Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Beauty and the Beast, Season 2, Episode 1: Who Am I?

So after the grand cliffhanger of the last season, where will we pick up from here? And, more pointedly, will this season actually make sense without convoluted plot twists forcing the story along? Have they cut off the writer’s copious alcohol supplies? Has Vincent mastered a facial expression beyond earnest and tortured? Will Tess discover it’s possible to have a conversation that isn’t about men? Will J.T. leave when he finally finds out he may be the best actor on the show but is doomed to be Vincent’s side-kick because Vincent looks better without a shirt?

So many questions!

And we open with Catherine surrounded by the debris of a prolonged search. She dreams about losing Vincent and the death of Gabe – and her then successfully resuscitating him. What? I would call retcon shenanigans but since it means Gabe is likely to appear shirtless again this season I shall withhold my disapproval in the name of the greater good. She wakes up and calls JT for more leads – at 5:00am, and she only called him 8 hours ago. This more than a little scary, obsessive behaviour has apparently been going in for 3 months. The conversation is used for an epic recap of many facts including the recent death of Catherine’s father. As far as info-dumps go, it was pretty natural considering the huge nature of it.

At work Tess tries very gently to talk to Catherine about her being AWOL looking for Vincent – especially since they had so many of their cases overturned they have a lot of work to do and, while Tess is totally on Catherine’s side, she’d kinda like to know when Catherine is going to do her job again. Tess talks about how her obsession can be dangerous – relating it to Joe whose obsession with finding his brother’s killer led to him being fired and him no longer being Tess’s boyfriend (more exposition! And an explanation for his character’s absence. Written off in the downtime, ouch).

Gabe’s turn – he’s apparently in charge now with Joe gone and Catherine laces into him in a pre-emptive defence of her slacking (and she’s totally playing the “I saved your life” card), when she lets him get a word in edgewise he tells her JT has found Vincent –and shows her a grainy CCTV picture.

They hurry to JT who points out he said it “MIGHT” be Vincent – and his facial recognition software doesn’t think it is. JT and Gabe snark gloriously, taking into account the fact that, until recently, Gabe was trying to kill Vincent (and Gabe is, apparently, no longer a Beast) and therefore not JT’s favourite person (or as JT puts it “do we even like you?”). Catherine decides to rush to the rescue of the man being carried by goons anyway, on the off chance it is Vincent. And if it isn’t, saving someone from goons is generally a good guy thing to do.

On the way she accidentally calls Heather and she joins the chorus of people who are worried about Catherine – and reminds Catherine she promised to turn up at a tribute their father’s law firm was throwing for the man (apparently naming him partner. I assume this is posthumous, or maybe they have zombie partners at the firm) and Heather doesn’t want to face it alone. She also kind of wants to break the big revelation that her dad isn’t actually Catherine’s biological father.

At a sinister abandoned warehouse (honestly, CCTV at these places would expose every criminal gang meeting, every evil plot and all kinds of monstrous doings), Vincent (now absent his scar, what did the makeup artist get bored?) is tied to a chair so a new big boss Muirfield Agent can be smug at him. Apparently he’s the boss of Muirfield and took the contract from the government to build a super soldier; unfortunately he considers Vincent (and, presumably, his fellows) an experiment gone wrong – but he could still make lots of cash on the open market.

Catherine sneaks her way in, taking out a couple of the endlessly disposable Muirfield guards (employee turnover at Muirfield must suck).

Unfortunately for big boss man, while he “made” Vincent and is sure he knows his limits, Vincent has been evolving – or maybe Muirfield’s figures just aren’t that accurate and the big titanium, steel-alloy cuffs they have him in aren’t sufficient to hold his superman Beast strength (which makes him waaay stronger than before). His guards are quickly dispatched but boss man manages to escape when Vincent is distracted by Catherine.

He turns and runs at her – and not in a “oh I love you” fashion, given the growling – she backs off and JT arrives and shoots him in the arse with his dart gun. Before, that used to be sufficient to drug him before – but he’s been upgrading (or maybe you have run out of magic tranquilisers that knock people unconscious in less than 5 seconds without risking them dying?). JT darts him again but Vincent keeps on going. The third dart brings Vincent to his knees – calming him enough to lose the Beast state, but not knock him out. Catherine runs to him and notices the missing scar – and Vincent doesn’t know who she is.

Then Vincent collapses.

Back at JT’s they kick out Gabe (who complains because he wants to help protect Catherine and he wants to try and earn her trust back – which is probably going to be a pretty uphill battle given the kidnapping, attempted murder and all that) and JT confesses to being a little scared of new amnesia super-powered Vincent. This is because JT is not a fool. Catherine, however, scoffs and, as Vincent wakes up, again tries to jog his memory. When he sweet talking doesn’t work, JT shows Vincent a picture of him and Vincent together – proving they’ve been friends for a long time (or that JT is awesome at photoshop). Catherine then has to go and leave them to go to the tribute.

Switch to the boss man of Muirfield, Zhou, call an FBI agent (or a man posing as one anyway), Reynolds, claiming someone set him up to either flush him out or kill him; by stealing Zhou’s formula and apparently turning Vincent into the Beast Zhou intended to create. Reynolds makes it clear he’s the boss of Zhou and threatens to close Muirfield since its creations are out of control. Zhou turns the tables – the FBI came to him 15 years ago for their black ops shinies and Muirfied made Reynolds a lot of money; they try to shut him down and Zhou goes to the press and exposes everything. I rather think Zhou doesn’t have a long life expectancy. Especially since, after he hangs up, Reynolds tells his flunky they need to send Vincent after Zhou again – well the mystery of who wants Zhou dead was solved pretty quickly.

