Episode 452: The Great Escape

“I don’t believe any further explanation is necessary!”

Oh, great! More of this.

It’s been three weeks since we last saw time-traveling governess Victoria Winters, currently languishing in prison. Those were three good weeks. People seemed to laugh more, then. There were concerts in the park…

And now: Vicki and Peter. Pretty much nonstop for the next five episodes.

452 dark shadows prison peter vicki

Vicki has recently been found guilty of witchcraft, and she’s sentenced to hang. This is entirely her own fault, and there’s no use pretending that it isn’t. She’s been saying and doing dumb things ever since she arrived in this century; it’s actually a surprise that she’s lasted this long.

Peter Bradford, her lawyer and boyfriend, has spent the last couple weeks trying to find Reverend Trask, the insane witch-hunting prosecutor. Trask has recently disappeared under mysterious circumstances, leaving behind a note that said that he’d totally changed his mind and decided that Vicki is innocent. This has not been the get-out-of-jail-free card that they hoped it might be.

452 dark shadows blah peter vicki

And blah blah blah, still in prison. I can’t even work up the energy for a sarcastic recap at this point. Vicki’s been in jail for more than two months, and honestly the only thing that’s changed is that now she and Peter touch each other all the time.

452 dark shadows enter joshua

They get a visit from Joshua Collins — who you may remember from the recent episodes that didn’t make you want to hit somebody — and he’s got some startling news. He’s learned that Angelique was the real witch, and he’s determined to make things right with Vicki.

452 dark shadows center joshua

Joshua paces forward until he’s directly in center stage, facing the audience and completely blocking the other characters out of the shot, because who even are these people.

Joshua:  I was wrong about you. I’ve come to realize that you were innocent of the charges that were leveled against you.

Vicki:  But you were always so convinced that I was guilty!

Joshua:  I’ve changed my mind.

452 dark shadows angry peter

Peter steps up, challenging Joshua.

Peter:  Why, Mr. Collins, why?

Joshua:  I thought over Stokes’ testimony, and I decided he was telling the truth.

Peter:  You “thought it over”.

Joshua:  I don’t believe any further explanation is necessary! I’m here to help Miss Winters, if I can.

Peter:  How?

And oh my god, are you serious? This is why nobody likes you. Everything makes you angry.

452 dark shadows noble joshua

But Joshua doesn’t get rattled; he just moves to another part of the set where he can look noble and amazing, while the other actors have to turn their backs on the audience. And that’s why you don’t mess with theater people.

By the way, the bars on Vicki’s cell don’t go all the way up to the ceiling. She could have climbed out pretty much any time she wanted. I think she just got used to three hots and a cot.

452 dark shadows judge joshua

And, great. Now we’re talking to Judge Hanley. That ought to spice things up.

Honestly, I’m sorry that I’m being so negative today, but yesterday, we saw an old lady burn to death just standing there in the hallway. You don’t transition from that directly to a Judge Hanley scene. Any student of the dramatic arts could tell you that.

452 dark shadows point joshua

Anyway, the point of the scene is that Joshua wants the Judge to grant Vicki a stay of execution, and give her a new trial. The tricky thing is that Joshua can’t actually explain any of the new evidence that he has, without telling everybody that his son is a vampire. So it’s mostly hemming and hawing, with Joshua saying that he’s simply reflected and changed his mind.

452 dark shadows evidence judge

This plot point gets us exactly nowhere.

Hanley:  Mrs. Collins said substantially the same thing in court. The court listened to her testimony, and considered it.

Joshua:  Well, surely my opinion will count for something.

Hanley:  Your opinion counts for a great deal. And if you had been willing to testify as a character witness for Miss Winters, you might have swayed the judgement of the jury. But now, unless you have something new to add to the evidence already presented, I’m afraid I can’t help you.

Now, that’s a weird thing to say, because there was no jury. We had a panel of three judges, a prosecutor, a defense attorney, the defendant, and maybe a witness or two. A jury is made up of twelve extras, and that costs money. It turns out that extras expect to get paid for appearing on screen; they don’t show up just for the sheer love of the craft.

And that’s been one of the big problems with this storyline. In drama, a courtroom scene isn’t supposed to be a few people standing around in a room arguing. We’ve got plenty of opportunities for that; we might as well stay in the drawing room.

The point of a trial sequence is to bring the characters’ conflicts out into the light, exposing them to public view. The courtroom is the place where the private sphere meets the public sphere, giving the whole community the chance to examine and judge.

The actual punishment isn’t the interesting part. If the writers want a character to die, or to suffer, they don’t need to walk us through a legal procedure, especially on this show. All they need to do is say “Bathia Mapes screams as she’s consumed by the flames,” and that’s the end of it.

452 dark shadows trial judge

So that’s why we don’t see a trial storyline like this for another couple years. After this sequence is over, the show goes back to where it belongs — the drawing rooms and hallways of the Collins estate, the cemeteries and basements and tower rooms. They don’t have the budget to mount a convincing version of a public square, and their heart’s not really in it anyway. Who needs lawyers and evidence, when you’ve got warlocks and black mass ceremonies?

