Episode 458: Don’t Love Me

“There was so very little meaning to our lives before tonight — and now there’s none. We exist, that’s all.”

Naomi runs into the house, and flies into Joshua’s arms. “I saw him,” she gasps. “He’s like an animal!”

She’s just come from the garden, where she saw her dead son bite his cousin Millicent on the neck. “Barnabas…” she cries. “Why didn’t you tell me? Why?”

Now, here’s the thing that she doesn’t say: “Help! Millicent is being attacked. Let’s all run outside and help her.” She doesn’t even mention Millicent until sentence five, at which point Joshua says, “Millicent — My God!” and rushes out to find her.

I mean, I get that Naomi’s upset — who wouldn’t be, under the circumstances — but she’s burying the lead here, to the detriment of grievously wounded family members. Can somebody remind me why we like her again?

458 dark shadows why naomi

Cause here she is, Naomi Collins — the last innocent left in 1795, the only surviving character that hasn’t realized that dark forces are living right upstairs. She’s kind of coasted through this whole story, without ever getting close to anything that matters.

I haven’t written much about Naomi, because frankly she doesn’t really do very much. There have been lots of episodes over the last few months when I’ve thought, I should take this opportunity to say something about Naomi’s scenes. But I end up focusing on other things, because she never really makes much of a difference.

458 dark shadows couch naomi joshua

Naomi was introduced as a neglected and put-upon wife, ignored by her husband and left with nothing to do but drink. She’s always wearing huge, heavy gowns that look fantastic, but they seem to weigh her down. She moves slowly, like a battleship coming into port.

Still, she does dazed pretty well.

Joshua:  I took Millicent to her room. She’ll be all right.

Naomi:  No. No one will ever be right again.

458 dark shadows help naomi joshua

She gets up and walks a few steps, which for Naomi is the equivalent of an action sequence. She strikes a pose, and serves up some pained backacting.

Naomi:  Before tonight, I’d always believed that tragedy was like anything else. It ran its course, took its toll, and died out — and we’d go back to our normal lives. But I don’t believe that anymore.

458 dark shadows pivot naomi joshua

She turns to Joshua. This is what she tends to do in a scene, just plant herself somewhere and broadcast from that vantage point. When she gets tired of looking in one direction, she pivots, and keeps talking.

Over the last few months, Naomi’s had a few nice scenes here and there, where she stands up for herself — the scene where she smacks Trask in the face is a popular favorite. She’s also had one legitimately strong moment after Barnabas and Angelique’s wedding, when she gives Barnabas the deed to the Old House — defying Joshua, who wanted to disown them and run them off the property.

But the real estate transaction only restores the status quo — and besides that, she doesn’t make a single decision in the entire storyline that actually changes things in any way.

458 dark shadows bother naomi joshua

So why do we care about her? Why do Dark Shadows fans seem to like this overdressed, pivoting alcoholic?

As we’ve discussed before, if you want to make the audience like a character, there are three steps: Make a joke, make a friend, and make a plot point happen. Naomi has definitely made friends — she’s been openly affectionate with Vicki, Josette and the children, and she was kind to Angelique and Barnabas. She doesn’t have a sense of humor, but she does have those melancholy epigrams, which offer a kind of sozzled poignance.

458 dark shadows collinwood naomi joshua

But personally, I can’t get over how irrelevant she is, storywise. Her biggest moment in episode 434 — which I didn’t bother to write about, because who even cares — was when she stood up to Joshua, and told him she would testify at Vicki’s trial. Joshua said he would lock her in her room, and she told him that if he did that, she’d get out, and go to the trial, and then never come back. It was a great speech, and she nailed it.

But it didn’t lead anywhere. When we return to the trial in the next episode, Naomi has already testified, off-screen. Peter and the judge mention her testimony, but it doesn’t make any difference. The trial moves on, and Vicki is found guilty. Naomi had exactly no impact, on that or any other storyline.

458 dark shadows poison naomi

So how does she react, when she learns that her son has become an undead monster? She pours herself a drink, and then mixes in a naturally-occurring packet of poison, because the Collins family always keeps an assortment of murder weapons on hand in every room in the house.

