Episode 446: The Son Also Rises

“You must have always had so much hatred in you. No one could be filled with it so quickly.”

Friday’s episode ended with stern patriarch Joshua Collins descending into the basement of the abandoned Old House, poking into the buried secrets that should never be poked into. As usual in these kinds of situations, he arrives at the bottom step just exactly in time to see the mystery box open, unleashing a dark and primal terror that destroys everything in its line of sight.

Judging by past performance, this means that Joshua’s about to be killed. Dark secrets are a powerful story engine, because there’s lots of associated activity — mostly inventing, refuting and refining alibis and cover stories. That fills up time, and fools the audience into thinking that they’re getting somewhere. If you let characters actually discover the truth, then after a while you need to hire a writer who can come up with something else for them to talk about, and that runs into money.

So Dark Shadows has settled into a gentle rut over the last six weeks, essentially funnelling a single-file line of cast members down these stairs, to their immediate and lasting disadvantage. Joshua is just the latest patsy in the popular game of Let’s Kill the Collins Family.

446 dark shadows games barnabas joshua

But it turns out that this is the confrontation we’ve been waiting for. Remember those special promotional bumpers they ran the week before we went back to 1795? They promised that we would “discover the origins of this man” — Barnabas, natch — “and the secret of the chained coffin.” Fast-forward three months, and we’ve definitely got the-origins-of-this-man settled, but we haven’t covered the chained coffin yet. It’s probably about time we get to that.

Luckily, today’s episode is written by Sam Hall, the greatest of all Dark Shadows writers, and he’s got the chops to handle a big game-changing episode. Let’s go out there and change some games.

446 dark shadows coffin joshua

Now, Joshua was actually there when his son Barnabas died, so he has a hard minute trying to figure out what in tarnation is going on. His voice cracks as he races through the possibilities — this is a nightmare, it’s his imagination, Barnabas was in a deep coma, it was all a mistake. We’ve never seen him like this before, confused and vulnerable, and all of a sudden, he’s an old man. This happens to all fathers, eventually.

But then Joshua remembers why he came, and collects himself.

Joshua:  There was a woman in the village — Maude Browning. And before that, a Ruby Tate.

Barnabas:  Yes, I know the names.

Joshua:  Is it true, then?

446 dark shadows monster barnabas joshua

Barnabas turns away, and Joshua approaches and looks closely at him. He gasps.

Joshua:  You did kill them! What kind of a monster have you become? How many others have you killed? Suki Forbes — did you kill her?

Barnabas:  She was going to tell you and Mother.

Joshua:  I wish she had. Have I ever known anything about you?

446 dark shadows honesty barnabas joshua

Barnabas:  Father…

Joshua:  I have always thought, despite our differences, that there was a feeling between us — an honesty, at least!

Barnabas:  There was!

Joshua:  Well, what happened to it? If you didn’t think of me — you should have at least thought of your mother.

Barnabas:  I told you, I did!

Joshua:  Yes, you thought of your mother, and your solution was to murder again.

446 dark shadows basement joshua barnabas

Oh, it’s wonderful. So far, the coffin-side confrontation scenes have all been one-sided, with Barnabas having the upper hand. Both Abigail and Reverend Trask had to listen to self-righteous speeches from the vampire psychopath about their character flaws; Abigail practically got a PowerPoint presentation on the subject.

But here — at last, at long last — somebody is actually calling Barnabas on his self-absorbed whining. Oh, and the murders.

Barnabas says that he can’t help himself — he’s under a curse, he’s compelled to kill — and Joshua treats that claim like the nonsense that it is. Barnabas planned to kill Trask over several days, and he took obvious pleasure in it. If he really wanted to stop killing family members, he could have done something about it, like for example moved farther than a five-minute walk away from their house.

Joshua — who all of a sudden is completely perfect, if he ever had any character flaws then I’ve forgotten them all — is willing to make the tough decisions. He’s going to hand Barnabas over to the proper authorities, whoever they might turn out to be. There will be scandal, and shame, and there’s a better-than-average chance that Naomi will die of a broken heart. But Joshua can’t allow more innocent people to die at his son’s hand. We finally have a character with a functional sense of perspective.

446 dark shadows strangle barnabas joshua

And then the bad thing happens.

Stepping up behind Joshua, Barnabas puts his hands around his father’s throat, growling, “If you would forget, I would not have to do this!”

446 dark shadows shock barnabas joshua

It doesn’t work, of course. It turns out that Barnabas’ murder attempts require the victim to be more or less frozen with fear. Joshua simply refuses to play that role for his son. He shakes it off, and then walks right up to the guy who just tried to kill him and gives him a scolding. Joshua is my new favorite person in the world.

