Episode 423: Twisted

“We were just having a little family argument.”

This hasn’t been an easy week so far, either for the Collins family or for the Dark Shadows audience. They’re wrapping up this phase of the Barnabas/Josette storyline, and after all of the build-up, it doesn’t really feel like anything.

This week, we’re seeing two of Dark Shadows‘ less successful attempts at creating a soap opera supercouple — a pairing that endures for years and offers unlimited story potential, as they overcome obstacles and always find their way back to each oher. On Monday, the show officially unveiled Vicki and Peter as the brand new star-crossed, century-hopping romance, and now we’re heading straight for a pivotal moment in the epic story of Barnabas and Josette.

Now, I don’t know how you feel about the situation, but personally I couldn’t care less about those couples. They could jump off a cliff for all I care, and lucky me, guess what happens next.

423 dark shadows stunned joshua

But if Dark Shadows has a hard time with heart-tugging romance, they make up for it with lunatic plot contrivances.

As today’s episode opens, Natalie enters the Collinwood drawing room, and finds Joshua sitting on the couch with this expression on his face. She pays exactly no attention to it, but I suppose if you spend enough time at Collinwood, after a while you just stop processing other people’s stunned expressions. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

423 dark shadows coffin natalie joshua

But he’s got a good one this time. Yesterday, he went to the secret room where he’d buried his son Barnabas, opened the coffin and found that it was empty. That’s a fairly gripping anecdote, even for this show.

They’re baffled, especially because they’ve just noticed Barnabas’ ex-fiancee Josette walking around wearing the black onyx ring that he was buried with. Joshua says this has to be the work of grave robbers, but nobody knows where Barnabas was buried, and Joshua can’t explain how the ring ended up on Josette’s finger.

“There has to be a logical explanation,” Joshua moans, “there has to be!” As always, this line is the time-honored signal that they’re not going to figure that explanation out anytime soon.

423 dark shadows twist suki forbes

And then who should stroll in but this week’s walking, talking plot twist, Mrs. Suki Forbes.

Suki is the estranged wife of Lieutenant Nathan Forbes, the handsome scoundrel who recently became engaged to Millicent, the ditzy heiress of the Collins family fortune. Suki’s a schemer herself, and she showed up last week to demand a small fortune from Nathan, or else she’ll let Millicent know that he’s already married.

She’s currently passing herself off as Nathan’s sister, and she’s wrangled an invitation to stay at Collinwood, because that’s the kind of thing that always happens in soap operas and door-slamming bedroom farces — two genres that are heavy on the lunatic plot contrivances.

423 dark shadows track suki nathan

Suki chases the old folks out of the drawing room, and then leads Nathan on an invigorating lap around the track.

Nathan:  All right, Suki. It’s time to stop playing games. How much do you want?

Suki:  You’re always very direct, aren’t you, dear? It’s a quality I admire in a man.

Nathan:  I said it’s time to stop playing games; now, there’s a carriage leaving Collinsport. How much is it going to take to get you on it?

Suki:  Ooh, you’re asking me to make a decision. And you know I’ve always been dreadful at making decisions.

423 dark shadows dream nathan suki

Suki is a dream — a fearless, funny, camp spectacle of a character who runs entirely on bad news. She’s the perfect character to throw into a serialized narrative, because she’s a chaos engine, just like Angelique or Julia. Light fuse and get away.

Suki says that she wants $5,000, which is somewhere around $70,000 in today’s money — an impossible sum for Nathan to scratch up.

Nathan:  You know I don’t have that kind of money.

Suki:  Ah, yes. But fortunately for both of us, dear Millicent does.

Nathan:  Oh, now, be reasonable. How can I ask Millicent for five thousand dollars?

Suki:  I’m sure you’ll find a way. You’ve always had a way with words.

Oh, I love her. Check out the change of expression in the next exchange.

423 dark shadows face suki

Nathan:  Even if I could lay my hands on that kind of money, it would take time.

Suki:  Take all the time you want. I’m perfectly willing to wait.

423 dark shadows mad suki

Nathan:  But I want you out of here now!

Suki:  Then get the money from Millicent. It’s that simple.

423 dark shadows wife suki nathan

And look at the body language here. She’s a foot and a half shorter than he is, and she’s staring him down.

Nathan:  If Millicent breaks off our engagement, then you won’t be able to get another cent out of me. You know that as well as I do.

Suki:  That’s right, I do. But I also know that breaking up your little romance would give me a great deal of satisfaction. After all, Nathan, although you prefer to forget it, we are still man and wife!

