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An enthusiastic crowd at Comic-Con International received the first look at the pilot episode of Beauty and the Beast, The CW reboot of the 1980s drama. Although some audience members were costumes inspired by the original series, there were in for a modern reinterpretation of the romantic fantasy/mystery.
Warning: The following contains an extensive summary of the first episode. If you’re spoiler-averse, skip to the end for coverage of the Q&A.
Opening in a bar in fall 2003, the pilot introduces Catherine Chandler (played by Kristin Kreuk of Smallville), a bartender who recently graduated from law school. It’s dark when her shift ends, and Catherine finds that her car won’t start, so she calls her mother for help. But no sooner does her mom arrive than two masked men appear and gun her down. Terrified, Catherine flees into the forest, with the gunmen in pursuit.
The attackers soon catch up to her, but they’re prevented from killing her by what appears to be a large man. However, he moves with the speed and agility of a wild animal, and sounds like one as well. The assailants go down quickly, and Chandler suffers a concussion. Was it a man that saved her, or some kind of animal?
The action skips ahead to the present day, with Catherine now a police detective who’s breaking up with her boyfriend. When she discovers he cheated on her, Catherine arranges for him to be arrested (legitimately) for marijuana possession. She’s not a woman to be messed with.
Chandler meets up with her partner Tess O’Malley (Nina Lisandrello) to work a homicide case with an unusual twist: Specialist Vincent Keller, M.D. (Jay Ryan), left his fingerprints at the scene of the murder of a fashion magazine editor, but records show that he was killed in Afghanistan in 2002. Tracking down Keller proves difficult, but the detectives start with his former roommate. J.T. Forbes (Austin Basis), who lives in an old, seemingly abandoned chemical plant. He claims he has not seen Keller for many years. Catherine and Tess buy his story — for now.
After they leave, Vincent reveals himself; apparently he and J.T. still live together, at least part of the time, as they work together on some kind of antidote. Vincent explains to J.T. that he was at the murder scene, but didn’t harm the victim. In fact, he was trying to save her life. Keller says he’s been keeping tabs on Catherine ever since he saved her life nine years earlier.
Meanwhile, Catherine and Tess continue their investigation, questioning associates of the victim. Later, lab results find that a hair uncovered at the crime scene appears to contain cross-species DNA. Catherine makes some calls to find an expert in the field, and then returns to the chemical plan only to find Vincent instead of J.T. Caught, Vincent explains how he saw the murder victim collapse, discovered she had been poisoned and tried to give her emergency CPR – explaining his fingerprints at the scene. Asked how he knew poison was involved, Vincent admits he could smell it.
During the interrogation, Catherine spots a newspaper clipping of herself from the 2003 murder of her mother. Frantically, she asks Vincent why he has that. But before he can answer, Tess arrives and Vincent hides. Catherine lets him get away with the deception for now, and leaves with her partner.
Catherine and Tess continue their investigation at the offices of the magazine where the victim worked, questioning the editor who replaced her and searching for a possible source of the poison. Although he’s certainly suspicious, he denies involvement. However, the detectives discover a potential clue: a pregnancy-test box with two missing strips.
Catherine has better success finding an expert on cross-species DNA, who wants to meet at a subway entrance. She waits for the scientist only to discover he’s the killer. After a fight in which Catherine gains the upper hand, she’s attacked by two other assailants and knocked onto the subway tracks. Once again, Vincent arrives to save her life, fighting the attackers with animal-like speed and furor. It’s only then that Catherine realizes who Vincent is: the man who rescued her the night of her mother’s murder. Vincent and Catherine flee for his home at the chemical plant. However, Catherine accidentally leaves her cell phone at the subway platform, exactly where the killers can get it.
Vincent reveals to Catherine that he joined the military after 9/11, and was recruited into a special experiment along with other soldiers. Without his knowledge, the military injected them with something that altered their DNA, making them stronger and faster and enhancing their senses. But soon a flaw was discovered: Any time adrenaline kicked in, the subjects lost control and underwent minor physical changes (although nothing quite “bestial”). When the problem was revealed, the military tried to kill the remaining test subjects. Vincent escaped, faking his death and fleeing the country. He now believes the men on the subway platform were after Catherine because of his hair sample. He demands she leave, both for her safety and for his. She agrees to go, again without getting any answers about her mother’s death.
