“I must insist, I think this is a great deal of nonsense.”
We’ve seen a remarkable change in Barnabas’ character this week — not necessarily a change in his core values and moral system, but certainly a change in the way that he’s being presented. But as striking as that change is — killer ghoul on Monday, perky party host by Friday — he actually isn’t the only villain-school dropout in the room.
In fact, all four of the male characters in today’s episode have played the heavy in past storylines. When Dark Shadows began, just a little over a year ago, Roger was an unsympathetic absent father and possible murderer, and Burke was a ruthless businessman intent on revenge against the Collins family. And it was only a few weeks ago that Vicki and Carolyn didn’t feel safe in the same house as Willie Loomis. And yet here they all are in today’s episode, chatting away, like a happy group of friends.
There’s actually a tendency over time for soap opera characters’ personalities to drift a bit, usually in the direction of becoming more like the actors who play them. This is partly a result of the hectic schedule of soap opera production, which requires a round-robin of writers and producers to keep the story going, sometimes over decades. After a while, the actor is the only person who’s consistently been paying attention to what their character is supposed to be like.
And in Barnabas’ case, nobody has any idea what his character is going to be. The original plan was that Dr. Woodard would rescue Maggie from the Old House weeks ago, banging a piece of wood through Barnabas’ undead heart along the way. But the vampire got a reprieve, thanks to the fan mail that’s been pouring in, so they’re just making it up as they go along.
This isn’t an arc. They don’t have a plan. There is literally not a single person on the Dark Shadows production staff who has any idea what’s going to happen next.
“That night must go… nothing wrong.”
We open today’s pulse-pounding episode with a long scene of two young women trying on dresses that they’re planning to wear to a costume party.
You can tell that the show is running a little low on suspense right now, because Vicki says, “When you said her name, the strangest feeling came over me,” and then we’re supposed to be interested in learning more about that feeling.
“I have things for you to do, other than to make preposterous statements.”
Two days ago, Barnabas killed Willie’s best friend, and then grabbed Willie by the throat and made him bury the corpse in an unmarked grave. Today, Willie is helping Barnabas unpack vintage dresses from a trunk, and they’re making plans for their upcoming costume party.
This must be one of those Great Moments in Human Resources, because the improvement in Willie’s workplace environment is simply off the charts. I know that working in the service industry can be unpredictable, but that’s got to be one of the fastest turnarounds in history.
“We will relive a moment out of the past.”
Willie finds Barnabas pacing around Josette’s room.
“I knew you’d be up here,” Willie says. “You’ve been spending a lot of time up here.”
“I’ve been thinking about many things,” says Barnabas, but he’s got a guilty look on his face, like a teenager when Mom asks why he’s been spending so much time in the bathroom lately.
“Your friend? But you told me he tried to kill you.”
Today’s episode kicks off with an interesting milestone — it’s the first time Barnabas Collins kills somebody. There was that business with the cows early on, and lately he’s been snacking on the locals, but those have all been off-screen and apparently non-fatal. After three months, this is the first bona fide vampire kill, and happily, it’s a character that everybody in the audience wanted dead anyway.
Now, technically we don’t see the actual murder on screen. A hand grabs Jason’s throat, and then there’s the opening titles. When we come back, Jason is dead on the floor.
So we don’t see the specific moment when Barnabas actually chokes the life out of the dude. But that’s probably for the best, because it’s the middle of July, it’s 3:30 in the afternoon, and there are children watching. Suddenly, this dull soap opera has transformed into a daily half-hour horror movie, so they’re still feeling their way around, tone-wise.
“Then it’s over! It’s all over!”
So, you know that blackmail storyline where Liz had to do everything that Jason said, because otherwise she’d go to prison and her daughter would hate her forever?
Well, guess what? Liz finally told everybody that she killed Paul, and now she’s going to prison, and her daughter hates her forever.
“Wherever I am, I’ll be laughing at you, Vicki Winters, and don’t you forget it.”
In the Old House drawing room, Willie is lighting some candles as Barnabas comes downstairs.
“You’ve been up there a long time,” Willie says.
Barnabas replies, “I wasn’t aware of time.”
Then the guy who wasn’t aware of time looks out of the window, and says, “The sun sets, and the sun rises. If only night could become eternal, the blackness with us always.”
In other words: Ladies and gentlemen, will you please put your hands together and welcome back our returning champion, Barnabas Collins!
“I’ve been a prisoner because of this room!”
I’ve noticed a bunch of new readers showing up on the site this week, which is fantastic, but not necessarily the best timing. This is the final week of the last non-supernatural storyline, and it’s taking a minute to wrap up. The last time we saw the vampire was over a week ago, and all he did was talk to Liz about suicide.
So, new readers — stick around! The vampire comes back tomorrow, and next week he’s going to throw a costume party. Seriously, that’s the next storyline.
“I seem to remember doing time for a certain manslaughter charge.”
Personally, I don’t watch a lot of police procedurals. In my opinion, if there’s a crime on a TV show, they should either tell us who did it, or just admit that they don’t know and stop wasting everybody’s time.
So there’s a lot that I don’t know about how a police investigation should run. But even I know enough to say that pretty much everything that they do in today’s episode is wrong, and every character who appears on screen ought to be brought up on charges, up to and including the sheriff.
“I killed Paul Stoddard, and that man was my accomplice!”
We open this week with everybody standing in a line and facing forward. On Friday, Liz interrupted her wedding with Jason to confess that she killed her first husband. Now everyone has to stay very still, because there isn’t enough room for them all to react on camera.
They don’t usually have seven characters in the same scene, and this is why. They’ve only got three cameras. They’re using one for the front of the room, one for the side, and the third is dedicated to helping us keep track of the handgun Carolyn just dropped on the floor.