Joshua:  You would kill even me. You must have always had so much hatred in you. No one could be filled with it so quickly.

Barnabas:  What I tried to do… was to make sure my mother never knew. I will do anything for you, Father, if you promise me… that she will think me dead.

446 dark shadows candle barnabas joshua

Then Joshua does something which is utterly surprising, and yet it makes perfect sense when he does it. He pulls out the pistol that he brought with him, lays it on the coffin lid, and looks off into the distance.

Joshua:  Then you know what you must do.

Barnabas:  Aren’t you taking a chance, Father?

Joshua:  Perhaps. But only one of us will leave this room alive. Which one of us it is to be… is for you to decide.

446 dark shadows gay barnabas joshua

By the way, is this a good moment for me to mention that both of these actors are gay?

I’m not suggesting that this situation is intended to be a metaphor for a gay child talking to his father about his terrible, shameful secret life. For one thing, a lot of the tension in the scene is about the fact that Barnabas kills people, and dating a dude is nothing like murdering someone. We’re also about to embark on a storyline about Joshua trying to cure Barnabas of his dreaful curse, and being gay isn’t a curse.

But the “keep the secret, don’t tell my mother” part — there’s some resonance, isn’t there? At least, it’s a hook into the story that helps us to get closer, and really feel some of the horror of this moment. A father hands a gun to his son, and says, Kill yourself, so that your mother never finds out.

(By the way, attention gay kids: Don’t kill yourself. It’s not the 18th century anymore. Your mom will be fine.)

touch

You can’t help but look at this story, and want to extend it — turn it into a metaphor, find a way to relate to it. It’s so big; the emotions are so raw. The vampire-fantasy angle is silly and unreal, but the show is playing it absolutely straight. They’re not making fun of these characters or this situation; there’s no ironic distance that keeps the story at a safe remove.

This is the story of a troubled family. They know how catastrophic keeping secrets can be, how much pain they cause — but father and son are still trying to keep this secret. This is a damaged, dysfunctional family, and everyone in the audience can see something from their own life reflected back, distorted like a funhouse mirror.

That’s a thing that literature does; that’s what stories are for. And when they get it just right — which is rare, but it happens — then, all of a sudden, this weird little soap opera tells the truth.

Tomorrow: My Family, and Other Crazed Animals.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Joshua tells Barnabas that he was in the room when Barnabas died.  He wasn’t, actually. But everything else that Joshua says is true.

Naomi tells Joshua, “There is something — there is someone in this house that you don’t want me to know about.”

Naomi reacts to the gunshot just before it happens.

In act 4, Barnabas tells Joshua that he’s a vampire. Joshua protests, saying there are no vampires — “Only in books, they are tales written by the ignorant and the superstitious!” This is an anachronism; there were no books about vampires in 1795. The first full-length vampire story was Varney the Vampire, published as a serial in 1845; Bram Stoker’s Dracula followed in 1897.

Tomorrow: My Family, and Other Crazed Animals.

446 dark shadows shoot joshua

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

34 thoughts on “Episode 446: The Son Also Rises

  1. This episode is the exact moment when Joshua became my favorite character. Of the whole show. I have so many feelings about him.

  2. This is a great episode. The interaction between JF and LE is priceless. It really shows what great actors they were and what the show could do. Not to mention it was daytime. Now on to other things. JF never discussed his personal life and never said he was gay or not. He only said the acting life did not lend it to a family or a wife. His friends also never discussed this either.

  3. Excellent episode. Interesting, up to this point the viewers assumed (based on pre-1795 storyline) that Joshua was a monster who chained Barnabas up due to hate or shame – and from what we’ve seen of him so far, he certainly fits that pattern. This episode marks a turning point for the character, and our assumptions, and for me is one of the biggest surprises of the 1795 storyline.

    1. I don’t think he ever was a monster just not that nice of a guy and yes this episode made him more sympathetic.

      1. I was thinking more of the earlier episodes when Barnabas would refer to his father chaining him up and the animosity between the two. It painted a very different portrait of the Joshua we came to know (in retrospect, the usual Barnabas over the top melodrama).

  4. I think the “cure” for vampirism can also fit into the gay metaphor. Certainly, at that time, locking the gay kid up in the tower room, away from temptation, while a crazy old lady tries to “pray the gay away” would not be too out of the question.

    It also reminds me of Julia’s attempts to “cure” Barnabas. There’s a point when she suggests that he doesn’t have to “change” but that “someone” (her) could accept him as he is. This always struck me as the woman in love with her gay bestie, who realizes that if even if he could be turned toward heterosexuality, he’d just wind up going after the “pretty young thing.” Better that he’s her closeted life partner — there’s no sex, sure, but he’s not dating anyone else.

