Episode 447: My Family, and Other Crazed Animals

“I told you I killed her. I never said she was dead.”

Okay. It’s Tuesday, we’re still in the basement, Barnabas is still talking to his dad, and we’re not getting out of here until somebody shoots somebody.

Joshua Collins has descended into the underworld — also known as the cellar in the Old House — where he’s found his dead son climbing out of a coffin. As you might imagine, the discussion has become somewhat complex.

Here’s where they left off: Barnabas has finally confessed that he’s a vampire, and he feeds on human blood. Horrified, Joshua raises his pistol, and says, “Forgive me. Forgive me, dear son.”

And then: Ka-CHOW! Joshua shoots his son, right in the chest.

Barnabas clutches at the entry wound — and then straightens up, unharmed. He walks over to his father, and says, “Don’t you understand? What I’ve been trying to tell you all along is that I am already dead.”

It’s kind of a dream situation, if you’ve ever had a long argument with your parents. I mean, who wouldn’t take a bullet, just for the satisfaction of delivering the ultimate “I told you so”?

447 dark shadows long night barnabas joshua

So here we are in day two of the same conversation, and the remarkable thing is that I am nowhere near being tired of it. This storyline has been so crazy for so long that it takes an episode and a half just to talk it over.

Joshua:  If it is possible for one to be cursed, then it is also possible that one can be released from a curse.

Barnabas:  Even if there were… Angelique would not let it happen.

Joshua:  Angelique? What has she got to do with it?

See what I mean? They’re just getting around to Angelique now. This seriously might run all week.

447 dark shadows dead barnabas joshua

And, honestly, that would be fine with me, because Joshua’s reaction to every new development feels fresh, and real, and utterly compelling.

Joshua:  I will try to find someone who can release this wretched curse.

Barnabas:  And who do you think that can be?

Joshua:  I don’t know. I will send for the Reverend Trask.

Barnabas:  The Reverend Trask is dead.

Joshua:  Dead… Did you –?

Barnabas:  Yes.

Joshua closes his eyes.

Joshua:  Oh, my God. I can’t believe this is really happening.

447 dark shadows moment joshua

Then Joshua has yet another horrible thought — and asks if Barnabas killed his aunt Abigail. The answer, of course, is yes, and it’s just another dagger in the old man’s heart.

But he keeps it together, and declares, “I can’t let you go on like this. You are going with me… until I find a way to put you to rest forever.”

And that’s the interesting thing, right there — the thing that makes it okay that we’re essentially doing a full episode and a half of storyline recap.

447 dark shadows makeup barnabas

As regular readers know, I’m not a huge fan of the recap. Back in the slow days, before the show went completely batshit crazy, characters used to just sit around in the Blue Whale and remind each other about everything that happened to them in the last two months. There was a whole troupe of interchangeable dudes — Burke, Sam, Joe, Dr. Woodard, Sheriff Patterson — who would find out one little piece of information, and then spend a week telling all the others about it.

For better or worse, the life of a soap opera character is mostly about information management — asking questions, keeping secrets and processing their feelings. It turns out talking is a lot cheaper than plane crashes, so even when there’s an actual plane crash on the show, it happens in Brazil, and we just see people telling each other about it.

Some of this information processing activity is interesting, but most of it is a tedious time-fill. But this conversation is that rare creature — it’s a lengthy discussion that spills every secret they’ve saved up over the last two months, and it’s completely gripping. You can’t take your eyes off the screen.

447 dark shadows coffin joshua barnabas

For one thing, the dialogue is super sharp today. Louis Edmonds’ characters always have a way with words, and Joshua is amazing.

Joshua:  I will keep you in isolation. I will put you in the tower room. I will keep you there, until I can find some help for you.

Barnabas:  I will not be confined by you, or anyone else!

Joshua:  I will not let you roam the countryside like a crazed animal!

It’s lovely. Who talks like that? I could seriously listen to these two yelling at each other all day.

