Episode 411: Other People’s Blood

“That’s what happened to me, isn’t it? I was in that coffin because I was dead.”

It always starts with a box.

The local nobility are up to their usual tricks — keeping secrets, shooting each other, sleeping with the help, generally making a nuisance of themselves — and it comes back to haunt them, as it always does.

So here we are, opening another mystery box, and something terrible is loosed upon the world again, for the first time.

411 dark shadows box angelique

Because this is the same box we opened two hundred episodes ago, and it hasn’t lost its capacity to surprise. In fact, opening Barnabas’ coffin is so much fun that they’ll end up doing it five more times over the course of the series. After a while, they start putting him back in the box every time the storyline gets stale, just to see the look on everybody’s face when they open it again.

So here’s where we are: Last week, Barnabas shot Angelique, his sorceress-vixen wife, because he was planning to run off with his ex-fiancee, and you don’t want to leave loose ends just lying around.

In retaliation, Angelique cursed him, turning him into the living dead, plus he’s got the extra bonus curse that everyone who loves him will die.

411 dark shadows standard barnabas angelique

But this time, the joke is on Angelique. She wants to stake Barnabas before he rises, but she gets there just a smidgen too late. You really can’t leave something like this until the last minute; it pays to book early and plan ahead.

411 dark shadows coffin angelique barnabas

What follows is pretty much your standard soap opera “what kind of a monster have I become” scene, like they do all the time on afternoon television. I think Barnabas took his fangs out during the opening titles, but he’s still talking like he has them in; his voice is all gruff and monster-y.

Barnabas:  Why was I in this coffin? What have you done to me?

Angelique:  Barnabas, I want to get away from this place.

Yeah, no kidding. This has got to be on the top ten list of places you don’t want to be after dark, like Gotham City, or The Arsenio Hall Show.

411 dark shadows yes angelique barnabas

But it’s too late; Barnabas is already monologuing.

Barnabas:  I remember… being in bed… delirious with fever… I was afraid I would die. And that’s what’s happened to me, isn’t it? I was in that coffin because I was dead. Wasn’t I? Wasn’t I?

There you go, he’s been out of the box for less than sixty seconds and he’s already doing a soliloquy.

411 thunder angelique barnabas

And then the most amazing thing happens. Angelique chokes out a strangled, “Yes!” and Barnabas stares off into the distance.

Here’s what he says:

“I’ve returned…” — thunderclap — “… from the dead.”

Which is so deeply Count von Count that I can’t even deal with it. He might as well finish with, “That’s vun! Vun person returned from the dead! Ah ah ah aaaahhh!”

411 dark shadows bat angelique barnabas

But this is no time for preschool television. He remembers the curse, and the bat coming straight for his throat.

Barnabas:  You knew I was going to die, and then come back to life again, didn’t you?

Angelique:  I tried to prevent your death, Barnabas. I did everything that I could!

Barnabas:  But you failed!

Angelique:  Yes.

Barnabas:  And, having failed, you came here to try to prevent me from returning.

And oh my God, are you guys recapping right now? Soap characters! There is no situation, however dire, when people on a soap opera will violate their prime directive to keep endlessly narrating their own lives.

411 dark shadows afraid angelique barnabas

But they’ve got work to do; there’s serious dramatic emoting to be done. A newly-risen vampire is about to murder his sorceress wife in a candle-lit, windowless chamber, with a thunderstorm raging outside. If you can’t work up the energy to chew the hell out of this scenery, then you might as well turn in your AFTRA card and go back to waiting tables.

And Barnabas and Angelique — bless them forever, and build them a monument in soap opera heaven — they are taking full advantage of the situation.

Barnabas:  But the question is why! Why did you try to prevent me from returning? What are you afraid of?

Angelique:  Nothing!

Barnabas:  Oh, yes. It is me you’re afraid of. Or, rather… what I have become.

411 dark shadows barnabas angelique

And now all the pieces slide into place. It finally makes sense why we’ve spent the last two months with Angelique absolutely dominating the entire show.

They had to make Angelique the Biggest Bad they’ve ever had, because now they can establish that Barnabas is even scarier than she is.

Just look around, at all of the chaos and heartbreak she’s responsible for, all the innocent blood on her hands… and he’s even worse.

As I realized a couple weeks ago, contrary to popular fan lore, 1795 is not the storyline where Barnabas becomes sympathetic and cuddly. It’s the storyline where he becomes an unstoppable engine of pain and destruction.

411 dark shadows tell me barnabas angelique

They finally pull the trigger.

Barnabas:  Angelique, look at me and TELL ME!

Angelique:  The curse has made you… one of the living dead.

This is punctuated by another delicious Count von Count thunderclap.

Angelique:  But you can live only at night. When the sun rises, you must return to your coffin, until the sun sets again.

