Episode 395: Cleaning House

“What are you doing here? Why have you suddenly materialized now, in front of me?”

It’s been six weeks since we started our uncertain and frightening journey into the past, and I think it’s safe to say that the audience of 1967 must have been wondering if they were ever going to get back to the present. The promotional bumper that ABC ran in the week leading up to this storyline promised that we would learn the secret of the chained coffin, but we’re a month and a half in, and we haven’t even been near a coffin, chained or otherwise.

And here’s the really unbelievable thing — there’s 13 more weeks of 1795 episodes coming. This is going to go on for another three months.

395 dark shadows forbidden barnabas joshua

Which is fine with me, really. The storyline we left behind in 1967 had completely run its course. The modern-day Collins family had been nerfed beyond all recognition, and the only story left to tell was Barnabas threatening to kill everybody.

But here in 1795, Collinwood is brand new, and it’s stocked full of story-productive family conflicts.

Barnabas:  It will do no good to walk out on me. My mind is made up.

Joshua:  I will thank you to remember who is master of this house!

Barnabas:  I am well aware of who the master is.

Joshua:  Then kindly act accordingly!

Barnabas:  I am going to marry the girl tonight.

Joshua:  In spite of the fact that I have strictly forbidden it?

395 dark shadows playing barnabas

Barnabas:  I’m sorry, father, but my instincts tell me that you are trying to keep us from being married as long as you can.

Joshua:  I am a man of my word, Barnabas. Reluctant as I was to agree to this marriage, I will let you go through with it, in due time.

Barnabas:  No, I know you too well. What you’re doing is playing for time.

Joshua:  “Playing for time”? What on Earth does that expression mean?

395 dark shadows playing joshua

And then they just stand there and keep yelling at each other. This is the best thing about 1795; there’s no shortage of yelling. These characters only communicate at top volume, especially Joshua.

Here are some more highlights:

If you proceed with this folly, my blessing is not the only thing you’ll be lacking!

The powers I do have are formidable, Barnabas, and I am prepared to execute each and every one of them!

You and the girl will leave my house by nightfall!

I am no longer your father — and you are no longer my son.

Oh, it’s delicious. It’s easy for us to get distracted by voodoo dolls, and people turning into cats, but while we weren’t looking, Dark Shadows turned into a really good soap opera.

395 dark shadows different josette barnabas

For a long time, Dark Shadows was mostly about nice people having bad dreams and vague feelings of dread, and it was unwatchable. Soap operas need big problems, and big feelings.

And that’s what they’ve learned to do. Do you remember when they’d spend a whole episode arguing about whether Vicki should prefer candles or electricity? Look what they have now.

Josette:  I will miss you, Barnabas. Do you think it was wrong for me to say that?

Barnabas:  No.

Josette:  Well, perhaps we should leave it at that, then.

Barnabas:  Perhaps we should.

Josette:  I hope that what you are doing is for the best… and I hope that, in time, you will forgive me, and think well of me again.

Barnabas:  Why did it have to happen like this?

Josette:  Barnabas… I think I will be asking myself that question the rest of my life.

 395 dark shadows heartbreak josette barnabas

It’s a whole new show, full of passion and heartbreak. They’ve broken every possible rule for how a show should develop — basically throwing out their entire cast and starting over from scratch, using the same sets and the same actors.

By all the laws of television, this should have been a desperate last-ditch effort, the biggest shark-jump of all time. And instead, it’s a triumph.

395 dark shadows ghost angelique jeremiah

Plus, they still get to be ridiculous, with witches and magic spells and walking corpses. They can do anything they want right now, embrace any story point that comes into their lunatic heads.

It won’t last, obviously. Nothing does. The downside of doing a big Shakespearean tragedy is that everyone dies, and you run out of characters.

So we’ll have to go home eventually, and the on-ramp for 1968 is going to be a lot more bumpy than you’d expect it to be, given the heights that they’re reaching here. But for now, and for the next 13 weeks, it’s a beautiful show. My favorite show.

Monday: Dialogue of the Dead.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

They’ve been having a lot of trouble keeping the cameras focused lately. The scene with Barnabas and Angelique talking to Naomi is especially bad; they really lose it in some shots.

Jeremiah’s ghost is perfectly visible in the Old House drawing room before the lighting makes him “appear”.

Monday: Dialogue of the Dead.

395 dark shadows listen angelique jeremia

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

24 thoughts on “Episode 395: Cleaning House

  1. Danny – I totally agree with you about coming out of the wonderful 1795 storyline back to the 1968 Collins family. I’m currently watching these post 1975 episodes again (up to 598 as of today). I’ll reserve my many issues to post when you actually get to review those storylines but will say that I believe that this is the time period where Barnabas reaches new levels of arrogance and selfishness. In my opinion any ground he gained at being presented as a more sympathetic character as a result of the 1795 storyline ‘reboot’ has been totally destroyed during this 1968 period in the shows history.

