‘Beauty and the Beast’ Review: ‘Sins of the Fathers’ Is Compelling Tale of Revenge, Loss
Recap and review of Beauty and the Beast – Season 3 Episode 12 – Sins of the Fathers:
Although Beauty and the Beast is gearing up for a big-time season finale with “Sins of the Fathers”, it doesn’t really feel that way until the final moments of the episode. But those final moments are as soaked with more dread and high-tension than anything else this season. There’s a real feeling of culmination here, that this is what the season has been building towards. I love that, personally; but I can see why so many would be against it. Because…well, that approach could turn Beauty and the Beast into a show with a much smaller focus on romance.
But more on the romance issue later. First, I want to talk about how much I loved the pacing of this episode. Basically, when you’re trying to tell a story of continuous risk, it’s important to pace the story in a way that keeps the episode from slowing down long enough for any possible plot shortcomings to catch up. “Sins of the Fathers” takes a smart approach, in this regard. We never really have long enough to wonder about how Reynolds (Ted Whittall) is going to mindwipe Liam (Jason Gedrick), nor does the narrative stall in such a way that we have all that much time to focus on the logistics of Liam’s plan, or how needlessly complicated it is. In short, the story simply focuses on getting from Point A to Point B, and keeping us in abject fear the entire time, since no one is really safe here. For one, J.T. (Austin Basis) is dying, Cat (Kristin Kreuk) has drawn up a will and testament in the event of her death, and Vincent (Jay Ryan) consistently seems like he’s one step away from losing his damn mind.
Again, Jay Ryan is just terrific here, turning Vincent less into a man of action, and more a man of principle. He’s become a person who believes not just in the letter of the law, but in the spirit of what’s right and wrong. And Kreuk is every bit as good as a woman who’s willing to actually bend the laws that tether her to her career in order to stop Liam from hurting any more innocent people. It’s probably getting repetitive how often I single out these two, but I feel Kreuk and Ryan’s respective portrayals have grown in parallel arcs. Cat went from believing in destiny, to resisting the call to action, while Vincent’s story is an inversion of that arc. Essentially, the characters meet in the middle as warriors of conviction, believing not just in their own destiny, but in the fundamental rightness of what they’re doing, and what they have to do. Liam must be stopped, and Vincent and Cat are pulling out all the stops — and Kreuk and Ryan along with them.
Of course, I kind of felt as though the entire ensemble upped their game for this episode. On the one hand, the story largely focuses on Vincent and Cat’s plans to capture Liam and use Reynolds’s serum to brainwash the bad guy into forgetting his vendetta against the Ellingsworth clan. And yet, from a personal standpoint, some of my favorite parts of the episode had hardly anything to do with that mission. For instance, I love how J.T. and Tess (Nina Lisandrello) are adjusting to the new hardships their relationship is facing in the wake of J.T.’s terminal diagnosis. There’s a change to Tess that’s instantly noticeable from the start of the episode, a sort of forced gentleness that plays into her fear that these will be her last days with the man she loves. Yes, she’s hurting too, but she’s trying to block that out and simply be the supportive girlfriend in order to keep J.T.’s mind off of the idea that he’s very likely going to die. But J.T. knows that, and he bloody well can’t un-know it. If nothing else, the nose bleeds are reminding him of his own mortality constantly, so it doesn’t matter how hard Tess tries to keep him from thinking about his situation, J.T. knows what’s happening to him.
Moreover, J.T. feels a responsibility to use whatever time he has left to make a difference in the world. Much like Vincent and Cat, J.T. and Tess are forthright in their convictions, and this characterization wouldn’t work anywhere near as well if the actors didn’t commit. In fact, I felt the same way about both Liam and Reynolds. Ted Whittall hasn’t always gotten a lot to do, but I’ve always enjoyed him onscreen. And he gets some wonderful scenes here, not only in playing a father figure role to Cat, but in angling for his own redemption, to make amends for the people he’s hurt. Yet it’s his attempt to brainwash Liam with the solution he used to brainwash Vincent back in Season 2 that ends up being my favorite of the episode. When Liam, in his drugged state, gets Vincent and Cat confused with Rebecca and Alistair, Reynolds tries his hardest to make Liam forget about Cat altogether. This is his last attempt at protecting her, and you can hear the desperation in his voice when he insists to Liam, “You don’t know Catherine Chandler!” In his way, he loves Cat, and wanted to save her. Unfortunately, things don’t go exactly according to plan.
Yes, this is the episode that’s piled up with death — and, strangely enough, unemployment. Cat is under investigation by Internal Affairs for confronting Helen Ellingsworth at the gala last week, while Vincent is on suspension after Liam poisons Helen, arranges for Vincent to be her doctor, then alters Helen’s allergy charts so Vincent won’t know that she’s deathly allergic to the medicine he’s giving her. In essence, Liam manipulates Vincent into unknowingly killing Helen for him. But why? Well, as Vincent eventually learns, Liam was planning on gathering every living Ellingsworth together for Helen’s funeral in order to murder them all simultaneously with a single bomb. It’s a circuitous plan, and as over-the-top as any Bond villain, but it makes a strange sort of sense.
