Episode 432: The Age of Kaiju

“Why does the Devil always want to touch you?”

Yesterday, Barnabas moved back into his parents’ basement, which is a shame, because the last thing we need around here is a slacker vampire.

We’ve traveled all the way back in time to 1795, so we could witness the vampire’s backstory and give the writers some new storyline options. But now Barnabas’ girlfriend is dead in a fairly comprehensive way, and his new afterlife plan is to hide out in the cellar and hope that nobody walks downstairs.

At this point, the show needs to come up with something new. We’ve just spent three months investigating Barnabas’ past. What’s his future going to be?

432 dark shadows old house ben abigail

Obviously, I’m not going to ask Barnabas that question, because he’s not very good at thinking ahead. Yesterday, he had an argument with Ben about his new living arrangements, Ben taking the perfectly sensible position that eventually somebody from the family is bound to turn up at the Old House.

“This house is deserted,” Barnabas insisted. “None of my family will visit it.”

And of course, by the end of the episode, mean old Aunt Abigail comes walking down the stairs. They might as well skip the intervening scenes, and just do a record-scratch sound effect, and cut to Barnabas being wrong.

432 dark shadows coffin old house basement

While we’re heading downstairs, I’d like to take a moment to appreciate the basement set, which is simple and weird and perfect. The stone arches, the plaster chipping away to reveal faded bricks, the candles that stay mysteriously lit at all hours.

My favorite thing about this set is that length of chain that’s hanging, for no clear purpose, in the middle of the stairs. I can’t imagine what they’d use it for. Why would you want to chain something directly in the middle of the staircase? It would block the fire exit, for one thing.

Plus, this is Barnabas’ childhood home. What have they been getting up to down here?

432 dark shadows coffin barnabas abigail

Anyway, Abigail walks downstairs — and wouldn’t you know it, she’s just exactly on time to see her dead nephew rise from his coffin.

432 dark shadows scream 2 abigail

I’m not going to lie to you; she takes it pretty hard. Abigail has never been a particularly easy-going person, and this particular incident is not something that she’s going to shake off easily.

Did you ever have a relative who would save up a story of something shameful that you did, and then she brings it up every year during the holidays, like she’d never thought to mention it before? Imagine how Barnabas must feel. And he’s going to live forever, too; that’s a lot of Thanksgiving dinners to sit through.

432 dark shadows impossible barnabas

Barnabas has his own unique spin on how to handle this awkward moment.

Barnabas:  You thought you knew all about death, didn’t you? Well, you were wrong.

Abigail:  You are dead!

Barnabas:  Yes! But I am alive, too! No one ever told you that was possible, did they?

Apparently, he’s decided to play offense.

432 dark shadows warning barnabas abigail

And obviously, because this is Barnabas Collins, he’s going straight for Plan A.

Abigail:  Stay away from me!

Barnabas:  Oh, I would if I could, Abigail. But you have made staying away from you impossible.

Yes, every time it looks like somebody’s about to inconvenience Barnabas, he decides that the best response is to murder them immediately. It’s the very first thing that he thinks of.

432 dark shadows cellar barnabas

So if that’s already been decided, why is he playing with his food like this?

Abigail:  I don’t understand!

Barnabas:  It has taken this to make you say those words. You always thought you understood everything. I’m afraid the truth is that you didn’t know much about anything.

Okay. Dude. You’re about to murder her. Does she need the Myers-Briggs personality assessment?

432 dark shadows please abigail barnabas

But really, this whole scene is wish-fulfillment for the audience. Abigail is a sanctimonious, meddlesome troublemaker, who’s constantly offering unsolicited critiques of everyone around her.

Now, as a member of the Dark Shadows audience, I actually like Abigail a lot, because she always says interesting things, and anyway, her suspicions are almost always correct. But yes, if she was a real person, I’d want to see her put in her place. I don’t know if that would necessarily involve getting her throat torn out — I’d probably be satisfied with not seating her at the main table at family functions — but she’s certainly been asking for something.

432 dark shadows basement abigail barnabas

The conversation degenerates into an argument, where she tries to fit this experience into some kind of framework that she can understand.

First, she thinks that he’s not really dead — he was just enchanted by the witch. Then she decides he must be possessed, and offers to get Reverend Trask to perform an exorcism. Finally, she lands on the idea that he’s not even standing there.

Abigail:  No! No! The witch just wants to terrify me! You — are a vision!

Barnabas:  If you think I am a vision, then touch me.

Abigail:  The Devil is testing my faith!

Barnabas: TOUCH ME!

