“Julia! Why am I leaving the room, Julia?”
So it’s been a rough ride, this returning to the present day. Deciding to do a lengthy 18th-century time travel story was a leap into the unknown, but once they’d started, they had a general outline to work from. They needed to turn Barnabas into a vampire, get Josette to jump off a cliff, kill pretty much everybody else in the cast, and hang Vicki as a witch. That was a plan that they could execute, if you’ll pardon the expression.
But returning to 1968, the writers face another weird challenge. They’ve decided to pretty much reboot every ongoing storyline that they had — hastily wrapping up, reversing or straight-up ignoring all of the old story threads.
This is a very unusual move for a soap opera. These last five weeks have basically been the equivalent of a season premiere, a narrative structure that even night-time shows weren’t doing in the late 60s. Dark Shadows has changed some core relationships, introduced new characters, and brought back Angelique as this season’s Big Bad. Structurally, this is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but thirty years early and from the monsters’ point of view.
“He could be perfectly normal by now.”
We open today with Julia puttering around in the Old House with absolutely nothing to do, just staring into the fire. Barnabas walks down the stairs, sees her sitting in the drawing room, and smiles as he approaches.
He says that there’s something he has to do before Dr. Lang’s experiment on Friday, and he needs her help. She says, “Oh, I’ll do anything for you. You know that.”
So I’d say that’s pretty much the final destination of that particular journey. Barnabas + Julia: Best Friends Forever. And now that we’ve got that settled, it’s time to get the band back together. Gas up the car; we’re driving out to Windcliff Sanitarium to spring Willie Loomis.
“I should go to Collinwood, and drag her from the house, and BURN her!”
So, what do you do with a guy who just refuses to understand what kind of story he’s in?
I’m not talking about a Mulder-Scully dynamic, where the tension between belief and skepticism is the whole point of the series. I’m talking about a guy who’s standing smack in the middle of a spook show, and he can’t get his mind around the fact that there’s a witch who’s trying to kill him, even though she’s already openly attacked him using her magic powers. I’m talking about a guy who needs to have the situation explained to him over and over, plus he’s obnoxious and a terrible actor and he shouts all the time.
All right, it’s Lang. I’m talking about Dr. Eric Lang. He’s driving me crazy, and he’s got to be stopped.
“He will not be a monster then — unless, of course, you consider me one. I’m sure you do.”
Julia Hoffman has seen too much.
Yesterday, Julia went into Dr. Lang’s secret murder lab without permission, and found the monster that he’s been assembling out of corpses and bits of string. She knows that the monster still needs a head, which means one more person has to die to finish the project. This is dangeorus knowledge. Julia must be stopped.
Now she’s locked herself in Lang’s parlor, and she’s calling the police. She’s also screaming and sobbing quite a bit. Barnabas and Lang are banging on the door, desperate to stop her. Lang has pulled his gun — he’ll kill to protect his experiment, if he has to.
In a last desperate bid to halt this disastrous chain of consequences, Barnabas shouts through the locked door to his hysterical friend.
“Julia, remember!” he cries. “Remember someone!”
“I want you to come over immediately, and bring your medallion.”
Well, it’s another day in the Land of Shouty Men, where nothing changes, including the volume level.
Yesterday, Dr. Lang was planning to kill his lab assistant Jeff, so he could use Jeff’s head for the monster he’s been stitching together. But then Barnabas — who Dr. Lang is planning to suck the life force out of, to bring the Jeff-headed monster to life — says that he doesn’t even want Jeff’s head, and they have to let him go.
But Lang says that they can’t let Jeff go or he’ll tell everyone about the monster, so now Lang is going to kill Jeff anyway. And if Barnabas gets in the way of Lang killing Jeff, then Lang will kill Barnabas, and then Jeff, and then hopefully you and me, because honestly I don’t think I can explain this all again on Monday. It’s just not going to happen.
“Why do you have me strapped to this table?”
So, Jeff’s crotch. All right, let’s start there.
“Through sight and sound, and faceless terror…”
It’s been a little over a year since Dark Shadows opened the mystery box, letting a vampire loose and transforming this relatively aimless show into a bubbling cauldron of visual spectacle and lunatic plot contrivances. One of the most remarkable changes is the pace of the show, which used to just drift from day to day, with long sequences of characters telling each other how worried they are about something.
But not anymore. Yesterday, for example, the episode ended with Barnabas falling asleep in a chair, and dreaming about his ex-wife making a promotional announcement about the upcoming story direction. Continuing this rocket sled to adventure in today’s episode, we’re going to watch Maggie fall asleep, too.
We’re going to see a lot of this over the next couple months. I guess making Dark Shadows is exhausting; everyone’s taking afternoon naps.
“What evil game are you going to play this time?”
“How do you do?” says the little man, as he emerges through the curtains and takes his place at center stage.
This is the opening of the 1931 Universal film Frankenstein, and since Dark Shadows is just beginning its own version of the story, it seems like an appropriate time to let this guy in and have him say his piece.
“I created it — and your life force will make it live!”
Laugh at ME, will they! The FOOLS!
That’s basically how it starts.
They scoff at me; they dare to think me mad! Because I have vision, a will of my own, because I do not swear allegiance to their committees and their trifling sentimental concerns! Well, they can say what they like now — but I will SHOW them!
And from there, it’s pretty much just like regular apartment-hunting. You want high ceilings, and room to spread out, and you’re definitely going to need a lot of electrical outlets. In-unit laundry is probably a nice-to-have.
“The witch will look at your body, and think that you have escaped by death — when, in reality, you will have escaped — by living!”
It’s another stormy night on the Hellmouth, where vampires and witches battle over the fate of mad scientists and their secret experiments.
Tonight, Barnabas has invited a guest over — it’s Professor Stokes, who first appeared two weeks ago, looking to buy the haunted portrait of Angelique. He’s an academic — apparently an expert in a diverse and uncertain discipline — and I’m not entirely sure that he realizes he’s on television. He’s loud, and disruptive, and he plays to the balcony. Not this balcony, naturally; I mean the balcony in the theater next door.