By Jessica Ritchey
Beauty and the Beast
Season 1, Episodes 11 and 12: “An Impossible Silence” and “Shades of Grey”
Original airdates: Dec. 18, 1987 and Jan. 8, 1988
On the heels of last week’s observation—would we get a look at what it would mean to grow up Below?—we get just such a coming-of-age tale in the story of a young deaf woman, Laura, who gets an abrupt introduction to adulthood when she witnesses a murder. When a newspaper reveals the authorities collared the wrong man, and obviously as it was a gang of crooked cops that actually did it, Laura has to decide whether to leave the only sanctuary she’s ever known to exonerate him.
The procedural parts are standard stuff, and the show is still not comfortable when showing Catherine at her job, but there’s a nice coda when Vincent and Catherine send Laura on her way to a new life Above. Admirably, they’ve cast an actually deaf actress, Terrylene. She’s winning and warm in the part, portraying that necessary and awful and wonderful series of events that move you from childhood’s safe spaces into the great unknown of the rest of your life.
“Shades of Grey” is much more of a meal, with several plot threads coming together nicely. A young man with a mop of blonde hair stands before a quickly called-together trial Below. This is Mouse, a savant with a gift for fixing things and an unfortunate habit of taking things that don’t belong to him from Above. He refuses to give in to Father’s pleas and threats, and is sentenced to The Silence for a month, where he will be allowed no contact with the community. No sooner does the meeting adjourn when Ellie, last seen protecting her little brother in “A Children’s Story,” rushes in to tell Father and Vincent that her sibling has gotten hurt in an off-limits section of the tunnels. The pair get him out just in time to get trapped themselves by a cave-in.
Meanwhile, we get a tantalizing glimpse of Catherine and Vincent’s bond being a two-way conduit, as it’s the futile efforts to excavate him from the rubble that alert her at her desk that something is wrong. She makes her way Below, but a wrong turn leads to a trap door that ends right at Mouse’s nest of lava lamps and half-built contraptions. She then has to broker a hasty truce between him and the rest of the community, led in Father’s absence by future Fresh Prince Pop James Avery, and figure out a way to get to Vincent in time. Enter the return of Elliot Burch.
Mollified a bit by his cooperation in one of her cases, she asks him to provide materials—and explosives—and is obviously closed-mouthed about the reasons why. Burch is curious as hell, but he’s just as obviously still carrying a torch for her and agrees. Mouse kitbashes the whole thing into something that works, sorta, and the day is saved. It’s a very nice episode that makes good use of the people on all levels of Catherine’s life. And rather than side with Father’s guff about how Above is a wretched hive of scum of villainy, it has an open heart to the idea that, well, we’re not black and white in our personalities and our actions, but rather… hmm, if only there was a metaphor for it…
Next week finds medium trouble in Little China, and the Big Bad cometh.
- The tunnel world also grows more as the established message system of tapping messages on the pipes that run crisscross through the place is orchestrated through a central hub run by future space barkeep and no good, very bad principal Armin Shimerman.
- I had to laugh when, after Laura’s been kidnapped by the crooked cops, they pinpoint her location to “She’s in Brooklyn,” and Vincent dashes off. Yes, that certainly narrows it down.
- I’m actually rather relieved that a love triangle never develops between Catherine, Elliot, and Vincent as I’ve had enough of those to last several lifetimes. (Yes, that’s yet another stone I can hurl at you, Smash.)
- Again, I marvel at Donald Trump getting re-imagined as a suave, handsome developer. The ’80s were a different country.