Beauty and the Beast: The Final Season (DVD)

“If one gift is lost, there are other gifts waiting to be found.”

At the end of Beauty and the Beast: The Complete Second Season, beastly lion-man Vincent (Ron Perlman, Hellboy) had been driven mad and overwhelmed by his vicious, animalistic side. Vincent’s one true love, beautiful district attorney Catherine Chandler (Linda Hamilton The Terminator), followed him to a cave deep beneath New York in the hopes of somehow bringing Vincent back from the brink. Catherine screamed out Vincent’s name from within the dark, and the screen went black.

If you’ve recently discovered this series thanks to DVD, the below paragraph is your non-spoiler review. The rest of what you see on this page is for the fans.

NON-SPOILER REVIEW: At the start of this season, a major cast member leaves the series, and this alters the tone of the show considerably. The creators did the best with what they had, turning these remaining 10 episodes (and change) into one big serialized adventure story. But despite some sweet action and a cool paranoia-laced plot, it just wasn’t the same show.

And now, bring on the SPOILERS.

The episode list was part of my secret plan from the very beginning:

• “Though Lovers Be Lost” Parts One and Two
Vincent doesn’t kill Catherine. Instead, he remembers his love for her at the last minute. Cut to later, as Vincent’s memory is still hazy, and he’s lost his psychic connection with Catherine. Catherine, meanwhile, is abducted while investigating a sinister conspiracy. Months later, a distraught Vincent finally locates Catherine, who, it turns out was pregnant with their child all this time. Now, a mystery man whose name we’ll eventually learn is Gabriel (Stephen McHattie, Shoot ‘Em Up), has the baby, and Vincent must track them both down.

• “Walk Slowly”
Vincent withdraws into himself, overcome with grief. Catherine’s boss, Joe Maxwell (Jay Acovone, World Trade Center), begins an investigation into what happened to Catherine, recruiting the show’s new “beauty,” genius detective Diana Bennett (Jo Anderson, Northern Exposure), and untrustworthy mega-billionaire Elliot Birch (Edward Albert, Falcon Crest).

• “Nevermore”
Diana explores every inch of Catherine’s apartment, discovering some small clues that others missed, including the name “Vincent.” To continue his investigation, Vincent decides to share information with Birch, so that Birch and Joe can take down a corrupt D.A. in Gabriel’s employ. But can Vincent truly trust Birch?

• “Snow”
Gabriel hires a ruthless killer named Snow (Lance Henriksen, Aliens) to get rid of Vincent. Snow successfully tracks Vincent to his underground home, threatening the lives of all the peaceful folk that live there.

• “Beggar’s Comet”
Gabriel takes apart Birch’s life, bit by bit, until Birch is on the edge of ruin. Will Birch switch sides yet again, telling Gabriel everything he knows about Vincent?

• “A Time to Heal”
Diana finally meets Vincent face-to-fur, when she finds him mortally wounded at Catharine’s gravesite. While nursing him back to health, she finds him fascinating, but she ends up emotionally caring for him as well, to the point where she jeopardizes her career and her life to protect him.

• “In the Forests of the Night”
Rolly, a young musical prodigy from the world below who left to pursue an education, returns after he’s injured while robbing a liquor store. At first I thought, “pointless stand-alone filler episode,” but eventually the plot has to do with Vincent making a direct attack on one of Gabriel’s businesses.

• “Chimes at Midnight”
As Vincent and Diana get closer and closer to tracking down Gabriel, Vincent decides that in order to save the baby, he must give himself up to Gabriel. Too bad for him, then, that Gabriel has other plans.

• “Invictus”
It’s the shocking final confrontation between Vincent and Gabriel, not to mention the first—and maybe last—chance Vincent has to see his child. Is the baby human, or is it…a beast?

And thus ends the story of Vincent and…wait, what’s this? Turns out there were two other episodes made, that aired on TV with no fanfare about seven months after the series was cancelled. These “lost” episodes are also on this set:

• “The Reckoning”
After being reunited with his former love, Father (Roy Dotrice, Swimming with Sharks) ponders leaving the world below and starting a new life.

• “Legacies”
The son of a man who once died in a cave-in in the world below returns for some of the old “ironic punishment” revenge.

At the time, there were rumors that the show would change its name to just “Vincent.” I can find absolutely no evidence of whether this was true, but that’s pretty much the show we got in this third season. It really is like watching a Vincent spin-off series. The show’s trademark poetry and romantic musings are more or less gone, replaced with a grief-stricken Vincent tearing apart bad guys and brooding more than usual, along with more characters joining the regular cast, separately investigating the conspiracy that led to Catherine’s exit from the series. This has Vincent fighting a battle on two fronts. First, he’s after the bad guys. Second, he’s hiding from a second group of good guys who are suspicious of who he is and his connection to Catherine. It’s almost too much for a hunky lion-like creature to bear.