452 dark shadows break peter

So the big prison break, when it happens, is about as stripped-down as you can get. There’s only one day player working at the jail, and he’s dumb enough to turn his back on the prisoner’s boyfriend. Peter grabs his gun, tells him to get the keys, and now we’re breaking out of prison.

452 dark shadows shot vicki

And it turns out these two can’t even get that right. In the cell, the jailer tries to fight back, and there’s a scuffle. In the confusion, somebody grabs the gun, and BANG! Vicki’s got a brand new shoulder wound.

452 dark shadows limp peter vicki

So, as our star-crossed jailbirds limp towards freedom, we hear a startled crowd just outside the door — they’ve heard the gunshot, and it doesn’t sound like they’re too happy about it. But it’s nothing to worry about; it’s just a sound effect. You kids go on ahead, we’ll catch up with you. If we’re running late, feel free to start without us.

Tomorrow: Born to Run.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

As the show opens, Naomi is standing in the drawing room. There’s the sound of a door opening, and she turns and walks to the foyer. When she reaches the foyer, she stops suddenly — the front doors aren’t actually open; they just mis-timed the door sound effect. She stands there, looking slightly confused, until Joshua actually opens the door and walks in.

Near the beginning of Act 1, Joshua tells Naomi, “I didn’t lie to you, Millicent — Naomi. Perhaps you did see a light.”

One of the cameras has a color problem in Act 1. When Joshua sits down and says, “It isn’t easy to admit, but I’ve been wrong,” the picture is bright green. They cut away to another camera after about five seconds. They have the same problem at the end of the scene, when Naomi walks to the window. The picture looks normal at the start of the shot, but then turns green. Then they over-correct, and turn the picture a deep red for the fade-out.

Judge Hanley tells Joshua, “If you had been willing to testify as a character witness for Miss Collins — Miss Winters, you might have swayed the judgement of the jury.”

This one isn’t a blooper, it’s just odd — Joshua tells Naomi that the woman who exorcised the Old House was Bathia Mapes. This is the first time the dharacter’s name was spoken onscreen. Bathia never told Joshua or Natalie her name while we were watching, although obviously there was plenty of time between scenes when he could have inquired.

Tomorrow: Born to Run.

 452 dark shadows green joshua

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

33 thoughts on “Episode 452: The Great Escape

  1. It is great that they had writers step out of their comfort zones, but if you are going to write about jailbreaks, would it hurt to watch a couple of movies to see how it is done?

    The problem with the writers is that a lot of times they wrote out of their own ignorance as to how things work. It did not matter with the supernatural stuff, since there you can make your own rules, but when you deal with stuff that people recognize, you are in trouble.

  2. I agree with you the trial storyline was very badly handled/written. Perhaps mostly due to budget but it just seemed like there was no logic behind the proceedings. Defense and prosecution swapped places constantly, witnesses were called whenever, and the charges kept changing (witchcraft! murder! witchcraft murder!) If it wasn’t for Trask, Abigail and Angelique’s ghost, the whole thing would have a colossal bore.

    Anyway, this episode also points out another great attribute of the Joshua character – he’s willing to admit when he’s wrong and try to make amends. Despite his bluster and arrogance, this shows that he’s really a decent person after all.

    1. I think that Joshua is an 18th Century man and I think this is lacking in the modern world is when you are wrong you try to correct the situation.

      1. I think what you are saying insightfully links Joshua to his era. He was like George Washington who was reportedly very severe but had the ability to realize it when he had made a mistake. As a general, for example, his greatest talent besides perseverance was recognizing it when his battle plan had fallen to pieces and rather than be too proud to admit defeat he’d better retreat before his army got slaughtered. Or another founding father, Ben Franklin. When he was forty, he owned a couple of slaves. But when he was 65 it dawned on him that slavery was wrong so he freed his slaves and joined (or founded – you can never be sure with Franklin) the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery.

  3. With Joshua being such a prominent citizen in COLLINSPORT it’s amazing that the ‘judges’ don’t make a greater effort to please him – after all they know ‘where they’re bread is buttered’. Hopefully they’re close to retirement.. This part of the 1795 story is kind of sad in the fact that is really the ‘end’ for the Victoria Winter’s character. She’s just a shadow of her character the way the role was originally envisioned and when the story gets back into the present she’s strictly there in name only. If Liz was supposed to be her mother it makes her appear cold and cruel for not revealing this to Vicki during the many times she had the opportunity to do this before Alexandra Moltke left the show.

  4. A fine example of Collinsport Dumb Water at work. I am jumping the gun here, but I recall the 1840 witchcraft trial was just as ridiculous.

  5. What is this rubbish? He’s Joshua f#$%ing Collins! In those days the wealthiest member of the community had the power to just demand she be set free and all charges be dropped, right? Except, I guess, if the community were all roused up and wanting to see her hang. And the easy way to placate them is hold a new trial as Joshua requested, then pronounce her innocent and let her go. It’s ridiculous that the judge would be insisting that Joshua present hard evidence.

