‘Beauty and the Beast’ Review: ‘It’s a Wonderful Beast’ Is Jay Ryan’s Finest Hour
Recap and review of Beauty and the Beast – Season 4 Episode 5 – It’s a Wonderful Beast:
Let me just get it out of the way right now: “It’s a Wonderful Beast” is now my favorite episode of Beauty and the Beast, period. This was a rush of nostalgia straight to the brain, and while it did basically nothing to advance the big mystery of the season (Who’s putting out all these hits on VinCat and co.?), it helped lead certain character conflicts towards resolution so we can move forward with the plot in the weeks to come. But I still feel like I’m going to need to explain why I adored this so much. So away we go!
First and foremost, this is arguably one of the best showcases for Jay Ryan that Beauty and the Beast has ever presented for the guy. I’ve been a huge fan of his acting for some time, calling him one of TV’s more underrated performers, due in large part to just how difficult it can prove to be for some foreign actors to maintain an American accent without ever breaking. Seriously, I NEVER hear his accent slip, and I really can’t say the same for some other critically-acclaimed TV shows. But this isn’t really about accents, it’s about character. And to get into that, I guess I should go over the outline of the episode. Basically, Vincent begins to suffer sepsis when his bullet wound from last week opens up. To make matters worse, his friends have all been led into a trap, and the BATB gang is stuck in their building, surrounded by snipers. They’re unable to leave, and the chaos adds a ticking clock element to the drama: sepsis is causing Vincent to undergo a “fugue” state in which he can no longer control his beasting out. J.T. (Austin Basis) administers an IV full of antibiotics, but unless Vincent can piece his mind back together in time before the cops arrive (in response to all that gunfire), then Vincent is going to be fully exposed as a beast. This is a smart script decision due in large part to how it gives importance to what would otherwise be a meaningless story. For example, even without the frame story of the gang being pinned down by snipers, Vincent’s dream would have still made for a fun hour of TV. But it wouldn’t have been important, and there wouldn’t have been any sense of urgency to it. But by tying the dream to a mission (Vincent has to get over his insecurities and piece his mind back together before the cops arrive in the real world), Vincent’s internal struggle carries actual, dramatic weight.
It says a lot about Ryan’s work here that I felt the crushing anxiety Vincent was going through. As a guy who’s battled anxiety his entire life, I think Ryan delivers one of the stronger onscreen interpretations of a panic attack that I’ve seen. Vincent just doesn’t act rationally, because what’s happening to him isn’t rational. He can’t make sense of any of it, and so he’s lashing out, grasping at straws, and trying like hell to piece his life back together. Because the alternative — that the past three years were the dream — is just too terrifying to consider. Vincent’s conflict is easy to relate to, since I’d imagine it would be positively horrifying to wake up and realize none of your friends or loved ones recognize you, or have any idea what you’re talking about when you try to explain why this is all so strange. On the one hand, I was thrilled to see the return of Evan Marks (Max Brown). On the other hand, it’s hard to blame Vincent for feeling heartbroken when he comes to the realization that Max is now married to Cat (Kristin Kreuk) in this timeline. Vincent is in a near-perpetual state of panic over his situation. J.T. doesn’t believe him when he says they took care of Muirfield three years ago, Tess (Nina Lisandrello) doesn’t recognize either of them, and Cat is openly hostile when Vincent comes to her for help. In more ways than one, it was a flashback to the first season, with Vincent having that gnarly scar on his face, and J.T. continuing to craft hideouts to keep one step ahead of Muirfield. We even had Vincent rescuing Cat from Muirfield, and Evan sacrificing his life once again to ensure VinCat’s safety. Despite being a dream, an argument could be made that this adventure in Vincent’s mind is an illustration of the cyclical nature of the threats he and the gang face. Hell, it could even possibly be a hint of foreshadowing. What if Vincent and Cat have to go back in order to move forward? What if the ones hunting them this time are really just remnants of Muirfield? It’s something to think about, if nothing else.
