Beauty and the Beast: Season Three
As far as genres go the romance theme is one of the more difficult than most. You have to maintain some degree of sexual tension by letting the two lovers draw together and then be pulled apart. Since there are only so many ways this can usually be accomplished most romantic drama or comedies rapidly become stale and predictable. For a television series this dilemma is greatly magnified by having to go through this week after week sometimes for years. One TV series that is widely considered one of ‘the’ examples of a romantic fantasy was the short lived ‘Beauty and the Beast’. It combined enough action to keep the guys interested and an on going story of unrequited love for the ladies. Both centered on the main character of Vincent (Ron Perlman) a man who looked like a lion but had the heart of a poet. He lived in underground tunnels beneath New York City coming to the surface only to wreak havoc on evil doers and to see the woman of his dreams, Catherine (Linda Hamilton). Now if you were to ask any woman with a modicum of common sense would be reticent to get involved with a man with lion features, including fangs and claws that lived in a sewer. Add to that a little anger management problem where he is prone to literally rip into people that upset him and there is no way you are bringing this guy over to meet your parents. What made the series was just this. Catherine found herself falling in love with a man society would look at as a beast. It is in many ways the ultimate in romantic fantasy.
At the end of season two of this series something happened that typical gives producers nightmares. It is one of the things that the network has absolutely no control over, the female lead became pregnant. When Hamilton discovered that she was expecting a child she felt it necessary to leave the show. Okay, she does have a twin sister who doubled for her in Terminator 2 but the fans would have noticed. Season three, now being released to DVD by Paramount, had to deal with this loss. It required a complete paradigm shift for the cast and crew. This is usually the death knoll for any series and obviously this one was no different. Going into season three the writers had a difficult road ahead. The big question was how do you continue a show based on the love between two characters when one was gone? They employed the usual plot devices like the love child and potential new love interest. To their credit they did give it a good try but in the end the series was not able to recover.
This season pick up exactly where season two ended. Vincent has descended into madness as do all sensitive man beast tend to do in stories like this. It was up to Catherine to go into the catacomb to rescue him. Catherine finds Vincent but he charges her ready to kill. She calls his name and he collapses unconscious. Father (Roy Dotrice) finds them together and brings them back to their underground home. The director and wardrobe mistress did a great job with camera angles and bulky sweaters to hid Ms. Hamilton’s pregnancy. Slowly Vincent comes back to his senses but his empathic bond with Catherine is gone. This first episode of the season is overly filled with shots of Vincent and Catherine close to each other trying to make sense of what just happened. Meanwhile in the world above Catherine’s boss at the district attorney’s office Joseph Maxwell (Jay Acovone) is approached by a friend from law school he hasn’t seen in ten years, Patrick Hanlon (Mitchell Laurance). Patrick is rich having made $50 million on Wall Street but he came to Joe teasing him with information that would bring down a vast web of government corruption and drug dealing. Before he leaves he gives Joe a little black book with the damaging information. Just then Patrick’s car explodes killing him and seriously injuring Joe. Catherine goes through his belongings and discovers the book taking it with her. She donates blood to help Joe and is shocked when a nurse tells her that she is pregnant. Our little ADA is about to have a cub.
As it happens the book exposes and details the criminal activity of the biggest drug lord and crime boss on the east coast, Gabriel (Stephen McHattie). As Catherine investigates the explosion and the contents of the book she draws dangerous attention from Gabriel. By the end of the first episode she is kidnapped by him. Father, Vincent and others in the world below begin a frantic search for Catherine. Gabriel is overly interested when he finds out that Catherine’s pregnancy is different from most. His interest shifts from getting information out of her to the baby. The pregnancy is accelerated and now six months after finding out she could go into labor at any moment. To Gabriel Catherine is only a vessel, he wants the child. He knows about Vincent and is hoping for a lion-man for his own uses. With the fetus growing rapidly Vincent discovers that although he lost his connection to Catherine be can sense that the baby is in dire trouble. Gabriel keeps Catherine alive until the baby can be delivered and then has his minions give her an overdose of morphine. This slow means of death permits one last expression of love between Vincent and Catherine. Eventually Hamilton has her last scene in the series and romantically dies in Vincent’s arms.
The remainder of the series is a, no pun intended, cat and mouse game between Vincent and Gabriel. Vincent joins forces with some of the above ground authorities while Gabriel sends a hired killer Snow (Lance Henriksen) to find and murder Vincent. There is the introduction of a new potential love interest for Vincent, Diana Bennett (Jo Anderson). She is a special police investigator and profiler who apparently also have a highly developed sense of intuition. With all the major character changes and complete shift in the focus of this series to Vincent in vendetta mode the producers had to realize that there would be a loss of many in the core fan base.
I didn’t think this season was bad, just different. In many ways it explored new ground for a romantic television show. If you consider some of the classic examples of romance in literature and cinema loss is an acceptable substitution for actual love. Since the best situation for a series like this is unrequited love, the lovers can’t seem to get together; the ultimate extension of this is the death of one of them. While the story lines collapsed into basically one villain there had to be something else driving the drama. They began to explore more of Vincent’s suppressed animalistic side. Fighting his hidden nature and morning for Catherine naturally made progress with Diana slower than many viewers would have liked.
Paramount continues to open their amazing vault of television series and finish off the DVD sets for this one. The transfer is much better here than the first season set. This was a short season with only twelve episodes but all are here. This was a cult classic loved by many and now you can have the final season to add to your collection.