By Jessica Ritchey
Beauty and the Beast
Season 2, Episodes 11 and 12: “The Outsiders” and “Orphans”
Original airdates: Feb. 24, 1989 and Mar. 6, 1989
Beauty and the Beast asks some things of the viewer, even beyond simple acceptance of the existence of a creature like Vincent. It asks to accept that a community of tunnel dwellers beneath New York City would dress like a steampunk production of Twelfth Night, it asks to accept that none of Catherine’s neighbors would get suspicious that her apartment is being constantly broken into and smashed up, and it asks to accept that the community has remained relatively undisturbed by intruders for decades. \
Well, that last one is finally put the test in “The Outsiders,” and the results don’t reflect well on either Below’s ability to have survived for so long, or that the non-Vincent tunnel dwellers would have sense to come in out of the rain.
A group of subhuman transients right out of an Italian post-apocalyptic movie stumble into Below via a parking garage and start preying on the residents. And Below’s response is agonizingly, eye-rollingly slow. Father’s insistence on pacifism and retreating further and further into increasingly harder to defend strongholds isn’t principle overriding pragmatism but an almost insane death wish to stretch the tale out to the 45-minute mark, when Vincent can finally start clawing the brutes to pieces. It’s especially ridiculous having several back-and-forths over what is to be done when the outsiders don’t even appear to verbal, preferring to snarl and stab anyone who gets too close. Antagonists capable of playing dangerous games with Below, and offering uneasy compromises, would’ve been appreciated. As would getting to see Catherine get her Sarah Connor on when she is ambushed leading a group of children to safety. At least this finally tips Vincent to action.
Even the aftermath feels forced, with Vincent marinating in shame that part of him desires the hunt and sending Catherine away so he can further interior monologue himself to death. She’s right in that what he did was necessary, but it would also not be necessary quite so often if anyone around him had some basic survival instincts.
“Orphans” on the other hand, is what the show did best: a small, intimate story that unites both Above and Below. Catherine’s father is dying due to a stroke, and Vincent finally gets to “meet” her father as he lies in a coma in his hospital room. She keeps it together long enough to see him buried, and to read my favorite passage from The Velveteen Rabbit at the service. But grief is a sucker punch; it floats and hides and can make going outside to check the mail unbearable. She holds it in until she can no longer, and she begs shelter Below.
She settles into life there with remarkable ease. Vincent finally gets to be the partner he’s always wanted to be, providing an ear to listen, friendly counsel, and finally holding her as she cries herself to sleep one particularly bad night. It’s also a place where Catherine can begin to process what she’s been through, and decide whether to make her new living arrangements permanent. A lovely scene with her father paying her one last visit in her dreams, or perhaps not, solidifies what her thoughts and Vincent have been telling her over the past few days. She may stay Below while waiting for a storm to pass, but her place is Above. She does what Vincent cannot, and if they ever are to be together it has to be as equals, not partners in sorrow.
Next week, not only does the show go to the ballet, but it ain’t afraid of no ghosts.
- Of all the first draft ideas I’d wish had made it into “The Outsiders,” George R.R. Martin’s wish to have the climatic battle be between both groups is high on the list. He wanted everything from William pouring boiling soup from his cauldrons to Jamie and her crossbow. Thanks for nothing, producers and whatever CBS buzzkills put the kibosh on that.
- When it’s revealed the Outsiders talk like they wandered off the set of Hee Haw, I really wished the episode had been about a group of lovable rapscallions trying to set up a moonshine still Below.
- There’s a nice thread in “Orphans” of Joe’s crush on Catherine getting the better of him, leading him to look for her when she seemingly disappears. And a nice moment when he tries to squash his delight at her reappearance under his usual snark. I wish the series had found more for him to do.