    1. Barnabas is a less malevolent character in 1968 — he’s no longer the antagonist — but he’s not particularly heroic, and I agree that most of his actions are motivated by self-interest. (Also, around the time you mention, the series decides to remind viewers, many likely new to the show, that Barnabas once held a woman hostage. An odd choice. It seems like the sort of thing you never mention again.)

      Barnabas changes significantly for the better once Chris Jennings arrives and Quentin’s ghost turns up. You see him legitimately concerned for others, not just for what they can do for him but out of compassion (Chris) and genuine affection (David, Amy). They even manage to maintain this during 1897 (with one, weird misstep) and parallel time and 1840 when he’s a vampire.

      Back to Danny’s reference to 1968, I think DS suffered greatly from its inability to do anything permanent with its “present-day” characters. No matter what happened, you knew there’d be a “reset” or “memory erase.” Characters only die or leave because the actors move on. In 1795, you can have your former movie star actress play a character who actually, permanently dies. No such luck in the present day.

      1968 is frustrating because everyone’s dumb and oblivious to what happens around them. Someone marries a vengeful witch and never realizes the truth. The only lasting changes are external (Vicki would likely have just stumbled along cluelessly into the Quentin storyline if Moltke hadn’t left the show, and I think Joe would’ve kept his sanity if Crothers hadn’t left).

      I’d rewatched the Leviathan storyline ending recently and noticed that everyone lost their memories at the end of that, as well, and the present day 1970 storyline is narratively redundant ( we basically see what we’ve been told will happen and seen the results of in 1995).

      1. 1968 is quite unsatisfying, even though it had possibilities (it also suffered from Cassandra’s wig and green dresses). You get a sense that the writers were stumbling along, instead of havng a real plan. One would think that after that time off in 1795 they might have figured out what to do, and where to take the series.. They had some nifty ideas (like the Dream Curse) but did not carry them well.

        You know, if I had been in charge I would have said “Look, the real problem with Barnabas is that he’s bonkers after two hundred years of sensory deprivation. Let’s center on having him regain his sanity – ” And make a point of it in the story. This way you can build up sympathy for him. And make a nice wrap of the 1967 storyline.

        The fact that Maggie’s kidanpping never got trulr resolve left a nice ticking bomb, which could be used against him (Both Angelique and Nicholas could have used the leverage)…

        But they just muddled along.

        1. I’ve argued that any reputation for “camp” that DARK SHADOWS has comes from the 1968 “storyline.” The Dream Curse, which despite how broadly acted the responses to it are, isn’t very scary; Angelique “posing” as Cassandra but with a black wig (since Barnabas and Victoria recognized her on sight, and the rest of the family never knew her, the disguise made no sense — might as well have just gone blonde), and the Adam/Eve experiments.

          Bear in mind, I loved all of these things but with a campy sensibility rather than how I respond to the series in other timelines.

          I’ve mentioned before that certain elements of the show seem to work better in the past — the vampire hunt with people wielding silver crosses, werewolves, even mad scientist experiments.

          1. The problem with the Dream Curse is that it we do not see it as scary. Let each character confront his fears, real fears, in their dreams, and we have a better story. Vicky could dream of being hanged, Maggie, relieve parts of her kidnapping, Willie remember scary parts of his past… They all have plenty to be scared about, and we can believe later when they are shaken.

            But no… they had to go for buckets of dry ice…

          2. 1960s television had a lot of faith in black wigs, both Samantha on Bewitched and Jeanne on I Dream of Jeanne had different characters distinguished from main character only by a black wig.

  2. I also love how the show has turned into a great soap opera. Great overview of this episode. I’m new to your site, but I plan to be a regular. Keep up the good work!

  3. I have all sorts of mad love for 1795 because it’s a story, for the most part, that the writers tell with remarkable certainty.

    I know most fans prefer 1897, but that story went off the rails for me when they extended that story for ratings and brought in Petofi. 1795 has a beginning, middle and end, and some great subtext, that the history we come to know and love (I’m looking at Vicki) is actually written by the rich and powerful (as Joshua whitewashes the family history after chaining up Barnabas). That’s an extraordinary social critique for daytime, but DS gets away with it because of its Gothic trappings.

  4. I know there’s plenty of historical gobbledygook going on here in the 1795 storyline, such as the anachronistic witch-hunter Trask, and this is hardly a documentary about post-Revolutionary New England. Even so, isn’t it a bit of a stretch to claim that the deed to the Old House was in Naomi’s name? Could women even legally own property in 1795? I don’t think so. Even beyond that, there’s no logical plot or dramatic reason for this beyond contrivance. This is a pretty conservative New England patrician family and Joshua seems to rule with an iron fist as master of the house, so why would the house have been in her name in the first place regardless of historical accuracy issue?