She’s just great, that’s all there is to it. She’s like Heather Locklear joining Melrose Place, a weapon of mass destruction in heels.

423 dark shadows window suki barnabas

Desperate to get Suki away from Collinwood’s central transportation hub, Nathan tells her to meet him at the Old House so they can discuss things in more detail.

Then Nathan gets held up, so Suki is left alone in the Old House, just her and the things that go bump in the night.

423 dark shadows awry suki barnabas

That’s when things start to go seriously awry. Suki’s been told that Barnabas has gone to England, the family’s cover story for his sudden and disturbing death. He’s got Josette upstairs, waiting for the moment when he’s ready to kill her and turn her into his eternal, undead bride.

As I said, Suki is fantastic — a made-to-order soap opera firecracker. But suddenly she’s in a situation that’s way above her pay grade.

423 dark shadows curious suki barnabas

Barnabas tries to scare her away, but Suki Forbes doesn’t scare easily. Assessing the situation, she decides that this is another blackmail opportunity, and she threatens to spread the word that he’s still hanging around the estate. This is what you might call a career-limiting move.

423 dark shadows bat suki

So, in these few final moments that we have with our fantastic new fan-favorite character, let’s consider: Why would Dark Shadows create a character like this, with so much potential for long-term storyline mayhem, and then murder her on camera at the end of her third episode?

423 dark shadows strangling suki barnabas

The answer is: Because it’s Dark Shadows, that’s why. This show is in the business of creating surprises on a daily basis, half an hour every weekday. This is one of the most surprising things they’ve done in the last couple months, and on this show, that’s saying a lot.

Every cue that we’ve been given about Suki sets us up to think this is at least a medium-term character, someone who’s going to stick around for a while and cause all kinds of trouble. But she walks into the wrong house at the wrong time, and suddenly all of our predictions are shattered.

423 dark shadows damn suki nathan

I wish she’d stuck around. Everybody wishes that. It’s impossible to watch these episodes and not want to see more of Suki.

But, damn it. Look at what this show can do. My favorite show.

Tomorrow: Pursued by a Bear.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Joshua shows Natalie the secret panel in Josette’s room, and explains that the house was planned “during the War”. But the Revolutionary War ended thirteen years ago, in 1783, and the house was just finished a couple months ago. I know Collinwood is a mansion, but could it take that long to build?

In act 3, when Barnabas finds Suki:

Suki:  Why are you threatening me?

Barnabas:  Don’t answer — uh, ask questions.

Nathan hears Suki scream, and pounds on the Old House front door to get in. The brick wall next to the door noticeably wobbles.

Tomorrow: Pursued by a Bear.

 423 dark shadows murder suki

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

14 thoughts on “Episode 423: Twisted

  1. Suki getting killed so suddenly was like a smaller scale version of ‘Psycho’ or ‘Horror Hotel’ where they kill off the central female character in the middle of the movie – totally unexpected and unnerving. While Suki was not a primary character on the show she projected a strong personality and seemed larger than life during her short tenure. She had a much more forceful presence than either Josette, Millicent or Vicki. She could have been more in a league with Angelique had she remained with the show. I’m surprised that DS didn’t bring this actress back in future storylines.

    1. I am SO with you.

      What are they doing?

      Jane Draper was every bit as good as Lara.

      In different ways, she and Lara could have kept the show going for YEARS.

  2. When I watched DS all the way through in the 1990’s (on SciFi), Suki Forbes came and went so fast I didn’t even remember her. This time around she’s made a much greater impression. The funny thing is, the name “Suki Forbes” has gotten so stuck in my memory, that for years I haven’t been exactly sure where I knew it from, only that this was some kind of monumental character in fiction.

    I liked her acting when she was being a b***ch, but I thought her sniveling fear in the Old House was less than stellar. Still, she could have been a great asset to Dark Shadows. Maybe the writers thought TWO evil female characters at the same time was TOO much?

  3. This is really stretching a point here, but if you want a convenient war they could hang it on, how about The Whiskey Rebellion? It was more in the backcountry areas of the country, but if you were as rich of the Collins family maybe you didn’t want to take any chances. http://www.mountvernon.org/research-collections/digital-encyclopedia/article/whiskey-rebellion/
    They could also be referring to a fear that the Native American tribes would start raiding again and frankly I find the complete lack of mention of them baffling. Even when they no longer posed any threat they were the “Big Bad” (to use an NCIS term) of New England. When women start being attacked I can’t believe no one thought it was them, especially with captive narratives being big business at the time.
    But honestly I don’t think the writers exactly did any research about the time period and seem fairly shaky on what exact year they are in or what they said on screen last week, so they could have time slipped back to the Revolution.