But even without a larger sense of foreshadowing, I liked that the momentum of the narrative is predicated upon Vincent’s actions. As the antibiotics begin to take effect in his body, the people in this alternate timeline slowly start to believe him. It’s Vincent’s mind essentially beginning to work itself out. However, it can’t get all the way without Vincent making the active choice to commit. Early in the episode, in the real world, Vincent tells Cat she’d have been better off if she never met him. Vincent’s dream is essentially about recognizing that he and Cat need each other, and accepting that the decision to stick by him is her choice. Sure, Vincent can continue to play the “woe is me” card and act like Cat’s life would have been better without him, but the dream makes a point of reminding Vincent that even without the constant danger, Cat still wouldn’t have been happy, because she’d never have received closure over her mother’s death without him. Even with a great job, a loving best friend, and a seemingly perfect husband like Evan, Cat wouldn’t have been able to move on without Vincent. It’s this realization that helps merge the two worlds in Vincent’s mind, as he decides to stop running from Muirfield during the dream escape. Once he stops running, he can now hear Cat in the real world, urging him to come back, and swearing that she needs him. Essentially, Vincent is able to reconcile his two worlds: yes, he and Cat are under constant threat of danger, but it’s better to be in danger together, than perfectly safe alone. Vincent is able to return back to the land of the living, with a newfound understanding of what he means to Cat, and what Cat means to him. It’s a story that, perhaps more than any other so far this season, illustrates just how far Vincent and Cat have come since Season 1.
This episode also showed Vincent’s growth as an individual. Despite being betrayed by Evan in his dream, he’s still able to put aside his differences with the man, and with Agent Reynolds (Ted Whittall), to help rescue Cat. In a surprisingly touching moment, Vincent lets Evan know he’s a good man, something he never got to tell the real Evan. Of course, I have no idea why Vincent’s hallucination features separate plotlines he isn’t around for, such as J.T. reconnecting with Tess, and Evan selling him out to Muirfield. Normally, when I have a dream, it’s typically from a first-person perspective. Then again, I don’t really mind it here. After all, Vincent IS going crazy from sepsis, and he’s also desperately trying to sort things out in his head, so at least it kind of makes sense. And seeing Tess and J.T. essentially meet again for the first time was interesting to watch. Ditto the relationship problems between Cat and Evan. Say what you will about bringing Evan back as a fever dream, but I thought it provided a nice little window into Vincent’s insecurities about his own relationship with Cat, and the extent to which she could get along without him. Having Evan here not only allows Vincent to reconcile with his past, it allows him to move ahead with his future. And, once again, Ryan goes a long way in bringing Vincent’s internal struggles to life. He’s ragged and desperate in this timeline, and it comes across in every single one of his actions. The only real thing he has to guide him is his love for Cat, and while that might seem trite, it’s also very true to his character, particularly since it ends up being the key to finding his way back home.
Is this episode a little cheesy? Probably. And it’s not the kind of episode the show could pull off every single week. But I absolutely adored this hour of TV, due largely to the strength of Ryan’s performance, and a script that plays on the duality of Vincent’s existence: the insecurities of Vincent Keller and the instability of his beast persona. Having him reconcile both elements leaves a more satisfying feeling than I think we’d have gotten if the episode simply involved taking down another potential assassin. “It’s a Wonderful Beast” is my favorite episode of the series, and if Beauty and the Beast even comes close to matching this later in the season, I’ll be thrilled. Of course, this is just my personal opinion. Different people look for different things in Beauty and the Beast. But, for me, this was the perfect blend of nostalgia and character advancement, even if the plot took a bit of a backseat this week. Here’s hoping Beauty and the Beast keeps the momentum alive.
What did you think of Beauty and the Beast Season 4 Episode 5, “What a Wonderful Beast”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on Beauty and the Beast, read my review and analysis of last week’s compelling episode, “Something’s Gotta Give”!