411 dark shadows other part barnabas

But Barnabas just remembered the fine print.

Barnabas:  And what about the rest of the curse? You said that anyone who loved me would die.

Angelique:  I tried to lift the curse, Barnabas! I did everything in my power!

Barnabas:  But you could not. So the curse is with me yet, and will remain with me. Now I know why you tried to prevent me from coming back to life. You knew you would be the first victim of your own curse!

Angelique:  No, no! That’s not true!

Barnabas:  Of course it is, Angelique! Or were you always lying to me when you told me how much you love me?

411 dark shadows strangle angelique barnabas

And then he just goes ahead and strangles her, on camera in a tight two-shot, actually gripping her neck until we see her lose consciousness before our eyes.

411 dark shadows floor angelique

And he lets go, and she tumbles to the floor like a broken doll. And that’s the television show that we’re watching.

Now, under ordinary circumstances, that would be the end of today’s blog post, because after a scene like that, just 24-karat soap opera dynamite, you’d think that there would be nothing else that could top it.

411 dark shadows birdemic joshua

And then they do this. Barnabas’ father comes by to check that nobody has disturbed his son’s final resting place, forcing the newly-minted vampire to turn into a bat and fly away.

411 dark shadows chromakey ben barnabas

After Joshua takes off, Barnabas comes back, appearing to his servant in a cheerfully broken Chromakey effect that makes it look like Barnabas is suddenly six inches taller than Ben.

“It will be dawn soon,” Barnabas says. “We must go into the mausoleum.” I bet at this time last year, Jonathan Frid had no idea he would be saying lines like that pretty much ever single day.

411 dark shadows bloody barnabas

Once they’re inside, we get the breathtaking and unprecedented sight of the main character of a soap opera with an enormous blood mustache. I’m prepared to bet that this was the first time that had ever happened on television.

It’s way more graphic than anything they did a few months ago. Even when Barnabas bit into his niece Carolyn, they just showed the fangs, and then Carolyn woke up with a scarf and a dazed expression.

They’re really going for it this time. They’ve made us wait two months to see Barnabas turned into a vampire, and it’s built up an audience demand that they’re now happy to satisfy.

411 dark shadows drama barnabas ben

Ben is astonished.

Ben:  What happened to you?

Barnabas:  To me, nothing… but to some unfortunate villager. You see, I learned something else about my new existence tonight. I learned that… I cannot survive without blood.

And then they do another thunderclap, just to put a period on the end of that sentence.

411 dark shadows devoured barnabas ben

But even after a meal like this, Barnabas always has room for another monologue.

Ben:  Without what?

Barnabas:  Without blood, Ben. Without other people’s blood! You will begin to hear talk tomorrow, about an attack that took place in the village tonight. They will probably think, from the marks on the woman’s throat, that it was done by some wild animal, but it wasn’t. I am the guilty one.

Ben:  But, why?

Barnabas:  Because I have need for BLOOD!

411 dark shadows murder barnabas

Oh, it’s delicious. More thunder, more shouting, more self-pity.

Barnabas:  I should have let her go through with it. I should have let her kill me.

Ben:  Mr. Barnabas, you mustn’t talk like that!

Barnabas:  Ben, I would rather be dead than have to go through eternity as what I am… what I have become.

Incredible. There will be dull moments ahead, as there always are, sooner or later. But once again, the mystery box turns out to be a gift-wrapped present in honor of Barnabas’ special day. Happy birthday!

Tomorrow: You’ve Got to Believe Me.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

There’s one of the great accidental guest appearances today — during the secret room scene, the shot goes wider than expected, and we see a stagehand in a blue shirt, sitting just offstage. He gets up and moves out of the shot.

411 dark shadows barnabas angelique and friend

Also:  In yesterday’s episode, Angelique is wearing a cloak that falls from her shoulders as she raises the hammer and stake. In today’s reprise, they don’t bother with the cloak.

As Angelique opens the coffin, you can see a stage light on the floor illuminating the coffin.

There are lit candles in the secret room that weren’t there yesterday. In the teaser, two of the candles have blown out. When we come back after the opening titles, all the candles are lit.

When Barnabas is challenging Angelique to use her powers, she says, “I have no reason to!” He assures her, “You will have in a minute. Only this time you will use them… for the right… purpose.”

Just before Joshua enters the mausoleum, Barnabas tells Ben, “I’m going to find a way to hide the body. If anyone comes into the mausoleum, tell them that I’ve… that… no one is to come in here.”

When Barnabas appears in Chromakey, there’s some background talking and a couple of beeps; it sounds like some other audio feed is bleeding through.

Tomorrow: You’ve Got to Believe Me.