Catherine returns to the police station, and finds the missing pregnancy tests to be a dead end; the victim wasn’t pregnant. That evening, she returns to Vincent’s home for more answers. He’s furious that she’s there, and transforms into “the beast” — offering the audience its first clear look at the effects of adrenaline. His face distorts with rage, and his eyes take on a reflective glow. He displays tremendous strength, tossing a trash can against a car, destroying the vehicle. He bellows that Catherine must flee, and she does.
The next day, the investigation leads back to the beauty magazine, where Catherine and Tess figure out it was the victim’s assistant who took the pregnancy test; she was having an affair with the victim’s husband. Confronted with her lies, the assistant admits to killing her boss so she could be with her husband. With the case closed, Catherine is informed by forensics that six other cases in their records show a match with the same unusual DNA samples from the first murder. It seems Vincent, or perhaps someone else with his same experimental DNA, has been busy.
She cautiously returns to Vincent’s home. This time he doesn’t freak out, so she takes the opportunity to finally confront him about her mother’s death. Vincent explains that Catherine’s mother was murdered by the same agents who are after him. They had been tracking her mother for some time before that night, but he doesn’t know why. He assures Catherine that her mother’s death wasn’t her fault.
The episode concludes with Catherine at an office party, quietly considering all that has transpired. Unknown to her, Vincent is nearby, watching her from a nearby rooftop.
Moderator Dalton Ross then introduced the Comic-Con audience to Beauty and the Beast creators Sheri Cooper and Jennifer Levin, co-showrunner Brian Peterson and stars Kreuk and Ryan.
Cooper and Levin explained they recruited Kreuk with cupcakes at her agent’s office, as they were competing for the actress with other projects. The duo really wanted her after her compelling turn as Lana Lang on Smallville.
Asked how different this version of the story will be from the 1980s series that starred Lina Hamilton and Ron Perlman, Levin said three executive producers from the original show are on board and agreed that the “spirit is the same,” but much more modernized. There is no actual lion-like beast, but “the romance is all still there.”
Peterson said the show will roughly follow the format of a police procedural. “But we move the story forward both mythological and romantically,” he said.
“You know what’s great about Kristen and Jay when you see them on screen there’s just chemistry — they just have so much fun together,” Cooper said. “There is a lot of story both mythologically and in their back story that’s going to create trouble for them to get together, but we’re going to try.”
Asked about the beast’s physicality, Ryan said, “We’re going to bring in some wire work — really get into the physical aspects of this character.”
Levin was asked what the audience can look forward from week to week. “Each episode we’re trying to figure out the right balance — some will be very dark like the pilot, and some will be light … depending on what the focus of that episode will be,” she said. “But Sherri and I really like writing funny stuff, so hopefully that stuff won’t get cut out.”
Asked what will differentiate this police procedural from others, Cooper answered, “This one is a character-driven show. Also, what we have not seen on TV for a while is two strong female detectives. There are lots of female cops out there, and we’ve talked to them, and we just want that to be out there.”
Kreuk was asked if any actors from Smallville will make guest appearances. “Wouldn’t that be great?” she replied. “I don’t know, but we should try.”
She also said she didn’t use Hamilton’s performance as Catherine for inspiration. “I’ve only seen a little bit of the original series, but she’s Linda Hamilton, she’s amazing,” she said. “I don’t think I could compete with her and wouldn’t try. I just worked to make my own character.”
Ryan’s role, physical as it is, proved challenging for the actor. “Yeah, we use every muscle — wait, not every muscle,” Ryan said, laughing at the innuendo. “But most of your muscles, and it’s quite physical.”
Asked about the transition from the Lana Lang to Catherine Chandler, Kreuk said, “She’s a very different character, but she’s got a strength, and she’s very emotionally restricted, while the Lana character was not.”
Beauty and the Beast premieres Oct. 11 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.