She does. He’s not a vision.

432 dark shadows wall abigail barnabas

And then the scene just keeps on going, into some full-contact recap about who the witch really was, and whether Barnabas is under her control, and so on.

This is what happens when you try to do an Edgar Allen Poe-style suspense thriller within the format of an afternoon soap opera episode. They’re paying Clarice Blackburn to get killed by a vampire today, and she’s not leaving until she’s filled up six minutes of air time. So the dialogue starts to veer off on strange tangents.

Abigail:  Oh! Stay away from me, you Devil! Don’t touch me!

Barnabas:  Why does the Devil always want to touch you? I’m sure you’re as wrong about him as you are about Miss Winters.

432 dark shadows eternity abigail barnabas

Then he kills her, just by looking at her. He looks her in the eye and bares his fangs, and she dies of heart failure, right there against the wall.

And this is the answer — the thing that the writers have been trying to figure out for the last three months.

This is what Barnabas Collins is. He’s Godzilla.

432 dark shadows mouth barnabas

Barnabas is an engine of pure destruction — stomping on everything he sees, breathing fire and knocking over skyscrapers. The world that he came from is gone; he has nothing left to lose.

In his first movie in 1954, Godzilla was a horrifying nuclear-age monster, stomping through Tokyo as a cinematic re-enactment of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He was a punishment, sent to remind everyone not to mess around with atomic bombs. At the end of the movie, Godzilla chokes to death underwater and then disintegrates, and everyone cheers.

But people liked him. At a certain scale, larger-than-life monsters become more exciting than scary. So he revived, for one sequel after another, and it wasn’t long before Godzilla was the “hero” monster, defending the people of Japan from the “villain” monsters.

432 dark shadows fangs barnabas

That’s the path that Barnabas is on now. His personal war is over; he’s died, and come back to life. Now he exists in order to stomp on all the other monsters.

Today, he’s taking care of Abigail, and in the coming weeks, he’ll take on Reverend Trask, Nathan Forbes, and all of the Big Bads who present themselves over the next few years.

It really wasn’t that long ago that Barnabas was plotting to kill a child. That version of the character ends here. From now on, like Gamera the giant fire-breathing turtle, Barnabas is a Friend to All Children.

Barnabas Collins is never going to be sympathetic; he’s a weapon of mass destruction. You don’t worry about whether Godzilla’s going to meet someone nice and settle down. You just point him at the next giant monster, and pull the trigger. Good luck, Tokyo; it was nice knowing you.

Tomorrow: Law of the Jungle.

432 dark shadows old house abigail barnabas

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

28 thoughts on “Episode 432: The Age of Kaiju

  1. DS required its ingenues to yell in terror on command, but I submit that Clarice Blackburn’s soul-piercing scream when Barnabas moves in for the kill is the single best blast in the history of the series.

  2. I always found this episode VERY satisfying. Clarice Blackburn IS major pain, and Barnabas schools her good on what’s really going on. Why does the devil always want to touch you? Is am amazing/ proactive thing to say, in 1970. I don’t think Mary Tyler Moore could say she was divorced on her tv show back then. Also when Abigal is found dead, propped up on the tree, positively nightmare inducing.In fact I had them, recently .

  3. I love it when the baddies get theirs and the sanctimonious prig baddies are no exception. I take a lot of satisfaction in what happened to Abigail, it served her right. Still to come is what happens to Trask. Two of the best scenes in the 1795 storyline.

  4. I cannot lie – I found Abigail’s death to be extremely satisfying and clearly Frid enjoyed it as well because he really ups his game in this episode. He’s clearly relishing his confrontation and after a few episodes of the character just moping around, it’s nice to see him cut loose.

  5. I love the basement set, AND the chain! I think the set designers were just going with the “Gothic torture chamber” style here, in case, you know, they picked up an Elizabet Battory storyline, or Joshua felt compelled to punish the servants he’s always shouting at (no wonder Naomi drinks!). To the kids, Barnabas (Puggsley) & Sarah (Wednesday), it probably just seemed completely normal–as normal as the hugely pink rooms upstairs.

