Beauty and the Beast – Recap: Shoot Me Once, Shame On You
Recap and review of Beauty and the Beast – Season 2 Episode 9 – Don’t Die On Me:
To what extent do we “owe” those we love? And is it really love when it’s informed by that sense of obligation? “Don’t Die On Me” is far more interesting in its subtext than in its plot, thanks largely to the implication that the relationships on Beauty and the Beast are burdened by a sense of obligation: Cat (Kristin Kreuk) feels she owes Vincent (Jay Ryan) for all the times he’s saved her life, even though the romantic feelings that had motivated her once before are now largely absent; JT (Austin Basis) feels he owes Vincent because of his guilt over being the one to put him on Muirfield’s radar in the first place; Gabe (Sendhil Ramamurthy) feels obligation towards Cat for how he treated her in Season 1, intending to achieve some measure of redemption through his actions; and you could even argue that Vincent feels a sense of obligation towards Tori (Amber Skye Noyes), whom he views as someone he needs to train and protect, like some kind of lost puppy. Everyone has a burden they’re carrying with them, and the exploration into that feeling of responsibility is the most interesting aspect of what is largely a middling episode. Well, at least until those terrific final moment. But we’ll get to that soon.
“Don’t Die On Me” picks up in the immediate aftermath of the midseason finale, as Cat explains her investigation into Agent Reynolds to a high-ranking representative from Internal Affairs, while also dealing with the fallout from having shot Vincent. While this is all well-acted, and does a good job in situating us back within the context of the story, it ultimately represents one of the big problems of this season, an issue that the series still hasn’t managed to resolve even during the best of episodes: the Vincent we have now bears virtually no resemblance to the Vincent viewers initially fell in love with. Yes, characters are meant to change and evolve, and maybe even devolve, in order for their storylines to have any meaning whatsoever — after all, a stagnant character isn’t a good character.
But in this case, I feel Beauty and the Beast took it a bit too far, as the show seems to be alienating some of its fanbase by essentially eliminating everything people liked about it: namely, the chemistry of its two leads, and their inherent likability. Memories or no memories, current-Vincent is basically a total jackwagon, failing to see beyond his own limited self-interest to understand why Cat had to shoot him, and why she isn’t wrong for having done so. Sure, Vincent still goes out of his way to protect Tori, so it’s not like he’s necessarily a bad guy or anything. But so much of this show hinges on our ability to actually like these people, and while Jay Ryan is doing solid work with what he’s been given, I’m slowly starting to lose the Vincent character.
Of course, this isn’t to say that there isn’t good material in this episode. The official breakup between Vincent and Cat is stunningly straightforward and poignant, as Cat states that she didn’t want it to end this way, but recognizes there was pretty much no other way for this to go after the shooting. Vincent bitterly tells Cat he’s no longer her problem, and with that pronouncement, Cat feels a certain amount of liberation. But it all comes circling back around when the agent from Internal Affairs recovers a bullet from the scene of Reynolds’s arrest, and implies that Cat and her father are protecting a third party. Cat is suspended indefinitely, continuing to take the fall for Vincent even when they aren’t actually together. And that’s the least of her problems: she may end up having killed Vincent, since he needs medical attention for the gunshot wound, but refuses to go to the hospital. This is because police are notified any time the victim of a gunshot wound is admitted, and since “Vincent Keller” died ten years ago, police are going to want to know what the deal is. This is a pretty well-structured conflict, pitting Vincent’s own well-being against his desire to preserve his secret.
Naturally, things get even more complicated when Cat is forced to shoot Vincent again, this time with a tranquilizer dart. But, once again, she had a good reason: Tori is being blackmailed by a mysterious group of hired guns intent on obtaining whatever it is Tori’s late father was hiding in the secret compartment of a curios shop he willed to her. Tori is intent on confronting the mysterious group, particularly once their leader threatens to reveal the truth about her father’s beastly nature if she doesn’t comply. And of course, Vincent is all too ready to go with her, despite being in no condition to fight. So Cat offers to go with Tori instead, but not before shooting Vincent with a tranq dart to keep him from following. It’s for his own good, though neither Vincent nor Tori necessarily sees it that way. But Tori doesn’t have much of a choice, and so she leaves with Cat.
