Recap and review of Beauty and the Beast – Season 1 Episode 12 – Cold Turkey:
After several weeks building up the romance as something compelling on a visceral level, Beauty and the Beast falters by turning the love triangle into a jumbled, inconsistent mess. What’s weird is that “Cold Turkey” isn’t even a bad episode. The climactic action setpiece is not only effectively filmed, but it also draws parallels to the inciting incident of Cat (Kristin Kreuk) and Vincent’s relationship, without making those parallels overt. However, the problem is that the characters behave in such maddening ways that it’s hard to really get invested in anything that’s happening, because none of the choices feel like choices these characters would make – they feel like contrivances thought up by the writers so that the plot can happen. It’s not at all organic storytelling, which is a shame because I feel like this could have been a better episode. That said, there are parts of it that are genuinely good. Just about anything that involves the exploration of Vincent’s (Jay Ryan) condition and his desperation for normalcy works. Also, it’s reassuring how sensible Cat is portrayed this week. She isn’t always as resistant to poor decision-making as we might want an NYPD detective to be, but her episode-long attempt to quit Vincent, cold turkey, leads to a decision that avoids groan-inducing cliches, while also contributing to what is actually a refreshing portrayal of a strong woman. Unfortunately, none of these elements is enough to save what is a pretty dire episode, by the standards of the last several weeks.
Cat is doing her best to accept Vincent’s decision to stick it out with Alex (Bridget Regan), but this proves to be difficult when, under the continued belief that Cat is Vincent’s “handler”, Alex asks for her approval to go on a romantic cabin retreat with him. Cat approves to avoid making an awkward moment even worse, but she confronts Vincent afterward to air her grievances, telling him that she’s not his handler. For his part, Vincent feels bad that Cat has been subjected to having his choice inadvertently rubbed in her face by Alex. Surprisingly, Alex is obsequiously apologetic, saying that she didn’t mean to get Vincent in trouble. This first half of the episode moves pretty slowly, but it helps to establish Alex’s forthright affection for Vincent, along with Vincent’s own desire to seek refuge in their relationship, as Alex is less an object of romance than an idealized notion – an opportunity for a normal life. My problem, however, is in Vincent’s decision to go to the cabin in the first place. For a man who’s spent years never leaving the city, much less his loft, I didn’t really buy that this was a character who’d think going out into the middle of nowhere was a good idea, particularly with someone as vulnerable to harm as Alex. It just didn’t feel like something he would do. And it gets worse when Vincent accompanies an obviously shady passerby whose “truck broke down”, which should have been a red flag from the get-go. It’s implied that Vincent knew it was a trap, and that he went along simply to draw out the Muirfield scouts sent after him, but if that’s the case, why on Earth would he put Alex in that situation? Even if he draws the Muirfield men away from the cabin, Alex is still alone and vulnerable, with no protection. This is ignoring how bad things could get if he wound up getting killed.
But luckily, he doesn’t, thanks to Cat. She discovers that Muirfield has used surveillance devices to figure out where Vincent is going to be, and so she rushes out to the cabin to cut them off at the pass. But once she gets there, she finds only Alex, in a bathrobe, who demands to know if something is going on between the two. Cat’s response, “That’s not important right now.” When Alex notes that that isn’t a “no”, Cat responds that Vincent is protecting her more than she realizes (as Vincent, before leaving with the stranger, couldn’t bring himself to reveal the entirety of his secret to Alex, instead saying only that he was experimented on, and it changed him). Cat races to the woods, and the setpiece is one of the strongest in the series, as it’s both a visual and thematic match with Vincent and Cat’s meeting ten years earlier: Vincent had initially rescued Cat from Muirfield agents in the woods after the men had gunned down her mother, and now Cat is repaying the favor, rescuing Vincent from Muirfield attackers in the woods. The blue-shaded tinge and slight fog of the nighttime woods is a visual mirror of that scene, and it serves the action well, concealing just enough to preserve a sense of mystery to what’s happening, while showing enough to keep us engaged. I was actually surprised that I enjoy the proceedings as much as I did, given that this kind of slapdash fight-editing never really works for me, yet it balanced out, here. Cat guns down one of the agents while Vincent “beasts” out and breaks the neck of the other. As Vincent returns to normal, we see that Alex has seen the whole thing.