    1. I think it was just bad research/thinking about how long ago the Revolution was. If I were to help them justify this idiocy with a “war” I would have picked Shay’s Rebellion which took place in western Massachusetts in 1786-1787. I don’t think it ever got further east than Worcester, Mass., but maybe Joshua would have been afraid that it was coming to the District of Maine (or Province of Maine as Barnabas calls it when he first meets Vicki).

  4. I assume “planned during the revolution” meant the plans were drawn up at that time, and they built to plans. Good points from glmanny as well – a teenage US didn’t know how long before others were coming to get them!

    1. Maybe they used contractors to build Collinwood. Though thirteen years seems a little bit short if they did.

  5. Can’t believe this is a Ron Sproat episode – things actually happened in it!
    And why kill off Suki when he could have taken the opportunity to have Barnabas lock her up for a few days in Matthew Morgan’s hidey-hole!

  6. Jane Draper made quite an impression with just three episodes. Too bad she wasn’t brought on earlier or killed off later.

    At any rate, in my own personal perfect 1795, Suki is a central character and survives the mayhem. And while I’m on the subject of my personal perfect 1795:

    I’d have the “present day” seance transpire just as we saw it. But instead of Victoria emerging from the woods in daylight, I’d have the following scenario:

    There’s the lightning blast, total darkness, candles/lantern relit and their sits Victoria at a table holding a seance in an old room with people in period clothing. They, shockingly, are:

    Frank Gardner.
    Frank’s father.
    Portia Fitzsimmons.
    The lady on the train during Victoria’s ride to Collinsport.

    Victoria yells out “Frank!” and asks what has happened. They are screaming at her about what happened to Miss Wick. It’s even more pandemonium that when Phyllis suddenly appeared in Collinwood.

    They demand to know how she appeared and took the place of Miss Wick. She demands to know how she got there. “Frank” informs her his name is Niles Stockbridge, and you can make up names for the others. The older man is clearly Niles Stockbridge’s father.

    After half an episode of shock/confusion/arguing, “Portia” points to Victoria and deems her a witch. The men go to grab her, Victoria tries to flee and knocks over candles onto curtains. A fire starts. The old man and the old woman die in the fire. “Frank”/Niles runs off into the night and disappears. “Portia” also flees into the night. Victoria barely makes it out, goes out from what turns out to be an inn and passes out in nearby woods. End of Day 1.

    And that’s all the viewer knows. None of this is explained. You’re as confused as Victoria or these other people at the seance table about what has happened.

    Day 2: “Portia Fitzsimmons” stumbles at early morning into Collinsport village on the docks. Sees a minor character. Says her carriage party had to stop for a storm at inn just outside of town. Had a seance. Witch tried to burn them all. She dies.

    Dark Shadow waves.

    Victoria wakes up all sooty and completely confused and is semi-amnesiatic about the . Stumbles around the woods. Calls for Frank. No answer. Makes it to the Old House. Commercial.

    Then sees Barnabas and the rest of the episode plays out like it did before: Barnabas/Sarah/Nathan. EXCEPT:

    She’s done nothing stupid yet. And through no fault of her own and in the first minutes of her arrival when there was nothing she could do about it, she’s already been set up as a witch suspect. Word spreads in the village and eventually to Abigail, already suspicious of the lady with the smoky, scandalous clothing.

    Other things I’d change:

    Delay the arrival of the du Pres party for a week. Spend the first week setting up Joshua, Naomi, Abigail, Jeremiah and Barnabas, with Victoria’s disheveled arrival being their focus but with plenty of backstory bickering between them all. Have a few scenes of Victoria bonding with Sarah.
    Du Pres party arrives in second week. Make Josette a little more haughty, actually, and more dismissive of Angelique. Hint at the Barnabas/Angelique affair but not her witchcraft so quickly. Have a reason for Barnabas and Josette to quarrel over a matter for a few episodes. Jeremiah comforts her. Angelique — and Abigail — pick up on that. Then have Angelique make her move on Barnabas. Then have her unleash her witchcraft …
    But make Angelique not as powerful. And she uses her spells, it weakens her for a time.

    Also: No cat. She just makes Joshua wander off in the mist, no explanation. No history book.

    And bring in Suki earlier …

  7. This is the first episode in which the opening narrative template changes from “…and sent one girl on an uncertain and frightening journey into the past” to “…and sent one woman on an uncertain and frightening journey into the past….” Yay, feminism(?).

  8. Did I miss something, or are we just taking it as read that people on soaps who have been strangled to death can still talk before they die?

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