“I told you I killed her. I never said she was dead.”
Okay, it’s Tuesday. We’re still in the basement, Barnabas is still talking to his dad, and we’re not getting out of here until somebody shoots somebody.
Joshua Collins has descended to the underworld — also known as the cellar in the Old House — where he’s found his dead son climbing out of a coffin. As you might imagine, the discussion has become somewhat complex.
Here’s where they left off: Barnabas has finally confessed — he’s a vampire, and he feeds on human blood. Horrified, Joshua raises his pistol, and says, “Forgive me. Forgive me, dear son.”
And then: Ka-CHOW! Joshua shoots his son, right in the chest.
Barnabas clutches at the entrance wound — and then straightens up, unharmed. He walks over to his father, and says, “Don’t you understand? What I’ve been trying to tell you all along is that I am already dead.”
It’s kind of a dream situation, if you’ve ever had a long argument with your parents. I mean, who wouldn’t take a bullet, just for the satisfaction of delivering the ultimate “I told you so”?
“You must have always had so much hatred in you. No one could be filled with it so quickly.”
Friday’s episode ended with stern patriarch Joshua Collins descending into the basement of the abandoned Old House, poking into the buried secrets that should never be poked into. As usual in these kinds of situations, he arrives at the bottom step just exactly in time to see the mystery box open, unleashing a dark and primal terror that destroys everything in its line of sight.
Judging by past performance, this means that Joshua’s about to be killed. Dark secrets are a powerful story engine, because there’s lots of associated activity — mostly inventing, refuting and refining alibis and cover stories. That fills up time, and fools the audience into thinking that they’re getting somewhere. If you let characters actually discover the truth, then after a while you need to hire a writer who can come up with something else for them to talk about, and that runs into money.
So Dark Shadows has settled into a gentle rut over the last six weeks, essentially funnelling a single-file line of cast members down these stairs, to their immediate and lasting disadvantage. Joshua is just the latest patsy in the popular game of Let’s Kill the Collins Family.
“You don’t understand the world, or anything around you. Today, more than anything, has convinced me of that.”
It’s the old story, one of the oldest there is: The young couple wants to dance, and hold hands in the rain, and run away, and fall in love. They don’t care about money or tradition or whatever uptight hang-ups their uptight parents are hung up on. They just want to be free.
And this is early spring 1968, back when being young and free really meant something. I’m not totally sure if that spirit also applies to 1796, but Millicent is going to give it a whirl, and see how far she can get.
“I ask you to believe one thing, because it’s as true and as real as anything you’ll ever hear.”
Well, that scoundrel Nathan Forbes is at it again, manipulating the wealthy and naive Millicent Collins into marrying him, and giving him access to the Collins fortune. Exposed as a liar and an aspiring bigamist, Nathan is banned from Collinwood, plus Millicent tried to stab him with a letter opener, so figuring out the seating chart for the reception has been pretty decisively moved to the back burner.
Right now, the emotionally fragile Millicent is walking around with a box full of dueling pistols, looking for someone who’s willing to shoot Nathan in the face. It was that kind of breakup.
But Nathan, ever resourceful, has come up with a completely bonkers drawing-room-comedy-style plan, where his associate Noah attacks Millicent, wielding her cousin Barnabas’ cane. It’s all very fraught and complex.
Then Nathan jumps in and delivers some Batman ’66 style punches, and with a WHAM!, a POW! and a ZOK!, he chases the nasty bad man away. Millicent is overcome with emotion, and the whole production is a runaway success.
“I lose track of time. The days are all the same here, and no one ever bothers to tell me what day it is.”
He is dead, alas! Reverend Trask is dead. The world is a little duller now — noticeably quieter — and we’re down another antagonist, which poses a real problem. We’ve been shedding characters like crazy as we approach the end of the 1795 storyline, and here’s the point where the cast really starts to look thin.
As we’ve seen recently, Barnabas has taken on a new role as the monster who hunts other monsters, kind of a cross between Godzilla and Dexter. That story structure turns out to be very productive for the show over the next couple years, but in order to work, you need an opponent who’s in the same weight class.
Angelique and Reverend Trask were both Barnabas-sized problems, and it was satisfying to see him take them on. Now that they’re gone, the only villain left is Nathan, who’s more of a charming con man than a threatening monster.
But he’s the best that we have to work with, so over the next week, we need to turn Nathan the adorable rascal into Nathan the predator.
“Death is a valid reason.”
TRUE! — nervous — very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? Writing about Dark Shadows every day has sharpened my senses — not destroyed — not dulled them. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily — how calmly I can tell you the whole story.
Well, not the whole story. There’s, like, 800 more episodes; we’d be here all night. But let’s see if we can focus on the next twenty-two minutes.
“You made them take my dead body away! They threw me in the water!”
So stop me if you’ve heard this one before — sanctimonious witch hunter Reverend Trask comes back to his room, and finds the corpse of streetwalker Maude Browning lying on his bed.
Now, just to be clear — violence against women is not funny. Murdering somebody to cover up for your crimes is not funny. And yet — Reverend Trask walking into his room and finding a dead prostitute in his bed is extremely funny. Let’s see if we can break this down a bit.
“You don’t know what you’re saying! The horror of that hand!”
In yesterday’s episode, vampire-about-town Barnabas Collins was down at the docks, looking for a bite to eat. He was just about to feed on streetwalker Maude Browning, but she screamed and fought him off, and it attracted attention. He scrambled away, leaving behind his signature silver wolf’s head cane.
So Barnabas needs to learn one of the fundamental rules of crime: If you’re going to go out and attack people, leave your identifiable accessories at home. This is no time for expressing your individuality; you need to be able to blend. This is why hipsters can’t be criminals.
“I have feelings, Ben. I can hate. And I can do something about that hate.”
Henchmen. Right? It’s a complicated relationship.
Barnabas wakes up today and climbs out of his coffin, and the first thing he says is, “Good evening, Ben. Did you see Trask today?” That’s the kind of boss he is. No small talk, no pleasantries. Just straight to business.
“What really upsets you is the fact that you chose the losing side in this battle between the Almighty and the forces of Evil!”
At the top of today’s episode, vampire recluse Barnabas Collins asks his servant for an update on current events. Ben says that he was at Vicki’s witchcraft trial today, and stayed late to hear the verdict.
Barnabas pauses, and says, “I don’t like the expression on your face, Ben.”
Look, dude, you’ve had just as much time as the rest of us to get used to the look on Ben’s face. It’s a bit late in the day for constructive criticism in that area.