    1. Agreed. Joshua could easily demand that she be set free. Practically the whole town is on his payroll. And, if they don’t like it, then it adds to the mystique that the Collins family is so wealthy that they can do anything they like. Isn’t that what the lawyer Tony Peterson accuses Roger of in the present? Lazy writing.

  6. Blimey, has it really been three weeks? You’d think sentencing your main character to death by hanging is the sort of cliffhanger you come back to pretty quickly…

    But then, it is Vicki Winters, and her humongous growth, Peter Bradford. Why do they question Joshua’s change of heart so aggressively? If it were me I’d say thank you, I’m so relieved, please help me – not sarcastically tear apart his explanation. Ugh.

    And it’s interesting to hear Bathia’s name out loud – all this time I’d been calling her BATH-ee-ah, but apparently it’s bah-THIGH-ah. No wonder friends and strangers were looking at me funny when I tried to explain this plot to them…

  7. The judge TWICE referred to ,Vicki as “Miss Winters–Collins”- unbelievable!! Also, I am fed up with Peter disrespecting people who are trying to help Vicki. When he had the nerve to actually ask Joshua, a man with clout, WHY he had changed his mind about Vicki, I felt like shouting, “Shut up, dude! Don’t fuck up a free lunch!”

    1. I’m sick to death of Peter with his hands all over Vicki’s head and in her hair! It’s driving me crazy, and i’m sure it drove AM out of her mind! Get your frickin’ hands off her head!!

  8. Roger Davis is one of those people whose success in his chosen profession has always absolutely mystify me. I hated him on Dark Shadows and then I really hated him when he subsequently replaced the late and wonderful Pete Duel on one of my other favorite shows, Alias Smith and Jones, and was predictably dreadful in that as well.

    I just checked his Wikipedia page and was surprised to find out that he was married to Jaclyn Smith for 10 years.

    Apparently this guy could impatiently yell-talk his way angrily into anything.

    1. Ricardo: A few years prior to his DARK SHADOWS debut, Davis had earlier been in a 5th season episode of the original TWILIGHT ZONE called “Spur of the Moment,” with Diana Hyland. Believe it or not, he was actually endurable in that one.

      1. And SPOILERS for an over 50 year old show.

        He played a an alcoholic abusive jerk!, so right in his wheel house. Okay, maybe not the alcoholic part, but still.

      2. I hope he didn’t run his hands all over Hyland’s hair and stuff! Nobody abuses my babysitter! Yeah, her brother lived next door to my family in the early 1960s. She was visiting her brother between Hollywood gigs, and my folks needed a babysitter, and she stepped up and babysat me and my brother. I tried to figure out just when that was by looking at her CV. John Gentner (her real last name) had a couple of kids because I remember that their toys were sticky and stinky! Yuck!

        So, that puts me two degrees from John Travolta, for whatever that is worth (hrmmmm, not much).

  9. Well, i guess it’s inevitable that he would have crossed the threshold to “actually endurable” at least once in his acting career!

  10. “Near the beginning of Act 1, Joshua tells Naomi, ‘I didn’t lie to you, Millicent — Naomi. Perhaps you did see a light.'”

    Actually, he says “Milli-” before correcting himself.

    1. In his defence, my own mother sometimes had up to three attempts to get my name right. I have done this too with my family. My worst was accidentally calling my wife by the name of my ex. She is now also my ex. Anyway lets give the poor man a break. That many new lines on a daily basis and only one take. He’s been carrying the show almost single-handedly for over a week. Good man.

      1. Yeah. A standing trope is about parents of multiple kids often running through all the names and some of the names of pets before they get the right one. People are messy and mistakes like this are realistic. Yes, they are also bloopers, but they are bloopers that happen in real life.

  11. “I can’t even work up the energy for a sarcastic recap at this point.”
    “Honestly, I’m sorry that I’m being so negative today…”

    Who exactly do you think you’re fooling?

  12. Back to Vicky. Great. She sucks the life and energy out of what had been an exciting few days of episodes.

  13. Yes, back to Vicki and that awful dress she has on. She is in prison, so she won’t have the latest fashions, but this new dress for her, I think it’s new, has got to be one of the ugliest dresses I’ve seen yet, and I don’t think it was originally made for her.

    First of all, the front skirt is too tight across her stomach, which it shouldn’t be in this period, and has horizontal drag marks across the front and sides. I do wardrobe fittings on period tv shows in NYC, and if I had fit that, my costume designer would have my hide!

    Secondly, it was too short, so it looks like they added a 2-3″ wide border at the bottom in another fabric to try to make it look like a design decision, but to me it looks like a mistake.

    Now, if they are saying, well she’s in prison so she’s wearing whatever they give her, fine, so let the dress be too small and too short. But they tried to fix the length, so they are trying to make her look nice. It was distracting to me. It didn’t work.

    The ribbon in her hair has been driving me crazy for months. I think in prison she would have on some kind of cotton bonnet or mop cap or something (the warden would probably insist, as would Peter to help her appear less out of time to the jury), not long flowing locks down her back like some kind of wealthy ingenue.

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