Beauty and the Beast – Recap: Most Likely to Succeed
Recap and review of Beauty and the Beast – Season 2 Episode 5 – Reunion:
“Holding on is believing that’s there’s only a past; letting go is knowing that there’s a future.”
-Daphne Rose Kingma
“Reunion” is an episode of singular insight into the all-too-common human experience of bitterness. There comes a point in each person’s life, young or old, in which he or she must decide whether to let go of certain emotions, or to hold fast to those feelings, for better or for worse. Beauty and the Beast doesn’t really purport itself to be the kind of show that opens itself up to this kind of analysis, but I continually find myself intrigued at how nuanced it is when it comes to commenting on a theme that stretches across the breadth of an episode and its interconnected subplots. In essence, “Reunion” illustrates the damage caused by a failure to truly let go.
Of course, the irony in “letting go” being the theme of the episode is in just how badly Cat (Kristin Kreuk) and Vincent (Jay Ryan) both want him to remember his past, to find those memories and cling to them for dear life. Earlier in the season, I theorized that the targeted removal of all Cat-related memories had been the full extent of the damage done to him by the FBI, but as this season has rolled on, it’s become apparent that the procedure was far more invasive. Throughout “Reunion,” Vincent gets flashes of his past, bits and pieces of a life he can’t recall ever having lived, and while some might say it would be better off for him to forget — given how the past ten years have crammed in more misery and heartache than most people experience in a lifetime — those experiences indelibly shaped the person he would go on to become. And last I remembered, the Vincent of season one was a pretty alright guy. So the struggle to reclaim his former life makes sense, even if it might serve him better to just let go and forge a new life, with new memories, with Catherine. Significantly, the “Beast of the Week” is contrasted with Vincent, not only in back story, but in how he handles the pain of that past.
So Cat is trying to set aside some “me” time, exhausted from the constant run of missions and beasts and all the drama that goes along with being in love with Vincent. In preparation for her 10th high school reunion the next day, Cat invites some of her old friends over for drinks and girl talk. And so Cat humorously kicks Vincent out of her apartment to force him to spend time rejogging his memories with JT (Austin Basis), which leads to perhaps the show’s first cutaway gag, as Cat’s high school friends ask if there’s anyone special in her life, and we cut immediately to Vincent and JT hanging out on their couch watching TV and eating heavily-salted snacks. It’s not only a funny visual, but endearingly random, and I’d love if the show did similarly comedic gags in the future. I mean, seriously, there’s a sitcom in this image somewhere…
But as we quickly discover, Cat can’t even have a girls’ night without something going horribly wrong. When one of her friends, Beth (Annie Ilonzeh), leaves her purse in Cat’s room, Cat heads over to retrieve it…at which point she’s attacked by a beast in search of Vincent. The mystery man tracked Vincent’s scent to Cat’s apartment and is now intent on killing her unless she tells him where he can find him. However, Beth intervenes and calls the cops while Cat gives him a good ol’ roundhouse kick that sends him escaping out the window (well, through the window, anyway) and leaves Beth wondering what the hell she just saw. The cops don’t buy her story about this man with crazy eyes, and Cat pretends to have no idea what Beth is talking about either, leaving the question of just who this guy is and why he’s after Vincent.
Naturally, once Vincent finds out Cat has been attacked, he goes on the warpath, tracking the man down to an abandoned church where he confronts the beast and discovers that it’s Zach Hayes (Blair Redford), a former member of Delta Company. As the flashes in Vincent’s mind confirm, this was his friend once, his brother-in-arms, and so he ceases his attack. And from there, it becomes a bit weird, as Vincent brings Zach around the loft as if nothing had happened. Cat is immediately unsettled by this, and rightfully so, as Zach offers an apology for trying to kill her, but not much else. Apparently, Zach learned that someone had been hunting down beasts and decided to launch a preemptive strike before he ended up being the next victim, and his desperation made him act dishonorably with Cat (not unlike how Gabe’s desperation made him a villain last season). Cat immediately sees through all of this, realizing that Vincent’s hunger for some form of meaningful connection with his past has made him eager to forgive Zach, since Zach is one of the few people who can really clue him in on everything that happened overseas prior to the Muirfield experiment. And if Vincent is able to remember one thing, he’ll inevitably be able to remember another, and so on and so forth, until he remembers Cat. In this sense, it makes sense why Vincent wouldn’t want to let go, why he’d cling to the one person who might be able to tell him the truth about his past…even after that person goes rogue.
