Last night, Beauty and the Beast made a valiant attempt to deal with the elephant in the room, with regards to Cat and Vincent's relationship. But all that accomplished was to turn some uncomfortable subtext into... really uncomfortable text. Seriously not okay.
Spoilers ahead. . .
This episode. This episode is a perfect example of what happens when a show knows there's something wrong with the implications of a particular storyline, but has no idea how to deal with it.
Because, last week ended with Vincent sort of attacking Cat and Cat deciding that he was too dangerous and needed to be brought in. And, to their credit, the writers did recognize that what happened between Cat and Vincent had shades of domestic violence. But the way they tried to handle that. . . well, they get points for trying?
The show starts with Cat applying makeup to hide the bruises on her neck caused by Vincent. And then she tells her sister it was caused by sleeping funny, and a deep tissue massage. Heather replies to this obvious lie by saying, "People are going to think you have an abusive boyfriend." Ha. Ha. Ha. To be clear: the lighthearted music bed is intended to make that line a joke. The writers are aware of this subtext, and went with this zany comedy tone.
Or how about this? Vincent goes to J.T. and confesses that he hurt her, and when J.T. presses, Vicent says, "She was asking questions, things that I can't talk about, and I got frustrated, and I got overwhelmed. I felt cornered." Yeah. That's a) not going to change. She's a cop and you're a secret assassin with superstrength. And b) YOU HAVE SUPERSTRENGTH, SHE'S TINY, AND YOU FELT CORNERED? Vincent at least tells J.T. to apologize to Cat for him, and to tell her he'll stay away. Ha, that's what he thinks. This show's not done with poorly explaining away the similarities to domestic violence yet.
Because then Cat and Gabe have a truly fascinating exchange:
Cat: "It's just that he's never done anything like this before. We both know someone's controlling him, but when I came at him with questions —
Gabe: So this is your fault? Blame the victim?
Cat: No, of course not. But this isn't exactly a domestic violence case. Vincent is more of a victim than anyone.
It's fascinating in the sense that, again, the show is aware of how this all looks — but thinks that just pointing it out will make it go away. That kind of lampshading may work with a plot hole or a deus ex machina, but not abuse. Saying that they know something looks like a really sensitive and complicated topic and then throwing even more of the tropes associated with that topic on it just doesn't cure the problem. Nor does this make it look like an intentional attempt to use the show as an allegory for the problem.
And Gabe says he won't tell Tess, when Cat asks him not to, because it's not his place to tell. Tess herself is played as the friend Cat can't tell because she'll just find validation for her low opinion of Vincent. Which, to Tess's credit, is actually pretty valid right now.
And Cat. Cat's added another awkward relationship thing on top. Because Cat's current plan to help Vincent is to pretend to be his girlfriend while really searching for information on the people controlling him. She flat out tells Gabe that she's offering to "use our relationship to our advantage." Gabe describes this plan to Tess as, "Your partner wants to go undercover, pretend to be his girlfriend, even though she is his girlfriend, even though he doesn't remember that." Is there a different writer in charge of Gabe? Like, the one who sees all the problems with this story?
Last week, I guessed we'd get "angsty-conflicted Cat." How could I have known? And now that he's coded as an abuser, and she's explicitly using him for information, there's nobody to root for. It's hard even to enjoy how she's still an awful cop with horrible plans when the show keeps alluding to abuse. Because after Cat "learns" how to beat Vincent-the-polygraph, she goes to his boat to look for information. And when Vincent shows up, she says they need to talk, going with: "You can't ever do that again. You can't cross that line." STOP IT. I know it's supposed to be her plan and all, but after all the talk about domestic violence, this really looks like an allusion to how victims return to their abusers. This does not make me root for them to figure this all out and get together.
I legitimately can't tell if the show wants us to think this allegory or if it's just supposed to be more evidence that whatever's happened to Vincent needs to be reversed. It might be the latter — which would be more within this show's grasp — but the repeated allusions to the clichés of abuse in media make me question. Either way, this is handled poorly.
For example: Vincent tells Cat, "Look, can we maybe just start again? Because I was having such a great time with you up until..." Until you attacked her? And what happened to staying away from her? And you tell her that she's going to have to not ask questions? This is making me physically ill.
In other awkward relationship plots, Heather finally pins Cat down long enough to tell her that she's known for three months that their dead father isn't Cat's biological one. Then Heather's given a "job in Florida" and written out of the show.
All the while, Cat's biological father's still floating around, giving instructions to Vincent via voice-changer. The revelation makes Cat too flustered to lie properly and her bio-dad puts Vincent on guard for her betrayal. He fakes a memory he was told about by J.T. to distract her from her investigation. She figures it out, and she, Gabe, and Tess go to seek out the same beast that Vincent's hunting down.
And then she thinks Vincent accuses her of doing this as revenge for him hurting her. Which gets this response:
I wore a scarf all day to cover up what you did. Telling myself and anyone who would listen that this wasn't your fault. That if I could find out who was controlling you, I could cut those strings and we could be together again. I lied because I cared about you.
So all the talk Cat had about wanting to do what's best for the public by stopping the beasts? Yeah, instead, it's angsty-conflicted-in-love Cat with a side of uncomfortable allegory.
They stop the beast threat of the week, Vincent saves Cat — and I'm still so uncomfortable with their relationship, it doesn't even matter that she's still the worst detective. Plus, apparently, Vincent's remembering Cat now. Now he trusts her! And gets that she's trying to help! But she can't get over the lying and the hiding he's done. So she ends it. There's no way that'll last. None. And now when it doesn't end, it's tainted by this episode's horrible comparison of their relationship to abuse.