Thursday, March 13, 2014

Beauty and the Beast, Season 2, Episode 16: About Last Night

So, last episode Vincent and Cat slept together. This, no doubt, means the plot (what plot there is) is going to disappear while we deal with relationship drama.

It bodes no good with an opening recap/dream sequence of all the times Cat and Vincent have been together. She wakes up, has an “oh god no!” moment and sneaks out (so much for Beast senses).

Cue Cat talking to Tess and Vincent talking to JT (the gist of which is that Cat thinks it meant nothing while Vincent disagrees and that both Tess and JT need lives of their own and that everyone thinks Cat clearly hasn’t made up her mind about Gabe).

Meanwhile, in prison, Sam is continuing his nefarious plan by Beasting one of the other inmates and escaping. His escape at least interrupts Cat talking to Gabe about not having second thoughts, honest and they head off to the prison with Gabe reminding us, again, that Sam is out for revenge against a nebulous someone for the sake of his son (and this involves randomly beasting people and stealing highly encrypted data).

Plot move over, it’s time for angst – Vincent calls Cat and is all “we had sex, TWU LUV FOR EVAH!” and she’s all “UH-UH BOOTY CALL ONLY! I’m totally with Gabe who needs to get naked in bed more often.” He counters with “nope, beasty lie detector, even over the phone because my random super powers are random!” “Hey no fair, no super powers in the relationship”. Which is very true because absolutely no relationship is going to last the application of a constant, infallible lie detector. Anyway he’s “true love, destiny!” and she’s “no going backwards!” which is the worst non-reason for anything ever.

The sidekicks meet up to obsess about their other halves and to break the privacy of every citizen in New York to say nothing of the law by hacking Homeland security (again). Of course, breaking major laws and/or tracking down a guy who has a habit of leaving murderous mutants in his wake is definitely not as important as Cat and Vincent sleeping together. Then Vincent shows up, Tess leaves and we can have another round of “my sex life is more important than the serial killer” but they agree that “not going backwards” is the weirdest non-excuse ever invented in the history of convoluted love affairs.

Sam goes to confront a judge at gun point (in a building with really expensive offices and really shitty security), apparently the judge is part of a secret group with nefarious communications who Sam has tracked down (presumably through the encrypted CIA data he hasn’t actually had a chance to de-encrypt or read yet). He wants to know where “the pen” is, but judge won’t talk since the people he hangs around with will kill his family. This gives Sam a lot of Sadness because he lost his son so totally can’t kill the judge (better hope none of the other people he’s sent to their deaths have families). He knocks him out and takes his nifty badge instead.

Cat and Gabe have more relationship talk while JT uses his Matrix computer to find Sam – Vincent rushes off and the three of them find the judge with a big headache. Gabe whines about them using beast senses and hacking homeland security because these are now bad until he needs them and they’re good; standard Beauty and the Beast style. The judge doesn’t want to talk though Vincent can sense he’s hiding big secrets and can now tell what someone is terrified by not just that they are. Vincent and Gabe continue to lock horns in a very very tiresome manner. To make the judge talk, Vincent roars at him – Gabe disapproves. But it does reveal the secret society (and someone finally realising that revealing the beast isn’t that bad because no-one will believe him) one member of which, presumably, experimented on Sam’s son to make a beast which is why Sam is seeking vengeance.

Anyway, the secret society members don’t know who each other are (being secret) but the destruction of the CIA computer has called an emergency meeting of the group – one you can only get in if you have the super special pin. Which they think they can get from another address JT found on the hard drive: a married couple. So Cat and someone posing as Cat’s husband – testosterone wars, begin.

Gabe wins the contest and they go to the swanky party all dressed up – and it’s another fancy dress party (one Cat has attended last year). They also realise, belatedly, that as an ADA Gabe actually has a high profile and may be recognised as clearly not Mr. Beaumont who he is pretended to be – right before he’s recognised. New plan, Cat swaps Gabe for Vincent – because all those talk shows Vincent has done make him such low profile? And they invest in some masques for the masquerade ball which you think they’d have thought of before.

Anyway it’s an excuse for more relationship discussions – because while undercover hunting a secret society is totally the time and the place. Anyway, all 3 of them put on masques to find Sam who is, unsurprisingly, wearing a masque.

To JT and Tess who discuss the complexity of hacking CIA databases – hah, no! They have relationship talks too! Tess can’t understand being with JT because he is very much not what she wants in a man but she’s obsessing over it and she can’t understand it so let’s make out in a chair. But they do get some names from the decryption.

Cat gets rumbled as not really being Mrs. Beaumont while JT passes on the names to Vincent and Gabe and his theory that Sam doesn’t just want to kill one of them, he wants to kill the whole society (except, presumably, those with pictures of their sons nearby). Muirfield is apparently just one of their many many fronts to develop beasts which are the ultimate force for gaining power.

….um, what? Beasts are physically impressive but if you want power, a copious bank account and a nefarious lobbying group will do far more than someone who is strong and can smell things. This makes zero sense.

Clumsy exposition interrupted by more of Gabe and Vincent snarling at each other. Cat fights the two guards leading her away and beats them both up despite the guns they’re carrying. Vincent arrives to help and she’s furious that he thought she needed help; she isn’t a damsel in distress (well… no and I appreciate the sentiment. I also think most people would like help when it’s 2 v 1 and they have guns. But I still appreciate the sentiment and he did arrive late).

