Beauty and the Beast - The story so far...
Audiences are over half way through the first series of the CW show Beauty and the Beast. So where do we stand on the up-to-date version of the classic fairytale?
The overall feel of this show is that of your classic romance narratives: audiences want these two characters to have the happily-ever-after we've come to expect from television shows and movies. And whilst there is entirely nothing wrong with that, you cannot help but feel something is lacking with Beauty and the Beast. There isn't any one major thing missing from the show, it's more of an overall feeling, like being dissatisfied when one ingredient is missing from your favourite chocolate cake and it just isn't chocolatey or gooey enough to satisfy your cravings.
That is how it feels with Beauty and the Beast. Each episode is a capsule of information, narrative exploration and character building, but once the hour is up and the story's finished, you're left with a slightly sour aftertaste. Sixteen episodes in and the balance between crime drama and love story doesn't feel very balanced at all. One episode may be too much cop-shop and the other too heavy with the lovey-dovey context. It is this lack of balance that seemingly draws our attention away from the two complex and good looking characters.
For this show to work there needs to be more depth to the narrative and the characters themselves, which would allow these characters to feel just that little bit more real. The test of a successful show isn't the audience ratings or the number of seasons it has, but how far the audience is transported into its fictional world. It's how much audiences come to love and loathe the key characters, how intrigued they are to see the narrative play out before them. All good shows have lead characters that can hold the audience's attention week in week out, and whilst Cat and Vincent are intriguing, we're a good number of episodes into the season now and still there is no pull to these characters.
Cat, for example, is this very independent, feisty and opinionated 21st century female, a heroine on her own terms. She has all the character traits that should make her stand out amongst other characters, yet she fails to do. When we take a look at the number of shows with a dominant female lead, it is doubtful that Beauty, aka Cat, would stand tall amongst the likes of Buffy Summers, Emma Swan (another fairytale thespian from Once Upon A Time) and Sookie Stackhouse, although in terms of fighting skills Cat could overpower Sookie, but she doesn't have the attitude and fiery personality we've come to expect from these women. With this in mind, it is difficult to be completely on Cat's side, she is our heroine, therefore shouldn't we be automatically be behind her? Yes.
The viewing audience are on this romantic journey with Cat, following every sorrow filled tear with the hope that our heroine will get her happy ending. However the indecisiveness of this character to choose a path for herself, to choose her own fate, with Vincent or without Vincent, makes it difficult to be on her side. The narrative is screaming for her to grab love with her small fists, to fight for it and throw aside the shackles of a conventional one dimensional damsel. Cat is not a stereotypical character, at least she has the potential to not be, so why is it that Vincent is always saving the day? Because no matter how independent our heroine is, she cannot be seen to be stepping out of the shadows of the fairytale romance.
Take the character of Vincent, who has yet to show audiences just how dangerous he can truly be. Over the course of the episodes, there has been plenty of glimpses into Vincent's soldier past, we've even see his "beast" face. But with only a hint of the terrible acts he has committed, there isn't much beast to this character. A part from the occasional mental breakdown and animalistic turn, there isn't anything that strikes the audience as remarkably dangerous. For fans of the fairytale, there is no fairy just tale. Nothing about this hero warrants the dramatic foreboding which hangs over the season. Nothing about him makes the audience want Cat to keep a safe distance.
A modern audience wants a show that is current, and whilst the added Criminal Justice narrative intertextuality helps to bring the show to a wider audience, you cannot help but feel that what we have is just another romance. Sure its a romance with a twist but make Vincent a vampire and you've pretty much got another Vampire Diaries. The show is entertaining, but on a level where you aren't really paying attention, instead its just background noise. A television show should be gripping, exciting and make you eager to watch each week. Beauty and the Beast, not so much of the latter.
Perhaps we've become too used to the vampire dominating our television screens but Beauty and the Beast doesn't compel you to watch enough to see it through all the season - can the CW really drag this tale of romance out for 22 episodes? They certainly seem to be trying, this is a fairytale after all, albeit a more unconventional one.... We'll have to watch and see.