‘Beauty and the Beast’ Advance Review: Season 3 Premiere Is a Grown-Up Fairy Tale
Recap and review of Beauty and the Beast – Season 3 Premiere – The Beast of Wall Street:
This past Saturday, I was lucky enough to attend the advanced screening of the Beauty and the Beast Season 3 premiere, “The Beast of Wall Street”, at Wizard World Comic Con Philadelphia. My interview with Austin Basis last week gave me an idea of what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a show that, in many ways, was far more mature than when we left it.
I suppose I should preface this by saying that while I won’t be getting into specifics on the plot developments, any one looking to go into the premiere without knowing anything of what to expect should probably turn back now. I’m going to try to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, but it’s hard to talk about an episode without talking about the things that did/didn’t work. I’ll do my best to keep from spoiling anything major, and just stick to the general plot outline of the episode. Let’s get to it!
Now, when I say that the show is more mature, part of it has to do with the approach to relationships and the threats each face. In many ways, “The Beast of Wall Street” plays out like a sort of grown-up fairy tale, with all its talk of destiny and all of its whirlwind romance. Yet it’s grounded in a certain reality that feels authentic to who these characters are, and the sorts of challenges they would likely face, as real people. Again, without getting into specifics, the premiere spends a lot of its time dealing with how the two central relationships of the show, Vincent (Jay Ryan) and Catherine (Kristin Kreuk) on the one hand, and J.T. (Austin Basis) and Tess (Nina Lisandrello) on the other, have changed in the wake of what happened at the end of Season 2. For Vincent and Catherine, it’s (thankfully!) not about any external romantic threat. There’s no handsome new guy here to threaten their love, nor is there any new Tori type to muddy the waters. Instead, the big enemy to this romance is practicality. How do you make a relationship work when you’ve spent the better part of two years fighting hordes of superpowered humans? And how do you ever go back to normal from something like that? Vincent just wants to be a doctor, to have a normal life with a normal job, and to come home to his loving, normal girlfriend in their normal, cozy apartment. But Cat is beginning to feel the pull of destiny, and the notion that she and Vincent are meant for something bigger. It’s a fascinating conflict due in large part to how unexpected it is. If you’d told me a month ago that Cat would be the one trying to go back to fighting beasts, I’d have set up an appointment at the local urgent care to have your head checked for contusions. But the premiere makes it make sense.
Meanwhile, it’s a whole other story for J.T. and Tess. Their challenge is primarily in dealing with trauma, and moving on from near-tragedy. It’s been two months since Gabe’s attack, and J.T. is still plagued by the feeling that he’s not supposed to be alive, and this attitude understandably frustrates Tess. But it’s about much more than survivor’s guilt for J.T., as there’s an academic curiosity behind his search for the truth. Hell, the guy has equipment in his lab dedicated entirely to studying the changes in his body as a result of the serum Agent Thomas and his men gave him. Much like with Cat, J.T. is driven by the sense that larger forces are at work. That there’s a reason he was saved. But will his obsession cost him his relationship? That sort of question — what are we willing to risk in the pursuit of destiny? — adds to the grown-up fairy tale nature of the show. It almost felt cinematic, in places, although that might have been due to my having seen it on a big screen. Either way, the pacing of this episode was carefully measured to build tension, so that when the big moments finally come, they’re exhilarating. Beauty and the Beast comes across as a much more darkly adventurous series, in that it acknowledges that these threats must be dealt with, but it also deals with the practicality of accepting that responsibility. This isn’t Batman — with the unlimited resources of Bruce Wayne’s billionaire bank account — deciding to go out and fight crime. This is a doctor and a detective, neither of whom necessarily have a whole ton of resources at their disposal. Yeah, there’s J.T.’s loft, and Cat has the precinct, but neither is the Batcave. And Vincent isn’t exactly wearing protective body armor like the Dark Knight either. It’s a show that, while similar to a grim fairy tale in its execution, also serves as a deconstruction of the modern superhero. Because, really, it’s not that easy to be a vigilante, even if you’re performing a necessary public service. I find that aspect of the show to be compelling, since it allows Cat and Vincent to explore not only why they do what they do, but how they’re going to keep doing it. I just love that maturity.