Meanwhile, in order to prevent Vincent from bleeding out, JT breaks into the university hospital to steal blood and antibiotics, but he’s caught by security and hauled away by law enforcement. Thankfully, that law enforcement is Tess (Nina Lisandrello), who smartly confiscates the blood and antibiotics under the pretense of using it as evidence against JT. They return to the loft to treat Vincent, but find him clinging to life, as he’s taken a turn for the worse. And it’s here where we get one of the most interesting reveals of Season 2. Earlier in the episode, Tess had given JT a hard time over why he continually risks his career and his livelihood to stand by Vincent, arguing that whatever it is, it goes well beyond friendship. And, as we learn, Tess is right: it’s not just friendship, it’s guilt.
JT was the one who gave Vincent’s name to Muirfield ten years ago, signing him up for the experiments, believing that it would give him an extra edge in battle and keep him from getting killed. He simply wanted his best friend to be safe, but he ended up setting this entire series in motion through his actions, and the guilt has weighed on him ever since. However, Tess provides him encouragement, as she rationalizes that Vincent has done a lot of good with his power. As Tess explains, if JT is going to beat himself up for all the harm Vincent has done, he also needs to pat himself on the back for being indirectly responsible for the good. Like all the good things in this episode, the scene is straightforward and impactful in how it illustrates the burden of guilt and obligation in a way that feels honest when conveyed by the honest performances of Basis and Lisandrello. It was pretty much my favorite thing this week.
As Cat and Tori are investigating the curios shop, Gabe works with Agent Reynolds to help exonerate Cat, as he feels a responsibility to her that goes beyond the feelings he has for her. He switches out the bullet the cops found at the scene for a more generic round that won’t match their ballistics tests, essentially putting his own career on the line to give Cat’s back to her. But even with that sacrifice, Cat is still put in harm’s way when she and Tori are cornered by the mysterious mercenaries. Tori is used to open the secret door with her retinal scan, but when bullets start flying, Cat ducks into the door and Tori seals her in to keep her safe. And it’s inside that Cat discovers what looks to be the skeleton of…well, I’m not exactly sure.
I mean, it looks like the skeleton of a beast, but smaller, almost like a mutated animal, or the spine of a beast after the change, maybe? I’m not sure what this means to the overall narrative, or what Tori’s father was up to, but it’s an interesting development nonetheless. As for Tori, she’s rescued by a revived Vincent, who ends up killing the female leader of the mercenaries (albeit accidentally, by tossing her out of his way and impaling her on an exposed spike of some sort). He cleans house and takes out the would-be killers, before keeling over in pain, his wound having reopened. He’s going into shock and possibly dying, and we now have a whole new problem: Vincent needs to go to a hospital, but if they call the cops, they’re going to need an explanation for all the bodies. Worse, Tori now has no way of learning who these people were working for, or how they know about her father.
Ultimately, Cat’s solution to the problem is elegantly simplistic and smart: just tell the cops the truth. She advises Tori to tell them that these mercenaries attempted to break into her curios shop, and Vincent was hurt protecting her. And it works! Vincent is admitted to the hospital, and although he nearly dies, the doctors are able to save him, at which point he has a decision to make: does he ditch out on the hospital and continue life on the lam, or does he finally give up and allow the world to know who he is? In perhaps the most fascinating development this season could have taken, Vincent decides he doesn’t want to run anymore, and opts to hold a press conference announcing his identity to the world, revealing that he didn’t really die 10 years ago. He’s encouraged by Tori, who argues that people will accept him due largely to his background as a war hero. And I suppose she isn’t wrong, but Vincent will still need a hell of an explanation for where he’s been and why he’s been hiding for so long. It should be interesting to see the direction this takes, and what new enemies might come to the surface now that Vincent is out in the open.
But ultimately, that’s just one facet of a larger story about the relationships between these characters. By the end of the episode, everyone is free from their feelings of obligation — or, at the very least, they feel less burdened by their sense of obligation towards those they love, or have loved: Vincent no longer feels an obligation to Cat, nor does Cat feel responsible for Vincent, as she explains to Gabe. For his part, Gabe appears to be unburdened by his need to redeem himself in Cat’s eyes, getting her reinstated and then abandoning all subtlety in his flirtations, asking her out for coffee. JT is still working through his guilt, but it seems he’s well on his way to pulling through, with Tess’s help. These people are growing and changing, mostly for the better, and that could be enough to offset Vincent’s degradation as a character. “Don’t Die On Me” is a fairly solid midseason return episode, less for what happens on a strictly plot level, and more for how it moves these characters forward as individuals who share an inextricable link with one another. These people so often define themselves in relation to one another, and it’s liberating to see these characters obtain a more individualized identity outside of their relationships. Beauty and the Beast may be on uncertain ground, but it’s still got a lot to offer.