    But back to 1795, considering the metaphor, it’s devastating to think of a mother choosing to kill herself after “catching” her son in the act.

    1. True. Its interesting that the most interesting relationship in 1795 for me was the father and son relationship and this is interesting mentioning the gay angle to the story.

  5. http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.oocities.org/televisioncity/9516/jon.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.oocities.org/televisioncity/9516/jonathan.html&h=435&w=335&tbnid=rXhcgokGbQ4U8M:&zoom=1&q=frid+edmonds+dark+shadows&docid=1CzqOJDvvCIT2M&ei=ARDYU_XpJYOQyASvw4DoAw&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygIMAg

    Don’t know if the above link will work but this is one of my favorite photos of Jonathan Frid and Louis Edmonds. Apparently Louis Edmonds was known for his weekend cast parties at his Long Island estate. It’s hard to believe that initially the plot involving the murder of Collins Cannery employee Bill Malloy was going to have the killer turn out to be Roger. What a great loss that would have been if he had left the show at that point.

    1. Yes, losing Roger and later Joshua and Edward and some of the other characters would have been a lost.

    2. GREAT picture! Jonathan frid is ripped! Funny as a kid I thought he old and ugly. Now that I am his age, at the time of Dark Shadows, I see his allure. This episode was almost Shakespearean, and moved me to tears. Joshua was a product of his time. To see a seemingly heartless father vocalize the error of his ways, and be able to express FEELINGS, so eloquently in the face of tragedy, or because of the tragedy, when it is a classic case of too little too late, must have touched a nerve with every gay, straight, stoner and alienated child of the 60 s. Great acting? Great everything. Sorry for the run on sentence. Lol

      1. This episode and the one where Barnabas died earlier are where you picked up that Joshua Cared or loved Barnabas in his own way.

  6. In this respect it is interesting to note that Barnabas’ killings have more to do to protect his secret than because he drinks blood. Note the list that Joshua rattles. He does not mention any other dead – and all the while Barnabas was feeding. (later they will make the distinction between “attacks” and killings). And all those he killed were those who knew about him (Ruby Tate who identifies him, Maude Browning who can identify him, Suki Forbes who wants to blackmail him). Like with Nixon, it is not so much the deed as the cover-up…

    1. How much does he need, though? One of the odd things about Barnabas is that there’s no clear explanation of how much he “needs” to drink, and how often. There’s also no sense of what happens if he doesn’t drink enough blood. It’s entirely based on plot circumstance.

      So it doesn’t feel like “hunger” is the correct metaphor — people have to eat a certain amount every day, or we get super hungry, then skinny, then dead. That sequence doesn’t match with what we see Barnabas doing.

      I think the metaphor is more like sex drive or addiction — his need is based more on emotion than schedule. He goes to the docks because he feels stressed, upset or angry, and drinking blood helps to calm him down.

      It’s like someone who eats ice cream when they’re stressed — it feels like “I need ice cream”, but obviously you won’t die if you don’t get ice cream. It’s a coping mechanism more than an actual need.

      1. They are quite fuzzy on the concept. On the other hand, in the coffin he was in constant contact with the earth… which would keep him kind of in stasis… according to some lore…

        Unfortnately the writers never thought it out.

      2. Yes, if he need to drink blood he should have died in that coffin having lived without it for 200 years unless the coffin is magic, but it seems to be your every day run of the mill coffin, it isn’t even one of the metals ones they had later. I like your drug metaphor it seems to be holding up very well as the story expands.

        1. In most of the stories that have developed over the decades about a vampire’s need for blood, it seems rather rare for a complete lack of it to actually lead to the vampire’s death. Immortality, in this case, is likely to mean exactly what it is… Sure, going for a long time without feeding would be a painful and torturous existence, and it would make sense that eventually a vampire’s mind would be overridden by what would amount to an animal’s hunger when starving. If the vampire isn’t bound and contained, eventually the subconscious instinct will kick in and it would be like a feral animal ready to attack anything that seems even remotely close to food. If contained, however, that animal instinct would also eventually ebb and I assume the body would go into a dormant state where pretty much everything but the most basic of functions would shut down and it would be similar to hibernation until the next hint of a meal comes within reach.

          Personally, I’m just surprised Willy Loomis wasn’t drained dry the instant he opened the coffin. Otherwise, I can imagine that Barnabas wouldn’t even have bothered to go for the neck and just automatically rip him open and dive in.

