Episode 431: The Catcher in the Rye

“What have I to look forward to, if the sight of me fills anyone that I love with terror?”

Okay, it’s Monday, and time for another Dark Shadows course-correction.

Three months ago, the DS writers were faced with a huge story problem: The new vampire character was an enormous hit, but that storyline was clearly heading towards a conclusion, with nothing left to do but expose and destroy the vampire. Then, in an unbelievable example of inspiration fueled by desperation, they sent Vicki back in time to 1795, letting the audience witness the vampire’s secret-origin backstory.

And now we’ve completed that three-month mission. We know the whole story of Barnabas’ curse, and how little Sarah died, and why Josette threw herself off a cliff. On Friday, Barnabas tried to call Josette back from the grave, until he found out that she doesn’t really look super appealing post-cliff-dive, which pretty much puts a period at the end of that sentence.

Unfortunately, that means that the writers are back where they started, as far as a Barnabas storyline is concerned. He’s a lonely vampire again, and Josette — his only reason for existing — is lost to him forever. So then what?

431 dark shadows candles barnabas

Well, then he moves back home. He’s been bunking out in the secret room in the Collins family mausoleum for the last month, which is kind of the vampire equivalent of a youth hostel — bare, gloomy, subject to unscheduled night-time visits from grave-robbers and assorted tourists.

So he does what any directionless young man does when his girlfriend leaves town and he doesn’t have a job — he moves back into his parents’ basement, lights some candles, looks off into the distance, and talks about how phony everyone is.

Barnabas:  Why do we never learn to leave the past alone? Why does each of us want so to bring it alive? I learned this night how wrong it is, even to think of it.

Yes, that’s right. Barnabas Collins — who just did the most obviously tampering-in-God’s-domain wrongest thing in the history of wrong things — is now lecturing the rest of us on letting go of the past. What do you mean “we”, fool?

431 dark shadows forget ben barnabas

But look how adorably mopey he is. As always, the only actor who could make this mess of a character work is the guy who happens to have the job.

There’s a weird magic in Jonathan Frid’s delivery, which captures the character’s endless reservoir of lonely, adolescent self-delusion. You don’t really feel sorry for Barnabas, because his problems are all the way his own fault, but you don’t ever want him to stop talking.

Like Holden Caulfield, Angela Chase, Ponyboy, Dawson and all the other damaged adolescent anti-heroes, he touches that part in us that will always remember what it felt like when the only thing in the world that mattered was you.

431 dark shadows monologue barnabas

Still, there’s the haunting question of what he’s going to do when he grows up. He can coast for today, sulking in the basement and giving shockingly insensitive speeches about how tragic it is that Josette is ugly now — “I must remember only the way she looked when she was alive,” he says — but at some point, he’s going to be expected to participate in a plotline again.

His battle with Angelique has pretty much dried up. She’s still in the picture, at least as a mysterious floating head — but without a physical body, she doesn’t really want anything, except for some vague leftover revenge. So I guess he’s just going to sit in the basement for a while.

431 dark shdows coffin barnabas ben

Ben is trying to talk him out of this move. Yes, the Collins family — or whoever’s left, post-curse — is now living in Collinwood, and the Old House is empty. But it can’t stay like that forever. At some point, hipsters will move in down the street, and the next thing you know, it’s all food trucks, bike lanes and vintage clothing stores.

You might get away with squatting in a burned-out apartment building with no electricity, but the Old House is a huge mansion, and people who own huge mansions don’t usually forget about them for too long. This is not a long-term plan.

431 dark shadows moody barnabas

But who needs plans when you’ve got mournful facial expressions? The camera stays super focused on the close-ups today, with subdued lighting that really fools you into thinking that the scene is lit by candlelight. Take a look at the lighting effects in this scene; it’s fantastic. This is an important skill on a show called Dark Shadows, and they have mastered it.

431 dark shadows mourning barnabas

Okay, here’s some more self-absorbed dialogue, which I’m using to fill up the space between sad facial expressions, just like the show is doing.

Barnabas:  I don’t want to stay here for all eternity! Afraid to come out, accepting my life as a sentence of solitary confinement.

431 dark shadows grief barnabas

Barnabas:  Ben, I will be here long after you’ve gone. I have thousands of nights to look forward to, millions.

431 dark shadows terror barnabas

Barnabas:  What have I to look forward to, if the sight of me fills anyone that I love with terror? Even Josette did not want to come back to me.

431 dark shadows face barnabas ben

Okay, that was fun, but we really can’t do that forever. But here’s where the course-correction kicks in — tomorrow, we’re going to figure out a whole new role for Barnabas, which will change the direction of the show forever.

We’ll still be stuck in the basement, of course, but we’re going to get a new focus that will lead us out of 1795 and back to the present day. Come back tomorrow to see how they pull it off.

Tomorrow: The Age of Kaiju.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

At the very beginning of the scene where Daniel approaches the Old House, if you look beyond the column on the left side of the screen, you can see the candles burning from the basement set. The camera pans away a moment later.

When Abigail asks Daniel what Ben was doing at the Old House, he answers, “Unlocking a door. Locking a door.”

