Saturday, October 13, 2012

Beauty and the Beast, Season 1, Episode 1

  In a flashback to 2003 we have Catherine Chandler, the protagonist, working in a bar, clearing things up, saying goodbye to her friend, lamenting the practice tests she has waiting for her at home – nicely setting up who she is. She gets in her car to drive home – and it won’t start, she has to call her mother for help. She comes running and we get to see that they’re very close.

Then a car drives up and out get 2 men with guns. Catherine’s mother tells her to get in the car – and the men shoot her mother. Catherine runs, the men chasing her through the woods until she trips and falls, hitting her head and stunning herself. They pause dramatically over her prone form while she begs – and then something leaps out of the wood, a man who roars and growls and claws. Through fuzzy eyes she looks up and sees a man with a bestial face and yellow eyes.

The voice over kicks in – everyone told her that she imagined what she saw, that it was a wolf or a coyote because of her concussion and PTSD and she believed them

Cut to the present day New York and she’s a homicide detective with relationship difficulties with Zeke, her boyfriend, who has issues with her job and he has a new girlfriend, since she didn’t get his break up text. Yes, text - classy man. She gets security to frisk him for having cannabis as some measure of revenge.

From there she’s called to a murder where she gets to talk about the bad men she dates with Tess Vargas, her partner. There’s a body in a hotel, a woman with most her stuff stolen but an expensive handbag left behind. They talk to their boss, Joe Bishop, confirming that the dead woman was a fashion editor for a fashion magazine and her husband, Alex Webster, is a well known fashion photographer. And they have finger prints from a button.

At the station they get a hit on the print – Vincent Keller, no prior crimes, he’s a military doctor – and is listed as having died in Afghanistan in 2002. They pull up his file, all family is also listed as dead – and Catherine zones out looking at his picture. She comes to her senses when Tess grabs her to go to the hospital where he worked before he joined the military.

At the hospital they learned that Vincent joined the military after 9/11, he largely kept to himself – but that he did have a room-mate, JT Thorbes. They track him to an abandoned building. He is living there, having converted part of the place into an apartment to live in (messily) and he also thinks Vincent is dead – and that he has no reason to fake his death. But while they’re there someone watches them from upstairs, hiding. Catherine wants to look around but JT claims he has a class to teach and he’s leaving. When they leave he goes upstairs to see Vincent who is hiding, demanding to know what he did. Vincent shows him an old newspaper about Catherine being rescued as a teenager from a beast and says “that was her.”

They have a very revealing argument which is a rather elegant info dump. Vincent went out because the woman was in trouble, breaking his rules. He lives inside, never going out, never interacting, though he’s beginning to find it like a prison. JT and he were working on a cure for his condition – but Vincent has given up believing it is impossible. Also there’s someone out there who will kill them if he knows Vincent is alive – and Vincent has been “keeping tabs on” (we call it stalking) Catherine.

Checking in with the flirty Medical Examinar, Evan Marks, Catherine learns that the head injury probably wouldn’t have killed the victim, that there was a rash on her that indicated poisoning, that she had low oxygenation – but no sign of any kind ligature or strangulation. And that there’s signs someone tried to perform CPR on her, and he finds a hair as well. But the DNA is corrupted – it shows animal/human DNA.

Talking to the ex-husband and work colleagues of the victim they find that maybe the Beauty editor resented her new promotion. And Catherine looks through CCTV footage at home (next to her totally-not-an-obsession wall of information on the death of her mother) and sees a car near where the victim was attacked that she saw at JT’s abandoned factory. Time for a road trip the next day, lying about having a warrant she searches the building and finds – Vincent.

He says he didn’t kill her, he saw she was in difficulty and, since he’s a doctor, he tried to resuscitate her. He knew she’d been poisoned, he could smell it – on cue, Evan the medical examiner rings Catherine to tell her that the woman had been poisoned with nicotine. She needs him as a witness – because of the hair with the cross-species DNA that matches the one found at her mother’s murder, this is when she sees the newspaper article about her mother’s death and her rescue by a “beast”. That’s when Tess shows up and Catherine covers for Vincent, pretending she found nothing.