Alex is terrified of Vincent, and recoils when he reaches out to her, saying that he killed those men as though it were nothing. She speaks to him as though he were some kind of monster, which, in the literal sense, I guess he is. But Vincent is adamant that he would never hurt Alex. Unfortunately, Alex isn’t entirely convinced, and states that she’s driving home on her own to think things over. While I found it to be a bit contrivance for Alex to just happen upon the scene, even if she did technically follow Cat, I did appreciate that the script found a way to get Alex out of the romantic equation some other way than just having her get caught in the crossfire between Vincent and Muirfield. It would have been too easy to make her another victim of circumstance, having Vincent putting her in a situation that results in her death, and his heightened angst. I feared they would have Alex get killed, and then have Vincent using his guilt as the excuse not to be with Cat. So I applaud the show for not going in that direction. Furthermore, I have to give it to the show for inverting the love triangle, yet again.
What had once been a love triangle between one woman (Cat) and two men (Vincent, Evan) quickly became a triangle between two women (Cat, Alex) and one man (Vincent). This week’s episode eliminates much of the excess of that love triangle (as Evan doesn’t really seem like a plausible alternative for Cat), and giving power in the romance dynamic back to Cat, who now has the power to choose whether or not she and Vincent are together, as opposed to the other way around. It’s not Vincent who makes the argument that he and Cat should be together, and, in one of the show’s best choices, it’s Cat who has the good sense to call Vincent on his BS, saying that she doesn’t want to be his second choice. She asks if he’d really be coming to her with all this lovey-dovey “It’s always been you” nonsense if Alex hadn’t rejected him outright. Vincent saves face somewhat by saying that his choosing Alex was never about the romantic component, it was about taking his last chance at a normal life, getting to help people again by practicing medicine overseas. But the encounter in the woods proved to him that no matter where he goes, Muirfield would follow. Thus, if he can never have a normal life again anyway, he wants to at least be with the person he actually loves. But Cat’s not buying it just yet, saying that right now, she needs to stop dropping everything for Vincent, and start actually being there for the people who are always there for her: her sister, Heather (Nicole Anderson), and her partner, Tess (Nina Lisandrello), who’s just had her heartbroken by their captain, Joe (Brian White). The cap to the episode sees the three girls singing karaoke (“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”) at a bar in a scene that’s corny, but also somewhat endearing. It’s rare to see Cat this free and loose.
The other big plot of the episode is the continued investigation into cross-species DNA. Evan (Max Brown) is ready to present his findings, leading to JT (Austin Basis) taking desperate measures to prevent the truth about Vincent from coming out. JT does some research into Evan’s background and discovers that he left England and came to the States due to his guilt over having botched a surgery, resulting in the death of a woman named Lila Burrows. Out of guilt and fears about his own abilities as a doctor, he changed professions, becoming a medical examiner for the NYPD, because you don’t have to worry about killing anyone when all your patients are already dead. JT threatens to go public with the truth of Evan’s past unless he desists in his research. Evan angrily dissolves his partnership with JT, and seems intent on moving forward without him…until he discovers that his lab has been bugged. He makes peace with JT, and it seems that they’ve come to an understanding. Still not sure where this is going, but there seems to be at least some plot movement this week, so I can’t really complain about it from that perspective. However, while it’s never actually boring, it is a bit on the dull side, particularly when put alongside the episode’s A-plot which, while not perfect itself, is far more engaging.
“Cold Turkey” really is a mixed bag. It’s not the worst episode of the series, but I don’t know that I’d necessarily call it good either. The series seems to be in transition now that it’s hit the halfway point. I’m not sure where the series goes as we get into the second half of season one, but hopefully the storytelling is more confident, well-paced and sensible than tonight’s hour.