Behind the Scenes:

Yes, David Henesy is finally back on the show as Daniel Collins, Millicent’s young brother, who’s been mentioned on and off since before Millicent arrived, but he’s been off screen until now. David Henesy was last seen as David Collins in episode 364, a little over three months ago.

Tomorrow: The Age of Kaiju.

431 dark shadows pose barnabas

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

16 thoughts on “Episode 431: The Catcher in the Rye

  1. They are at a point where they’re running out of fresh ideas for the vampire story. Now they have to take the eggs out of this basket and move them into the Vicki witchcraft story which has been in limbo for awhile. I know the 1795 story should be coming to an end soon and I’m absolutely dreading what’s coming up when the story gets back to the present so for now I’m going to try and make the most of this time regardless of Barnabas. Bring out the witch!!

    1. I am gonna disagree here and state that I can’t wait for them to get back to the present. I much preferred their present day story-lines to this one. It has been a slog and I am glad it is coming to an end.

  2. I like your description of Barnabas as an angsty teenager! And like a teenager, Barnabas makes poor decisions because he’s unable to envisage the long term consequences of his actions. Ben, Willie and Julia are the adults in his life, trying to offer him good advice and getting outbursts of adolescent petulance for their pains.

  3. Josette manages to somehow transcend the infinite, return to Barnabas (just because HE wanted her to come back), and he rejects her…because she’s not PRETTY anymore.

    That is seriously shallow.

  4. Danny: “You don’t really feel sorry for Barnabas, because his problems are all the way his own fault,” Well yes, I DO feel sorry for Barnabas to an extent. Yes, he shouldn’t have had that fling with Angelique, but I don’t recall him or anyone else telling her to cast those spells and ruin his and others’ lives. That was all on her. He didn’t know until it was too late that she was a “Fatal Attraction” bitch of a witch; he hadn’t yet learned that not everyone can be trusted. Barnabas became a vampire, but “at heart”, I think he was still a fallible human being.

  5. This is the second Monday in a row where they haven’t reprised Friday’s big cliffhanger. Maybe in both cases they were trying to avoid paying KLS for an extra day?

    Barnabas muses that he’s got “millions” of nights to look forward to. Well, one million nights = 2,740 years, so he’d better find a hobby other than killing people.

    I dozed off as soon as Daniel appeared on screen and didn’t wake up until Aunt Abigail started screaming. Since Danny didn’t recap that part at all I’m guessing I didn’t miss much.

  6. I like Danny’s comparison of Barnabas as a moody, rebellious adolescent, but i like even more Christine’s extension of his analogy.

    Good points, too, raised by Danny about the lighting in the first sequence tonight involving Barnabas and Ben. That and the close-ups really accentuate Jonathan Frid’s expressive face.

    My favorite lines by Barnabas tonight: “Ben I will be here long after you’ve gone. I have thousands of nights to look forward to, millions.”

  7. Another point I’d like to make is that Barnabas didn’t learn his lesson about not trying to bring back the past. What did he do when he returned to life in the present day?–try to turn first Maggie and then Vicki into recreations of Josette.

  8. So David Hennesy’s been gone for over three months? Well, he certainly hasn’t been taking acting lessons during that time, coz his acting is worse than ever.

  9. oh no, you guys didn’t like David Hennesy? I thought he was really cute! The scene with Thayer was charming, and David looked really nice in his cutaway coat. I was reminded when David use to go to the Old House and old Matthew (played by Thayer) was there. Fun to see these two in a scene together again. And, I liked the scene David had with Abagail too.

    And Abagail found Barnabas in his coffin in the basement of the Old House!!! Is not that news worthy, Danny?

    I really liked this episode. Well written and no sobbing Josette, no whining Natalie, no Vicki/Peter nonsense, no bellowing Trask. It had a nice simple mood (except for Abagail screaming at the end), a nice re-set button after all the drama! Sam Hall was just cleansing our palette!

    1. “Abigail! What are you doing here? Don’t you realize there’s five more weeks of Victoria Winters episodes?”

      {Abigail screams in horror}

  10. I don’t really get why they chose Daniel to be the focus of this episode; to my mind there was nothing about the “events” of this ep that required a child; with just a little bit of rejiggering of the dialogue, Naomi, Millicent, Nathalie, or even Nathan would have served the needs of the plot just as fine. Not that I minded, really. But if they were gonna use Daniel, it would have been a good opportunity to do some Sarah ghost stuff and give this day’s offering a little pep. I’m guessing economics are at the root of it; they didn’t have to pay David H. as much as an adult actor.

    1. They really needed to get Daniel in the picture (literally) about now because soon he will become pivotal to the entire history of the Collins family.

      And regarding David Henesy’s “bad” acting–that’s a significantly minority opinion (which of course, any and all are entitled to). Generally David Henesy is cited among fans for his excellent acting (especially for a pre-adolescent), including knowing his lines better than most of the adults (though he did have a bit of a flub in this episode). I know there’s more to acting than that, but some of his scenes are especially compelling and sensitive, especially when he is frightened or terrorized.

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