Now, obviously I understand that this woman has experienced horror and grief beyond any normal limits that a person should be expected to handle. But when Josette killed herself, she had to be lured to Widow’s Hill and assaulted with terrifying visions before she jumped. It feels like Naomi is committing suicide because she’s just not good in a crisis.

458 dark shadows glass naomi

But we’re apparently supposed to be on the edge of our seats right now, because we spend a whole minute just staring at a close-up of her giant novelty tourist-trap margarita glass, before she finally chugs it down.

458 dark shadows strange naomi barnabas

And then she goes and does the strangest thing — she walks upstairs to the tower room, and visits with her ghoul of a son.

Barnabas:  You shouldn’t have come here.

Naomi:  I had to see you one more time.

Barnabas:  You saw me once tonight — you saw what I am — wasn’t that enough?

Naomi:  Whatever you are… you’re still my son. You’re not as you were — but whatever has changed you has made you suffer, and feel a deep shame. And I can’t leave you until I know what it is.

458 dark shadows note joshua

We cut to the drawing room, where Joshua finds her suicide note.

458 dark shadows vitamins naomi barnabas

Then it’s back to the tower room, where Barnabas has just updated his mother on current events. “And now you know everything that happened,” he says, which seems fairly unlikely. It’s been about forty seconds, and this is a story that’s taken almost four months to tell.

Plus, she’s cutting it pretty close, poison-wise. She must have taken the childrens’ aspirin formulation of whatever she put in that glass.

Naomi:  Now I know everything. And I was right — you couldn’t help it.

Barnabas:  Whether I could or not doesn’t matter.

Naomi:  Yes, it does matter. Because… because…

458 dark shadows woozy naomi barnabas

She starts to get woozy; apparently mommy’s little helper has started to kick in.

Naomi:  Barnabas… let me hold you, just one more time.

Barnabas:  One more time? What do you mean?

Naomi:  I want you to know… that no matter what you’ve done… that it doesn’t matter. Because I love you.

Huh. Okay. So here’s a question: why the hell did you just drink the poison margarita?

I mean, forgive me if I’m out of line, but if she forgives him for being a monster, and she loves him anyway, then what in the Sam Scratch is going on around here?

458 dark shadows tower naomi barnabas

Barnabas:  Mother, please… No, do anything, but do not love me! Don’t say that!

Naomi:  Nothing can stop me… from loving you.

Then she collapses. And I can honestly say that I have no idea what’s happening in this scene.

458 dark shadows suicide naomi barnabas

I mean, I’m a Dark Shadows fan, so I’m pretty flexible about what I’ll accept coming out of my television; I can roll with the punches as well as the next guy. But I seriously do not understand this scene.

I don’t think there’s any explanation, even an illogical one, that explains why Naomi would drink poison lemonade, and then go upstairs and instantly forgive Barnabas. Those two things just don’t relate to each other. As far as I’m concerned, the dialogue renders this plot point entirely meaningless.

So if this has worked, for you — if you feel something about Naomi’s death besides head-scratching bafflement — then this episode is a victory of sentiment over sense.

That’s not a bad thing. In fact, from the point of view of the show, it’s a huge win. They’ve used Joan Bennett’s natural charisma to make you feel something about a character who’s really nothing special — and who becomes, ultimately, nothing at all.

Tomorrow: Nathan Forbes Must Die.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Joan Bennett isn’t really on her game today. Every scene involves many obvious glances at the teleprompter.

In act 1, Joshua delivers half of his line, and then says the other half as a separate sentence:

Naomi:  Why is he like this? What happened to him?

Joshua:  I’m not sure. I fully understand myself, I don’t know if it would help if I did.

Tomorrow: Nathan Forbes Must Die.