411 dark shadows credits barnabas

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

27 thoughts on “Episode 411: Other People’s Blood

  1. And this is the end of 1795 Angelique — or rather the compelling character she was. She’ll return as a floating head and a portrait vandal and a surprise witness for the prosecution, but she is no longer the horribly flawed human being with the comprensible goals. Her tragedy, like Macbeth, ends here with her death. Now, it is Barnabas’s story, and we see him and Nathan Forbes become monsters. And we see Joshua Collins almost become our protagonist.

    We always knew Barnabas became a vampire unwillingly and unhappily. We do learn that he was a decent human being (horribly flawed but who isn’t on a soap opera?) and that will inform the human he becomes while cured. The show will not attempt to depict him as a “good” vampire until 1897 (although his body count there is higher than it was in 1967).

    As for Angelique, she is never this wonderful again until 1897 and even then she doesn’t dominate the plot as she does here.

    1. Actually as a vampire, Barnabas carries all his human flaws. Let’s put it this way. Before he became a vampire he was lousy at crisis management, and afterwards it does not get any better….

      On the other hand, seeing him in action as a human puts 1967 in perspective. He did not kidnap and try to brainwash Maggie because he was a vampire, but because he was an habitual hatcher of loopy plots.

      Which means that he gets our sympathies, and also a strong desire to Gibbs-slap him…

      1. I’m curious–do folks think that Barnabas’s terrible decision-making and loopy plans were conscious parts of his character or just bad plotting on the writers’ part?

        1. My vote is: conscious bad plotting. They’re making Dark Shadows up as they go along, and the only rule is that this week is supposed to be more interesting than last week. They never really plotted more than two or three weeks ahead.

          So the survival-of-the-fittest natural selection process favors impulsive, passionate characters who can turn on a dime, and always have something new to do. That’s how you end up with four lunatics like Barnabas, Julia, Angelique and Quentin as the stars of the show.

          1. Vun! Vun lunatic! Ah ah ah aaahhh!
            Two! Two lunatics! Ah ah ah aaahhh!
            Three! Three lunatics! Ah ah ah aaahhh!
            Four! Four lunatics! Ah ah ah aaahhh!

    2. Smoky good point here.”And this is the end of 1795 Angelique — or rather the compelling character she was. She’ll return as a floating head and a portrait vandal and a surprise witness for the prosecution, but she is no longer the horribly flawed human being with the comprensible goals. Her tragedy, like Macbeth, ends here with her death. Now, it is Barnabas’s story, and we see him and Nathan Forbes become monsters. And we see Joshua Collins almost become our protagonist.”

    3. I’m watching the 1897 storyline now and it seems that there are so many different plots going simultaneously that the only character who had enough screen time to make the same impact as 1795 Angelique is ‘new guy on the block’ Quentin.

  2. I don’t know about anyone else but these images of Barnabas with blood running down his mouth costs him to lose more sympathy points with me. I know this scene was included to horrify and thrill the increasingly younger audience however the blood on his clothing and hands could have conveyed the message that he had attacked somebody. Someone of his ‘refined’ upbringing would have wiped the blood off of their face instead of letting it drip down their mouth for others to see. He always presented himself as dignified and well mannered so this portrayal of him seems out of character, even as his ‘new vampire’ self…

      1. That’s how I took it, that he’s too freaked out to worry about clean-up. Also he’s a newbie vampire — his feeding technique no doubt gets a bit more refined as he goes along.

        1. He doesn’t know how he looks to other people.

          It’s not like he can use a mirror.

          And waiting for Sam Evans or Charles Delaware Tate would take FOREVER.

          And his face here….is a flavor saver.

    1. I’d say cut Barnabas a little slack here: this was a new, unbelievable horrific experience for him, his very first night as a vampire. He was probably in too much fright and shock to bother with his usual good grooming habits; all he could probably think of was getting the hell outta Dodge (or Collinsport, in this case).

  3. So why didn’t he drink Angelique’s blood and is there something about the coffin that wards off this curse? I mean if he REALLY had to continue to have human blood to live, wouldn’t he have crumbled to dust or whatever at some point? 200 years without eating is a HECK of a diet. And if Angelique really wanted him dead, why she’d spill all the rules so he knows how to stay alive? I’d have said “You bet you can go along out in sunlight, in fact you need a bit of a tan to hide the undead thing.” 🙂

    1. “Why didn’t he drink Angelique’s blood”?
      I guess he wasn’t thirsty yet. It was only hours later, after Angelique was dead, that he discovered the bloodthirst thing.

      I don’t know all the vampire lore, but in the DS context, it could be that he becomes totally dormant – dead for all intents and purposes – when he’s in the coffin. The need for blood only comes when he’s up and about.

      It does make me wonder where he was getting his blood from in 1967. After the first few weeks of his resurrection we didn’t hear any more about dead animals. And he didn’t bite Maggie that often. Was he getting the odd sip off Willie every evening?

