By Jessica Ritchey
Beauty and the Beast
Season 1, Episodes 21 and 22: “Ozymandias” and “A Happy Life”
Original airdates: Apr. 1 and Apr. 8, 1988
The argument over how many episodes to give a series will never be settled, let alone the battle over whether to even count the first season at all toward’s a show’s ultimate worth, as that’s when the show is working itself out. Well, Beauty and the Beast was more fortunate in that in regard: a solid first season comes to an end with two good episodes.
In “Ozymandias,” Elliot Burch is about to start construction on his dream project—called Burch Towers, naturally—and the blasting on site is threatening Below. Particularly the tunnels of resident eccentric Elizabeth, who has recorded the history of the community on the walls of the place. It’s threatening Above too, as Catherine is investigating a community action group protesting the project and the attendant gentrification and diaspora of the neighborhood’s original residents it will bring.
It takes Mouse being arrested for trying to sabotage equipment for Catherine to make the ultimate sacrifice. She pleads for Burch to let him go and offers that she’ll marry him if he gives up the project. He’s amazed but he agrees, until the pull of finally adding a new building to the skyline of the city is too strong. He presses on, but Catherine is able to prove he was staging the attacks that were being blamed on on the protesters. With that, Burch Towers is resigned to the ash heap of history where the lone and level sands stretch far away…
Elliot and Catherine’s relationship is the most interesting thing about this episode. Believable as it is that he would agree to cancel the project in exchange for marrying her, it’s just as believable that he would continue on anyway. It isn’t merely a shallow betrayal; rather, Elliot clearly is a man who thinks everyone has a price tag. He’s confident that with enough time and all the luxuries he could give her, Catherine wouldn’t care anymore about the towers. It’s a sharp contrast with Vincent, who is worried over his community’s survival and in agony over Catherine’s decision. People aren’t commodities to him, and he recognizes that actions have serious consequences.
“A Happy Life” closes the show’s first chapter and we get that long-awaited kiss… sorta. Catherine wakes up in misery on the anniversary of her mother’s death. After a visit with her father and a miserable day at the office, she decides to a see a therapist for a session or two. Obviously, it does no good as she can’t really tell him anything, and after breaking down in tears at a piano concert, she runs to Vincent. If she was expecting comfort, she gets a rude shock when his demons finally get the better of him and he says it might be better if they don’t see each other anymore.
Catherine visits an out of town friend to regroup and the days of companionship do her good—as well as introduce her to her friend’s brother. But true love is true love, so one midnight she borrows a friend’s car and races back to Manhattan. Vincent is waiting for her at the entrance to Below and they run smack into CBS’s and the producers’ skittishness. The image we see is them embracing, and a faintly superimposed image of them kissing. It’s very silly, and it was a mix of CBS’s morbid fear of getting letters from the professionally offended about bestiality and some genuine storytelling concerns that a real passionate kiss would move them along faster than they were ready, or willing, to go at that moment.
But it’s a promise of something more, and the second season would, and wouldn’t, build on that.
Next week has addictions and a lot people prayin’ for George Bailey—erm, Vincent—tonight.
- The painted tunnels are a neat concept, but rather unfortunately generic in execution. Here’s where a TV budget and lack of world-building interest at the time are most regretted. I imagine that a non-abominable remake would have made good use out of them, even spinning stories about mysterious clues or figures in them.
- It’s nice seeing Catherine interact with her circle of friends; again, I wish one of them could have been brought in to know NYC’s best kept secret.
- Today’s YouTube’s decoder ring prize: Edward Albert making a much more successful attempt at wooing in Butterflies Are Free.