During this holiday break, I caught up on The CW’s procedural drama, Beauty and the Beast, out of loyalty to its star, Kristin Kreuk. The show, loosely based (and I really mean loosely) on the 1980s show of the same name, revolves around Catherine Chandler, a detective, who witnessed her mother being shot and was saved from her murderers by a “beast.” Nine years later, a case leads her to discover that Vincent Keller, an ex soldier killed in action during military service, is actually alive and has been experimented on to become a killing machine. A connection evolves between the two that they cannot push away as hard as they try.
The series isn’t the best, to be honest; it lacks plausibility as far as the plot execution is concerned. But it really tries a lot. I mean, it’s a procedural drama on The CW for crying out loud. It really isn’t as offensively bad as others have made it out to be. I am quite enjoying it, actually. It is definitely my guilty pleasure.
However, as I was watching the show over the last week, one thing caught my attention: how similar yet completely opposite to Smallville it is — especially since former Smallville showrunners, Brian Peterson and Kelly Souders, serve as co-showrunners on BatB.
Remember Smallville? It also starred Kristin Kreuk as the damsel in distress who the (tall, dark, and handsome) secret vigilante (who goes on to become Superman) falls in love with. Sure, Cat Chandler isn’t completely a damsel in distress. She’s a badass cop who catches murderers for a living, but she is almost always saved by Vincent — this person, who is not entirely human, that would give his life to save someone else’s. (Just like Clark Kent.)
Both our heroes cannot tell the world who they are because that would put them and those they love in imminent danger — they are (according to themselves, at least) “monsters” after all. So they lead an isolated life, away from everyone and everything. They both pretend to be people they are not, and in the night (or whenever someone can’t see them), they go out of their way to offer help to those who need it. They don’t do it out of guilt. They don’t do it to overcorrect. They do it because the human part in them is more dominant than people can see. And as audience, we root for them because of that very fact. We don’t see them as aliens or animals, we see them, like I said before, as heroes.
And they are both fueled by these captivating characters portrayed by Kristin Kreuk, Catherine Chandler and Lana Lang. They seem bland at first and almost uninteresting, but they soon become peoples’ favorite characters. They make the vigilantes go on. They remind them that they are humans who deserve a normal life, whether they vocalize that or not. And that’s actually where the two shows drift away from each other.
In Smallville‘s early seasons, Clark does his best not to show Lana his true identity which consequently alienates them from each other driving her into the arms of other men, just like his mortal enemy Lex Luthor. Clark loves her, sure. That’s something no one can deny. But he does not trust her enough to not freak out by this other side of him — the alien side of him. He doesn’t trust her enough not to walk away. Vincent, on the other hand, whether willingly or not, reveals himself wholly to Catherine. Even though Cat struggles to live with the fact that he has mutated animal DNA in him at first, she goes on to (sort of) accept it in the midseason finale of the show when she realizes that all relationships are risky. Why avoid them and rid yourself of possible content as result?
When Lana discovers the truth about Clark, she goes through the same journey of denial and then living with (and accepting) the brutal reality that the person she loves is… different. But Lana walks away from Clark when she realizes what or who he can be. She walks away from him when she realizes he is Superman. She doesn’t want to be an obstacle that stops him from saving the world. She doesn’t want to be a burden or distract him. She breaks his heart and abandons him so he can find his way and be the person the world needs him to be. Catherine, on the other hand, sees herself as much of a savior as Vincent is. She wholeheartedly comprehends that if Vincent is to become a hero, he won’t be able to do it without her. She is the one who grounds him. She is the one who rights his path whenever he diverts, and she knows that very well.
And Vincent Keller diverts from his path repeatedly. As hard as he tries, his instincts take over him sometimes. He commits crimes. He murders people, even if it’s to save other people. He locks himself up so he won’t do it again. He injects himself with untested serum to cure himself, but in the end, whether he likes it or not, he is half-monster. It’s part of who is, and it’s part of how he was made: violence is a part of him. And its this core characteristic that makes him so different from Clark Kent who vows endlessly not to become the villain he knows he can be. Jor-El warns him about it many times. He tells him that he might be the Earth’s savior but he could also be its greatest enemy. When the show ends, Kent proves that he can surprises that innate heinousness in him and that he is in fact that savior.
Do you think there are similarities between the two shows? Which one do you prefer, so far?