Recap and review of Beauty and the Beast – Season 1 Episode 14 – Tough Love:
You know, it’s kind of funny. Even though the first half with Heather (Nicole Anderson) was one of the most infuriating halves of a series I’ve seen this year, the second half brought me around on the first, to where I have a strange kind of respect for what the show is doing. Make no mistake, this was the best episode of Beauty and the Beast by a long shot – an hour that made me glad to have stuck it out through the long slog of the season’s first half. “Tough Love” delivered in just about every way the show could conceivably deliver: the first kiss between Cat (Kristin Kreuk) and Vincent (Jay Ryan) was to be expected. Hell, the episode makes a running joke of interrupting their first kiss at every opportunity. But it’s been a long time in coming, and it doesn’t disappoint. What I didn’t expect, however, was an outright declaration of love. It’s the kind of thing that can be relatively dull when it’s expected (i.e., any romantic comedy where you’re certain to hear those three words at exactly the 90 minute mark), yet it worked extraordinarily well here, primarily because it was so unexpected. But beyond the romantic developments, the show builds a storyline that serves as a proof of concept for the series overall: Vincent isn’t just being hunted by Muirfield, he’s being hunted by the full force of the NYPD. This not only brings Vincent into further conflict, but it also pits Cat against those closest to her, as Tess (Nina Lisandrello) is going to back her lover 100% as he hunts for the man responsible for killing his brother. Further complicating matters is Evan (Max Brown), who is getting closer and closer to cracking the mystery of the connection between Cat and this mysterious “creature” she’s trying so hard to protect. The series now has tons of narrative momentum and, for the first time since the series premiered, I can honestly say I’m anxious to see where it goes.
The first half that irritated me so extensively was the product of Heather being persistently annoying in muscling in on Cat’s love life, believing Vincent to be a shady, dangerous individual. Granted, this isn’t without cause. Vincent is evasive of her questions, vague about his past and, to make matters worse, she catches him snooping around her room for a photo of himself and Cat from her father’s wedding. She can’t know that Vincent was only searching for the photo to destroy it and keep himself, and Heather, safe. Thus, her lousy opinion of him has to stand. Yet Heather takes it a step further, roping in Tess to help her stage an intervention for Cat, forcing her to choose between them and Vincent. Heather has discovered that “Vincent Zelanski” doesn’t exist, and she and Tess want answers. This isn’t even the worst of it, as Heather has uploaded the photo from the wedding to the internet. While JT (Austin Basis) was able to get it removed, there’s no guarantee that Muirfield’s facial recognition software didn’t pick it up and track the photo to Heather’s computer. And, as if all of this wasn’t enough, Evan confronts her about the mysterious cross-species creature she’s so keen on defending. The noose is tightening around Cat, and it lends the episode some real dramatic tension.
My only real complaint is with the character of Darius (Christian Keyes), the younger brother of Police Captain Joe Bishop (Brian J. White). He’s a perfectly acceptable character, even when paired with Heather as a potential love interest, but his death lacks any real significance since he was only just introduced last week, and Joe barely even existed as a character before tonight. Had they laid the groundwork for this storyline, introducing Darius earlier and building up his relationship with Heather, and also solidifying Joe as a character beyond simply being the man with whom Tess is having an affair, then this entire storyline could have had so much more weight than it does. That said, even with as little as the storyline had going for it, going in, it still ended up being pretty resonant by the end of it. When Darius, a club owner, takes Heather out on the town to get away from her problems with Cat, things go awry in a hurry. Some gangsters to whom Darius owes money arrive and beat the tar out of him. Heather tries to stop the men, threatening them by mentioning that her sister is a cop. They knock her unconscious, shove a gun in Darius’ hand, and order him to shoot Heather or be killed himself. He’s reluctant to do it, but we see the grim resignation slowly come over Darius’ face. Before he can squeeze the trigger, however, Vincent (in “Beast” mode) swoops in and disarms Darius, throwing him full-force against a steel dumpster. He then neutralizes the gangsters, knocking out one and sending the other scurrying off in fear. It isn’t until Vincent comes down from his beastly high that he comes to a tragic realization – he’s accidentally killed Darius. The attack left claw marks on the body, meaning that now, more than ever, Vincent will be the subject of a full-on manhunt – not simply from the shadowy forces of Muirfield, but from the righteous justice of the NYPD.
Vincent tries to break things off with Cat, rationalizing that he doesn’t want to force her to have to lie to her superiors, friends, and family anymore, in addition to his fear that he’s put Cat and Heather in too much danger. However, one of his biggest motivations in ending things is the recognition that he can’t really give Cat the normalcy she wants. He tells her that she should be able to have that sort of life, without being held back from it. Cat, for her part, makes a stand – she doesn’t want “normal.” For her, “normal” is being with Vincent. She then tells him she loves him, and they finally have their kiss. Look it up, the entire scene is saccharine as all get-out, but it’s still pretty great, all things considered. Vincent breaks away from the kiss to briefly reciprocate, telling Cat just how much he’s in love with her. This all could have fallen apart if it had been anymore sappy, or if the show hadn’t held off on this moment for so long, or if they had decided to put it in the season finale, where we might have expected it. But everything about how it was plotted worked beautifully. It really came together far better than I ever could have expected, and their union gives the series more of an Us vs. Them mentality, as Cat and Vincent prepare to do battle with what’s ahead — together.
“Tough Love” is going to be tough to beat. It’s the best episode of the series by a long shot, and gives me confidence that the show actually knows what it’s doing now, as opposed to the more aimless first half of the season. The show still has an occasional corniness to it, to say nothing of such on-the-nose dialogue as Evan saying “If you won’t protect yourself, then I will” to himself (Cat had left the room, what, ten seconds earlier?). But none of these issues are insurmountable. There’s still a fun show beneath all of the cliches and narrative shortcuts. More than that, there’s a show worth watching here.