 458 dark shadows joshua naomi barnabas

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

29 thoughts on “Episode 458: Don’t Love Me

  1. I picked sentiment over content for this episode, and wept at Barnabas` and Naomis farewell. Joan Bennett and Jonathan Frid brought that scene home for me

  2. I picked sentiment as well for this scene. Naomi isn’t good in a crisis. I’m sure many women, especially of her station had overbearing cold husbands and they didn’t become alcoholics. Naomi could have done good works in the village She could have played the piano. She knew how to write, so she knew how to read, so she could have read books. Instead Naomi started drinking. Many people who suffer from depression self medicated with alcohol or other drugs. I think Naomi was probably suffering from depression for a lot of her life.

    In any case, I also always believed that Angelique’s curse pushed anyone who loved Barnabas in a direction where they would die, usually with him watching. If they were walking down the street and a there was a runaway cart, they would zig the wrong way and get mowed down. In Naomi’s case she loved her son. She could forgive her son. She had suffered despair when Sarah died and when her governess was convicted of witchcraft. So the curse ramped up her natural depression and the curse made her think in terms of suicide. It’s one of the unforgivable effects of Angelique’s curse.

    1. Lots of fans mention Sarah and Barnabas died but she could have lived to helped Daniel and she seems to have been fond of young Daniel but they impact was too much.

      1. I do think Naomi suffered from depression, so her suicide really isn’t that out of the question. When we first meet her it’s clearly established that she’s not happy in her marriage and has a drinking problem – and that’s before all the horrible things happen. I believe there is a scene post-Sarah’s death where Naomi is trying to get close to Daniel and offers to raise him at Collinwood, but Daniel rebuffs her (in a child-like way, not maliciously) and tells her he doesn’t like Collinwood. So that probably added to her troubles too.

        Logistically, the drinking poison and then talking to Barnabas scene is a bit odd, but the emotion between the two characters ultimately sells it. Naomi meant a lot to Barnabas so it was good to see some closure there, however tragic. And I thought Frid and Bennett were great in the scene.

  3. I thinj Joan Bennett may have been saying to herself ‘Is this what I signed up for?’ at this point in the series. Flashback to Episode 1 where she greets newly arrived governess Victoria Winters in a black cocktail gown and dripping with diamonds. She was supposed to be the ‘Queen Bee’ of the show and most of the stories were to feature her as the centerpiece (Ned Caulder, her being Vicki’s mother, the missing Paul Stoddard…). The scene in Episode 1 when she banged the piano keys and dramatically dropped her head onto them was supposed to have defined her a a major drama queen with lots of skeletons in her closet…wait, we need a time out to focus on the man made human being constructed in the Old House basement…

    1. From every account that I’ve read, Joan Bennett was a trooper in every sense of the word. Maybe it was because she rose through the studio system, but she was never a diva and never considered a daytime soap a step down. She was actually a huge fan of the genre and later requested and made a guest spot on “Guiding Light” years later because she loved a particular character so much.

      From what we can see on DS, she’s more alive in the past stories, maybe because she has a clearer arc, maybe because she enjoys the challenge of the material, maybe because she’s not rooted into being the noblewoman of the house.

      Look at her first weeks of the 1795 story – she’s positively electric onscreen. She’s even better in 1897, when she gets to play a range of behaviors saintly Elizabeth would never consider. Yes, she struggled with her lines – I sometimes think everyone but David Henesy and Denise Nickerson relied on the teleprompter – but that was common given the grind, and when she was on her game, nobody could touch her.

      And nobody could wear those capes and gowns like Joan Bennett.

  4. Another thing about the episode yes Joshua had been a bad Husband but he really didn’t want her to killed herself. Actually, this episode not only show the love of Barnabas and Naomi but sets up the comments in the next episode about Joshua’s inability to love or problems with love. In fact the next episode it seem Joshua wanted to but his cold personality got in the way, so maybe the episode is good dramatically for two reasons here.

    1. Joshua Collins is an enigma. Multiple times throughout 1795 himself and others mention his inability to love, or his unsentimental nature, yet what he does throughout the flashback makes me believe that he truly cared about his family.

      When he finds Barnabas is a vampire, his first instinct is to try to help him, he claims out of responsibility. So what does he do? He puts his dangerous son in the house with the rest of his family. What responsibility is Joshua fulfilling by doing this? Not his patriarchal responsibility to protect his family, cuz Barnabas is now a greater danger to everyone at Collinwood. Not his responsibility to uphold the family honor, cuz by not immediately destroying Barnabas, and putting him in the tower room he’s increased the chance of Barnabas being discovered.

