DISCLAIMER: Before I break into this preview article, please note that this is actually the first episode of Beauty and the Beast that I have seen in several weeks; and thus, my opinions might be different from someone who has been watching on a week-to-week basis. It also mean I might get some facts wrong, and if I do, please go easy on me, okay? Now with that out of the way...
Last week, The CW hosted a screening of the midseason finale of Beauty and the Beast, which airs tonight (November 25) at 9PM on the network. It is no secret that ratings have not been what they were in the first season -- there's the loss of The Vampire Diaries lead-in, and Monday nights are tough in general competition-wise, especially with new players like Sleepy Hollow coming in. Despite being shows with very active fan bases, the audiences for BATB and it's lead-in Hart of Dixie have not been the improvements that the network has seen on some other nights. Perhaps if some more viewers know the show is on -- and can read some impressions to know if it's worth watching -- things can go up in the second half of the season.
Creatively, there is a bit to like about what Brad Kern has done with the show. He holds the distinction of being the Lois & Clark writer I liked the most in their fourth and final season; when he took over Charmed, he managed to keep the show alive through its eighth season. Having more characters like Tess in on what Vincent truly is makes for an improved and more coherent show, I think; putting a face on an enemy, as Ted Whittall's Reynolds does, makes the threat so much more real than Muirfield. Characters like Gabe and J.T. being more of a part of the story also is a good thing, as I enjoy both Sendhil Ramamurthy and Austin Basis a lot. There are some things I'm not too fond of, either: Again, although he gets that feral rage and "Beasts out," Jay Ryan as Vincent doesn't even have his scar anymore, and feels more like a Hulk-werewolf-beast than the kind of character that Ron Perlman played 20+ years ago. Also, although it added complications to the Vincent-Catherine relationship, and conflict keeps a series going, giving Vincent amnesia for the first part of the season seems to have given the show a reset and is probably frustrating for those who saw the journey beginning last year. I'm still glad to see Kristin Kreuk in a more adult role than Lana Lang, and I like her character more now that the procedural/cop aspect of the show is diminished. Being a Smallville fan, seeing Kristin Kreuk on TV again also makes me happy, though I'm still waiting for some of her Smallville co-stars to guest on BATB sometime.
Anyway. I promised "five things" about tonight's episode, right? Getting to that:
1. "She-Beast." That's what the fans seem to be calling Tori. I've never seen Amber Skye Noyes in anything before this, and while I know the fans ... aren't too fond of Tori ... I actually like the actress a lot. The show seemed to have done the same thing last year, too, casting Bridget Regan, who I love, as another distraction to the show's romance.
With "Man or Beast?" I don't see Tori to be as much of a romantic foil as I see her as a challenge for the kind of man (or beast) that Vincent wants to be. It's like being in a relationship and suddenly seeing someone who opens a side of you that might be a little bit fun; a temptation. Vincent and Tori see themselves in an explosive situation, and we learn an affect they have on one another here, but no matter if it's romantic or not, Tori causes conflict. I'm okay with personal conflict as long as the soap opera stuff is left at the door, because from what I'm reading on the message forums, the notion of romance will turn a lot of the remaining viewers off.
2. Conflict. Both Vincent and Tori have beastly ways of wanting to deal with people like Reynolds. Cat, who has recently reunited with her father, even though she obviously doesn't like him, does not have the same ideas on how to bring him to justice. While Vincent and Tori might be okay with killing the guy, Cat thinks that killing will send Vincent on a route that he should not go down.
3. Bob Reynolds. As I mentioned before, I like that a face is given to the enemy here, and Bob Reynolds is portrayed in this episode as someone who doesn't think he's the bad guy. He wants to protect his daughter from this "beast." Yes, he doesn't have the nicest ways of trying to eliminate the problem, but there you go. Will his story be over tonight, or will it be a Reynolds wrap? Watch and see. One thing's for sure: He's added a lot to the show this season.
4. Yep, it's a mid-season finale. So, expect some character moments that will keep you talking for weeks/months until the show inevitably returns in 2014. Something happens that shocked me as an audience member, and again, like the Tori thing, it will cause some conflict. And again, conflict makes for good drama but if you're watching for the romance, you might find yourself unhappy tonight.
5. What's next? I will say this, like the season premiere, did keep me curious about what happens next. I do hope The CW re-airs these first eight episodes of BATB before episode #2.9 airs, so people can be all caught up before the show returns. It's a journey, and there may be those viewer frustrations that I mentioned, but it's still a journey worth being curious about and rooting for.
Beauty and the Beast airs tonight (November 25) at 9PM on The CW. Here are some promo images from tonight's show: