“I know there’s good, and there’s evil, because I learned it from you.”
It’s been five months since the ghost of Sarah Collins first appeared to Maggie, back when Barnabas was running a compulsory youth hostel in his basement for pretty girls who remind him of his dead girlfriend.
Since then, Sarah’s been spotted by pretty much everyone, and we’ve learned that she’s the spirit of Barnabas’ beloved little sister.
Barnabas’ memory of loving Sarah is the one completely unselfish human quality that he’s displayed during his lengthy reign of terror. Over the last five months, Sarah has provided aid and comfort to his victims, but she’s never appeared to him directly.
And now — just as he’s about to strangle Julia, just as this storyline appears to be stretched to its breaking point — here she comes.
The question for today: Is this incident big enough to spark the seismic change that this storyline needs, in order to stay relevant and interesting? The answer to that question: Hell, yes.
Because this 182-year-old little girl has not been hanging around on this plane of existence just to sing “London Bridge” while this kind of nonsense goes unchallenged. Perhaps more than any other character in the history of fiction, Sarah Collins is too old for this shit.
Take it away, girl.
Barnabas: I missed you so terribly, Sarah. Why didn’t you come to me sooner? You knew how much I wanted to see you, didn’t you?
Sarah looks at him, and nods.
Barnabas: But it’s all right now. You’re back with me now, and you’re going to stay with me, aren’t you? We’re going to be all right, and everything will be just fine, won’t it?
And she just keeps looking at him. Dude, news flash: today is not your lucky day. You need to transition out of that idea.
He takes a step towards her — and she backs away.
Barnabas: What’s wrong, Sarah?
Sarah: I’m very, very angry.
Barnabas: Angry? With me? What have I done?
Sarah: You’ve hurt people.
Barnabas: Only when it was necessary.
Oh — HELL, no.
You did not just say that. Please tell me that “when it was necessary” did not just come out of your raggedy-ass vampire mouth. I have spoken to you before about this behavior, on several occasions.
Sarah: No, Barnabas. That’s not true. I know that’s not true. So do you.
BOOM. And now we move on.
Barnabas: All right, Sarah, but that’s all over and done with. Everything’s going to be fine from now on, as long as you’re here with me.
Sarah: No, Barnabas. You’re not through doing bad things. Do you remember the rhyme you taught me when I was learning how to write?
Barnabas: Yes. I remember how proud I was of you.
Sarah: Say it for me now.
Barnabas: Well, I’m not sure I remember the exact words.
Okay, are we on speaker phone or something? Because I thought I heard the girl tell you to say the rhyme. It is approximately one hundred and seventy years past her bedtime. Say the damn rhyme.
Barnabas: “That evil is…
Barnabas: “… wicked is well understood. The wicked are punished… so you must be good.”
Sarah: You see, Barnabas? You must be good… or you’ll be punished.
Barnabas: Then punish me, Sarah. Do whatever you want… but stay with me now.
Sarah: No, I will not stay here. I will go away and never come back… never! That will be your punishment. I know there’s good, and there’s evil, because I learned it from you. But you’ve forgotten it, Barnabas, and you have to learn it all over again. I’ll never come back until you do.
And then she’s gone.
Now, the obvious result of this visitation is that Barnabas feels ashamed of what he’s done, all the people that he’s hurt. He finally expresses remorse, and apologizes to Julia for lashing out at her.
Except this is Dark Shadows, where they don’t go for the obvious choice, because it simply never occurs to them.
“Doctor,” he says to Julia, “if you mention yourself and Sarah in the same breath again, I shall forget that she was here. She is angry with me, because I hurt people. I have killed people, and I’ve cared no more about it than I would if I crushed a moth, because there are times when it is necessary to kill… when there’s no other way.”
Then he looks her in the eyes, and says, “You mean very little to me. Do you understand that?”
She says yes. She understands that.
It’s heartbreaking. He’s learned exactly nothing.
This is actually a very bold piece of character work. The whole point of Dark Shadows right now — the project that the writers have committed to, one hundred percent — is to make Barnabas more sympathetic. He’s the most popular character on the show, the reason why people are tuning in. They desperately need to find little turning points for him, where we can see him change into a character that can anchor the show in the long term.
And they don’t take it. This is the most obvious moment to start doing that work, and they actively choose to deny it. They’re basically challenging the audience — how is it possible that you still care about this blood-soaked psychopath?
Meanwhile, Sarah appears in David’s room, to talk about what just happened. That’s the television show that we’re watching right now — the brave, heartbreaking, completely at right angles to sanity show — where the ghost visits a friend so she can process her feelings, post-haunting.
David wants to know what’s happened, but she says that it didn’t happen, yet.
Sarah: But it still could happen… if everyone isn’t watchful.
David: Watchful for what?
Sarah: Those who were here before have come back, and they’re angry, and there’s someone in this house they want to destroy.
Sarah: I’ve already told you too much. I have to go.
David: No, don’t leave — not until you tell me more.
Sarah: All right, David — the dead! The dead! They’re angry, and they want to destroy someone in this house!
So that’s fun. We’re flipping over all kinds of tables this week. Make sure you come back tomorrow for the big storyline-ending finale, because this show is about to get a little bit weird.
Tomorrow: Closing Time.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
There are a number of really obvious looks to the teleprompter today. Examples include: Julia, when she’s trying to comfort Barnabas; Barnabas, when he’s ranting at Julia; and Sarah, pretty much every three lines.
When Barnabas says to Sarah, “Everything will be just fine, won’t it?”, someone in the studio coughs.
A moment later, Sarah takes a step backwards, and then looks at the floor to make sure that she’s hit her mark.
The kids have a little difficulty with “yes” and “no”:
Sarah: Are you angry with me?
David: No. Yes, I am.
David: You said you had something to do at the Old House. Did something happen?
Sarah: It didn’t happen, so there’s no need to talk about it.
Finally, here’s the opposite of a blooper: When Sarah turns transparent and disappears at the end of her conversation with Barnabas, it’s the best Chromakey effect they’ve done so far. Barnabas is kneeling down to look into Sarah’s face, and they got the eyeline absolutely perfect. This qualifies as a minor miracle.
Tomorrow: Closing Time.
— Danny Horn