‘Beauty and the Beast’ Review: Strong Performances Anchor ‘Both Sides Now’
Recap and review of Beauty and the Beast – Season 3 Episode 7 – Both Sides Now:
On Beauty and the Beast, right and wrong are relative terms. More often than not, a truly great villain is one who believes what he/she is doing is the right thing, despite all appearances to the contrary. “Both Sides Now” is a turning point for the narrative. Even more so than the Season 2 finale, the end of the episode had me wondering…So what happens now?
For a lot of other shows, that would be distressing, but I like the notion that Beauty and the Beast is wrapping up one of its major arcs at a little past the halfway point of its season. Granted, “wrapping up” is probably the wrong word for it, since I don’t have any particular expectation that this is the end of the threat Vincent (Jay Ryan) and Cat (Kristin Kreuk) neutralized here. But there’s something to be said for how neatly everything came together. No matter what comes next, Vincent and Cat are stronger for having gone through all this, and that is reflected in their respective character growths. In fact, everyone in this cast is changing in ways both big and small, as the effects of their weekly adventures are beginning to take their toll. And that has resulted in some genuinely terrific performances. Kristin Kreuk and Jay Ryan are absolutely killing it this season, in different ways. Both characters are driven by the desperation to normalcy, and while that might seem like a simplification of what they’re going through, it’s representative of the drama they’re facing this season. Vincent and Cat aren’t fighting to save the world; not entirely. They’re fighting for their own future, and for the future of the people they care about.
As a result, we get a Cat who’s more aggressive and active in taking down threats, as she is tonight when she comes up with the elopement plan to lure their stalker away from their family and friends. And we get a Vincent who’s a bit more reticent, as he was here tonight, worrying about Cat’s plan and its implications for their relationship. On the one hand, Vincent objecting so strongly to fake-eloping feels wildly out of character. On the other hand, Ryan finds a way to reconcile this character divergence in the monologue where Vincent explains what his parents’ wedding meant to them, and how badly he wants that for himself and Cat. I kind of hated this development at first, if only because it felt like such a departure for Vincent, a writerly way to create drama. But, as with any issue I might have, the performances save it. Ryan really had me believing in Vincent’s struggle, and how torn he was between duty and love, two ideas that — while not mutually exclusive — are very different in the situation applied here. Vincent is unsettled by how Cat seems so willing to use their love as a tool to take down their enemies, whereas Vincent sees their love as sacred.
For Vincent, their love isn’t tactical, and to use it in such a fashion, to throw away the moments they’re working so hard to secure for themselves (a wedding, exchanging vows, sharing their first kiss as husband and wife) is understandably upsetting. And yet, I can see where Cat is coming from too. If they don’t stop their enemies, they aren’t going to have a future to look forward to at all. For Cat, this isn’t about disrespecting what she and Vincent have, it’s about protecting it. It’s a wonderful new wrinkle to both character, since I haven’t always pegged Vincent as a romantic, and I haven’t always viewed Cat as being so coldly pragmatic. But this internal struggle between doing one’s duty and protecting the future that they’ve been longing for is one of the more surprisingly compelling elements of the episode. One of my favorite moments is Vincent storming out of the fake elopement because “We were about to speak the vows!” It seems absolutely ludicrous when you consider they have a stalker after them, but it’s not that silly when you think about the future Vincent is fighting for, and what he’s trying to protect. He and Cat are only going to be married once, and he wants it to be the right way, because what the hell have they been fighting for if they can just go to Niagara Falls and get it done in fifteen minutes? More than anything else about “Both Sides Now”, I liked how, despite the overarching mystery taking center stage, it remained largely an episode focused on character. The season isn’t over yet, but these characters already feel like they’re in a vastly different place than they were six episodes ago. And that speaks volumes of just how far they’ve come in such a short span of time. Hell, it’s as good an argument as any for the more streamlined focus of this shorter season.
With that said, this was far from a perfect episode, as there was actually a lot I didn’t like about it. Naturally, these are issues that are expected when you’re dealing with a story that’s half-finished, so maybe subsequent episodes will allay my concerns. But this week, it felt like certain plot developments and motivations were all over the place, and it ended up being really frustrating. So let’s get to it…
For one, it seems to me that the threat of the season so far has been rendered kind of toothless by the events of this episode. We learn that the person behind the experimentations is a woman named Julianna (Gloria Votsis), who captures Heather (Nicole Gale Anderson) by posing as the head of a fashion/PR agency (or was it a magazine? All I know is, this was basically The Devil Wears Prada, writ small). Julianna claims the experiments are being performed in order to stop an even bigger threat, a mysterious enemy whom she doesn’t name. In making her point, she has Vincent and Cat captured with the help of her hooded henchman (Alexander Cendese) from the cliffhanger at the end of last week’s episode. She then has Vincent and Cat strapped down to chairs facing one another. It’s at this point that Julianna pulls out a syringe filled with the failed strain of the serum. If Cat doesn’t reveal who she’s working for, she’s going to jam that syringe in Vincent’s neck and kill him. Luckily, J.T. (Austin Basis) arrives on the scene, jumpstarts Vincent with a shot of adrenaline, and…well, Cat absolutely loses it on Julianna (but more on that later). So that’s the story so far, which is all well and good, except for several details that are utterly perplexing in the grand scheme of things.