If nothing else, there’s a certain poignancy to Liam’s roguish commitment to fulfilling his vendetta against his ancestors for the sins of his father, who abandoned Liam 150 years ago for being a beast. But the outcome of the plan is a bit of a “good news/bad news” ordeal. The bad news is that Vincent was unable to stop Helen’s death. The good news is that he and Cat are able to stop the bomb before it detonates and kills all the Ellingsworths. The worst news of all, however, is that while they’re saving the day, Liam has escaped his bonds and murdered Reynolds. I mean, somebody had to die eventually, and it made all the sense in the world for it to be Reynolds, which is why I’m glad Ted Whittall got to have such a solid episode to go out on, given the minimal amount of screentime he’s had this season. Cat’s reaction also really made me wish the show had spent more time building more of a father-daughter kinship between Cat and Reynolds. Then again, this serves as a bit of a parallel to Cat coming to terms with hating her mother, and realizing (all too late) just how much time she spent on hate. I genuinely though Cat weeping over her biological father’s mutilated body was one of the most haunting images of the season, and it’s something that’s going to stick with me for a while, honestly.
But, as with any story of this magnitude, certain things end up getting sacrificed in service to the larger story arc. And one of those things has been the romance, and it’s something that becomes evident here in ways it hadn’t been evident to me before.
Granted, the lack of romance was never something I noticed until you guys started pointing it out in the comments and through tweets over the past couple weeks. In short, the argument can be (and has been) made that this is the least romantic season of Beauty and the Beast yet. For instance, there’s been a lot of talk about how love saves all. Hell, even tonight, Vincent gets a throwaway line about how the only thing keeping him sane is Cat’s love. But there’s a considerable gap between showing and telling, and I can see how, for a lot of fans, these episodes have been telling us how in love Vincent and Cat are without really showing us. There haven’t really been any grand romantic gestures since the season premiere, when Vincent finally proposed after what’s felt like an eternity spent worrying about what love triangle they’re going to get thrown into next. That was a cathartic moment, because it felt — once again — like the culmination of a journey, the grand moment where we finally got to see something we feared would never happen, for two characters whose romance has essentially made the show what it is.
And yet, since then, we’ve actually gotten far more romance out of J.T. and Tess. Case in point, in tonight’s episode, Tess tries to help J.T. cross things off of his bucket list (in particular, a gloriously silly scene in which J.T. gets to fulfill his dream of playing professional hockey by taking the charity shot at halftime of a major hockey game). Sure, J.T. gets mad when he recognizes what Tess is doing, but the argument is grounded with the understanding that these two people love each other, and that J.T. still appreciates the actions Tess is taking to display that love. But Vincent and Cat don’t get those sorts of lighthearted scenes where they simply get to be a couple. It’s a byproduct of the story being told, since Vincent and Cat are far too busy, and the situation with Liam is far too severe, to allow for these types of grand romantic gestures. They can have a candlelight dinner here or there, or head off to a bar to drink wine (like they do at the end of this episode), but it feels like their love has to be minimized in service of moving the plot forward. And I can absolutely understand why that’s rubbed so many viewers the wrong way.
With that said, the counterargument would be that Vincent and Cat don’t need big romantic gestures, because they’re demonstrating their love every week by fighting this hard to be together in the first place. But that’s an argument that relies on the viewer believing that this storyline is the best possible approach the show could have taken, and many fans are divided on whether this is the case or not. I’m sure plenty of people would have preferred a return to a more straightforward, Season 1-type plot that simply allowed Vincent and Cat to be a couple without having the weight of destiny on their shoulders. However, their relationship has always been fraught with peril. In fact, the romance is as strong as it is because…well, for the most part, nothing has gone right for them. They’ve had to fight, tooth and nail, for every inch of happiness they’ve got. This entire season was built on the concept of destiny, and the notion that Vincent and Cat were always meant for something bigger. But I would also argue that this season has been as much about Vincent and Cat fighting for their “happily ever after” as anything having to do with Liam or destiny.
While the old VinCat dynamic is something a lot of fans long for, it makes a certain kind of sense for the narrative to withhold the return to that dynamic, since it puts us in Vincent and Cat’s position. We want them to go back to being that lovey-dovey couple as much as they want to, and so we root for them even harder. You could argue about whether or not this approach works, but I do think it’s a valid one for the show to take. I’m still on the fence about how I feel. I suppose I’ll take the two weeks between now and the season finale (ugh, really, CW?) to mull it over some more. All I know is that I really enjoyed “Sins of the Fathers”, and I’m looking forward to the season finale, because it feels like a mixture of “too good to be true” stories and “too awful to consider” possibilities. For instance, J.T. is gradually getting better thanks to Liam’s blood, but Liam is still on the loose, so he could easily keep on killing, unabated, particularly now that he has nothing to lose (the Ellingsworth plan was ruined by Vincent and Cat, and he’s being foiled by shadows of the same people who nearly stopped him 150 years ago). Vincent and Cat are as uncertain in their future as ever, and the possibilities left to them, and to the series, remain exciting, in my opinion.
But what did you think of Beauty and the Beast, “Sins of the Fathers”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on Beauty and the Beast, check out my review of last week’s compelling episode, “Unbreakable”!
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