“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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!
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.
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?
Barnabas: Oh, yes. It is me you’re afraid of. Or, rather… what I have become.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
— Danny Horn