The Beast: Season 1 - Review
Review by Jack Foley
ALL eyes were on Patrick Swayze when he announced his return to acting in television series The Beast, in spite of his ongoing battle with cancer.
But any doubt about Swayze’s ability or fitness to deliver consistent performances week in, week out on a phsyically and mentally demanding series were expelled pretty much from the first episode. Swayze is on fine form in The Beast. It’s just a shame that the show itself failed to match his efforts.
Series creators Vincent Angell and William Rotko came up with a decent premise. But they took a little too long to really hook viewers, opting to concentrate on “a case of the week” format rather than something more enduring, such as The Wire or The Shield.
The show followed FBI agent Charles Barker (Swayze), a career veteran renowned for employing dubious tactics, and his new partner Ellis Dove (Travis Fimmel), as they attempt to put a stop to Chicago’s criminal element.
Dove, though, finds his loyalties torn between his new partner and colleagues who want him to dish the dirt on Barker and help them bring him down.
Unfortunately, rather than really focusing on this element of the story, early episodes became too bogged down in individual cases that struggled with both credibility and interest.
Infected, for instance, featured a virus that had been given to a young boy in the hope that his mother (Victoria Tennant) could mastermind a jewel heist for the criminals involved. It was pretty terrible, with Tennant particularly bad.
The show started to improve following the sixth episode Hothead, when a rogue FBI agent (played convincingly by Gregg Henry) hinted at a circle of corrupt agents that Barker could have been a part of. It set the scene for a more focused effort… but arguably arrived too late to save the show, which has since been axed.
Of the principal characters, Swayze’s Barker remained an enigmatic presence and the main reason for watching, while Travis Fimmel’s Ellis Dove provided decent, if unspectacular support. Neither actor was able to work from particularly strong scripts, which often fed them contrived dialogue about the rights and wrongs of the job.
Production values were high, while the direction veered towards gritty. But given the ambiguity surrounding the morals of its central characters, it never took enough risks in the way that benchmark series such as The Shield did.
It probably deserved a second season to find out whether its problems could be ironed out and to afford Swayze the chance to really build a character capable of leaving a lasting impression.
But as it stands, The Beast lacked the punch or quality of writing that really made it compulsive viewing. Given the overall quality of US television, and the questions posed by Swayze’s health, it came as little surprise to find that it didn’t get a second shot.
Number of discs: 2
UK Release Date: August 17, 2009