Recap and review for Beauty and the Beast – Season 1 Episode 8 – Trapped
Much of this week’s Beauty and the Beast centers on the mystery of Cat’s mother, Vanessa (Khaira Ledeyo), and how her work with Muirfield was partially responsible for transforming Vincent (Jay Ryan) into the titular “beast”. Though it should be a foundational episode in the mythology of the series, “Trapped” is kind of a slog, owing to the all-too-convenient narrative conceit that now Vincent’s blackouts are unlocking repressed memories that allow us to move the story forward. It’s not the memories themselves that are convenient, but the fact that they’re coming now, in a development that essentially rewrites the internal logic of the show (such as it is), as the blackouts now do the work of uncovering the past for our protagonists, without Vincent having to do much more than go to sleep. It’s a bit of a cheap way around the problem presented by the audience not really knowing very much about Vincent, as a protagonist. But there are other issues that make the episode kind of a chore. It’s not the worst episode of the series, thanks to the strong closing ten minutes, but for an episode filled with this much purpose, it’s awfully aimless.
Cat (Kristin Kreuk) and Tess (Nina Lisandrello) are investigating the attempted murder of pop star Jake Riley (Max Schneider), who’s possibly the most irritating figure on a “case of the week” procedural that I’ve seen on TV this season. This is almost certainly the point, since he pesters every woman he meets, flirting with Cat and making eyes at Tess, nicknaming her “Manslayer.” Complicating matters for the investigation is Cat’s need to lie to Evan (Max Brown) about what happened in the subway. She claims that she didn’t see the mysterious vigilante that saved them both, but Evan is convinced she’s hiding something, going as far as to imply that she’s protecting the vigilante. As it stands, Cat is able to keep him off the scent, but it’s hard to imagine Evan will drop his increasingly insistent line of inquiry about whatever mysterious being saved his life. This allows the investigation into Jake’s attempted murder go a bit more smoothly, even if Cat has to keep ducking out to meet with Vincent and J.T. (Austin Basis).
It is discovered that Jake is being set up by his handler, a man named Miller, who is writing a book about his friend’s meteoric pop career and attempted to arrange his death in order to turn it into a tragic bestseller. I have no idea what kind of criminal plans to murder someone they’re writing a biography about, and then proceeds to write the ending to said biography, leaving it laying around for NYPD detectives to discover. But I don’t expect the criminals on the show to be any smarter than the show itself, so there you have it. Miller is arrested, Jake is heartbroken to have his fears of betrayal confirmed, but then he remembers he’s young, rich, handsome, and famous. He writes and records a song for Tess called “Manslayer”, which she seems to actually enjoy (in a considerable difference from her stand-offish approach to Jake earlier).
Though the case is a bit of a dud, the Vincent segments are a bit more successful. Upon blacking out and having a series of flashbacks to his time in Afghanistan, he begins to piece together the truth he’s repressed for ten years. He and a fellow soldier named Lafferty (Bianca Lawson) bonded over their newfound abilities, forming a pretty tight bond over their shared fellowship in the secretive super-soldier project. However, when Lafferty goes into a seizure, Cat’s mom, Vanessa, happens on the scene and eventually explains to Vincent that everyone reacts to the serum differently. Vincent, in the present day, comes to realize that Cat isn’t the cause of the blackouts, they’re merely a side effect of the experiments. Cat, who knew her mother was involved with Muirfield (thanks to the agent that abducted her a few episodes back), is distressed to learn just how deeply her mother’s involvement ran was with Muirfield. She confronts her father, who reveals a box of documents and artifacts from her mother’s life and career, rationalizing that he hid it from Cat to protect her, not realizing that the choice merely furthered her own sense of guilt for getting her mother killed. She reconciles herself with the reality that her mother’s death wasn’t really her fault, visiting the grave site and making peace. Vincent arrives and vows to help her put the past behind her, in a moment that borders on romantic, but instead, to my own pleasant surprise, remains platonic. The sexual tension is the one bullet in the show’s chamber, and they’re wise to keep from shooting it at this early stage. And, aside from that, the relationship actually feels more natural as a friendship right now, so it’s wise to allow the romantic elements to develop organically since, as the saying goes, love is friendship set on fire.
But the plotline also keys us into several clues that aren’t made overt. By now, I think it’s pretty clear that Vincent was tracking Cat’s mother on the night of her murder, which was why he just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I imagine he wanted answers for what was happening to him, as well as a reason for why Muirfield was going around killing all his buddies. In one of the flashbacks, we see how Vanessa didn’t really know what she was signing up for with Muirfield, even trying to dissuade the commanding officer from going through with terminating all the failed test subjects. And, like he would come to her daughter’s rescue a year later, Vincent rescued Vanessa from the militant commander by hulking out and doing some crazy parkour flips. It’s actually a pretty decent sequence, if not a little ridiculous from the very different makeup job than the one we’re used to seeing from Vincent’s transformations, as he appeared all red and veiny, which might well have been the point, since the transformation had to have been among his first. This tangent helps to illustrate just how much of the present is reflected in the past, as Vincent’s path appears to have always been tied up with that of the Chandler women, like some indirect kind of destiny borne out of shared horrors. It’s almost poignant.
“Trapped” has good intentions, but the story is a patchy mess with hardly anything resembling narrative flow, as we leave the case of the week to follow Cat’s investigations into Vincent and her mother, only checking back in with the case at the end. The episode would have worked better being entirely about Cat’s research into her and Vincent’s shared pasts, as opposed to trying to split that story unevenly with the attempted murder case. Thankfully, next week’s midseason finale seems to be a largely character-based episode. And even if it isn’t, it likely will have a more introspective bent, owing to the fact that it’s the midseason finale, and such episodes tend to tie the themes and narratives of the season together more cohesively.