The Beast is an American crime drama series starring Patrick Swayze and Travis Fimmel. The series, which only ran for one season, debuted on A&E Network. It was Swayze's final acting performance before he died from pancreatic cancer in 2009. Despite receiving largely positive reviews from critics, it garnered only lukewarm viewing figures.
FBI agent Charles Barker applies controversial techniques in his attempts to bring criminals to justice, which often border on illegal and unsettle his uninitiated partner, Ellis Dove. Over the course of the first season, Barker is investigated by fellow FBI agents for alleged misconduct. Dove's loyalty to his partner is challenged when internal affairs agent Ray Beaumont (Larry Gilliard) approaches him to gain information. Shortly thereafter, Dove learns of darker secrets in Barker's past.
Charles Barker (Patrick Swayze) is a veteran FBI agent, and an expert at going undercover, gaining the confidence of criminals and setting them up for a long hard fall in prison. As skilled an actor as he is a cop, Barker has a rookie agent under his wing, Ellis Dove, and Barker acts as Ellis's acting coach, trainer, and mentor. Apparently a patriot whose loyalty should go unquestioned, though his superiors think he has been seduced by the dark side. In the pilot episode, it is revealed that he is fluent in Russian and that he is being investigated by the FBI.
Ellis Dove (Travis Fimmel) is a rookie FBI agent and Charles Barker's trainee in the undercover trade. Under intense pressure from Barker to become a chameleon, Ellis never knows when Barker will send him on some impossible little test, some on-the-spot improv that may or may not cost him his life. Stressed, tense, under impossible performance pressure, Ellis needs a break. However that's not the worst of it. An Internal Affairs team is trying to recruit Ellis to spy on his mentor Barker whom they feel has gone rogue.
Harry Conrad (Kevin J O'Connor) appears to be Barker's control agent at the FBI, and he's supervising Ellis as well. As a seasoned professional, he knows Barker well enough to speak to him in terse personal code—but for newbie Ellis, he needs to spell things out, including his deep respect for Barker's work.
Rose Lawrence (Lindsay Pulsipher) is Ellis's neighbor, with whom he shares a romantic relationship. A law student, she is sharp enough to spot something odd about Ellis (who keeps his job a closely guarded secret) and takes the relationship slowly.
Ray Beaumont (Larry Gilliard) is a fellow FBI Agent who is investigating Charles Barker. Sly and sneaky in his ways, he attempts to use Ellis to get information to help make his case that Barker is dirty.
Alan Sepinwall writes "... you watch Swayze in The Beast, and you realize that this is the best performance of his career—that the opportunity to play a part like this, and to play it as well as he is, may be fueling his ability to keep fighting against the cancer. And you realize, in an odd silver lining, that the cancer may, in turn, be fueling the performance". The New York Times reported that "Patrick Swayze's performance... is impressive for its resistance to cliché...".
Suzan Young of RealNetworks stated that, "Patrick Swayze gives the performance of a lifetime as the hard-edged FBI agent Charles Barker in A&E's The Beast".
In his review, Ray Richmond of The Hollywood Reporter stated that, "Beast has a far grittier feel and look than one would suspect from a show starring Swayze—not to mention one on A&E. The action often is energetic and intriguing but is sometimes brought down by Fimmel's uneven performance. …What's unmistakable is the killer work of the star. May the man somehow beat the odds and fight defiantly on".
Kelly West of Cinema Blend reported that, "For an original series, I think A&E has something great on their hands. The Beast is definitely drama series with an edge, showing the darker, grittier side to FBI undercover work".
Ken Tucker writes that the lines said by the "antihero" and main character "[were] old when Clint Eastwood was Dirty Harry". Tucker adds that the co-star (Travis Fimmel as Ellis Dove) gives "inexpressive line readings; he's here because he's young and pretty (Fimmel was a model), and he fits A&E's desired viewing demo. Ellis is the newbie who earns Barker's respect...". Overall, Tucker grades the program as a "C".
Sony Pictures released the series on Region 1 DVD in the United States on August 18, 2009. This release has been discontinued and is out of print.
On February 16, 2016, Mill Creek Entertainment re-released The Beast- The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1.