The Shield is gone, leaving the airways devoid of gritty, gray-and-grayer police drama. Michael Chiklis was a complete badass, and over the course of seven amazing seasons, the writers carved an amazingly complex, suspenseful and believable tale of crime, corruption and tragedy. The last season, especially, was a masterstroke.
And only a few months later, A&E’s The Beast has risen from the ashes to take The Shield‘s place. Or at least try.
The Beast plays out like a down-and-dirty version of the Chris Cooper movie Breach mixed with a less captivating Training Day; Travis Fimmel stars as Jake, a young, eager cop who has been recruited to partner with Charles Barker (Patrick Swayze). Just as in Training Day, Jake is green around the edges and has a lot to learn when pitted against Charles, who will cross the line to accomplish the mission. SPOILER ALERT: It isn’t long, though, before Jake is confronted with a team of officials who inform him that he has been selected to spy on Charles, given the suspicion that the man is dirty.
Surprisingly, it isn’t Swayze who has the lead but Fimmel; the narrative stays focused on Jake much more than Charles. Nevertheless, Fimmel holds his own and quickly proves that he can carry the show, and one has to wonder, given Swayze’s dire circumstances, that this isn’t completely coincidental. On the flip side, it’s Swayze who will draw audiences in and keep them there, as he delivers his best performance in years – though that isn’t hard, since no one has seen him in years. That fact aside, Swayze growls his way through scene to scene with satisfying brutality, though those expecting Denzel Washington-esque screen chewing should look elsewhere. As good as Trimmel is, this show will live and die with Swayze – and I sincerely hope that doesn’t turn into a literal statement.
Neither the pilot episode or Episode 2, titled Two Choices, blew me away; as intense as Swayze is, that intensity doesn’t always resonate through the show itself. Again, one can’t help but compare The Beast to The Shield, and having grown to love that show over seven seasons, it’s hard to see the same quality here. Nevertheless, only two episodes have passed and both are good enough to give it a few more chances.
In other words, it has potential.
Interestingly, one of the most intriguing aspects of the show is the relationship between Jake and his neighbor Rose, played by the beautiful Lindsay Pulsipher. The relationship serves as a good antithesis to the rest of the show, and I liked the prospect of the issues the couple is going to face in the future. Still, I think the writers jumped the gun by removing much of their conflict by the second episode.
The Beast, which premieres Thursday, January 15th at 10pm ET/PT on A&E hasn’t won me over, but it’s intriguing enough to give it a little time. It’s sad to think that this may be Patrick Swayze’s final hurrah, but if it is, it is a commendable way to go out. The show maybe similar to bigger and better things, but Swayze’s performance is top notch.