1) Julianna tries to blackmail Cat into telling her who she’s working for, but Julianna already seems to have her suspicions that Cat was sent by the unnamed enemy who’s out to stop her experiments. However, instead of naming that enemy so Cat can either confirm or deny her suspicions, Julianna instead keeps grilling her with the same question over and over again. “Who sent you?” Basically, Julianna isn’t threatening Vincent so Cat will give her information. She’s threatening Vincent so Cat will give her confirmation of what she already suspects. This is ridiculous, if only because nothing changes for Julianna if Cat confirms her suspicions. Whoever is trying to stop her will still be out there, trying to stop her. She already knows this. So why question Cat for information on who she’s working for, and not on some other information she might be more willing to dole out? Maybe on the nature of beasts or proto-beast DNA? Those seem like more valuable questions to ask than simply asking “Who sent you?” over and over again.
Gloria Votsis does a good job with the relatively thin character, but Juliana’s ineptitude also makes the character come across as less formidable as a villain, since she’s ultimately wrong about who sent Cat and Vincent anyway, showing she’s either paranoid, at best, or a complete idiot, at worst. If her enemy is really as bad as she says he is, then Julianna should probably have deduced that the things Vincent and Cat have been doing (capturing the beasts and trying to rehabilitate them, and only killing in self-defense or in defense of others) were incompatible with the horrible reputation this bad guy apparently has.
But okay, let’s just pretend none of this is an issue, that it doesn’t matter who Vincent or Cat supposedly work for. It still leaves one major question…
2) Why the hell was Vincent so important if you were just going to kill him?! Granted, J.T. busts through and saves Vincent before we can find out whether or not Julianna would actually have gone through with injecting him, but the fact that she’d threaten to kill him at all seems incongruous with the goals she’s had for the past six episodes. How many times did Bob and Carol theorize that Vincent might finally be the beast their boss is looking for? How many times did Bob, Carol, and this henchman from tonight’s episode promise Julianna they’d bring him in alive? All of those hints suggested that Vincent was somehow part of a bigger plan, whether it be through his proto-beast DNA, his unmatched skills as a beast, or some other facet of his abilities. In short, it’s Vincent whom Julianna seems to be after. It’s Vincent whom Julianna seems to have bigger plans for, while Cat is just someone she can threaten so Vincent will behave. Hell, her henchman captures Cat and threatens her in order to get Vincent to come quietly. Yet, tonight, Julianna seems completely unconcerned with Vincent. Instead, her attentions are focused on Cat, and it’s Vincent who’s being used as a tool to get Cat to talk. So what was the point then? Seems to me that Julianna was upset that Vincent and Cat (and the person she believes they’re working for) are ruining her plans. So why not just have them killed? Why did she need Vincent alive? Why did she need Cat at all, other than to use her as leverage against Vincent…a tactic she never actually tries? This character makes no sense, and it bugs the hell out of me.
Ultimately, I suppose we’ll see where this is headed, since the arc isn’t actually done yet. For one, Julianna is still alive. And secondly, and perhaps most importantly, we don’t know who Julianna’s enemy is. Who is this man who is supposedly worse than she is? The man that’s so bad that she had to resort to these wild experiments to try and stop him? Literally all we know about him is that he’s male. So I guess we still have a big bad out there somewhere, although one whose interests align with Vincent and Cat’s. But enough about what I didn’t like, as there were still elements of this episode that I absolutely loved.
The climax of the episode is my favorite of the season so far. J.T. gets to play the hero, Heather gets to join in (it bears repeating that I’m a little bit in love with Nicole Gale Anderson), and both Cat and Vincent actually get pushed to the tipping point. Vincent straight up MURDERS the henchman, snapping his neck and leaving him as a wide-eyed corpse on the laboratory floor, while Cat goes BERSERK on Julianna, punching her repeatedly until her face is nothing but a bloody, mashed facade. This time, it’s Vincent who has to pull Cat back from the brink as Cat must look inward and question just what she’s become. It’s a brilliant reversal of the standard BATB climax, and it puts Cat in a situation where she can better understand what Vincent has to go through every time he beasts out. Sure, Cat didn’t beast out herself, but you can’t tell me that rage she felt wasn’t similarly intoxicating and overpowering. She nearly murdered another human being, with no remorse or restraint. And while one might argue Julianna absolutely deserved what Cat dished out, that goes against the principle of what Cat has been doing these past six episodes. She’s been trying to do it all by the book, in the right way. To see Cat come so close to losing herself, it was both scary and exhilarating. And it looped into a pretty powerful ending, as Vincent and Cat reaffirm their love for one another, and commit to the future they want for each other. It’s all well-done, and it plays as an inversion of the other big relationship development this week.
