By Jessica Ritchey
Beauty and the Beast
Season 2, episodes 7 and 8, “A Fair and Perfect Knight” “Labyrinths”
Original airdates: Jan. 13 and Jan. 20th, 1989
The hardest thing in covering an old TV show is coming to it with fresh eyes, and trying — in part anyway — to treat each episode as something you haven’t read all the background info on you could dig up. The ghost of the earlier drafts is a heavier presence in tonight’s first episode, especially as the final result is so lightweight. Michael, a young man from Below, is accepted into college. He spends a few days with Catherine getting settled into topside life. He develops a schoolboy crush on Catherine and in the awkwardness of his young love, kisses Catherine. He’s mortified, Vincent at first is actually hurt (!) but after a “you’ve got to be kidding me” pep talk from his beloved, he finally goes and consoles the boy. That’s it.
Originally the young man was supposed to be in his thirties, golden haired, and well-read; in other words a credible temptation. It’s very silly watching everybody act so damn serious over a teenager acting like a messy adolescent. As young as she was, Lena in “God Bless the Child” could have become a credible partner to Vincent. It gave their scenes some danger, the story some stakes in seeing the temptation flicker across Vincent’s eyes, if only for an instant. It also was one of the nicest hours for Catherine’s character as she saw the situation for what it clearly was: a messed up kid making a mistake.
Vincent’s initial rejection of Michael feels ridiculous. As sheltered as they both are, it makes no sense that Vincent wouldn’t have the maturity to recognize the boy is just going through those growing pains of early adulthood. His self-pity is one of his least attractive characteristics, even as it serves to humanize him, but I would have appreciated it a lot if Catherine’s words of encouragement hadn’t been their usual gentle cajoling but rather a firm “He’s eighteen years old for Chrissakes!” followed perhaps by a pop upside the head.
“Labyrinths” is much more enjoyable if similarly having not much of a point. Cashing in on the tail end of Dungeons & Dragons mania with a refreshing absence of Satanic Panic, the story resolves around a lonely player who accidentally stumbles onto Below through the basement threshold in Catherine’s building. He’s discovered, and a tense argument breaks out over what to do with the intruder. They decide to make a play for his sympathies and a rather nice sequence follows of various characters directly addressing the camera explaining what Below means to them.
He’s set back Above with a sense of purpose for the first time in his young life, and there’s some foolishness with him running back after a fight with his father that nearly gets them all discovered. It mainly serves as an excuse for Vincent to talk him into returning and giving his parents a second chance. He also curiously tries to put forward that Below is not a hiding place. It’s an interesting reveal of his character and how he views this place, and goes a long way to explain why he’s always willing to risk it’s safety or encourage others to leave. Because for him, it is a hiding place, and the only one he has, it’s only too understandable he would not want to be constantly reminded of that, and encourage others to have the adventures he never will.
Next week the Prodigal returns (again) and making amends the hard way.
- I kind of like that Michael’s business with his estranged father doesn’t get resolved. The show was always willing admit that sometimes things stay broken, and our healing has to come from starting over.
- Of all the characters we’ll not see again Brian, the young man from “Labyrinths,” is one of the biggest missed opportunities, if only see how one handles the responsibilities of being a Helper so young, and how he keeps dodging the questions of the curious friends in his D&D group.
- I know absolutely nothing about D&D so apologize for the lack of references to “plus 10 gravely voiced charm spell” and the like. [Ed.’s note: We’ll take care of that with the excerpt, no worries. -NK]
- Thanks to typing “Labyrinths” over and over I know have this stuck in my head, and so do you.