Episode 364: Boom Goes the Dynamite

“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.

364 dark shadows sarah barnabas 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.

364 dark shadows sarah barnabas take it

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.

364 dark shadows sarah barnabas transition

He takes a step towards her — and she backs away.

Barnabas:  What’s wrong, Sarah?

Sarah:  I’m very, very angry.

364 dark shadows sarah barnabas angry

Barnabas:  Angry? With me? What have I done?

Sarah:  You’ve hurt people.

Barnabas:  Only when it was necessary.

364 dark shadows sarah barnabas mouth

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.

364 dark shadows sarah barnabas not true

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.

364 dark shadows barnabas rhyme

Barnabas:  “That evil is…

Sarah:  Wicked.

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.

364 dark shadows sarah barnabas chromakey

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.

364 dark shadows barnabas leave

And then she’s gone.

364 dark shadows barnabas julia obvious

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.

364 dark shadows julia barnabas moth

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?

364 dark shadows sarah david process

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.

David:  Who?

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!

364 dark shadows sarah david the dead

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.

And then:

David:  You said you had something to do at the Old House. Did something happen?

Sarah:  Yes.

David:  What?

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.

364 dark shadows david come back

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

28 thoughts on “Episode 364: Boom Goes the Dynamite

    1. I thought Smyth conveyed the spooky, otherworldness of Sarah very well, but it was more challenging for her when she was alive during the 1795 flashback.

      She was a child on a fast-paced daily soap, so I’m sure if she’d been my kid, I’d still be impressed.

      Denise Nickerson and David Hennesy were the best child actors on the show. the Quentin storyline works so well in part because of them.

      1. Yeah, her lines today read a lot better as a script than they do when she says them. Despite everything, I like her a lot — she feels like a real kid, even when she’s reading off the teleprompter. It might be the same contradictory quality that makes Barnabas more sympathetic when he’s reading too.

  1. I was lucky enough to meet Sharon at one of the DS conventions and she was absolutely gracious. She worked a lot as a kid and made the decision to quit the biz at about 12 or so because she wanted to have a regular life. Her mom respected her feelings and that was that. I don’t think she ever looked back. Very level-headed woman.

  2. I think sharon Smyth is a pretty good Ghost child, and let’s face it, if you put a really good actor in her part, it would be totally unfair to 95% of the cast .

  3. “I’ll never come back until you do.”
    And she never did. Which is sad for them both, but isn’t a surprise. Barnabas’ greatest problem is that he thinks being a vampire is the worst thing you can be. He genuinely believes that it’s the root of all his troubles, and that by not being a vampire, his life would be fine.
    But once cured, he was still the same. He was ridiculously mean and self-absorbed and could be breathtakingly cruel. Those are the worst things you can be, which is, of course, why Sarah never came back.
    You’d think he’d have had a good long think about that, wouldn’t you?
    Too busy thinking about where his next Josette was coming from, I guess.

    1. Yes and he felt like he needed to affirm with Julia, she was shit in his eyes. That had to cut like a knife with Julia, and it indeed hurt her, but she didn’t show it. He ought to be glad somebody even looks at him with his dead ass. He really had a nerve at that moment.

  4. I see two problems with Sharon Smyth acting – she forgets her lines, and the delivery of some of her lines. I would have been fine with her looking off to the side and reading off the teleprompter the whole time, but that wouldn’t have solved the problem with her delivery.

    Still, while child actors and characters are usually annoying (I’m looking at you Wesley. And Adric. And Naomi Wildman. And a bunch of others), but given how rough working on this show is for the adult actors, I’m less bothered here.

  5. You did’t even mention the episode ending with Julia saying David is being completely honest with everything he’s said. Another greay show ending moment.

  6. The ‘can’t go on loving a dead man’ dialogue between Barnabas and Liz is well written in that it carries meaning on two levels.

    1. Thanks for reminding me. It was almost as if Liz apologized to Barnabas for hurting his feelings even though she did not know the half of it.

  7. Thank you for your excellent blog Danny, it is essential for a better understanding of the novel. And very funny too 🙂
    I am a follower of Argentina, In the 60s, the issuance of DS in Buenos Aires never reached these moments. It was cut off abruptly. I’m remedying it now.I started watching Dark Shadows from episode 1 through youtube and I am motivated to follow it to the end. After watching each episode, I immediately see your review and comments :-))))

  8. As the ghost Sarah plot arc finally comes to a climax and presages the 1795 storyline to come, there are some very satisfying scenes to close it out. The Chromakey is good as Danny stated and the scene with David and Sarah on the bedside processing through things is also quite good.

