“I don’t think what I’m attracted to can be called a ‘type.'”
One of the strangest and yet well-loved series of the ’80s roars back onto DVD with its second season. Beauty and the Beast mixed fantasy, romance, action, and crime, lighting it all with candlelight and setting it to classical music.
The series was a surprise hit when it debuted, and a second season gave writer/producer Ron Koslow (Moonlight) a chance to further explore the world of New York Assistant District Attorney Catherine Chandler (Linda Hamilton, Terminator 2: Judgment Day) and her true love, Vincent (Ron Perlman, Hellboy), a man-lion creature and his secret community of outcasts who’ve made a life for themselves in hidden tunnels far beneath the city.
This episode list for Beauty and the Beast: The Complete Second Season was found etched on the cavern wall:
• “Chamber Music”
Vincent is reunited with Rolly, a former tunnel-dweller and musical prodigy. His life above has led to violence and drug use, and Vincent and Catherine try to help him get his life back on track.
• “Remember Love”
When Vincent is distraught over not being able to visit the mountains for a weekend with Catherine, he falls into despair, until a “guardian angel” shows him what the world would be like if he’d never been born. Yep, this is It’s a Wonderful Vincent.
• “Ashes, Ashes”
A mysterious plague strikes the world below, courtesy of a fugitive Russian sailor.
• “Dead of Winter”
Supervillain Paracelsus (Tony Jay, The Hunchback of Notre Dame) returns with a sinister, if somewhat impossible, plan to infiltrate the world below and finish off Vincent once and for all.
• “God Bless the Child”
A young pregnant woman finds a new home in the tunnels, and she falls for Vincent. When she learns of his and Catherine’s love, she flees, leaving her newborn baby in the world below.
• “Sticks and Stones”
Laura (Terrylene Theriot), the deaf girl who left the world below in Season One, has now ended up with an all-deaf street gang. So Catherine and Vincent must work together before a bloody gang war claims her life.
• “A Fair and Perfect Knight”
A young man leaving the tunnels to attend college becomes friends with Catherine at first, and then finds himself falling in love with her.
A boy who lives in Catherine’s building secretly follows her into the tunnels, jeopardizing the secrecy of the underground community.
Vincent’s adopted brother Devin (Bruce Abbott, Re-Animator) makes a return, bringing with him a giant, monstrous man rescued from a circus. Is the world below big enough for not one, but two, beasts?
• “A Gentle Rain”
Catherine discovers that a kindhearted family man living underground is a fugitive wanted for manslaughter. Where are her loyalties, with the law or with protecting the world below?
• “The Outsiders”
The series does The Hills Have Vincent when a family of kill-happy psychopaths invade the tunnels. To stop them, Vincent fears he must unleash his vicious, animalistic side.
When Catherine’s father dies, she contemplates leaving her job and her cushy apartment to become a permanent resident of the world below. Is she starting a new chapter in her life, or she hiding from her grief?
This one introduces a prima ballerina who lived in the tunnels when she was a child. When she returns for a visit, it stirs a lot of conflicting feelings for Vincent. Long before he met Catherine, this woman and Vincent were an “item.”
• “When the Bluebird Sings”
When a painter asks Catherine to pose for him, she thinks it’s nothing, but Vincent feels a chill when it happens, due to his psychic connection with her. Is this artist more than he seems?
• “The Watcher”
It’s time for Silence of the Vincent, when a serial killer stalks Catherine, getting closer and closer to making his move.
• “A Distant Shore”
Catherine must travel to Los Angeles for a murder case. Vincent, sensing her life might be danger, is frustrated by not being able to help her. Can he find a way?
While working on a horrific child abuse case, one in which the child’s mother refuses to testify, Catherine wonders if there is any hope or goodness in the world above.
• “A Kingdom by the Sea”
Mega-billionaire Elliott Burch (Edward Albert, Falcon Crest) returns, except that this time he’s not out to seduce Catherine, but instead he needs her help—he’s wanted by the CIA for being a threat to national security.
• “The Hollow Men”
After witnessing a murder in Central Park, Vincent and Catherine track down the killers, a pair of spoiled rich kids slaughtering prostitutes for fun. But now Catherine has become their next target.
• “What Rough Beast”
The three-part season finale starts here, when an investigative reporter starts putting together the pieces of Vincent’s existence. When he succeeds in capturing Vincent’s face on film, it looks like the whole world will soon learn who Vincent is.
• “Ceremony of Innocence”
Paracelsus is at his pure evil best when he returns, claiming to know the secret behind Vincent’s birth and parentage. Learning the truth, though, might push Vincent over the edge.
• “The Rest is Silence”
Losing more and more control over his violent, animalistic side, Vincent withdraws from Catherine and his friends below. Can Catherine make a final, courageous attempt to bring Vincent back from the brink, or have his inner demons taken full control?
