One of the biggest issues facing Beauty and the Beast this season is the fact that the show basically hit the reset button on its story lines. Where the first two seasons were largely driven by the need to find Muirfield and dig into the mystery of who was behind experimenting on Vincent, the third season by necessity needs to move away from that.
It’s something I mentioned in my recap of the season premiere, but I mention it again because it’s an issue that’s more glaring in the season’s second episode, “Primal Fear.” Beauty and the Beast is in a weird spot right now where it needs to build up a new threat to Vincent and Cat while also hanging on to everything the show has done previously.
It’s a storytelling obstacle that every show has to go through, finding ways to keep things fresh while also staying true to everything that hooked the audience in the first place. Right now, much of Beauty and the Beast feels stale. Despite new story lines and big moments (a proposal! J.T. might be superhuman now!), the characters don’t feel like they’re growing or changing.
That lack of change bogs down “Primal Fear,” which is largely a procedural, one reminiscent of those spotty episodes from early in season 1. With Agent Thomas recovering in the hospital, it’s up to Cat and Vincent to track down whoever is experimenting on innocent humans.
Their search leads them to a company called Effective Worldwide Solutions who have dealings in the military. It’s a name that rings a bell to Vincent and from there they work to track down a courier who was perhaps doing deliveries for the company.
When they find the courier dead inside an abandoned warehouse, and the killer still there, Vincent and Cat attempt to arrest him. The killer gets away though when he somehow uses electricity from his body to blow the circuits in the building. Clearly this is another one of the experiments they’ve been tracking down.
The man’s name turns out to be Alton Finn and he’s in search of the serum that’s meant to keep him alive. It’s the serum that Agent Thomas used to save J.T.; Thomas intercepted it from the courier before it could make its way to Alton. Hoping that he can use J.T.’s self-created serum to heal himself, Alton tortures Thomas using his electrical abilities and gets J.T.’s name from him.
When Vincent and Cat realize Alton’s plan, it’s too late. Alton, who’s eager to get the serum because he has a brain tumor that’s spreading, which is the cause of his electrical abilities, has lured J.T. to the hospital. J.T. isn’t just going to let him use the serum though, especially because he knows that it can potentially save Agent Thomas. If they save him they can get information from him about the experiments and use it to find out who’s behind them.
J.T. manages to escape from Alton just in time and inject Agent Thomas with the serum. Predictably, Alton doesn’t take that news too well and wreaks havoc on the hospital. As usual, the only thing that can stop him is Beast Vincent, but also as usual, Cat doesn’t want him to go to that place. “We both have too much to lose,” she says for maybe the 50th time this season.
NEXT: We’re all tired of Cat talking you down[pagebreak]
Vincent does end up beasting out in order to subdue Alton, but before he goes too far Cat talks both of them down. She tells them that if they kill each other, they’ll never find out who experimented on them, so the only way forward is for them to work together, to see what they have in common.
It’s a speech like so many others that fall near the end of a Beauty and the Beast episode. Sure, it’s a clever stand-in for the relationship issues Vincent and Cat are working through, but it’s still following a formula that feels stale. “Primal Fear” is an episode that lacks any sort of identity or dramatic tension, mostly because it follows a formula that’s too predictable, too similar to much of Beauty and the Beast.
If there’s something the show is doing right though it’s the continuing focus on relationships. More specifically, the show shines when it focuses on how these four main characters’ lives have changed and what’s next for them. It’s heartening to see J.T. become more confident and stand up for Tess against her overly macho older brothers. It’s refreshing to see Cat and Vincent experience relationship drama that falls outside of Muirfield, that feels more real and human.
Beyond that there are certainly some plot threads that are interesting and many questions being raised. I’m interested to see how J.T. may be a superhuman force now and how that might effect his budding relationship with Tess. I’m curious to see where Agent Thomas, found murdered in his hospital bed at the end of the episode, fits into the story of Cat, Vince, and the military experiments. “Primal Fear” does little to explore these threads though and the result is an episode that’s mostly dead on arrival.
Still, the relationship drama is a highlight and signals a promising direction for the show. Watching Jay Ryan squirm and stutter when Vincent beasts out while moving in to Cat’s apartment, or after catching Heather in an awkward position, is great in terms of comedy. The sitcom trope of the male who’s scared of commitment has been done to death, but Beauty and the Beast finds a way to flip the script and make it funny again, using Vincent’s beast side as a source of comedy.
Relationship drama aside, Beauty and the Beast is at its best when it’s having fun and really leaning into its conspiracy thriller tendencies. The show’s best moments often come from the way it creates a tangled knot of informants, victims, beasts, and secret agencies and then works to untangle it all, one thread at a time.
It’s compelling to watch everything come together alongside smaller character moments—it’s what made the last half of the first season and most of the second so much fun. There’s signs that that version of the show still exists but “Primal Fear,” for the most part, is an example of the show’s worst tendencies.
“Primal Fear” is contrived, formulaic, and doesn’t do much to further the narrative. “Don’t you get tired of talking me down?” says Vincent near the end of the episode. Cat says no, but I was shouting YES. So far, the third season of Beauty and the Beast is hitting a lot of the same beats that it has in previous seasons, resulting in predictable and dull episodes like “Primal Fear.”