447 dark shadows necessary barnabas joshua

But the thing that makes this info-heavy scene work is that Joshua gives this conversation a sense of real urgency. He’s not one of those goldfish characters who’s content to just swim in circles all day. Joshua makes decisions.

Joshua:  Then it will be necessary for you to kill me after all. Because if I leave this room alive, I will not keep your secret, Barnabas.

Barnabas:  What do you mean? Who will you tell?

Joshua:  Your mother.

Barnabas:  You can’t do that.

Joshua:  The choice is yours, not mine. If you want to protect your mother, you will either kill me, or you will put yourself in my charge. There is not a third way. Make up your mind, Barnabas.

That’s why this scene is satisfying — because the information management activity is not an end in itself. Through the entire scene, you can watch Joshua process every gruesome detail, making calculations that will lead him to a decision. And it leads to “kill me before I leave this room”, which has got to be one of the all-time most exciting ways to end a scene.

Every time we sit through an information-processing scene, we know instinctively whether it’s going to lead somewhere or not. You can’t explain exactly how you know; it’s just a hard-wired component in everybody’s innate sense of narrative and social behavior. The goldfish boys sitting in the Blue Whale will never get anywhere; they’re just repeating the same information they got yesterday.

But Joshua means it. This conversation is building to a serious decision point by the time we get back from the commercial break. Don’t touch that dial.

Tomorrow: Fight the Tower.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Barnabas flubs several lines today, including:

“Now you know why I was unable to do… to myself… because it cannot be done.”

“I myself tried to undo the risk, the curse, by — preventing it. And she will do the same.”

“She is still with us, and for one reason only — to make sure that the risk, and the curse, is never broken.”

Joshua changes his story when he talks to Naomi about why he went to the Old House. Yesterday, he said that Nathan had reported that he saw lights in the Old House. Today, Joshua tells Naomi that he was just out for a walk.

Tomorrow: Fight the Tower.

447 dark shadows concern barnabas

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

20 thoughts on “Episode 447: My Family, and Other Crazed Animals

  1. Barnabas is really a piece of work – if he still had one functioning brain cell left he would accept Joshua’s help – no, instead he states that ‘he won’t be confined’ – this really proves that all his pathetic ramblings about his curse being that cause of all his repulsive actions is nonsense. He is the same selfish creep both pre and post-vampire. If he really felt remorse he would have jumped at the chance to accept his father’s help, or at least to try it for a time – Joshua could have had Ben shoot some wild game for Barnabas to eat or Joshua could have hunted himself (he is a crack shot with firearms). I know Danny will be getting into the tower situation soon but I just wanted to mention it may not be the best idea to keep Barnabas in the same building as the rest of the family, especially in such close range to his ‘favorite victim’ Nancy Barrett.

    1. There’s a fan fiction story like that sort of. where they get game for Barnabas. I agree Barnabas should listen to Joshua. True, Nancy Barett is Barnie’s favorite meal ticket whether its Carolyn or Millicent.

        1. Joshua felt but it was a lot easier with anger and those types of emotions more so than with love. Many people are like that and love is a difficult emotion for many people since it deals with relating with people which Joshua tended to have difficulties in his private life but not his public life for the business world.

      1. Yes – I’m just finishing up 1897 and in that timeframe he also gets Nancy Barrett (Charity Trask, a ministers daughter) during her first night as a guest at Collinwood.

    2. Well, let us not forget that Barnabas oscilates between “I got a cunning plan” and “my solution to my problem: kill somebody” He was that as a human, and being a vampire did not improve him any…

    3. But can we not attribute part of Barnabas’ reluctance to be with his family fear of Angelique’s curse coming true? That is, all those who love him are doomed? After all, he’s already seen Josette and Sarah die so it’s possible he shuns Joshua’s offers for help because he doesn’t want to endanger the remaining members of his family.

