‘Beauty and the Beast’ Review: ‘Unbreakable’ Delivers Biggest Twist Yet
Recap and review of Beauty and the Beast – Season 3 Episode 11 – Unbreakable:
As we near the end of the season, Beauty and the Beast is bringing a lot of its disparate plot threads together, with varying degrees of success. “Unbreakable” features some stirring emotional moments and action-packed scenes, and that alone is enough for a recommendation from me. However, these highlights are coupled with plotlines that don’t make a whole lot of sense.
I suppose part of my issue is how much of the plot is predicated on the audience still not knowing the truth about Liam, despite the fact that only two episodes remain this season. Of course, “Unbreakable” is still anchored by some strong performances, and a pace that kept things from ever slowing down too much. But even now, I’m still trying to figure out how I felt about this episode. Maybe I’ll piece it together by the end of this review.
Last week, I praised Beauty and the Beast for showing restraint in information has been revealed about Liam. Yet there’s something vaguely anticlimactic about how we learn the truth about him this week. I mean, the reveal that Liam is the Beast from 1854 is arguably the show’s biggest twist yet. But there’s something matter-of-fact about the revelation, like the characters are surprised, but not really that surprised. I can’t quite put my finger on why this didn’t work, because I don’t know what I would have done differently beyond having it be more of a huge “HOLY CRAP!” reveal. I suppose it would have helped to know that Liam was the Beast from 1854 earlier in the season, mostly because his initial arrival felt random and unconnected to the threat Cat and Vincent spent half the season battling. I think, in retrospect, Julianna ended up being a redundant character, and took time away from what could have been a season focused on the hunt for Liam, the Beast who’s destined to cross their paths. Granted, I initially liked the mystery of the shadowy threat, but Julianna was ultimately a letdown as a villain. But the world’s oldest Beast? The one that started it all? The one that killed Rebecca and Alistair nearly two hundred years ago? THAT’S a worthy threat, and I think it’s a shame that we got to him so late in the season. A lot of you predicted, both on Twitter and in the comments, that Liam would turn out to be an immortal beast who’s been alive since Rebecca and Alistair’s time, and I loved that idea at the time. Hell, I still love it, because it provides scope to the threat that faces Vincent and Cat. This isn’t a new threat, it’s a threat that is much like the tale of Beauty and the Beast – as old as time. And yet, part of the problem with Liam is that he’s maddeningly vague. Okay, so he’s the Beast from 1854. What does that have to do with anything he’s doing now? The show is building a mystery around his motivations, but they’re waiting too long for the payoff. And that’s problematic, particularly considering how late it is in the season. Then again, I expect that part – or perhaps even all – of the Liam storyline to be cliffhanger’d in the season finale, and carried over into next season. And honestly, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, since it will help Season 4 to have a clearly-defined, overarching villain for the heroes to face right from the premiere. Someone whose identity is known, whose motives are (hopefully, by then) clear, and whose power represents the gravest threat our heroes have faced yet.
But okay, so I wasn’t crazy about how the Liam reveal has been handled. What did I like about “Unbreakable”?
For the most part, everything else.
On the one hand, I don’t know what Liam’s endgame is, but on the other hand, I thought his approach to tonight’s episode was fascinating. His attempt to turn Vincent (Jay Ryan) to the dark side by forcing him to help break into the DHS to steal Alton Finn’s blood sample made for a fun episode, largely because Liam operates as a sort of anti-Cat. For instance, Cat (Kristin Kreuk) can give Vincent something absolutely no one else can: the love to suppress his primal urges and maintain his humanity. However, Liam can provide Vincent with something Cat can’t: knowledge about beasts, and the full extent of the power he might one day possess as one of the few remaining beasts on this Earth (that we know about, anyway). That’s what Liam is offering through his attempts to turn Vincent into his own personal packmate: true kinship. That made the standalone part of this narrative all the more interesting, to me, because this wasn’t simply a case of Vincent fighting his primal urges to maintain his humanity, it was Vincent fighting the very human urge to reach out and be understood in a way he’s never been understood before. Granted, I don’t think there was ever any doubt that Vincent would resist Liam’s temptation, but I still think it’s an engaging storyline nonetheless, since, for all her love and support, Cat can’t really know what it’s like to be a Beast, or to have that burden. She can’t know the immense pull of that power, or how it can overwhelm a person’s system and make them not only want to cross the line, but feel like they need to cross it. Liam, however, can understand. Because he crosses that line, again and again. There isn’t really any humanity left to Liam beyond his own instinct for self-preservation, and the reveal that he was the beast who killed Rebecca and Alistair shows that his beast-to-beast loyalty isn’t exactly something upon which Vincent can depend. But he’s still offering something to Vincent that could be worth exploring. Hell, he might not be able to understand love, or why having love is important for someone looking to survive in a world gone all the more chaotic, but he’s able to understand beasts, at least.
Of course, I say it was a foregone conclusion that Vincent would reject Liam’s attempts to turn him, but that fakeout at the end where it seems like Vincent has chosen to join Liam had me fooled for a minute nonetheless. I could easily see a scenario where Vincent joins Liam in order to protect the ones he loves, while also furthering his knowledge of the origin of proto-beast DNA and what happens to the physiology of a beast over an extended period of time (oh, say, 200 years or so). Liam has a lot to offer Vincent in the knowledge department, perhaps the knowledge to keep them safe for all time. And that notion kept the story from ever feeling implausible, because while it might not make sense that Vincent would turn on his friends in pursuit of evil, it makes plenty of sense that he would turn to the dark side in order to save them.