    1. This is a major problem for me too. Women could inherit property, but once they married their property became their husband’s. So if Naomi had inherited the property (which doesn’t make sense; this house was supposed to have been built by and for the Collins family and Naomi wasn’t a Collins), then it would belong to Joshua after their marriage in any case. It doesn’t make any sense at all, it’s so annoying it’s distracting. Please, let’s not try to pretend women were anything but property themselves in those times. This plot point alone belies any claim that the show at this stage was attempting to address social issues such as class.

      1. Well, the plot/dramatic reason is that this creates a moment where Joshua can “disown” his errant son, while still keeping Barnabas and Angelique on the Old House set.

        And yeah, they were absolutely not attempting to address social issues or historical accuracy. By this point, the show hardly even takes place on the planet Earth.

  5. I love Frid’s face during the line: “Barnabas… I think I will be asking myself that question the rest of my life.” My (up until this point) favorite “serious” Frid moment.

    1. Agreed. Frid and KLS together in this scene provided a great reminder that we’re watching a deeply tragic story unfold, which is easy to forget amongst distractions like Joshua becoming a cat for a week, or the return of Jeremiah at the end of this episode, though I certainly have nothing against fun stuff like that. In fact, gimme some more just like it.

  6. Another great scene between Joshua and Barnabas. Who knew that these two, playing Father and Son, would resonate so well off of each other? Their 1968 relationship is a pleasant, perfunctory back-slapping affair. Not so here. That dialogue exchange between them leading to the disinheritance is a corker of a scene–one of the best written ones I think by Gordon Russell.

    I still am not certain what those blue boutonnieres are that all of the men are wearing. They have never explained them. Are they for mourning? (I noticed Josette was all in black today which she looked great in btw).

    Tom Dean: I’m with you on Naomi having the deed to the house. Unthinkable in such a patrician, paterfamilias, starchy time period as this. Still, as Danny stated, plot contrivance means in many instances: “we’re just making it up as we go along.”

    We really need to lose the Jeremiah body creature: it literally stops the show in its tracks and suddenly I think to myself, “Gee. I wonder what I’ll be for Halloween this year…..” It completely takes me out of the show it’s so visually ludicrous (the person has virtually none of the physicality of AG either).

    1. Naomi holding title to the Old House is unusual, considering it was the primary residence for years, but it could have happened. Assuming Naomi came from a wealthy family, they may have wanted to ensure that she would have some additional financial security, and so may have made it sort of a reverse dowry, or a trade off. It would have been more unusual if Naomi brought business interests into the marriage, for her to have a say in running them. Giving her title to the house that she was responsible to run, may have been seen as an even exchange.

      Let’s face it, Joshua probably never came off as being in love with Naomi. I’m sure that their marriage was more of a business deal, not uncommon in those days. So Naomi’s father making sure that Joshua couldn’t throw her out on the street if things went sour, would have been a caring thing to do.

      1. Good points, Percys. As for Josuah’s and Naomi’s marriage, in one of the last 1795 episodes, Josuah confesses that he thought Naomi had stopped loving him long ago. When Barnabas claims it was because he had stopped loving her, he denies this, but has some other interesting things to say about himself: “I tried to love her. She was my wife . . . Maybe I’m incapable of love . . . I don’t know.”

    2. Barry: I thought this was one of the best Barnabas-Josuah scenes in the entire 1795 flashback. It foreshadows, I feel, the later confrontation between the two when he discovers that his son is a vampire. When Barnabas tells him that he is going to marry Angelique that very night, and “you cannot stop me,” exactly what Barnabas tells him later when he objects to his planning to kill Lieutenant Forbes.

      Also, I agree with you about how laughable the ghost of Jeremiah looks. My girlfriend quipped that his white head wrapping made him look like a big lamb.

    3. Those are rosettes and they are a signifier of mourning, particularly among Freeasons. But they should be black, not blue.

  7. Louis Edmonds is really knocking it out of the park as Joshua. His ability to convey age and infirmity by the stiffness of his movements and the timbre of his voice is quite extraordinary. Noteworthy also are the two scenes between Barnabas and Josette – the first at the grave a few episodes ago and then today in her room. Frid and KLS do a wonderful job illustrating the regret and melancholia of the situation.

  8. I thought this was one of the best Barnabas-Josuah confrontations ever. His warning Josuah that he cannot stop him foreshadows their later showdown when Barnabas becomes a vampire.

    Also, I agree with Barry about how ridiculous the Jeremiah ghost looks. My girlfriend quipped that his white head wrapping makes him resemble a big lamb.

  9. I remember this episode when it originally aired. I know that because I was very very scared of the Joshua Zombie in the Old House menacing Angelique. I was only 6 1/2 watching on small black white TV, but when I remember Dark Shadows, I remover this scene. Even though I put a pillow over my face for much of it.

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