      1. There’s never any indication of how much blood the vampires need in order to survive. Some of the DS vampires feed every couple days, but Barnabas seems to go a long time without it sometimes.

        I’m starting to think of it in sexual terms, rather than food. You don’t die if you don’t have sex, but you get more and more “hungry” for it. If you have the opportunity, you could have sex three times a day, and then go for weeks without it. That model is much closer to how DS vampires actually behave.

  4. “The show will not attempt to depict him as a ‘good’ vampire until 1897 (although his body count there is higher than in 1967).”

    And then there are the questionable things done by him as a NON-vampire! This is a big SPOILER –

    In one scene he causes the “stooge” of the current villain to kill himself, and instead of doing it in self-defense, he does it mainly to “rattle” the villain! That left a funny taste in my mouth.

  5. great death by lara parker there! well done with the ragdoll tumble to the ground and the terrified deadeye stare! she’s a keeper, that one.

  6. It is marvelous that a show willing to spend multiple episodes where characters argue whether or not to open a door that this episode would be so packed with plot. Barnabas figures out what has happened with remarkable speed–guessing at his situation accurately and then moving on from there. He doesn’t get to almost any of the Kubler Ross stages of grief, which you think he would, as it’s his own life he’s grieving.

  7. Also, the show loves to give Barnabas an Igor (or Renfield) figure. Willie, Carolyn, now Ben. This shows up in the novel of “Dracula” but are there any other or earlier examples?

    1. I think that’s actually the adventure-story trope where every important character (hero or villain) needs a sidekick to talk to. That’s especially relevant on a soap opera, a medium that’s mostly talking, interrupted by an occasional plot point.

  8. So it appears that Barnabas’ preferred method of choking his victims has its own origin story too 🙂 I wonder if it was due to a lingering knowedge in his undead mind of how it was also the method used by Angelique in the only time she attacked him directly and not through someone he cared for.

    And even with her death curse, it was a bat who did the damage, but the throat was once more the target. Hmmm……

    1. Yes, this episode and those that closely follow, are what sealed the deal for me. Dark Shadows was in my blood, forever. I think this and several others to follow in 1795 are what Jonathan Frid must have had in mind when he said that occasionally, the writing, the acting, the music, costumes, sets, everything, coalesced into something wonderful. Something Brigadoonish, he said.

      I can still conjure the goosebump feeling, sometimes, but I can’t describe it fully or accurately. To summon it, I flashback to Barnabas and Ben in the mausoleum, and those mournful laments.

      Partly, I think, it was that Barnabas and his tale bought the vampire legend home. There was no Transylvanian accent, no tuxedo or opera cape. Barnabas wasn’t just the first reluctant vampire, he was the first American vampire. He may have been the upper crust of the American pie, but he wasn’t the aloof, castle-dwelling aristocrat from an exotically foreign land; he was ours. He wore the same clothes the founding fathers wore. His secret crypt was built to hide weapons during the revolution. His faithful servant was indentured returning from the war.

      His newly cursed existence was still adjacent to his human life. He had a family he cared about enough to try to remain in the shadows, and a sweetheart he intended to avoid in order to protect her from himself, and a beautiful, evil, dead witch of a wife who wasn’t through tormenting him.

      This was the American horror story. Gothic, poetic tragedy; unique and legendary.

  9. It struck me as stupid for Barnabas to tell anyone who comes into the mausoleum that they mustn’t come into the secret room. The only other person who knows about the secret room is Joshua who would not be dissuaded from going in by Ben. And guess who comes into the mausoleum.

    This episode should be called “Josette is an Idiot.” She knows that Barnabas’ death is supposed to be a secret; yet she blabs the truth in front of the town jailor (er, I mean, “gaolor”). The fact of the death should be all over town by dawn. (We know from a previous episode that Collinsportians gossip until at least two a.m.)

    The narrator (who happens to be Moltke herself) has emphasized the idea that Vicki Winters is learning that the history in her book from the future is not true, but has she learned that yet? It is only in this episode that she learns that Barnabas died and so must not have gone to England, and that might not be the only instance in this episode of someone finding out something they did not know and not having any question about it. Why BTW does Peter not pipe up and tell Josette that he heard Barnabas say that he believed in Vicki’s innocence and promised that he would work on Vicki’s defense? Has Vicki got an idiot for an attorney who is passing up a free opportunity to argue a prosecution witness out of testifying?

    Maybe he is just that dumb.

    Lunatic plot alert: Peter, the gaolor, is going to walk down the street with his prisoner but without authorization to do so. Does he not need his job?

    Also, Vicki is actually going to take action after being completely passive for two hundred or so episodes? Can we say, “out of character”? And how does she know where the book is since she previously gave Josette ample opportunity to move it?

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