Naturally, I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I liked Jay Ryan’s depiction of this internal struggle, which I actually think is the highlight of the episode. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: while you could argue Vincent had it worse last season (between Cat shooting him, the whole love square with Tori and Gabe, and the business with the gem), I think this has been a far more difficult season for Vincent, as he struggles to reclaim and maintain his humanity. That’s no easy task, particularly when he’s had as many close calls as he’s had this season. But Ryan continually shows flashes of brilliant duality in his performance, providing a Jekyll and Hyde quality to Vincent’s personality that goes beyond the physical change of man-to-beast.
For all the talk the characters have given about how Vincent and Cat are better together, Vincent is still a character who, for better or worse, views saving the day as his responsibility. That might be Vincent’s biggest flaw, really: his attempts to do it all on his own, to the exclusion of others. And what’s intriguing about this character flaw is that, at some level, I think Vincent realizes this. But he soldiers on anyway, because he has a sort of messiah complex, believing that he’s the only one that can put an end to this. And, frankly, I wouldn’t blame him for thinking that way, considering how the DHS, Liam, Julianna and even Bob and Carol have continually told Vincent that he’s special, and that they need his help, in particular. At a subconscious level, I think he’s starting to believe in his own ability to be the arbiter of change, and it’s causing him to risk too much. Hell, his fight with Liam is awesome, but it feels reckless in a way Vincent wouldn’t have been if Cat were around, considering the sensitive nature of the situation (I mean, come on, Vincent. Do you really want to be fighting in a DHS facility, where there might be cameras? And do you really want to wait until the last minute to escape from said facility when an entire SWAT team is right outside the door?). Ryan’s performance wonderfully illustrates that while Vincent has a firm grip on his humanity, thanks to his absolute certainty in his love for Cat, he’s still prone to lapses that mark just how far he still needs to go, despite how far he’s come already.
One of the other things I really enjoyed this week is how the reveal about Liam further highlights the destiny arc that has been carrying through this season. I’ve had my issues with the notion that Vincent and Cat were always destined to be together and were always destined to fight this fight, since it calls into question just how much of any of this was their choice. But the reality is that this is one of the more focused season-long arcs in the show’s run, as everything has been subtly tying into the notion that Vincent and Cat were meant for greater things, to succeed where their ancestors failed. That’s a poignant story, and it still doesn’t negate the very real choices Vincent and Cat have had to make as a couple. Sure, they might have been destined to team up to stop Liam, but that doesn’t mean they’re destined to love each other. Rather, they made that choice, and they’re both stronger for having made it. It’s a storyline that also carries into the lovely subplot between J.T. (Austin Basis) and Tess (Nina Lisandrello). Learning that J.T. is slowly dying from serum poisoning isn’t anything new, but the storyline is propped up by two major developments: 1) J.T. finds the gem from last season, so they now have a means of containing Liam’s power, and 2) Tess discovers that J.T. is not long for this world.
The first development fits into the broader story arc about the fight against Liam, whereas the second one tells a smaller, more personal story, in which J.T. comes to grips with his own mortality, while getting introspective about the reasons Tess loves him. I actually found it incredibly bittersweet that J.T. assumed Tess only loved him because he’d developed superpowers and had acted more manly as a result. In a way, J.T. is the opposite of Vincent in the romance department. While they’re both loved by two beautiful women, J.T. is nowhere near as confident in that love as Vincent is in his. He keeps expecting the other shoe to drop at any moment, for Tess to either abandon him, or to end up getting hurt as a result of something he did/didn’t do (in this case, keeping the secret of his serum poisoning from her). His idea of protecting the people he loves is to push them away, and it’s heartbreaking to see him admit that he isn’t sure Tess would have loved him if not for the changes he’d undergone. It’s a powerful scene that had gravity thanks to Basis and, in particular, Lisandrello. It isn’t just that Tess is shocked by J.T.’s admission, she seems downright offended, as if to ask how he could possibly think she only loved him for his powers. It’s such a wonderful reaction, and perfectly in line with the character, because in her point-of-view, J.T.’s pity party is undermining all the very real sacrifices she’s made for him (she put her career on the line to keep a detail on him, for crying out loud!). J.T. boiling it all down to an infatuation with sudden manliness is incredibly reductive, and Tess was right to be indignant about it. Lisandrello’s tearful lashing out is the perfect response for Tess, as is Basis suddenly realizing how wrong he was. The way J.T. grabs Tess’s hand and starts kissing it once she breaks down illustrates the reversal of his position, and the realization that he deeply offended her. It’s an apologetic action from J.T., but also one of love, since — for all his attempts to push her away — he clearly doesn’t want to lose Tess. It’s an effective story that I really enjoyed.
While “Unbreakable” was ultimately a bit of a mixed bag for me, I think there was far more to like than dislike. As we head towards an uncertain season finale, Beauty and the Beast is connecting the dots. Maybe it would have helped to get to some of these revelations sooner, or maybe it would have harmed the pacing of the narrative. It’s hard to know, and I suppose we never will. But I think what we’ve been getting is a far more focused, tightly-plotted season-long arc overall, even in spite of the bumps in the road here and there. And that alone has made this season worth the ride.
But what did you think of Beauty and the Beast, “Unbreakable”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on Beauty and the Beast, check out my review of last week’s compelling episode, “Patient X”!
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