“What if last night happens all over again?”
Today’s episode begins with a reprise of yesterday’s strange anti-cliffhanger, where the psychotic monster who’s been terrorizing the people of Collinsport for the last nine months talks his best friend into driving a stake through his heart.
“No matter what you are, no matter what you done,” Ben tells the vampire, “you’ve been my friend.”
“Think of it this way, Ben,” Barnabas says. “You’ll be performing an act of friendship. My destruction will be the only way to save me, my only salvation.”
Barnabas also tells Ben to make sure he helps Vicki escape from jail. After that, Ben should take some money and start a new life, somewhere far away from here.
Ben says he’ll never forget Barnabas, and Barnabas adds, “If you do remember me — remember what was good about me, as I hope others will.”
And oh my god, can you stop micromanaging this whole experience? I’ve never seen someone backseat driving their own suicide like this.
Then Barnabas opens the gate, and looks at the sky. “To think that I will never see the moonlight again,” he says. “Or the sunlight. Or anything.”
And so on. This is a Ron Sproat episode, by the way, and you can tell because we’re four minutes in and already I have a headache. This is the middle of three straight Sproat scripts, and that always wears me down. (By the way, the phrase “three straight Sproat scripts” is almost impossible to say out loud. Fortunately, it doesn’t come up that often.)
Barnabas decides that he needs to see Josette one more time before he dies. Ben thinks he can talk Barnabas out of doing something stupid, which is adorable.
Ben: She thinks you’re dead, Mr. Barnabas. Let her keep on thinkin’ that, for her sake.
Barnabas: I only want to look at her. I only want to go to her room while she’s sleeping, and look at her.
Oh, okay — when you put it that way, it sounds like a totally rational thing to do. Ben’s “Jiminy Cricket at the Gates of Hell” routine goes into overdrive.
Ben: What if last night happens all over again? What if you do the same thing to Miss Josette that you did to that girl?
Barnabas: I would never harm Josette.
Ben: You didn’t mean to harm that girl, but you did!
Barnabas: She was not Josette!
Ben: You might not mean to harm Miss Josette, but you might not be able to help yourself!
Ben: It’s not nonsense, Mr. Barnabas! Don’t go near her! Please! PLEASE!
So, guess what.
Next thing you know, we’re in Josette’s room, and we hear the squeaky-magic-marker sound that means something crazy is about to happen. We see a flappy bat silhouette, and then Barnabas appears.
He stands by her bed, and does a little thinks monologue.
Barnabas (thinks): My dear Josette… I mustn’t awaken her. I mustn’t go any nearer to her. I mustn’t! I mustn’t!
But Barnabas is really bad at obeying his own mustn’ts.
He walks over to the bed, and then it’s more thinks, and more longing, and more eye makeup, and nothing really happens. Considering we just saw a bat turn into a guy, it’s a surprisingly dull scene.
But then Josette’s aunt Natalie comes in, and sees Barnabas. He disappears in a puff of Chromakey.
And now we’ve got another long argument scene, with Natalie trying to persuade Josette to leave Collinsport and go back to Martinique.
So here’s the question for the audience: What are we supposed to want right now? The story is obviously waiting for something to happen, but we don’t want any of those things to happen.
We don’t want Ben to stake Barnabas. We don’t want Ben to persuade Barnabas to stay away from Josette, and we don’t want Natalie to persuade Josette to leave. Any of those things would be the smart thing to do, but they would make the show more boring, so we don’t want them to be smart. At this point, if anybody in the cast started acting like they have a functioning brainstem, the whole story would collapse.
Everything in this episode is trying to pull us away from the story that we know still has to be told. So how are we supposed to feel, watching all of these angst-ridden scenes about Barnabas saying goodbye to the moonlight, when we know it’s not going to happen anyway?
There’s even a long scene of Ben urging Josette to leave Collinwood, which is one of those things you get when you have a limited number of actors per episode and you don’t want anything to happen. Everyone has to pair up and talk things over.
Then our old friend the Convenient Rooster crows, signaling that it’s almost dawn. Ben looks through the gate on the Collinwood patio, and engages in thinks.
Ben (thinks): In a few minutes, it’ll be light… and I’ll have to find a stake and drive it through his heart.
Wait a minute. It’s almost dawn, and you haven’t found the stake yet? You’re supposed to chop down a holly tree! Plus the cemetery is five miles away from Collinwood, most of the time. You are way behind schedule.
But finally, we get everybody assembled in the mausoleum, as Ben the Vampire Slayer prepares to do the thing that Must Not Be Done.
Here’s the wind-up…
And then who should show up in the nick of time, but Angelique, making another surprise supervillain entrance. Ta-DAH!
And it doesn’t work. I hate to say it, because I love Angelique, and the central role she’s played in making this storyline interesting for the last three months.
But it’s too soon. She’s only been dead for a week; you can’t expect us to be delighted by her surprise return. They need to give us a break from her for a little while, so we get a chance to miss her and wish they’d bring her back.
It’s like that early-70s season of Doctor Who when the Master was the surprise villain for five stories in a row. You can’t go steady with a surprise like that. You and the surprise need to start seeing other people.
Anyway, it’s not super clear what’s going on here. Is Angelique still alive? Is this a ghost? Or is it just a recorded message, powered by the curse?
Three straight Sproat scripts. Damn it. And this was number two; there’s another one coming up tomorrow.
I don’t know if I can do this. I might need to come up with a backup plan.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
At one point in the Ben/Josette scene, they get mixed up about which camera is supposed to be on the actors. First, the actors stand in a place where the camera can’t see them. Then they cut to another camera, and Josette immediately turns her back to the camera and stands in front of Ben.
When Angelique chases Ben out of the secret room, the door doesn’t fully close behind him.
— Danny Horn