I already spilled the beans that I would be re-watching the 1987-1989 TV show Beauty and the Beast. I ended up watching 11 out of the 22 episodes of the show's first season. I'm not sure if my thoughts will gel into one continuous narrative, but let me just start typing and see how far down the rabbit hole -- or New York City subway tunnel -- I go.
First, I was pleasantly surprised to see a name in the credits that many people will recognize. Although the show was created by Ron Koslow, a major force behind it was fantasy writer George R. R. Martin (now infamous for his long & convoluted
On the surface the show is a love story, even if it's based only loosely on the original fairy tale. The trope that recurs again and again, though, is how romance can be the conduit to discovering one's highest and truest ideals. Maybe one can never live up to those ideals with 100% fidelity, but just knowing they're there is a steadying influence in a chaotic world. Even the other people who are around Vincent and Catherine's love are energized, vivified by its power.
I'm probably apt to underplay the twists and turns of the love story itself. I must say that, other than the obligatory action-adventure plots (straight out of Knight Rider, Starsky & Hutch, and cousins) the love story is the most hackneyed part of the show. Let me just copy and paste some thoughts from my notes, with no editing:
Ha! As characters, Vincent & Catherine are such children! so over-wrought... (writing attempts to be fairy-tale-ish; is often treacly) Back then, I was wannabe Byronic, too.The "such children" line would have shocked the hell out of 20-year-old Cygnus, let me tell you. I looked up -- way up -- to that love story, and probably idealized it far too literally.
The other major aspect of the show was the utopian community Down Below the streets of New York, created by tragic figures "Father" and "Paracelsus" in the 1950s. Out of the unfairness of the world above came an attempt to build a more just and loving society. It looked like they had roughly 100 people in those secret caverns and chambers, and they were aided by selfless "helpers" up above. The scenes down below are by far my favorites, and the warm ambience, cluttered bookshelves, and soft background clanging of pipes (which they use for Morse code communication) paints a serene picture of paradise to me.
Paradise doesn't come without costs, of course. There's the danger of their world being discovered. Some denizens are probably on the wrong side of the law, even if they've been redeemed by the depths. There's also the issue of Vincent, the mutated (?) lion-beast-man with the soul of a poet. He was discovered on the steps of St. Vincent's hospital as a baby, and was raised lovingly by Father down below. If the sunlit world got a hold of him, one can only imagine terrible fates ranging from John Merrick's sideshow to E.T.'s hazmat-suited goons. Each night-time journey up to Catherine's balcony comes with a universe of peril.
Throughout the first season, the stakes kept getting raised. I'll admit that my comment about the leads being "such children" comes from the earliest episodes, when it seemed like too much too fast. But they grew into their sturm und drang. After a while, good people started dying. Vincent found a worthy adversary in the Nietzschean Paracelsus. Catherine found it ever-more psychologically draining to simultaneously be a good district attorney and keep all these secrets -- including the most life-affirming and transformative love she'd ever experienced -- from the other people in her life.
As I hinted in my earlier post, it didn't last. At least they didn't maintain an ever-static status quo, to keep the series going. Oh, George. Your Red Wedding is nothing to me, after the events of the cliffhanger between seasons 2 and 3. I didn't re-watch these. I'm not sure I ever want to.
Strangely, my mind kept thinking about the long term. Wondering how much of the self-imposed secretiveness of the world below was because of the need to protect Vincent. What would happen decades into the future, after Vincent's passing? I kept thinking about how some of the youngest people down there -- inventive Mouse, bold Jamie, impetuous Kipper -- could someday lead their community back up into the sunlight.
Maybe they would have kept Vincent and Catherine's love in their hearts, even after all those years. The ones rejected by society, who found redemption down below, could then help energize, vivify, and redeem the rest of us.