‘Beauty and the Beast’ Review: ‘Cat’s Out of the Bag’ Is As Controversial As It Is Fun
Recap and review of Beauty and the Beast – Season 3 Episode 9 – Cat’s Out of the Bag:
With four episodes left, we’re in the home-stretch for Beauty and the Beast Season 3, and “Cat’s Out of the Bag” begins the process of tying all of the plotlines together in a way that illustrates the long plan this show has had since “The Beast of Wall Street”. It’s all been building to this moment, as destiny finally has its say, and Vincent (Jay Ryan) and Cat (Kristin Kreuk) agree on what must be done. But while this is a fun episode, it’s also controversial.
But first, I want to get into how well this episode starts wrapping the bow on Season 3, as it speaks to the more serialized nature of the story as a whole. Basically, for as much as Vincent and Cat need each other, they’ve spent much of this season working at cross purposes. It’s not necessarily that they impede each other’s goals, but rather that they have different approaches to how to get things done, and different beliefs on the necessity of what they even have to be doing in the first place. Much of the drama of this season has come from that intrinsic conflict. Both Cat and Vincent want peace, but putting an end to beasts is so much easier said than done. And so it is here, as Cat and Vincent take different approaches to tracking down Liam Cullen, with Vincent going the rogue route, while Cat insists on doing the investigation by-the-book. It creates a criss-cross narrative that I find pretty interesting, as the main storyline ties back into the first two episodes of the season, revealing just how far back this arc goes. It also splits our protagonists into three factions: Cat and Tess (Nina Lisandrello) follow leads on Tyler Zane and Alton Finn, Julianna’s previous test subjects from the first two episodes of this season; meanwhile, J.T. (Austin Basis) spends time trying to convince Heather (Nicole Gale Anderson) of the whole destiny angle, and why it’s important for Vincent and Cat to embrace their larger purpose (referencing the adventured of Rebecca and Alistair from Season 2); lastly, Vincent is a faction of one, investigating Liam on his own by using his tracking abilities. For Vincent, it’s easier to go rogue and keep the police out of this, since not only will their rules and due process slow him down, but it could also get a lot of innocent people killed. Ultimately, what we get is a storyline that ups the ante, as we’re taken outside of the smaller scale Vincent and Cat have been working in, and instead contextualize their battle, showing that this is a fight that’s bigger than even they realized. In essence, it restates the thesis of the season: Vincent and Cat are destined, and so is their fight.
This isn’t exactly a surprising revelation, but it’s well-presented in the context of the episode and the season as a whole. Cat is initially the person convinced of her higher purpose, while Vincent resisted the call to action. However, the tables have turned, and Vincent is now the one trying to get Cat to realize that simply handing this case off to Homeland Security doesn’t do them any favors. Their loved ones will still be in trouble, because they will always be in trouble. The implication is that, simply by knowing them, Vincent and Cat’s loved ones will consistently be in danger until they eventually stop these beasts.
But while that’s a conclusion the series has been building towards for nine episodes now, I think it’s the most controversial reveal of the season so far, because it questions the extent to which Vincent and Cat even have free will. And…well, I kind of have a problem with that explanation. For two big reasons:
1) Saying that theirs was a destined romance is cute and romantic and all, but part of what makes Vincent and Cat’s relationship as compelling as it has been is that they’re choosing this destiny. Cat and Vincent recognize the perils ahead, but choose to confront those perils together, to accept that while their relationship will never be easy, it’s what they want. Hell, it’s what they need. However, pinning Vincent and Cat’s story on destiny takes some of the power out of the choices they’ve made up to this point. In one telling moment, J.T. tells Heather that the journal of Rebecca Reynolds reveals how Vincent and Cat are reliving many of the same problems faced by Rebecca and Alistair. Furthermore, he states that Rebecca’s recorded failures have helped Cat and Vincent avoid making the same mistakes, thereby keeping them alive and proving that this is all destiny at work. In a way, it makes sense that the entire series has been a sort of predestination paradox, because there have been far too many coincidences to explain away in any other fashion: namely, that Cat and Vincent met at all, or that all the beasts just happen to congregate in and around New York City. On the other hand, if this is all destiny, it presents one other huge problem…
2) Destiny renders half of this season pointless. Okay, maybe “pointless” is too strong a word, but I do think it’s problematic that we’ve spent a considerable amount of this season with Vincent and Cat going back and forth on whether or not they want to pursue beasts, only to find out that they ultimately don’t get a say. If it’s preordained by destiny that they’re going to fight these beasts, then the relationship problems they’ve faced as a result of their disagreements on whether or not to fight at all ring hollow. Their loved ones are destined to be in trouble. They’re destined to fight these beasts. They’re essentially destined to have no choice in the matter, because destiny ordains that this is their problem, not the DHS’s, not the NYPD’s, but Vincent and Cat’s. And, again, if they’re fated to do this, why do any of their choices matter?
However, there are two significant counterexamples to the points made above that the episode subtly presents that keeps me from getting too upset. In fact, this episode does a great job of presenting the destiny argument in a way that still allows Vincent and Cat to retain their agency, both as individuals and as a couple.