Yes, J.T. and Tess (Nina Lisandrello) are no more. Even more than the VinCat storyline, I found this to be the most emotionally complex story of the week, although not for the reasons you might expect. In short, Tess feels as though J.T. doesn’t care about the sacrifices she’s making to keep him safe, since she’s got the Police Chief breathing down her neck over the police detail she’s put with J.T. and Heather. She can’t tell the Chief why they need the detail without exposing the beast problem, so Tess has already got her hands full here. But J.T. and Heather are both undermining what Tess is trying to do for them. Heather dismisses her police detail (and quickly gets captured), while J.T. tries to run away from his, getting arrested in the process. This is without even bringing up how J.T. sneaks into Tess’s office to use her security clearance to help Vincent on the case, without her permission. So Tess feels neglected and disrespected, and it’s hard to blame her for those feelings. When Tess comes to break up with him at the end of the episode, she declares that she needs someone who will put her first. She admits that this is selfish of her, since J.T. actually did save the day with everything he did. But she just can’t let go of the fact that he put the case (and Vincent) before her.
What I loved about this story was that neither side is wrong. J.T. was being really inconsiderate of her feelings and the sacrifices she was making for their relationship, and for J.T.’s safety. And yet…well, what exactly was J.T. supposed to do? Had he not gotten away from his security detail, had he not used Tess’s computer, and had he not put Vincent’s case first, Vincent and Cat would both be dead, and Heather along with them. I can understand Tess wanting J.T. to prioritize their relationship, but it’s not as if J.T. was putting Vincent ahead of her for no reason. Had there been no crisis at all, I would have sided with Tess more. But as J.T. states, he’s trying to solve this case so they don’t have to hide anymore. So they can be safe, and return to their normal lives. He wants to solve this so Tess can get back to being Captain, to tackling the “real cases” she has piling up on her desk, while putting this whole beast nonsense behind her, once and for all. There’s no question that J.T. could have handled the whole situation better (asking Tess for permission to use her security clearance, actually listening to her while she expressed her concerns, etc.), but I don’t see how J.T. is objectively wrong in wanting to keep his friends safe.
Naturally, this turmoil results in a scene that was among my favorite of the episode, largely because you could see how each character’s respective feelings of “rightness” charged the actors’ performances. Lisandrello plays Tess as someone who wishes things could turn out another way, yet she’s also kind of bitter about the necessity of what J.T. has done. In some small way, Tess knows she’s wrong for chiding J.T. for being a hero, yet she’s also right in how she assesses his shortcomings as a boyfriend. He’s been inconsiderate and disrespectful, and that — more than the whole “putting Vincent first” deal — is what caused this breakup. Meanwhile, Basis plays J.T. as someone who’s absolutely floored by this. My favorite performances tend to be ones where you can see a characters entire thought process behind their eyes. And so it was here. You could slowly begin to see, through Basis’s eyes, the gradual process by which J.T. realizes he’s getting dumped. His smugness over having saved the day quickly gives way to panic and desperation. Basis’s performance is colored by disbelief, as J.T. struggles to figure out how, exactly, this could be happening. And Lisandrello’s interpretation isn’t far off, although her expression of disbelief is colored more by disappointment than anything else. Tess can’t believe she’s going through with this, but she’s made peace with the necessity of it. This was an absolutely devastating scene, and the one that stuck with me the most after the episode ended.
“Both Sides Now” is a real mixed bag, as there were moments I hated, mixed in with moments that proved to be my favorite of the season so far. This was an episode largely carried by the ensemble, and that’s enough for a thumbs up from me. But I imagine this will be a pretty divisive episode among the fanbase, as it wavered from one extreme to the next. I’m really fascinated with the narrative though, as I’m genuinely curious to see where they go from here. I honestly have no idea what’s ahead, and I can only imagine that the big bad is someone we’ve met before. Maybe Agent Reynolds? I can’t tell. But even if the new villain isn’t someone we’ve met before, I trust the show to be able to stick the landing, at least more so than they did with Julianna. And that’s something to look forward to, in my opinion.
But what did you think of Beauty and the Beast, “Both Sides Now”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on Beauty and the Beast, check out my review of last week’s emotional episode, “Chasing Ghosts”!
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Thank you for reading!