While they’re squabbling like children, Sam makes his way to the secret society room and finds the guy whose idea it was to experiment on sick children, including Sam’s son – he injects him with the beast serum. Vincent and Cat eventually follow after more squabbling outside and more squabbling in the lift. Inside they find the beasty member tearing through his fellows (he apparently has the Beast gene allowing him to transform) and Sam breaking the lift so no-one can leave, even them.

Cat calls Gabe to pull the fire alarm and get everyone out while Vincent takes on the beast (Vincent has been a beast for longer, has evolved – hey remember that aborted storyline – and was a soldier. My money’s on him). I’m right (or Beauty and the Beast makes sense for a change) and Vincent kills the other beast – much to Sam’s anger.

Sam runs to the roof, ready to jump off and Cat and Vincent rush up to tell him how they can totally go a legal route and expose them; just because their super rich and powerful doesn’t mean they’ve above the law!

BWAAHHHAHA! OH that’s a good one, MUAHAHAHA… oh wait, you’re serious?

Sam jumps anyway and Vincent uses super-duper beast speed to catch him and pull him back up.

Aftermath, Sam is lead away and Cat is confident they’ll take down the secret society. And she totally loves the new Vincent who follows the law rather than the old Vincent who ignored it (with her blessing and participation. And completely ignoring that the old Vincent, in hiding and hunted, had absolutely no legal recourses at all. But hey, why let pesky facts get in the way of Cat’s dubious moralising?) And Cat totally can’t imagine focusing on revenge for years (it’s not like she spent years obsessing over who killed her mother or any- oh wait). Oh and they plan to build a case against the secret society with Sam (an accused attempted mass murderer who broke into a CIA bunker) and without mentioning the beast experiments.

Well that should be a fun – and shot – court case.

Gabe gives Cat a lift home and it’s clear she’s chosen Vincent. He insists Vincent hasn’t changed and he can’t protect her from him – which annoys Cat that he thinks she needs protecting.

She goes upstairs and to the roof to one of her rooftop moments with Vincent and spending the night together. All of which is interrupted by police arriving in the morning to arrest Vincent for murder

Apparently this was the last episode for the “Winter hiatus”. Uh-huh – this show already had a Christmas hiatus…. Methinks it’s going the same way as Cult, given the awful awful ratings.

Because of this, I’m going to cynically treat this as the season finale. It’s possible the show may return – like a terribly judged salmonella take away bought during a drunken night out – but I think it’s not that much of a risk to assume otherwise.

So let’s start with a plus. This show is impressively racially diverse. Tess, Cat, Gabe are all POC, all main characters and all pretty much entirely free from stereotype. 3 out of 5 main characters being POC is damn unusual, even if they did drop Joe on a bus last season. I won’t say they’re good characters – but no-one on this show is a good character. They’re not good because they’re written in tropey or stereotypical ways; no, they’re poor because they’re not well directed or acted or well written at all, being inconsistent, one note, with dubious priorities and generally being dull.

In terms of women, again we have 2 main female characters but here that bad writing parallels a trope in that they barely come close to the Bechdel test – and the only time they pass is when they are utterly forced to talk about work. And then it’s only brief before returning to Vincent Vincent Vincent. Tori and Dana appear briefly before going – and even then Tori and Dana are highly defined by men. It’s poor writing – but is it poor writing because they’re women? Possibly not – because while I’m cynically willing to expect the worse, EVERY character on this show unduly focuses on Cat and Vincent’s relationship – or (less often) the plot because it relates to the beastliness. This terrible Bechdel record is part of the ongoing awful orbit of the show itself. There are no GBLT characters on this show, despite 2 seasons, a full and large cast of characters and New York. The beasts went around and ate them all, apparently

The show also barely tries to manage a coherent plot. The first half was somewhat interesting in a “weird beast of the week” way as they circled in on Vincent’s handler… but once that storyline was resolved it felt like the writers looked at each other and said “shit, we’ve still got half a season to go!?”

This involved, to create more relationship tension, Cat and Gabe having a complete moral and ethical 180 on Vincent, Beast powers and the law – which in turn served to make them see beasts as subhumans who can be disposed of at a whim. Not exactly an attractive feature. There was no consistence, no sensibility and a whole lot of gross selfishness that made me want to cheerfully strangle both of them (and Vincent just because at this point).

And the plot itself didn’t really go anywhere. We had lots of arcane history about Beastiness and Cat’s family and Russian gems and… fizzle, now it’s all about Sam and revenge for his son; a plot switch that was so sudden I’m still sure I missed something. And now with the reveal it doesn’t make sense! The literally millions, if not billions, of dollars this organisation has spent to make Beasts could have gained them far more power if they invested in political shenanigans. What does a Beast gain them in power that a small team of highly trained lethal operatives couldn’t do as much? Sure, it would have been great for powerplays in, say, the 14th century but in the 21st century power plays are achieved with money and influence and broken political systems, not superhuman monsters who can still be killed with a bullet pretty easily.

Tess and JT almost have a storyline (it’s a romance, of course) but that fizzles pointlessly as well and we’re treated to episode after episode dominated by a trope laden love triangle of Vincent – Cat – Gabe which is pretty tiresome because even if Gabe is a viable and attractive love interest, the show is called Beauty and the Beast, not Beauty and the Assistant District Attorney. There are few things more dull than a love triangle with an inevitable ending (which also applies to Alex, Tori and Evan).