The Beast Review
I want to put out a disclaimer right now: I’m not really a fan of shows about criminals and police. I think the whole cop genre has been beaten beyond death. I watch NCIS, but that has a tremendous character dynamic. Most cop shows? Meh.
But, of course, you should expect studios to come out with more of the same. It happens. And now it has Patrick Swayze’s name all over it. It’s called The Beast, and it’s supposedly a gritty crime drama about an FBI agent (Swayze) who might be going over to the dark side.
Well, I’m sorry A&E, but this has already been done before. It’s called The Shield.
I haven’t watched Chiklis’ most famous production, mainly because I’m not into that stuff, but I did watch this, and judging from the FX commercials about The Shield, I can’t imagine these shows being all that different. But let me get away from baldy and onto this show.
The show begins with Swayze and three other men all pointing guns at each other inside a butcher shop. Swayze wants one of the guys to take the money. The guy’s partner says “It’s fifty-thousand light, let’s take it,” obviously scared. Swayze shoots him, and once he’s on the ground, shoots him again. Then he drags the body out as FBI swarm the place, and the “corpse” starts talking. As it turns out, Swayze is an experienced FBI agent teamed up with a newbie (Travis Fimmel) he “hand-picked,” teaching him the ropes of being an undercover agent. The funny thing is, the training reminds me a lot of how training is conducted in anime shows.
Basically, get your trainee beat up, be a jerk, rinse, lather, and repeat.
Seriously. I’ve seen better training come out of a high school gym class taught by a Neo-Nazi feminist. First, Swayze tells Fimmel to pretend to be a counselor to a drunk at the bar, and when the drunk beats him up, Swayze gets him away and gives Fimmel’s number to the drunk, who later hounds him on the phone during the episode asking for help. He then gets Fimmel to go deliver some money to a 9/11 Truther in a rundown trailer smoking pot and using his foot as target practice in a derivative of Russian Roulette (and ain’t that the truth), in exchange for launch cards (more on that in a sec), but of course, Fimmel has to get higher than Buzz Aldrin and nearly blow his brains out to get the cards. And you know Swayze knew this would happen. He wanted it too.
What a jerk.
This episode revolves around Swayze trying to bring down an arms dealer by masquerading as an arms supplier, which means he has to steal a rocket launcher from FBI storage, schlep around town with it, beat up some contacts, and finally make the deal–which also includes him bloody-ing Fimmel’s rather unmemorable nose. Two subplots ensue when Fimmel’s character finds the woman living underneath him attractive and tries to date her (but with disastrous results, thanks to his boss and that damn drunk); and with Swayze’s Charles Barker, whose sister’s family is being hounded by some men because they apparently have some files. The presentation of this subplot is all wrong, too: they make it seem that Swayze is a divorced father, so its his ex-wife asking him for help (and which he accepts), right? Actually, it’s revealed near the end of the show its his sister, and the man Swayze helps is his brother-in-law. And by helping, I mean, “He convinces him to blow his brains out.” Because that makes him a hero and saves his family. Well, ah, no. It just seems to cover Swayze’s butt. The other element to this is that Swayze and Fimmel are being followed, seen only as a POV within a car. At the very end, as Fimmel gets on a train to go back home, they introduce themselves as an FBI internal affairs team, who have “recruited” Fimmel without his knowledge to spy on Swayze and real him in, because he might be turning into Darth Vader. Of course, still high on drugs, confused beyond any definition of insane, and desperately needing his mommy to change his diaper, Fimmel pulls a gun on them and nearly shoots one of them. But after they have their discussion (and Fimmel states his loyalty to that jerk of a partner Swayze) he leaves, then wonder about the wisdom of their introduction, and the show ends.
In hindsight, this seems clear, but its presented in a jumbled up mishmash at a rapid-fire pace that’s absolutely bonkers. It’s a bit surreal, too surreal, I think, for TV. It’s obviously supposed to be a gritty crime drama where the FBI agents are trying to hold on to their identities, question everything, that sort of thing. But it just seems horribly wooden and artificial. You couldn’t breath life into this show if you had an air compressor hooked up to a Boeing 747’s jet engine and Steve Jobs on the other side imparting his Apple love. It’s fake, a retread of nearly every other gritty show that’s gone before, and tries to be new by being a little weird. But it doesn’t work; you just shake your head and wonder why you’re even watching this show.
I also don’t like Swayze’s character one damn bit. He’s–excuse my censored French–a complete a******, he has a god complex, and he thinks almost nothing of anyone else. Maybe that’s the point, maybe we are supposed to hate him, but A&E made it seem we’re also supposed to sympathize. How can we, when he kicks his partner into the dirt, blows up people’s cars that he borrows, threatens to kill witnesses if they don’t tell him “everything,” makes innocent people commit suicide, and orders others around as if they’re pawns on a chessboard? (Two more things: he gets a call and forces Fimmel out of Fimmel’s own apartment so he can have privacy, and later tells Fimmel to make a delivery and drives off, leaving Fimmel completely stranded in the middle of nowhere with no mode of transportation besides his own two clodhoppers. Again, I say it: what a jerk.) If this is a show about redemption, then it will be a painful redemption indeed.
There’s also the question about who the main character is. Is it Swayze, playing the rough and tumble FBI agent who could be crooked, or is it Fimmel, playing the rookie FBI agent who doesn’t know what to believe, gets beaten up by everyone, can’t land a solid date with this chick, and now has to spy on his partner? Its difficult. For one thing, Swayze is definitely the antihero, but he’s an antihero I can’t like. On the other, Fimmel is about as memorable as a wet napkin, and unless that wet napkin is stuck to the bottom of your friend’s boot, it isn’t very memorable. Already I’m getting his face mixed up with Robin Dunne’s from Sanctuary. Swayze, obviously, can act. Fimmel? Eh, it wavers between he’s trying too hard and he’s not putting enough effort in. So I can’t say.
While it’s admirable that Swayze is fighting cancer, and its good he’s in something new, I really can’t recommend this show. The only reason I don’t give it a failing grade (failing meaning under C-) is that, one, its a pilot, and things may change; and two, Swayze is bravely fighting cancer. But it doesn’t get much higher than that; absurd delivery, bad acting, dislikable/forgettable characters, and basically a retread of what’s gone before. And people wonder why I don’t usually watch cop shows.
Final Grade: C-
Availability: Airing on A&E, Thursdays @ 10pm E.S.T.