Episode 264: Unconscience

“This has the terrible sound of a family disintegrating.”

Happy birthday, Dark Shadows! Today’s episode aired on June 29, 1967, which is just a couple days past the show’s first anniversary. It’s an exciting milestone, because until very recently, it looked like the show was going to get cancelled at the end of the first year. The ratings were declining, and they’d never been that great in the first place. The end seemed inevitable.

And then they introduced a vicious, psychotic madman to the show, and America fell in love. Dark Shadows was renewed, and now they have the interesting problem of coming up with a new storyline for the undead creature that they never intended to keep around for this long.

This episode takes the first steps toward a new direction for Barnabas. When we saw him last, he was the vicious monster relentlessly pursuing Maggie through underground tunnels, determined to end her life.

But that was three days ago. Today, he’s… something else.

264 dark shadows jiminy cricket

We find Barnabas quietly lighting candles in the Old House drawing room. Willie enters, and reports that he’s cleaned up Maggie’s cell in the basement — nobody will be able to tell that she was here.

Willie asks, “What are we gonna do now?”

Barnabas hardly looks up. “About what?”

“Well, she’s dead,” Willie says. “Maggie Evans is dead.”

And in a beautiful moment of accidental dialogue-chewing, Barnabas sighs, “Well, there isn’t one… much can do about it.” Which is true; there isn’t.

264 dark shadows willie barnabas

By now, Willie is in full-blown Jiminy Cricket mode.

Barnabas:  Yes, her death was a surprise to me. I’m still not certain of the cause.

Willie:  Aren’t you? Well, I’ll tell ya. We’re the cause. We put her through somethin’ that no one should have to go through. I’ve done rotten things in my life, but nothin’ like this. I hate myself for it.

Barnabas:  And me? Do you also hate me?

Willie:  You know how I feel.

Barnabas:  Yes, I do. Take care, Willie. I can tolerate only so much opposition.

But you can tell that Barnabas’ heart isn’t in his work today. A month ago, if Willie had stepped up like this, Barnabas would have reached for the cane and smacked him in the face.

I mean, yeah, obviously he threatens to murder Willie by the end of the scene, but compared to some of his previous performance reviews, that’s practically a hug and a raise.

264 dark shadows roger barnabas

Roger comes to visit, and Barnabas becomes the sympathetic best friend. Elizabeth is planning to marry the unscrupulous Jason McGuire, and Roger is worried about what this will mean for the family, and the estate. And now Carolyn is punishing her mother by threatening to marry Buzz Hackett, the beatnik motorcycle-enthusiast.

Concerned, Barnabas says, “This has the terrible sound of a family disintegrating.”

That’s a deeply peculiar thing to say, but there’s something beautiful about that line, and Jonathan Frid delivers it with a cultured gravitas that makes it sound like it actually means something.

And somewhere outside the studio, in that cramped, dark room where they lock the writers up until they churn out another day’s script, a little bell goes off. There’s a new idea in that line, a new role for Barnabas to play.

264 dark shadows willie sarah

Meanwhile, outside the Old House, Willie runs into the mysterious little girl who helped Maggie escape from the basement.

They have another one of those inconclusive spooky-kid conversations, where Willie doesn’t connect the dots even though she’s basically broadcasting “I am dead people.”

Willie:  Where do you live?

Sarah:  Around here.

Willie:  Your mother and father must be looking for you.

Sarah:  I can’t find them. I’ve been looking for them for such a long time. I can’t find them anywhere.

264 dark shadows i live over there

Willie says that he’ll take her home, but she points at the Old House, and says that she lives right there.

Still not getting the message, Willie tries to lead her down the hill into town, but when he turns around, she’s disappeared. It’s not super clear why she showed up in the first place, but I guess ghosts are supposed to be mysterious like that.

264 dark shadows accuser

Barnabas offers to have a talk with Jason, so Roger brings him over to Collinwood. They have a fairly predictable encounter — first, Barnabas makes vague threats about investigating Jason’s activities, and then Jason counters that he could ask similar questions about Barnabas.

The interesting thing about this scene is that it’s the debut of Barnabas’ future job. He admits at the start that Jason’s relationship with Liz is none of his business, but announces, “I am expressing concern for the future of the Collins family.”

