“I’m in a graveyard. How did I get in a graveyard?”
It’s been four weeks since we opened the mystery box and let the vampire out, not that anyone’s actually saying the word “vampire” yet. The show is actually strangely coy about it — nobody says the V-word out loud for nine months. They finally break it out in episode 410, and by then it’s not the craziest thing on the show anymore.
But who needs labels when you have howling dogs? Over the last month, we’ve seen hypnosis, nightmares, fangs and unexplained blood loss — and this is the episode where it all comes together. This is the first big Friday cliffhanger, and exciting things are finally happening.
Of course, when I say “happening”, what I mean is that people are talking about things happening. For example: Joe left Maggie alone at the end of the last episode, and when Sam came back to the house, the doors were open and Maggie was gone.
Now Maggie’s wandering around in the cemetery, in her nightgown, and in a daze. A quick reminder: it’s 1967 and this is afternoon television.
So everybody piles into Sam’s house for a summit meeting. It’s always helpful in these situations to have a couple people who can walk in and say things like, “Gone? What do you mean, gone?” Then you explain that you mean gone, and before you know it, you’ve got a whole scene going.
Sam tells the Scooby gang that he’s alerted the police — the sheriff and his deputies are out looking for Maggie. But, as everyone knows, the police department in Collinsport is 100% useless, so by now the deputies have probably arrested each other, and the sheriff’s all tangled up in a clothesline somewhere.
The guys decide to go out and help with the search; Vicki stays at the house in case Maggie comes back.
I understand why they’d want to leave someone behind, but now we’re just watching Vicki read a magazine, which has limited entertainment value.
Luckily, Willie stops by, with a message for Sam — Barnabas will be busy until midnight, so he won’t be available for the portrait sitting tonight. Vicki says that Sam wouldn’t be able to work tonight anyway; he’s out looking for his daughter.
Willie is visibly shaken by the news that Maggie’s disappeared. There have been several moments over the last couple of weeks when we’ve seen Willie being concerned about Barnabas’ victims. It’s a really interesting choice for his character.
Over the next several months, the Barnabas storyline gets increasingly popular, until he becomes the main character of the show. It’s hard to have an inhuman monster as the protagonist, so his character softens over time and he becomes the “reluctant vampire”. That’s a little ways off, but the groundwork is being laid right here — with Willie Loomis, the reluctant henchman.
We’ve seen that Willie is under Barnabas’ power, but the actual dynamic between them is pretty complicated. Willie obeys when Barnabas gives him direct instructions, but he feels guilty about what he’s being forced to do, and he’s desperate to find a way to protect people.
So he takes a risk here, and makes an anonymous phone call to Sam’s house. He tells Vicki that Maggie’s in the cemetery, and she’s in danger.
Vicki tries to call the sheriff, but there’s no answer; apparently every single person associated with the police department is out searching for Maggie, or falling down wells, or buying magic beans, or whatever the hell it is that Collinsport police officers do in a crisis. Don’t they have a Vicki who can sit around and read magazines?
Meanwhile, the fog machine’s going like mad in the cemetery. There’s smoke everywhere; it looks like a tire factory’s on fire.
Barnabas emerges from the mist, and approaches the hypnotized Maggie. He’s got all kinds of new makeup on today, sort of a Nosferatu look, with sunken cheeks and dark circles under his eyes. Plus he’s got his fangs in. He didn’t look like this when he was hanging out with Roger at Collinwood. These are his play clothes.
But Willie’s playing on both teams tonight; he runs up to Barnabas and warns him that Maggie’s friends are coming. Maggie collapses, and Barnabas and Willie run off.
Vicki and Burke come to the cemetery, and they find Maggie lying on the ground. You see? I told you things would happen, and here they are, happening.
Burke and Vicki try to rouse Maggie, while Barnabas and Willie hide out in the secret room in the mausoleum.
So it’s official: this is now a soap opera that has “the secret room in the mausoleum” as a regular location where things happen. Other soaps have hospitals and courtrooms; Dark Shadows has a crypt with a back porch.
Once the coast is clear, Barnabas tells Willie, “You have some explaining to do.” Willie stammers and plays dumb, but Barnabas knows that he must have tipped off Maggie’s friends.
Barnabas shouts, “I must teach you your lesson, Willie. You must never betray me again!” Then he raises his cane and gives Willie a savage beating, on camera. Afternoon television!!
Now it’s time for the big Friday climax — Vicki and Burke bring Maggie back home, and lay her down on the couch. She’s gasping for air, they loosen her scarf — and boom! Bite marks.
So there you go. They may not be using the V-word yet, but they’ve crossed a line and it’s too late to back out. Dark Shadows is a vampire show. Let’s see what happens next.
Monday: Bedside Manners.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In the opening voiceover, Vicki says that “a young girl has mysteriously, and unexplainably, disappeared.” She means inexplicably.
When Vicki’s sitting on the couch with the magazine, you can see the shadow of a crewmember walking around.
After Willie’s visit, Vicki looks at a headshot of Maggie on the desk next to the front door. Last episode, we saw the same picture on the dresser in Maggie’s room. How many of those does she have?
When Willie calls Vicki, he puts a cloth over the mouthpiece to muffle his voice, but from Vicki’s end, he sounds perfectly clear and recognizable. Willie hangs up, and you can still hear Vicki talking; she says practically a whole sentence after the receiver is hung up.
Vicki stumbles over her lines when she tells Burke about the phone call: “He said — whoever he is, he said that he’s in the — she’s in the graveyard on Eagle’s Hill.” (It’s actually “Eagle Hill”; Willie said it correctly when he called.)
When Barnabas approaches Maggie in the cemetery, there’s a dramatic sting music cue at the end of the act. But it comes in too early, so they play the same sting a second time, and then take the commercial break.
The ground in the cemetery is obviously pieces of fabric. When Vicki finds Maggie’s shoe, you can see the rug bunching up around her step.
Also: How does Vicki manage to see that shoe, on a foggy night? Burke’s got the flashlight, and he’s gone off in a different direction. She must have super shoe-location powers.
Burke feeds Sam a line while they’re standing around Maggie lying on the couch. Sam says, “Darling? What’s the matter?” Burke mutters, “What’s wrong?” and Sam repeats, “What’s wrong?”
Monday: Bedside Manners.
— Danny Horn