“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”?
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.
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 –?
Joshua closes his eyes.
Joshua: Oh, my God. I can’t believe this is really happening.
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.
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.
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.
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.
— Danny Horn