  6. Referencing Barnabas comments in yesterday’s episode about Josette now being ‘ugly’ (how dare she look this way after he went to all that trouble having a coffin made just for her and then disrupting her eternal beauty rest). I find his attempt to kill his aunt Abigail instead of making her into a servant to perform his bidding totally in form with his shallow character. In 1967 when his young blond cousin Carolyn wndered into the Old House and discovered his coffin he turned her into his personal spy and worse – however since Abigail wasn’t ‘attractive’ he felt she wasn’t worth keeping alive even though she was his ‘blood’ relative. Also if they had allowed the present day David to retain his vibrant and fiery personality and not fade away into the shadows I bet Barnabas would have followed through on his threat to kill David if he thought the boy was going to expose him. What an easy out for the writers to conveniently give everyone except Barnabas ‘selective amnesia’ so it makes him look like the ‘Savior of Collinwood’….

      1. This IS still entertainment, so nobody even in our enlightened 2014 year, wants to see an old ugly romantic interest. Abigail dropping dead was a great payoff storywise.

    1. Joanne, if David had retained his original personality he would have never run to tell about the coffin in Barnabas’ basement. He would have rigged an explosive or incendiary device to it…

    2. True, he bite Millicent while as you said Abigail is an average looking middle aged woman and a aunt which Barnabas would think is biologically too closed.

    3. But I don’t think Carolyn was a vindictive, judgemental, holier-than-thou shrew who was always ready to only see Satan’s influence in people. Barnabas also remembered how she accused Vicki right off the bat, and led Trask to the witch-hunt. Crabby Abby got what was coming to her, imho.

    4. I don’t think Abigail’s age or looks had anything to do with Barnabas not making her his slave or another vampire. It was because of her nasty personality that he wanted nothing to do with her. Angelique’s beauty didn’t prevent him from hating and harming her! She was ugly on the inside albeit in a different way than Abigail.

  7. I also don’t understand why he gives up the people he killed through other means. Why can’t he still drink their blood if he is driven. And we might not like Abigail all that much except for her almost always being right, but shouldn’t Barnabas like her a little? I mean wasn’t he raised with her. Wouldn’t she at some point given him a cookie or a piece of candy or a favorite toy or some reason he wouldn’t want to do her in? Or at least hesitate a minute.

    1. Actually, knowing Abigail, she probably made him learn grim Old Testament verses (Leviticus at a guess) and sent him to bed without supper for getting them wrong.

  8. Joanne might be right about his “shallow personality,” but along with that there’s another problem. It seems to me that he could have terrorized Abigail (and even Trask later on) into going back on her testimony about Vicky (he even reproaches Abigail about Vicky in this scene). Maybe cooperating with him would go against her religious beliefs, but she has to believe in self-preservation.

    1. If he’d painted himself as the tragic victim of Angelique’s witchery, determined to redeem himself by restoring Victoria’s tarnished reputation, he might even have been able to get her onside willingly… but no, he’s straight in there with Plan A!

  9. I loved the ending of the previous episode and the whole Barnabas/Abigail confrontation in this episode. I’d had all I could take of Abigail. As to why Barnabas would do her in, other than that it makes the audience happy — it seems to me that Barnabas has been subjected to a fair amount of emotional abuse in that family, and though we don’t know anything specific about his relationship with Abigail, she seems like the type that would’ve been in on it, or at least not at all helpful. Clearly Barnabas has had a lifetime’s worth of listening to her sanctimonious BS.

    What I wonder about is how it happened that there was a coffin conveniently stationed in the basement in case Barnabas wanted to crash for the day. Nothing was mentioned about him making Ben haul it over there. And when Barnabas gets up, he doesn’t have all that creepy guyliner and what-not on. So does he take his vampire makeup off when he goes to bed, or what?

    1. There never was a scene where the principal actors moved a coffin,and it was never addressed how Barnabas would transport it from the secret room to the basement to the other secret room behind the bookcase, physically.

      Only talk about it, no action.

      Barney and Willie. Barney and Julia. Barney and Ben.

      Weaklings.

      Must have used the Secret Number of the Universe.

  10. One of the best moments of 1795. I wish had seen more of Abigail interacting with the other members of the family. This five-a-day casting system really crimped 1795’s style.

  11. Vickie was such an idiot to tell David and Sarah about things from the future, like being able to fly. She told them things like that before all this nonsense about her being a witch. Why would she do that?

  12. Is there a shrubbery in the basement? There seems to be foliage to the right of Abigail. Maybe Ben thought some ferns would cheer the place up a bit…

  13. How do you make a monster sympathetic?

    Step 1 – Make the audience feel his pain (See Episode 415)

    Step 2 – Make sure he kills or terrorizes only people the audience hates. Bye bye Abigail.

    Now, if he could only start making smart-ass comments, he could become Deadpool!

  14. People questioning why Barnabas didn’t bite Abigail? Think about it – the woman was so sour with life, can you imagine what her blood would taste like?

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