By Jessica Ritchey
Beauty and the Beast
Season 3, episodes 1 and 2: “Though Lovers Be Lost” and “Walk Slowly”
Original airdates: Dec. 12 and Dec. 13, 1989
Various things fell TV shows: poor ratings, an actor wanting to leave, an actor wanting more money, network executives wanting the impossible. But sometimes a perfect storm of every last one of them make landfall on a hapless series. In Beauty‘s case it had always been bubble show rather than solid hit, and moving its time slot around in the second season only cementing this status. CBS wanted a much more action — read: male — direction in the show, and Linda Hamilton, who was dealing with a difficult pregnancy at the time, wanted out all together.
The third season arrived with only an order for 13 episodes, and Hamilton was able to use a clause in her contract that required payment for an entire season to be written out. Now, when you no longer have a Beauty in a show called Beauty and the Beast you would think this is prime reading the writing on the wall time and to quickly whip together an ending of sorts, even an open ending in the off (off, off, off) chance of a movie or another network showing interest in revival. But doing the sensible thing has never been how Hollywood comports itself, so the show gamely soldiered on into a season that is remembered with revulsion and expulsion from canon altogether, if it remembered at all by the still devoted fans. Which is a shame for reasons we’ll get into.
So. When we last left our pair, Catherine was bravely marching into the catacombs deep in the belly of Below. She comes face to face with a raving mad Vincent. He’s just about to strike her down when something deep inside stops him, and he collapses to the ground instead. She panics over his lifeless form, smothering him with kisses and he begins to stir. And cut to a not at all guffaw-inducing montage of clasped hands under super-imposed images of an erupting volcano (!) and a rose bursting into bloom (oh, show). Father ventures in sometime later to find Catherine cradling a sleeping Vincent, she’s understandably mum about what transpired, and they bundle Vincent off to the infirmary chamber to recuperate.
Meanwhile, Joe is approached by an old acquaintance who’s fallen in with a bad crowd. He has just time time hand Joe a MacGuffin black book before he is blowed up real good by said bad guys. Joe goes to the hospital with minor injures, and Catherine stops by to donate blood and pick up the book. On her way out, a nurse chides her for donating blood in her condition. She is with child (!!) and she’s just as gobsmacked by that outcome as thoughts of what that offspring might look like. She tries to tell Vincent the news, but he’s in one of his sulks over having lost his connection with her since his breakdown. She sadly trudges back to work and unfortunately finds out her boss is with the crooks when he stands aside as she’s kidnapped in the parking garage.
And here the new direction of the show begins in earnest. The crooks serve master Bad Guy Gabriel, played with delicious reptilian intensity by the wonderful character actor Stephen McHattie. He wants that book, and is on the verge of disposing of Catherine when Vincent attempts a rescue. Watching the security footage from his secure skyscraper lair, Guy realizes he has something very valuable indeed in the child Catherine’s carrying. She becomes his prisoner, and Vincent begins the long, fruitless search for her. It’s only as she goes into labor that Vincent can sense where she is. He runs like the wind but is too late, his child and Gabriel have vanished into the night, and Catherine is quickly perishing from a morphine shot. She has time only to tell him of their son’s existence and that she’ll love him always before she closes her eyes for good in his arms. He hugs her lifeless body as the score swells and the camera pans back into a wide shot of the unforgiving night sky.
TV Guide ads at the time snarled “It’s not a fairy tale anymore,” but the truth was that it had become a true one, not something touched by Disney, but something right out of the pages of Brothers Grimm, with the attendant body count. It’s all too understandable why fans balked, but the third season is the season of showing the genre upending George R.R. Martin would go on to do with the A Song of Ice and Fire series. A story that told that to go into the woods is to risk losing everything.
“Walk Slowly” continues the actual attempt to deal with grief that would both doom the show and make the third season worth rediscovery. Vincent carries Catherine’s body back to her apartment, deliberately making enough noise to send to the neighbors calling the police. A heartbroken Joe arrives with cops to take her away while a shattered Vincent returns Below. He’s so far gone he can’t bear to see any of the tunnel children who wish to see him and offer comfort. Jenny and Joe share a lovely moment of breaking down in each others arms as Jenny comes to take Catherine’s things and make arrangements for the funeral.
And so enters the new Beauty, Diana. And here’s where I wish Beauty and the Beast‘s fandom was more forgiving. Most of the fans designate themselves as “classic,” meaning the events of the third season never happened at all, and in the process completely erasing Diana from continuity. Which is more than a shame, as Diana is one of the more fascinating female characters coughed up by TV in the last 25 years. Jo Anderson plays her with a coolly observed intelligence, making her feel very much like a character out of a TV series 15 or so years in the future as opposed to one in 1989. While Diana was based on Will Graham’s profiler character in the film Manhunter, Anderson created something much more interesting in Diana’s guarded fierceness. Joe goes to her in desperation, realizing Catherine’s case is getting earmarked for the unsolved shelf, and at first, Diana seems to be refusing to take the case. Later Vincent observes her carefully making her way around Catherine’s apartment, her uncanny perception leading her right to noticing the details that reveal that Catherine had someone named “Vincent” in her life. Her curiosity piqued, the huntress begins her search. And Vincent pays his final respects to Catherine in the dead of night.
It was brave, it was bleak, and it utterly condemned the show to cancellation. But like the first two seasons, it was unlike anything TV was doing at the time. Particularly in actually focusing on a character’s death, and not doing the standard “Welp, we all got Emmy roll clips out it, let us never speak of this again.” Sorrow floats on this show, too much so, but how could it be otherwise?
Next time Elliot meets the other man and a cold-front moves in.
- It was very nice to see that the tunnel dwellers who could went Above to attend her funeral, and to see some familiar faces from previous episodes as mourners. Also that the tunnel children were there for Vincent, surrounding him in that very kiddish way of not knowing what do but wanting to make it all right.
- Today’s know your mythology corner. Of course a character called Diana will be lanky tall with long red hair but there’s a nice bit of subtext in that Diana was protector of pregnant women. So if was unable to protect Catherine, she certainly can avenge her.