But back to how the show feels different: this premiere is like a weird mixture of fantasy, action movie, and medical drama, but wrapped in the cloak of this grand romance. Seriously, Vincent and Catherine’s romance dominates the episode, with the opening being downright blissful in its depiction of their post-Gabe relationship, illustrating that these are not just two people who love each other, they’re two people who are passionate about one another. It’s what makes the later conflict so potent, since their arguments feel like a violation of destiny. These two people are supposed to be together. So seeing them at odds with one another just feels wrong. And the episode builds off of that inherent feeling of wrongness to drive the story to a point where Vincent and Catherine must decide the best way to handle the threat on the horizon. Over time, this conflict inevitably becomes less about whether or not they can handle the threat, and more about whether or not it’s even a good idea to face these challenges at all. There’s an overarching question about Vincent’s humanity, and just how easily it could be compromised. He’s someone who’s fought to keep his powers in check, but who’s to say that’s a fight he’ll always win? I love that exploration into just how far Vincent can go as a beast without losing himself completely, just as I’m fascinated by Cat and J.T.’s sudden interest in destiny. The show is dealing with loftier subjects between its characters, which helps elevate the sense of tension and stakes to the overall narrative. It’s a smart choice for Beauty and the Beast, and it pays dividends. The episode is also wrapping into my Wish List for Season 3 that I came up with at the end of Season 2. In short, this is a very encouraging premiere.
That’s what I loved about the premiere, but there were some things that left me feeling cold. The first one might not even be the show’s fault so much as the projectionist at the screening room, but needless to say, I couldn’t make out a single thing in the climax of the episode. I don’t just mean it was hard to see, I mean it was impossible to figure out what the characters were even doing onscreen. It’s a fight scene shot in total darkness, but it’s also in a location where there should be enough residual light in the surrounding area to keep this fight visible. However, that just wasn’t the case here, as the screen might as well have been pitch black. Naturally, this is the sort of risk the show runs from consistently having its big action scenes take place in the dark, but none of them have even been lighted this badly. Still, there is something of a benefit to relying on shadows, in that the darkness helps Vincent’s transformations look more seamless. I was genuinely impressed with one particular transformation that took place during the episode, and I don’t really know if it’s an increase in makeup budget or visual effects, or just a change in technique to how the transformations are depicted, but I thought it was really cool. Unfortunately, I couldn’t say the same for the Case of the Week. The baddie in this episode is the kind of menace who exists largely to drive the plot, and not really serve as a threat in his own right. Sure, he causes a LOT of damage (particularly in one shocking sequence), but I never felt as though the characters were truly threatened by him. The interest here was more in how the characters would react to that threat surfacing. Really, I appreciated how the procedural case moved the plot along, even if I thought it wasn’t the best case to kick off the premiere for a season this hotly anticipated. But the show seems to be scaling back on the importance of weekly cases, which suggests the story will become more serialized as the season rolls on. I mean, with just 13 episodes, each case will need to move the story — and the characters — forward in ways that progress their overall arc for the season. That’s more or less exactly what this case did, so while I didn’t love it, I get why it was done this way. And really, whatever negative feelings I had about the episode were pretty much washed away by the conclusion, which is among the most poignant endings the show has done. It also wins my award for Best Use of Ed Sheeran Music In a Scripted Program, replacing last week’s live episode of Undateable. Of course, there have only been two winners, since I just made that award up now. But we’ll see how the rest of the TV season progresses.
Ultimately, the Season 3 premiere for Beauty and the Beast suggests that we’re in for a season that is both more fantastical, but also more grounded in reality. I know that doesn’t make any loving sense, but I can’t really think of a better way to describe it. With all this talk of destiny, and all of the lofty, high-stakes action and decisions, and all the big moments — both romantic and personal — this simply felt like a fairy tale reimagined for a modern setting, but with a more mature sensibility. I don’t necessarily think everyone is going to love it, but I did, and I can only speak for myself. I’m anxious for June 11 to come along, because I’m genuinely interested in hearing what all of you have to say about it, since I’m thinking it could end up dividing some fans, depending on what people are actually expecting from this season. Either way, I’m looking forward to seeing this again on June 11, and seeing if there are any differences between the Wizard World version and the broadcast version. There probably won’t be, but hey, I don’t really need an excuse to watch BATB again.
Check out my interview with Austin Basis for more scoops on Season 3 & 4.
And for a refresher on Season 2, check out my retrospective on the second season:
‘Beauty and the Beast’ Season 2 Retrospective Pt. 1: Vincent’s Amnesia Storyline
‘Beauty and the Beast’ Season 2 Retrospective Pt. 2: Holding Out For a Villain
‘Beauty and the Beast’ Season 2 Retrospective Pt. 3: The Case for J.T. Forbes
‘Beauty And The Beast’ Season 2 Retrospective Pt. 4: Miss Independent
‘Beauty and the Beast’ Season 2 Retrospective Pt. 5: A Season 3 Wish List
Let me know what you think in the comments, and for more articles like this, follow me on Twitter: @NickRomanTVTV 2015Beauty and the BeastRecapReview