Mind you, this conspiracy stuff is pretty interesting. Just who is this “Gabriel” character? He makes references to a hard-fought past, where he’s learned to treat others as something to be bought and sold, like art at an auction. This doesn’t fully explain all his odd little ticks, not to mention why he takes such an intense interest in Vincent and Catherine’s child. And Stephen McHattie sure knows how to be creepy. That being said, he’s still not as great a villain as Paracelsus (Tony Jay, The Hunchback of Notre Dame). Gabriel sees Vincent and the baby merely as commodities to be dealt with, but Paracelsus could get inside Vincent’s head like no one else, and I still say he was the show’s number one baddie. Too bad the writers couldn’t think of some crazy way to bring him back this year.

Tim Burton’s Batman opened the summer before this season started, and Vincent is now more Batman-like than he ever was. In the season premiere, he smashes through walls and windows in similar style as Bats crashing down through that skylight. The action scenes in this season are bigger and better than before. See Vincent turn doors and even dead thugs into shields against bullets. See him toss more thugs down flights of stairs. See him leap through the air in slow motion during a fight inside a burning warehouse. You can even see him out-tough Lance Henriksen—no small feat. When not being the world’s most well-coiffed killing machine, Ron Perlman makes with the dramatics, crying over Catherine and vowing revenge against Gabriel every chance he gets.

Previous seasons speculated on what Vincent’s life might have been like if he had never met Catherine. Before she came into his life, we were told, Vincent was somewhat lost. He did his duty as the underground world’s protector, but never being able to show his face always haunted him. Thanks to Catherine, Vincent was able to experience all the excitement and wonder of the world above through her eyes. She made his world a better place, and, even if he didn’t always show it with his manly stoic-ness, she was a source of joy for him. Now, all that is gone, and all we’re left with is super-intense Vincent.

As we all know, this show is famous for its sickeningly sweet romance, I have to wonder what this season says about love. Vincent and Catherine always had this perfect love, and they were held up as a sort of ideal for what true love could be. But then, this season comes along and the message is now, “true love is great until some rich guy comes along and ruins it for both of you.” In one episode, Vincent asks Diana, “Where is the hope?” and she has no answer for him other than a confused silence. Then again, Diana is introduced this season as the new “beauty,” and hints are dropped that she and the V-man might eventually fall for each other. If the series had continued, maybe the message would have been, “Even when it seems true love is lost, another possibility might present itself.” Or, even more likely, the message is, “One of our stars has left the show and we’re trying to think of some way to keep this thing on the air so we can still get paid.”

All 12 final episodes are here on this three-disc set, and the picture quality continues to improve over the first two seasons, especially the why-is-there-salad-dressing-all-over-the-lens transfer of the first season. This time, the picture is much more crisp and sharp. I wonder, though, if the powers-that-be overcompensated, because I spotted some edge enhancement and that thing where solid colors look like a bunch of tiny separate horizontal lines across the screen (Is there a name for that?). The stereo sound is also good; another step up from the first season set’s mono sound. There are many score-only scenes this time around, and the music sounds terrific. Perlman and Hamilton showed up for some interviews on the second season set, but this time, the only features are some previews for upcoming Paramount DVDs. When they were filming those interviews for the Season Two set, did no one really think to ask Hamilton, “So why’d you leave the show?”

• The new opening credits sequence just plain doesn’t work for me. First, Vincent narrates about how Catherine died, and then he yammers on about finding his destiny. All it really does is say every week to viewers, “Too bad she’s not on the show anymore, huh?”
• When Vincent desperately searches for Catherine and then for the baby, why does no one even suggest that maybe, just maybe, they might not be in New York? I’m not saying Vincent should have gone on a road trip or anything, but why is this possibility not even considered?
• The first episode on this set begins with an announcer screaming at viewers, “And now…the season premiere of Beauty and the Beast!!!” One of the reasons we all love TV-on-DVD is because we can watch our favorite shows without obnoxious network hype.

I don’t think this is how anyone would ever have wanted the story of Vincent and Catherine to end, but this is the ending, and it’s become a permanent part of the show’s mythology. TV fans can’t happily ignore this season the same way we happily ignore Galactica 1980 or Rescue from Gilligan’s Island or the fourth season of Welcome Back, Kotter.

If I had never seen the first two seasons and thought this was the start of a new show, I’d probably love it (aside from some confusion here and there). But knowing what I know, and seeing what the show once was, I find it hard to sing the praises for this season the way I did for its first two years. Beauty and the Beast: The Final Season is rousing entertainment, but it’s just not as great as it could have been.

The Verdict

Not guilty, for not being a total disaster.

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