It’s jarring how quickly the friendship between Vincent and Zach turns sour, but the story turn is done in a remarkably effective fashion. Here, Zach goes out drinking with Vincent and JT and essentially nudges Vincent into remembering a woman named Gabriella (who looks suspiciously like Lea Michele, but that’s neither here nor there). According to Zach, Gabriella was Vincent’s “girl” before he shipped off to Afghanistan, and their romance burned hot and fast. At Zach’s prompting, Vincent begins to remember more and more about Gabriella, until he inevitably recalls their intense, passionate relationship. And this is exactly what Zach wanted, for Vincent to recall Gabriella, so he would be able to own up to having stolen her away from him. As it turns out, Zach and Gabriella had been a couple until she met Vincent and fell in love with him. While overseas, he received a letter from Gabriella informing him about her affair with Vincent, and Zach fell to pieces. A decade later, and he still hasn’t been able to let go of the pain, having gone as far as to track down and murder Gabriella for her betrayal. Of course, what Zach doesn’t know is that Vincent never knew Gabriella was with someone. As JT explains, Vincent would never have been with Gabriella if he’d known she was with Zach. But it’s too little, too late, as Zach has been so consumed by the bitterness he’s refused to let go of in the past ten years. Now, he’s looking to make it an eye for an eye, intent on tracking down Cat and making Vincent feel that same sense of loss.
This all culminates in Cat’s high school reunion, where we get a glimpse at the person Cat used to be before her mother’s death changed her. And what we learn puts her character into perspective. Not only has she always been the athletic type (having run on the track team), but she’s always had a penchant for “the projects,” as her friends put it — the bad boys with the broken wings, in need of someone to understand them, to nurture them, to better them. She was always voted “Most Likely to Succeed,” which explains her forthright drive and determination every bit as much as her mother’s death does, since she comes across as someone attempting to live up to an impossible standard — not just the high bar set by her scientist mother, but by the expectations of her class. Cat is not able to let go of these expectations any more than she’s able to let go of Vincent for the night and just have a good time at the party. Though Cat is trying to avoid being defined by her past (Vincent, her mother’s death, her father not being her biological father), she’s unable to really move forward because she hasn’t dealt with any of the issues weighing her down. She still wants Vincent back but isn’t sure if he’ll ever be the person he once was, and although Gabe (Sendhil Ramamurthy) has been helping her search for her biological father, nothing has turned up. So even while she’s trying to avoid being categorized by her relationships, her identity ends up getting her into trouble, as Zach tracks her down and launches his attack.
Vincent is there to stop him before he can kill Cat, and the ensuing fight is one of the more exciting of the season so far, owing to the uncommon setting of a neon-lit high school gym. It’s also one of the more brutal fights, as the sound design of the sequence makes every punch feel more impactful than in previous encounters. And there’s a similarly grim conclusion to the battle, as Vincent simply snaps his former friend’s neck, faced with the choice of either stopping him dead in his tracks or letting him get his hands on Cat. Though Vincent seems to regret that it came to that point when looking down at Zach’s body, there wasn’t really any doubt in how far he would go to save Cat, as he explains to her that he would feel every bit as lost without her as Zach felt without Gabriella. In essence, Zach was doomed by his inability to let go, and it’s a flaw that could similarly doom Cat and Vincent, since so much of their respective lives (if not the entirety of their lives) is consumed by the other person. It’s easy to imagine that their attachment could be exploited in the future. When someone is your entire life, you’ll do just about anything to keep from losing that person.
“Reunion” covers a lot of narrative ground in a relatively short amount of time. Beth continues to track the case of the beast even after Zach is killed, interviewing Gabe for the inevitable news story she’s going to do on the incident, since she’s a reporter for National Metro News (this could make Beth an interesting character to bring back on a recurring basis, someone who knows something is up, and refuses to let go because of her journalistic instincts. Could be an interesting obstacle for Cat and co. to overcome). But we also get a bit more development on Gabe’s feelings for Cat, as Tess (Nina Lisandrello) first gives him a hard time about it before softening up, telling him that his feelings might be obvious to Cat, for all she knows. Of course, Gabe isn’t exactly subtle in his approach, sitting alongside a distressed Cat in the wrecked high school gym, telling her what a pleasure it’s been to help her out. It’s actually a sweet little moment, with the two friends going over Cat’s old high school pictures, but it quickly dovetails into something more serious, as Cat recognizes a figure in the background of her graduation picture: Agent Reynolds (Ted Whittall).
Cat struggles to think of what possible reason he could have had for being there, until it dawns on her: “I think I just found my birth father.” Reynolds appeared at the graduation because he couldn’t let Cat go, and now Cat knows the truth about her parentage for exactly that reason. “Reunion” is yet another strong installment of a season that grows stronger by the week.
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