1) Despite the notion of destiny binding Vincent and Cat, their loved ones aren’t exactly bound to them as a result. Tess, J.T., Heather…they’re all making the choice to stick by Vincent and Cat. Even more than that, they’re proving that, in a lot of cases, they’re capable in their own ways as well. Say what you want about what is/isn’t destined, but you could easily argue that the reason Vincent and Cat are succeeding where Rebecca and Alistair failed is because they didn’t have the support structure that VinCat has. Vincent and Cat need each other, yes, but they also need their loved ones. The story of the season has often painted this destined storyline as that of one couple, but really, it’s the story of a team. And that’s genuinely compelling, to me, particularly since J.T. has to shed his persona as strictly a man of science in order to embrace the crazy nature of destiny. “It all sounds so far-fetched!” Heather says in exasperation, after J.T. lays out the Rebecca and Alistair story. He responds, “Like beasts and superhumans aren’t?” J.T. is asking Heather to trust him, and it leads into the second thing I loved about this episode that essentially refutes one of my bigger issues with the “destiny” story above…
2) In depicting Heather’s struggle to accept what J.T. is telling her, the script reveals that this isn’t really a story about destiny, it’s a story about faith. It’s about what we choose to believe. These people choose to believe in destiny, to stop resisting, to embrace their path. Even in a world where fate preordains that Vincent and Cat must fight these beasts, the truth of the matter is that we haven’t really been given any indication that their free will has been compromised. They could say no. They could walk away. They could flee to Canada and never look back. They could get married, settle down, have kids, and never return to New York. They could resist their destiny. But they don’t. Because, even while the episode might argue that Vincent and Cat were always meant to do this, the simple fact is that whether or not they go through with battling beasts depends not on destiny, but on their own beliefs as human beings. Vincent and Cat could resist their destiny, but that would require them to be completely different people who don’t care about the fate of innocents. And that’s not who they are. Fate didn’t make them warriors of justice. They chose to become that. They chose to become heroes who protect the weak, and they do this, knowing that their loved ones will be in danger.
Maybe fate declares that they would have been in trouble anyway, but what did fate have to do with the death of Vincent’s brothers? What say did fate have in the death of Vanessa Chandler? Sure, you could say fate put Vincent and Cat in the same place, at the same time, to meet on that night over 10 years ago. But what they ultimately did in response to their tragedies is what defines them as people. Cat ditched her bartending gig and became a cop. Vincent remained off-the-grid and fought crime in his own way. Inevitably, Cat and Vincent teamed up, but destiny only declares that they had to team up, not that they had to fall in love. In every respect, Cat and Vincent still have a choice, yet they always choose to have faith in each other. So it’s not really a story about destiny, but rather about faith, and it’s a narrative that is reinforced when Heather chooses to believe in Cat’s higher purpose, culminating in Cat believing in it too. It’s a well-told story that served as a deconstruction of a predestination story that, honestly, would have been far more problematic for me if it had played out exactly in the way it appeared it would. But thank God for subverted expectations.
As for the episode itself, there’s a lot of great action, as the split nature of the story keeps things well-paced. Turns out, Liam is sending henchmen to do his dirty work, draining the blood of Julianna’s previous serum subjects for mysterious reasons. Hell, he even wants the blood of those who’ve been cured, which puts J.T. at risk. It leads to a heart-thumping climax in which J.T. and Heather have to escape into a secret panic room in the loft, while Vincent fights off Liam’s henchmen, only to nearly get himself killed when their leader gets the drop on him. Thankfully, Cat and Tess won their race against time, getting their just soon enough to shoot the remaining henchman dead and save Vincent. Again, it’s an affirmation that this is a team, and that they need to operate as such if this is going to work. Naturally, they’re still going to be on the hunt for Liam regardless, as Homeland Security wants Cat and Tess to remain with the investigation, but now they’ll be operating within the law, to a certain extent. Of course, Agents Thomas and Bennett appear to be the only ones from Homeland Security to know about the beast problem, and they’re both dead. Will their boss believe it? Or is it yet another case of faith vs. reason? The philosophical component is nearly as compelling as the episode was fun, as I can’t remember an episode in recent memory that kept things moving at such a brisk pace.
Ultimately, while I did initially have some issues with “Cat’s Out of the Bag”, I found it to be an enlightening hour of TV for the season. On the one hand, the notion that Vincent and Cat have no choice but to fight beasts, since destiny apparently ordained it, comes across as a controversial notion, to me. On the other hand, it’s too early to tell if that’s actually the case here. And even if it is, saying they have “no choice” misrepresents things a bit, since they easily could leave whenever they want. There’s simply no guaranteeing they would ever be free of this. And even if they could be, who’s to say the guilt of leaving innocents to suffer would ever leave? Vincent, Cat, Tess, J.T. and Heather are good people. And, as good people, this has become their fight. It’s a choice they’ve made every bit as much as destiny has made it for them. I think that’s the big takeaway from this episode, and for this season of Beauty and the Beast.
But what did you think of Beauty and the Beast, “Cat’s Out of the Bag”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on Beauty and the Beast, check out my review of last week’s thrilling episode, “Shotgun Wedding”!
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