After an update with the boss, Catherine distracts attention from Vincent, focusing in the poison that can be absorbed through the skin though it would take several hours. Time to return to the magazine and see the Beauty Editor who was passed over for the promotion – and who is in charge of all the beauty product samples people use. Some more illicit searching goes on to find a pregnancy test and Catherine gets a phone call

She’s called the FBI agent who handled her mother’s murder who has been transferred. Now she gets to meet Agent Mcleary with her matching DNA on the hair. They meet in a subway station. And he attacks her with a knife – with 2 bystanders backing him. It’s a really nicely done fight scene, perhaps a bit artsy (blood on the camera, really?) but she ends up thrown on the rails facing 2 remaining attackers – and Vincent shows up again and, out of sight, we get more roaring and clawing. He dumps the bodies on the tracks and then runs down the tunnel. She chases him screaming – and he has to rescue her from a train, pushing her against a wall, his face returning to normal before she sees him.

Back to his place where he avoids answering questions the best he can, but he explains his origins. He joined up after 9/11 when 2 of his brothers were in the towers, too angry to question he joined a special project, with special “medication” which changed their DNA to make them into super-soldiers, super senses, strength, speed – but when their adrenaline surged it also made them into uncontrollable beasts. The project was terminated – and so were the people. He escaped but he still saves people. She still wants to know why it involved her mother – he says he doesn’t know and the agent on the platform was from the group experimenting on him. He says to leave and not come back.

Back to work, Tess is irritated that Catherine hasn’t called and Evan is unhappy about her missing her date with her – but the investigation continues more new leads more red herrings. I’m kind of glad with this – the police side of the show is really well done – not everything falls neatly into place, it’s not linear, there are false leads and side tracks and possibles on possibles.

The bodies on the subway get picked up by the FBI with lots of ominous undertones and one guy giving Catherine a not-very-veiled threat about meddling. She goes to Vincent who tells her to back off and not get involved but she’s determined to get some information on her mother – Vincent loses his temper and shows off his super strength and roaring at her to leave.

Back to the job again and Catherine solves it – putting the numbers together she realises it’s one of the women the victim’s husband is sleeping with. He told them he couldn’t divorce his wife because of a pre-nup that meant he’d lose everything if he cheated – it was a lie. Tess talks to Catherine about the secrecy she’s been showing and assures her Tess will support her even if she doesn’t want to talk. Evan shows up for more flirting and tells her that there were 6 more samples with the same corrupted cross species DNA – which he puts down to faulty equipment.

She goes to see Vincent again, assuring him that he’s not a monster if he has tried to save 6 other people. That he saved her life. That he’s a good man. He tells her that whoever killed her mother was deliberately tracking her – not Catherine, actually tracking her mother.

Ok first episode thoughts – I like it. I like the story, I like the concept (yes not entirely original, Dark Angel did it first and did it better and I doubt they were the very first) and I think it’s going to be interesting. We have a lot of characters and I don’t hate any of them and more than a few are interesting. Their interactions with each other also seem quite natural and human – Tess and Catherine bounce off each other well, but I would like them to talk about something that isn’t work or men. Both seem like capable, fun characters without Mary Sueness or Spunkiness.

I also liked the police procedure, it seemed pretty real. I mentioned it above but I liked that there wasn’t a simple answer, there were lots of pieces that needed to be put together, there were lots of elements, red herrings, blind alleys – I hope that continues.

It was also very good on racial inclusion – Catherine is Mixed Race and we saw her Asian mother. Tess is Latina and their boss, Joe, is a Black man. Also many of the minor parts during the show, people they ran into, were also POC. We’ll see what other inclusion develops during the season.

Ok, the downside… I always feel a little mean for saying this but… the acting? Maybe they’ll grow into the roles a little more but for me their acting was a bit flat in the first episode