And another little bell goes off somewhere. This is the first time that Barnabas has appointed himself protector of the family. We’ll be seeing a lot more on that theme, as soon as he stops locking young women in coffins.

264 dark shadows barnabas stairs

Barnabas heads home, and Willie reports that he found a little girl outside. “Strange kid, seemed kinda lost, had no sense of direction. When I asked her where she lived, she kept pointing at this house.”

Barnabas turns toward the door, his expression tinged with surprise and regret. I guess if you’re a psychotic madman at his sort of scale, you need more than one Jiminy Cricket. He’s practically surrounded.

Tomorrow: Doctor Strange.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Jason tries to talk over one of Roger’s lines:

Roger:  Do you really think that if by some fluke you should marry my sister —

Jason:  Never mind what I mean!

Roger: — you would get control of this estate?

Jason:  Never mind what I mean.


Behind the Scenes:

There’s a film insert of Roger walking up to the Old House; this is one of a number of generic scenes that the producers recorded on location before the series began. The clips were sprinkled into the series over the course of the first year, but they’re running low on clips by this point. We saw Vicki and Carolyn approaching the Old House in May, and David playing on a swing in June. The last film clip they use is just a couple weeks away.

Anyway, the thing that makes this particular clip notable is that it saddles Roger with an inconvenient prop for most of the episode. In the film clip, Roger is approaching the Old House, and he’s using a flashlight to find his way. This makes perfect sense when filming on location — but characters are constantly walking back and forth between Collinwood and the Old House on the show, and you never see anyone else carrying a flashlight.

But it would look strange for Roger to have a flashlight in the film insert and then lose it when he arrives at the Old House set, so he has to carry it around during his conversation, juggling it with the glass of sherry that Barnabas offers. He’s still got the flashlight when he returns to Collinwood with Barnabas. Then Roger goes upstairs, and he’s still carrying the flashlight. We never see him put it down; he might still be carrying it for all I know.

Tomorrow: Doctor Strange.

264 dark shadows barnabas haunted

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

6 thoughts on “Episode 264: Unconscience

  1. Just watched this episode. Awesome. I’m gulping down episodes at the rate of 4 or 5 per day — skipping a few that don’t have any Barnabas — and it’s amazing to see how the show is changing before my eyes. When I first began watching last week, I was loving it but my god, the pace was glacial. Now things are jumping, and the writers have even figured out how to bring disconnected plot lines together — the Jason/Liz line and the Barnabas line. I’ve been thinking all week that Barnabas should dispose of Jason — but if anyone replies to this comment, no spoilers please (I don’t actually know what’s going to happen next, except that I already knew that eventually, Barnabas becomes more heroic and becomes the protector of the Collins family). It feels like the show has been growing up before my eyes — stronger writing, better pacing, and now the first glimmer of honest-to-god interweaving of plot lines. Also, Barnabas is getting more complex again; in the depths of tormenting Maggie, he started to seem a bit of a one-dimensional maniac, though Frid’s performance was still fascinating. Now Barnabas has got more going on inside. Fascinating to see how the show is blossoming.

  2. Since I’ve just found the place I’m leaving comments where I am in the cycle, as well as on your current posts. When I watched the first syndicated run in 1975 the discussion between Barnabas/Jason was one of my favorite scenes. I knew standard villains like Jason had to pass on if the show was ever going to get to full on spooky….but I gotta confess I loved Jason, the ask for everything, evil draped in sugar Jason…He was Bad and Barnabas was Way Worse, and to see the two of them snipe at each other…fun fun fun.

  3. Danny, THIS is why I love your blog:

    Concerned, Barnabas says, “This has the terrible sound of a family disintegrating.”

    That’s a deeply peculiar thing to say, but there’s something beautiful about that line, and Jonathan Frid delivers it with a cultured gravitas that makes it sound like it actually means something.

    You have a great way of picking out moments that I also noticed, but you then explain in a way I can’t WHY I liked that line/moment/scene so much.

    And yes, this is the first glimpse of Barnabas 2.0. Love it.

  4. I loved the Barnabas/Jason interaction. I hope there are a lot more of them in the future!

    Two bulls locking horns. But Jason has no idea who or what he is picking a fight with. Awesome!

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