Fairy-tales are no longer child’s play. Now, they are evolving into compelling stories that seem to put adults under their own kind of unique spell. Coming off the enormous success of the fantasy lover’s paradise in Once Upon a Time, the “teen network,” CW created a new spin on the Beauty and the Beast storybook that may or may not be worth a look.
Nine years ago, Catherine Chandler (Kristin Kreuk) lost someone very dear to her – her mother was killed in what appeared a random act of violence. Cat blames herself since she was the reason her mother was out as a result of Cat’s car not starting. When the killers set their sights on Cat that same dark night, a flash comes out of the trees and kills the two men, saving Cat from them. She later describes her savior to police as a “beast.” Now, Catherine is a no-nonsense, NYC police detective who is in the middle of being dumped by her jerk boyfriend whom she has arrested for possession of drugs – it’s her way of getting back at him, but her attentions shift to the new case she is working with her partner (Nina Lisandrello), their victim was just promoted to fashion editor at her work. Catching a lucky break, they pick up prints of a man, one who is in the system but died while enlisted. Baffled, Cat’s questions lead her to Vincent Keller’s former roommate, J.T (Austin Basis), a physics teacher who seems jumpy being questioned about his former roommate.
Once a doctor, Vincent Keller (Jay Ryan) enlisted in the Marine Corps following 9/11 and the deaths of his two brothers. Numb and without much care what happens to him so long as he defends his country, Vincent agrees to be a part of an experiments of super soldiers – a drug that makes the soldier stronger, faster, and invincible but he asks no questions of it. When the program spirals out of control, the order is given to kill every one of the participants. The sole survivor is Vincent but he lives like he is dead, believing it better. When Cat finds him, she has dozens of questions about her mother’s murder but what she didn’t expect was to encounter someone who wasn’t a beast but a man – one who warns her against ever seeing him again because of the danger it would put both of them in.
You all know that I love anything with a fairy-tale component. When realism and fantasy mixes, it’s sorta magical and that it what Once Upon a Time captures so brilliantly. This re-make of the 80’s cult classic of the same name doesn’t have the same spark that some of its competitors do but there is a excellent mix of reality and fairy-tale that isn’t really “pretend” because writer’s give us a human being for a leading man, not a werewolf or supernatural creature – although in anger, his face does contort into a mash of explosive “monster,” which is what Vincent has dubbed himself. In its back-story of Vincent, we have a bit of a Bourne Identity vibe going but I enjoyed the interaction between Cat and he since I wasn’t sure if writers would pair them together or be a series of near misses, leaving a trail for the determined Cat to follow. From my perspective, I am glad it turned out that way.
Pulling inspiration from the dozens of other crime shows that are on air seemed the unspoken rule for ‘Beast’ to capitalize on. There’s a heroine who is desperate to unlock the truth of her mother’s murder (sound familier!?) and a brooding hero who only needs the love of a good woman to change him both in form (or that is the assumption) and in his attitude. Being the feet-firmly-planted-on-the-ground kind of romantic that I am, I loved the touches of overdramatized romanticism (note Vincent, looking all brood-ishly handsome and super heroic crouching on the edge of a rooftop watching over Cat) and the two times that Vincent rescues Cat – never fear for those of you looking for a heroine who can kick butt, Cat has that covered also when she royally beats up two would-be assassins. For younger viewers, their imagination is best left satisfied with the Disney version of this story but the pilot wasn’t a bad start though admittedly – judging just by the first hour, I thought the motion picture, Beastly had a better spin on what it takes to make this timeless story stand apart.
(What to know: There is some mild innuendo. We learn that Cat always falls for the “loser” guy and even knowingly dates men who carry/use/deal drugs. Profanity is rare if spoken at all. A woman is shown lying on the ground [no blood] and another is shot multiple times. There is a couple of “frightening” moments when Vincent lets anger get the better of him and once, Cat is nearly run over by a train. The victims husband engaged in multiple affairs. The show is rated TV14.)