Catherine arrives at the tribute at her dad’s former office, catches up with Heather and schmoozes a bit before meeting – Bob Reynolds. Yes, FBI agent Reynolds, who offers his condolences. He establishes he knew her father pretty well and adds that he was worried about her, suggesting her dad didn’t like her boyfriend. Catherine dismisses it, but when she leaves Reynolds calls his people to tell them where he thinks Vincent is.

Vincent explores his old home with JT - the abandoned gentlemen’s club they occupied. Vincent doesn’t remember anything and JT scrabbles to tell Vincent they lived together but totally only as friends, just friends, totally definitely platonic (panic, splutter panic, of course). JT fills Vincent in on his epic relationship with Catherine and keeps trying to jog Vincent’s memory until Vincent threatens him to shut him up.

JT gets a phone call from an apparent wrong number, repeating the word “condor”. Upon hearing it, Vincent abruptly leaves, refusing to listen to JT - JT pulls his tranq gun and there’s a stand off.

JT calls Catherine at the tribute to let her know that Vincent has left – after tranqing JT in the process. When JT passes out, Catherine bails on the tribute, just before her big speech, leaving poor Heather hanging. She returns to JT who has severe doubts about Vincent ever remembering them, and they pursue their only lead – Zhou, the man they saw fleeing the scene of Vincent’s capture.

Gabe searches for Zhou, frustrated that he isn’t on any database he can find – and Tess barges in and is surprisingly indifferent. Gabe is confused that she doesn’t care – Tess does care about Catherine. But Vincent? She likes him but doesn’t like watching Catherine repeatedly risk or ruin her life over him, nor is she especially on message to help all Beasties. Further debate is curtailed when Gabe gets a hit on Li Zhou – and he Gabe knows who he is, the man who created the Beasts.

Vincent talks to Reynolds over an encryption and voice disguiser and tries to ask him about Catherine – Reynolds just tells him to ignore her and focus on his job – killing Zhou. Vincent returns to the warehouse and uses his beastie senses to track Zhou – and Catherine, waiting there, tracks him (while JT, on the phone, tries to explain away the ridiculously acute super-beastie senses, even implying he can track people through senses other than scent)

Vincent arrives at Zhou’s hideout to mangle a few more Muirfield guards, Catherine following to take down a few herself (the team sport of choice! Other couples play tennis, Catherine and Vincent beat up Muirfield). The lab is on fire and the air becomes difficult to breathe for Zhou and Catherine (Zhou is still alive because Vincent spends have his time advancing menacingly or just standing there, staring at him). Rather than kill Zhou, he rescues the oxygen deprived Catherine before the whole floor explodes, jumping several storeys out of the window and landing easily on his feet.

In the aftermath, Reynolds is told that none of the bodies from the explosion is Zhou – leaving Reynolds to hope that Vincent follows orders next time, and that Reynold’s daughter doesn’t interfere again

Yes, daughter- everyone gather round for an “ooooooooh!” at the revelation.

Vincent returns to Catherine’s flat (Catherine talks about Vincent being unable to heal himself –it could mean he doesn’t have super healing as a beast but I think it means he can’t remember being a doctor) where Vincent apologises for not remembering Catherine while she insists they’re meant to be. He starts to leave when she asks questions and she starts crying – he stays but tells her he can’t answer any questions. They have a brief, abortive kiss and Catherine gets a text from Heather asking if she’s ok – it breaks down all of the walls she’s held up, all the grief she’s been suppressing and Catherine collapses in tears while Vincent holds her.

Catherine is woken in the middle of the night by a call from Tess – Vincent is missing from the flat. And Li Zhou’s body has been found – mauled as if by a beast

I can’t say I’m a fan of several months passing between seasons, it always feels like a lot is glossed over rather clumsily (including, in this instance, Joe, Kyle and Catherine’s father both being written out – and also Gabe being written back in). In addition, this first episode had the total destruction of Muirfield – it felt a little clumsy, the whole prime antagonist was wiped out in the first episode of the new season to clear the way for a new narrative. It felt… dismissive of all that had happened before – and bringing in Zhou who should have been a terrifying mastermind to all that we’ve seen, and kill him off so casually and after characterising him so poorly adds to the clumsiness.

I have to say I’m also wary about how the series will go from here. Vincent being controlled and Vincent’s amnesia leaves me worrying that we’re going to see a repeat of much of season 1. The police hunting Vincent, Catherine covering for him, Tess and Heather worrying about Catherine, Catherine and JT worrying whether Vincent is safe to be around – as well as all of the relationship milestones and hurdles form season 1 being repeated. Reynolds steps in as the new Muirfield, tweaked a little to a force controlling Vincent rather than trying to capture him – but I still fear a re-telling of season 1 rather than a fresh story for season 2

I think I’m supposed to see Tess as being harsh in this episode, but I actually think she’s being a really good friend. Vincent hasn’t exactly been a source of stability and safety for Catherine since he came into her life. She has repeatedly risked her job and her life – and Tess’s for that matter – and indirectly caused or brought along a whole lot of chaos to Catherine’s life. Is this all Vincent’s fault? Certainly not – and Tess does like him – but she also sees Catherine spiralling which she has pretty much been doing since season 1, episode 1. It’s an excellent declaration of loyalty and investment – this is where the stakes lie for Tess, this is what matters to her.

All in all, I have to say I am… suspicious. This episode wasn’t particularly awful – it even did some very impressive things like weaving in all those infodumps pretty successfully – and we’re all set up for a new season. My negative opinion comes not from this episode, but from the foreshadowing I think it’s casting. To be fair, I don’t judge this episode too harshly – but I’m going to be watching the season warily.