s Tess’s files and the computer smarts of J.T. (Austin Basis) that helps them locate Cat. Tess brings a task force, and suddenly, Medjani’s illegal fight ring is a thing of the past. However, as it turns out, he wasn’t actually the one behind the Beast bounty, since he reacts with utter terror upon witnessing Vincent in beast mode. So Vincent and Cat are right back to square one, which is somewhat troubling, particularly because last season took a long time in getting to the main villain. So long, in fact, that by the time we finally met Liam, it felt like his arc needed to be rushed because it was so close to the end of the season.
Granted, maybe I’m just impatient. Lord knows, this is the third week in a row where I’ve brought up the “slow burn” issue. A slow burn can really help a TV show, whether it’s in the form of a character arc that is drawn out over the course of a season, or a big reveal that is deployed only when the mystery has sufficiently built. But the “slow burn” narrative approach only works if each week gives some semblance of progress. And, sadly, Vincent and Cat feel no closer to finding out the identity of the true villain than they were two weeks ago. Of course, this isn’t anywhere near enough to ruin the show for me. Hell, if this show went on for ten seasons and just featured the team solving supernatural cases every week, I’d be thrilled. Yeah, I love serialization, especially when it all comes together by season’s end. But Beauty and the Beast is the type of show where the character dynamics are more important to me than any single story the show tells. I like watching J.T. and Tess work through their issues and question whether or not they’re truly right for each other. I like watching Heather (Nicole Gale Anderson) try to make sense of her life in the context of this Beast drama she’s been roped into. And I enjoy seeing Vincent and Cat work together, along with the rest of the team. The dynamic between Ryan and Kreuk is as strong now as it’s ever been, with their back-and-forth banter giving off a more lovey-dovey Mr. and Mrs. Smith vibe. The more each story remains rooted in character rather than plot, the stronger the episode tends to be.
Case in point, the character focus this week provides the most satisfying moments of the episode, both involving Tess. Naturally, her arc is the most difficult one throughout the episode. She has to come to terms with her best friend suddenly leaving the NYPD to join the DHS full-time. Considering, as cops, they both tended to view feds as “the enemy,” it’s hard for Tess to reconcile Cat’s sudden change in status — especially when Cat is taking away cases Tess had been working on for years. But her anger pretty much evaporates once she learns Cat is missing. Tess may have a prickly nature at times, but her sincerity in her emotions is never in question. Cat being a part of DHS just doesn’t matter in that moment. Tess doesn’t spring into because it’s her shot to finally take down Medjani. She springs into action because Cat is her friend, and she’s in danger. It leads to one of the most emotional scenes in Lisandrello’s run on the show, as she and Cat make amends in Tess’s office, and Tess finally comes to the realization that, after working together for ten years, Cat is finally moving on. The tears in the scene might ring false at first (I mean, it’s not like she won’t still see Cat, right?), but I found this to be one of the more emotionally honest scenes of this season so far. Having your friend there beside you all the time, whether it’s at work or at home, can be comforting and reassuring at a basic human level. To no longer have Cat as a regular in the precinct represents a fundamental shift in how Tess operates from day to day. Sure, plenty of people in the precinct respect Tess, but how many actually like her? How many consider her a friend? Someone they can actually talk to outside the context of the next big case? Tess has essentially lost an ally in the precinct at a time where her stress is at an all-time high. It’s amazing to me that Tess didn’t end up crying way more than she did, all things considered. But that moment with Tess and Cat is beautiful, because it reaffirms a friendship that hasn’t always been a priority in the script. And I think Kreuk and Lisandrello make a great onscreen pair when they get to share the screen, to say nothing of how good the underutilized Lisandrello tends to be.
The second highlight scene, for me, was Tess finally learning — from her landlord, of all people — that J.T. turned down tenure. She sees it as a clear indicator that he doesn’t want to move in with her, and while J.T. sees this as an overreaction, and even cites it as his reason for not telling Tess the truth sooner, it’s not as if she’s wrong. At a subconscious level, at least, it seems clear that J.T. just isn’t ready yet, even though it’s equally clear that he does love Tess. Naturally, it’s Tess who pieces together why J.T. might be having cold feet. In fairly succinct fashion, Tess pinpoints that while J.T. may know that he wants to do something more with his life, it’s obvious that he has no real idea what that “something” is. And until he does, he’ll never be able to give Tess what she needs. J.T. doesn’t bother trying to refute it, because he can see, in that moment, that she’s right. All he can say is “I love you,” since it’s the only reassurance he can provide. And she says it back to him, because although he might not be the man she needs him to be right now, he’s still the man she wants. It’s another great moment for two people who don’t nearly get as much screentime together as they should, as both Basis and Lisandrello build on the chemistry that makes this pairing work.
On the subject of pairings, I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up the pairing between Heather and Kyle (Michael Roark). This is the week where we find out just how hard Kyle has been trying to get back in touch with Heather, who’s essentially frozen him out. She doesn’t respond to any of his calls or texts, nor does she respond when he sends her four bouquets of flowers. You’d think he’d get the hint, but Heather’s distant demeanor simply makes Kyle more persistent, which is where my issue comes in: Okay, please tell me I’m not the only one who doesn’t trust this guy at all? Being persistent is one thing, but he’s borderline desperate to get back in Heather’s life, to the point of badgering Vincent at work, and somehow managing to track Heather down to a local bar to join her for a glass of wine. He just gives off stalker vibes. Okay, yes, he seems like a sweet guy, and his pitch to her about why they should be together is just as lovely, but he seems almost too good to be true. I really wouldn’t be shocked to learn he’s the guy who put out the Beast bounty, because I really don’t know that the show would spend this much time on Heather’s love life if Kyle wasn’t going to turn out to be important. Granted, we’d probably still get plenty of comedy scenes such as Heather on the phone with customer service as Cat’s hare-brained personal assistant, but that’s mostly because Anderson is great at those kinds of scenes, and they provide some much-needed levity to the episode. But this romance with Kyle has the feeling of a major arc, and I’d be surprised if Vincent’s initial suspicions about Kyle didn’t turn out to be right on the money. Maybe it really is just a straightforward romance, but I feel like Kyle is using Heather to get to Vincent and Cat. And knowing how they protect their own, there’s really no reason the plan shouldn’t work.
“Down For the Count” is a fun episode that takes a different approach to structure with a climax that feels more like a denouement. We get emotional, character-building scenes rather than some all-out action setpiece, and I thought it worked as a one-off approach. Beauty and the Beast does well with intimate moments, so why not make those moments the big conclusion? Ultimately, I liked this as much, if not more, than last week’s episode. And while the premiere is still my favorite episode of the season so far, “Down for the Count” is still feels like vintage Beauty and the Beast.
But what did you think of Beauty and the Beast Season 4 Episode 3, “Down for the Count”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on Beauty and the Beast, read our recap and analysis of last week’s Season 1 homage, “Beast Interrupted”!