    4. He has that vampire monster instinct to feed and be free. Hes like an animal who will kill to satisfy his hunger, (blood) and will not be held captive like a wild animal, he is only partly human but freedom and survival is all he knows. He usually only killed to keep his secret safe or for revenge. Quentin and Chris Jennings couldnt help themselves either. They have no will either. Its overrun by evil. Just my viewpoint. Of course he wants help! But their conscience is gone.

  2. Not mentioned in the posting for this day, but I loved the scene with Naomi staring out the window and arguing with Joshua. It’s very parallel to the first Elizabeth/Roger scene. Much has changed. Much has stayed the same.

  3. Oh yes, that dialogue was beautiful. I would watch this as a whole play if I could. I also love that Joshua Collins has the worst poker face in New England. When Naomi takes a wild stab in the dark that Joshua’s secret involves Barnabas, he could just brush her off and call her a drunk. He’s certainly done it before. But the look on his face is so over the top. Louis Edmonds brings it to this episode.

    Theres also something inspired about fusing the Millicent/Nathan plot with Barnabas. Honestly, that was the only other plot in 1795 that was working. But it ultimately was a little frivolous; it felt more like a comic B plot. But the life-or-death stakes (I won’t edit that pun out no matter how badly I want to) of Barnabas gives this all some heft. Millicent’s derangement wouldn’t seem as compelling. But since it causes her to chase her vampire cousin through the night, carrying dueling pistols, everything takes on a more Gothic hue. This isn’t “Pride and Prejudice” anymore, it’s something weirder and darker.

  4. The line that Barnabas mangles (the first one mentioned in the bloopers) indicates that he can’t destroy himself, but in fact he can; if he just watches a sunrise. But then, everything we have seen so far shows a strong self preservation instinct, whatever the cost to others. He can blame ‘The Curse’ all he likes, but he’s killed more people for the sake of keeping his secret than he has killed for the blood – and oddly, has not simply enslaved those victims (because he is new to the ‘lifestyle’? Then how does he know to do that in the future, when he has been chained up for 172 years?) and made them allies – or at least have Trask confess in person and release Vicki (not sure why the writers didn’t consider making Trask live the nightmare of being a helpless slave, I know that Jerry Lacy could have had some fun with it!)

    1. Absolutely – he could kill himself, he just won’t. He knows how; he gave Ben very strict instructions, and it felt in that episode like he wanted to be seen as noble and self-sacrificing, but absolutely had no intention of going through with it. He gave Ben some guff about why he couldn’t just sit and wait for the sun – I forget exactly what his reasons were, because they were nonsense – so he transferred responsibility to Ben, knowing full well Ben wouldn’t be able to do it. And then he threatened to kill the poor bugger for not staking him!

      So now he’s just making excuses with his dad to save face, which admittedly we’ve all done, but rarely to pass off a string of dead hookers and a bricked-up preacher man.

      Incidentally, these last few episodes have really rammed home his bodycount; Joshua reeled off quite a list yesterday, and there was still some left for today (I did find it hilarious when Joshua suggests fetching Trask, and Barnabas turns away all sheepish).

    1. Barnabas implies that he is dead, but that’s probably not true…yet. When Joshua brings up the idea of using Trask to lift the curse, Barnabas could have said, “Hmmm, that’s an interesting idea…go ask him yourself, he’s right over there behind those bricks!”

  5. Joshua tells Barnabas that no-one has ever used the tower room.

    What, never ever, in any of the couple of weeks you’ve lived there?! Heck, I’ve lived in my flat for three months and I’ve never even seen the kitchen. Why not give it five minutes before proclaiming bits of your massive new house as permanently unused?

  6. I love how the chandelier in the tower room cast abstract bat-like shadows around all the walls. And with all the wing tips touching, it was like he was being encircled — either to protect him or to keep him captive. Or just a haunting reminder of why he was there.

    It was also reminiscent of the fingertips touching in the seance that initiated this storyline.

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