    The discussion of the dead people and how angry they are is really something to mull over for a few minutes. Again, nowhere else on daytime soaps was there anything as macabre and ground-breaking as this. Truly one-of-a-kind storytelling for the era. It would be really interesting to try and find out from certain ABC executives of the day just what they thought of this show when it was airing and just how long they thought it would actually be on. I mean, did anyone have the foresight to see what a cultural phenom it would become and remain over 50 years later?

    1. The 10 or so episodes leading up to the seance are some peak Dark Shadows for sure. There’s a definitely an air that something BIG is coming. And Sarah’s warning was very chilling.

  9. Overall I think David Henesy did a good job – certainly better than I would have at that age – but dear God I wish someone had told him that he didn’t have to shout out every line.

  10. Meanwhile, I can’t stop staring at that lemon yellow getup Liz is wearing in this episode. Sublime! And all that makeup! She has a very movie-star-in-her-trailer-being-fabulous quality in this episode.

  11. just as he’s about to strangle Julia,

    Sarah got a psychic flash that Barnabas was about to kill Julia so she rushed over to the Old House to stop it. If she was so upset with Julia for helping to kill Dave Woodard, why didn’t she appear to Barnabas to stop that murder when that was about to happen?

    The kids have a little difficulty with “yes” and “no”:
    Sarah: Are you angry with me?
    David: No. Yes, I am.

    That didn’t strike me as blooper so much as it did David initially not wanting to engage in a confrontation with Sarah, but then deciding he should.

  12. I am just recently catching up on many episodes I didn’t see before and it would have been cool if they had allowed Sarah to really find rest by allowing her dead parents to appear and guide her away with them. When Sarah mentioned she can’t find her family and they have gone away in previous scenes, I really feel sorry for her.

  13. I feel sorry for Sarah as a child ghost when she mentioned in previous episodes that she can’t find her family because they all gone away. I think it would have been humane if they gave Sarah the peace she deserved if the ghost of her parents appeared and guided her away as a family.

  14. That scene with Sarah and Barnabas really broke my heart.

    Now about the kid actors. I hear you all complaining about Sarah and David. I work in the film industry, and the scenes with kids (and animals) are always the most challenging. Kids forget their lines, they don’t know where to stand, they can be very stiff. It’s hard to get them to relax and be normal.

    Saying that, Sharon Smyth and David Hennesy are on a show where they only get one take, and the camera never cuts. Let me say that again: they only get ONE TAKE and the camera NEVER CUTS!! That’s really really hard for the adults!! These 10-year olds are really prepared for their scenes. I’m super impressed with little Sharon Smyth. Her delivery isn’t ever cheeky or percocious. She’s genuine. I like her. Good job, Sharon!

    1. Finally, someone who knows !. Yes acting at this pace is difficult and then they bring kids in and its easy to see how hard it is, in such a fast paced shoot.. Older actors, directors can get frustrated if the child actors are not 100% . I hope that was not the case on set in DS. That said, I find the Sarah character an integral part of the storyline. I’m sad she does not continue in later episodes.

  15. Thank you Nicci! I’m really sick of everyone ragging on Henesy and Smyth. They and the other kids did extraordinary work—and it was work!!

    Sarah has gone from being a vague what-am-I-doing-here ghost to a self-aware (says outright that she’s a ghost to Carolyn!) black belt Ninja ghost of so much power that she single-handedly did what she’s about to do to Vicki that changes everything! And I’ve told Sharon this exact thing!

    Btw, I happen to have the exact same model recorder that Sarah has. It’s a Goldtone from Germany. It’s made from maple and cedar. It’s actually a bit too modern for a 1795 recorder because it lacks the larger rings that you usually see. It’s sleek and cheap. My brother bought it for under $10 back in the early 1970s. Sharon thought the prop guys made it (like the ball), but why go to the expense of making it when a prop guy can go right to a nearby music store and buy one? They did alter it so that it wouldn’t be playable by accident from Sharon breathing into it. It took several viewings of Sarah with her recorder (especially with Dr Woodard) before I was sure it was the same one! I have an authentic DS-like prop totally by accident! 🙂

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