It’s fitting that most of the episodes here deal with the ideals of a community—both in the importance of maintaining a healthy community as well as the fragility of community, and how easily it can be destroyed. The world below is a utopia of sorts, led by the wisdom and kindness of Father (Roy Dotrice, Swimming with Sharks). Almost every underground scene is bathed in a warm, golden light, giving it a sense of “home.” Here, there are no computers, televisions, or even (gasp!) cell phones. Folks read poetry and Dickens, enjoy classical music, and derive pleasure from the smallest, simplest things. More importantly, the world below represents a place where anyone can be themselves without worry. This includes not only Vincent, but characters like Mouse (David Greenlee, Digimon: The Movie), a socially backward pickpocket and mischief maker.
Yet for all the wonders that the world below represents, this community is a very fragile place. When an adolescent boy finds his way there in the episode “Labyrinths,” the tunnels dwellers are on the verge of panic, knowing that the word of even this one kid could destroy their peaceful way of life if he tells the wrong person. The boy is the antagonist of the story not because he’s evil, but because he represents a threat to the world below’s secrecy. This shows that a utopian society cannot just be, instead it must be carefully maintained and protected.
What, then, do make of this show’s take on the world above? Again, street-level New York City is depicted as a maelstrom of crime, poverty, drug use, and murder. It seems that a person can’t cross the street without getting brutally beaten by some thug with a perm. I know it’s been cleaned up in recent years, but was New York ever this much of a savage hellhole? I doubt it. Instead, the creators have upped the raw scariness of the city to make the world below appear even more like a safe haven.
“Okay,” you’re saying, “this sociology stuff is interesting and all, but what about the plot and characters?” Glad you asked. As with the first season, the actors immerse themselves in their roles, bringing life and emotion to romantic lines that could have been laughable in the hands of lesser performers. Catherine is never once portrayed as merely a “beauty.” Instead, she’s smart, caring, and emotionally strong throughout. Vincent might have introduced Catherine to this amazing underground world, but she’s given him a lot more with her connection to the world above. Her love shows him that there’s more to life than just walking around dark tunnels brooding. As for Vincent, he’s still the wise-beyond-his-years bad-ass with claws we all know and love, but he goes through quite the ordeal in this season, gradually losing more and more of himself to his dark, animalistic side. It turns out that the “beast” of this series is the “beast within.” Ron Perlman gives it his all, sometimes showing Vincent’s internal struggle often with only his eyes.
Vincent’s descent into darkness takes center stage during the three-part season ender, but it’s hinted at throughout the season, sometimes in subtle ways. There are a few instances where Vincent is beating the living french fries out of some gangland thug, and Catherine has to stop him before he goes too far and gets too violent. In another episode, though, there’s an intriguing scene in which Catherine cuts her finger on a thorny rose, and Vincent kisses her bloody finger. Is this a cute, romantic gesture, as in “kiss it and make it better,” or is it something far more ghoulish, as if he’s drinking her blood and developing a taste for it? Even though only the last three episodes are truly serialized, with cliffhangers and all, the creators hint at what’s to come throughout, and they do it nice and strategically.
The first season provided a nice mix between romantic longing and Batman-like action, but you should know that this season emphasizes the dramatics over the slashing of bad guys. Several episodes pass with no action scenes at all. The show still remains compulsively watchable, with the characters and their worlds explored in more depth, but it’s a little bit less “superhero” this time around.
After the atrocious “looks like the lens has been smothered with Crisco” digital transfer of the first season DVDs, I’m happy to report that the visual quality on these are much improved. It’s a much cleaner, clearer picture overall. That being said, there are many times in which the video is hazy and grainy, and expect to see some color bleeding in some spots. Instead of the mono sound from before, this set has been beefed up to a 2.0 stereo track, and just that makes a world of difference. Vincent’s lion’s roar booms out of the speakers with gusto, and the opening narration mixes excellently with theme music, providing an immersive “you are there” feeling. For extras, a handful of episodes have new introductions with Perlman and Hamilton. They discuss the overall themes of the episodes, but they also repeat a lot of the plots and spoil a few endings. I recommend watching the intros after you watch the episodes and not before.
• When watching several episodes in a row on DVD, it’s immediately evident that establishing shots of New York are the same few pieces of stock footage over and over.
• Once again, it’s an ’80s show, and that means ’80s clothes, gigantic ’80s hair, women with their socks on the outside of their pants, etc. I say the show is a product of its time, so I have no problem seeing past such superficial stuff. Some of you, however, will be too busy laughing at shoulder pads to enjoy this.
• It still seems a bit “much” to me that Vincent scales the outside of Catherine’s building to appear on her balcony so often. Is there really not a better way?
Die-hard fans of this series already know what’s to come in Season Three, and that these DVDs are our last chance to enjoy “classic” Catherine and Vincent. We’ll discuss that season when (if?) that set comes out. Until then, know that Beauty and the Beast: The Complete Second Season has all the romance, heroics, and fantasy that have made the series so well-loved over the years.