  7. Believe it or not, there are legions of Dark Shadows fans out there who will go all Reverend Trask on anybody out there who dares mention / suggest that Jonathan Frid was gay, despite any evidence supporting this.

  8. Did Barnabas know the names of the women before he killed them? He wasn’t having much of a chat or had he maybe in an Angelique way visited them before? 🙂

  9. The moment when Barnabas shouted, “Because I am a vampire!” took my breath away. The show’s writers had (with only one exception that I recall, and it wasn’t Barnabas speaking — feel free to correct me, anybody, if I missed a spot) studiously avoided the word for a whole year — long enough to create a feeling that the word itself was taboo. Even though I’m experiencing it speeded-up, over a period of 6 weeks so far, I still felt the impact of hearing him burst out with this shocking declaration. It was stunning, almost as if he’d said something obscene — it made me feel like, “Wow, we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Despite the fact that we knew all along that that was the word — it’s different when he says it. Amazing, the power of one word when it’s been handled so carefully.

      1. Also, I loved how this one episode finally revealed Joshua as a three-dimensional character. 🙂 Here’s where I also realized what a great actor Louis Edmonds was as well.

  10. Powerful episode. Definitely a Top 20 contender. I do wonder why Barnabas never mentions the Angelique part of the story, but maybe he does later.

  11. Marvelous post on a marvelous episode! i love thinking of Dark Shadows as part of the long history of the vampire as gay metaphor.

    But damn, this is also the reason you watch so many full episodes of DS. The episode is not truly good unless you’ve given the show so much time. And that time has to involve a little bit of irritation, so you really appreciate when everything comes together.

  12. Good job, Karen, on pointing out the extreme avoidance of the word “vampire” being mentioned ever since Barnabas first appeared. As far as I can recall, Angelique was the first to mention it but simply by asking Ben if he knew of the term.

    And while I get the argument that “vampire” could be viewed as a metaphor for “gay”, there are some key points that would seem to indicate that there’s a better comparison.

    Yes, Barnabas did, indeed, “come out of the coffin” to his dad and admit for the first time on the show as being a vampire. More power to him. But the main concern Joshua had toward Barnabas wasn’t so much about how Barnabas self-identified, but that the way in which he expressed that identity ended up being truly destructive. After all, how many of the deaths so far have been due simply to Barnabas’ need to feed? Nobody yet had died from blood loss… but instead, Barnabas had basically already become a mass murderer. I’d even go so far as to say he was a serial killer whose MO was mostly strangulation/suffocation. And, even that wasn’t so much of a huge deal for Joshua to spare his son’s life just so long as Barnabas could agree to leave town and continue his homicidal tendencies elsewhere. But no, I think ultimately the issue here relates more to the adage “you don’t defecate where you eat”…. figured I’d clean it up a little 🙂

    I’d like to think that if Barnabas had been able to refrain from murder, Joshua would have been so thrilled to simply have his son back, that he’d even invent the blood bank or something so that Barnabas could remain an active member of the family and the town would be safe.

    But as is the case with serial killers, once they start killing, they may be able to hold off for a while after the initial act, but the drive to do it again almost always comes back louder and with a shorter amount of time until the next one.

    Lastly, whent the two of them discuss the suicide option and the influencing factor of how Naomi would be devastated if she were to find out the truth of all this, it doesn’t seem like the issue of concern is that she’d be ashamed that her son was leading a life as a vampire, but that she would have to face the fact that hers and Joshua’s parenting resulted in fostering a life that would destroy so many others. Not sure how I’d feel if I were in similar shoes. Kinda makes me think of all the parents of the mass shooters these days and how torn many of them must feel to not have been able to alter the outcome of a tragedy.

  13. This was a great episode and a great turn for the story. I liked the few times that Roger and Barnabas had scenes together. Then in 1795, as Joshua and Barnabas, Edmonds and Frid had much more going on with their characters. This scene took it to a whole new level!

    From the moment Barnabas first gets out of the coffin, I just wanted his father to give him a hug. And I could tell Joshua wanted to do the same. The supposedly coldest character in 1795 has been revealed to be the most deep-feeling and passionate character in his own way. You really feel for him. And what we know he winds up having to do hangs tragically in the back of our minds.

    Everything about Barnabas and Joshua in this episode and the next one was right and satisfying without being predictable or boring. This is a great turn for the story!

  14. Danny, thank you for mentioning the “coming out” analogy. I felt the same way watching the scene and was filled with sadness watching.
    When I came out, my father had said that he wished I were dead than be gay. That remark has stayed with me all my life. It made me stronger later on, but it is still a hard thing for a son to hear from his father.
    I really enjoy reading your posts.
    Thank you.

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