      If Joshua was as unsentimental as he/everyone claims he is, he would probably decide that his responsibility to protect the rest of the family and the Collins name trumps the responsibility a father has to help his child.

      1. I agree with you he is a lot more complex in the story line and yes about Barnabas and his family he cared.. This episode sets up Joshua’s comments in the next episode is what I’;am saying is why they did this episode this way besides Naomi dying because of the cursed loving Barnabas.

  5. This would killed me with Dark Shadows fans but in this episode she is in a very hugging mood. She gives a little hug to Joshua and Vickie and a big hug to Barnabas. I guess she was doing her goodbye hugs.

  6. At long last, my suspicions are proved true: Danny has no heart. (I kid, I kid) COME ON! This woman has seen her entire family decimated. And she may be suffering the worst kind of guilt imaginable: That of a woman who was in the middle of all the tragedy and not only survived, but somehow turned a blind eye to what was going on. Perhaps the fact that she chose to, in a sense, drink herself to death indicates that she blamed her alcohol abuse for the fact that she was living in oblivion. I totally get a woman, pushed to the edge, taking this action and then saying, in her final moments, that she forgives her son. While she is overwhelmed with guilt — be it survivor’s or other — she is also, at heart, a mother. The blinders have been ripped from her eyes and she can no longer deny the horror that has become life in Collinwood, but at the same time, she’s still a mother… and a mother’s love will always forgive all.

  7. She forgave Barnabas but that doesn’t mean she can cope with the horror. She explained her state of mind at the start of the episode — it wasn’t “Barnabas is an evil villain,” it was that she now feels that there’s no end to tragedy and no meaning to their lives. Forgiving Barnabas doesn’t change her outlook on the hopelessness of life. She just realizes he’s been crushed under the wheels of tragedy as well.

  8. Oh, shucks, we love Naomi because she’s Joan Bennett, and she’s BEAUTIFUL, even when she’s reading her lines directly from the teleprompter.

    Barnabas first “taught” us to love Naomi during that awkward 1967 Claret Cup Costume Party. He kept announcing that seeing Elizabeth Stoddard dressed in vintage clothing was “just like seeing Naomi Collins again”. And when he said it, he had a sad, wistful smile that told us exactly how much Barnabas had loved (and still loved) his mother. So we were prepared to love Naomi too, and we were also prepared to find her looking just like Joan Bennett in vintage clothing. Success all the way around.

    And the most amazing thing about the entire 1795 storyline (to me) was the complete switch of personalities between Louis Edmonds and Joan Bennett’s characters. In the present day, Joan was the stern matriarch who ruled Collinwood with an iron/jeweled hand, and Louis was the foppish little brother who could be silenced with an icy stare and sent to his room for insubordination. In 1795, a complete reversal — Louis is the stern patriarch of Collinwood, and Joan is the silly drunk who can be silenced with an icy stare and sent to her room for insubordination. Just as we love the silliness and frivolity of Roger Collins in the present day, we love the silliness and frivolity of Naomi Collins in the past.

  9. I thought Naomi made a massive difference. Didn’t she safeguard the entire Collins dynasty by protecting Daniel from Nathan? By recognising the danger Daniel was in and sending him away under the protection of Rev Bland?

  10. Another Naomi fan here. I can’t imagine 1795 without her. I think this is one of the saddest DS deaths and I can sympathize with where Naomi was coming from.

  11. One of the saddest moments in this episode for me is the look in Naomi’s eyes when Joshua points out that they still have each other. She knows that, although this is true, it can’t make up for all that she’s lost. Such a sad episode.

  12. “. . . But I seriously do not understand this scene. I don’t think there’s any explanation, even an illogical one, that explains why Naomi would drink poison lemonade, and then go upstairs and instantly forgive Barnabas. Those two things just don’t relate to each other. As far as I’m concerned, the dialogue renders this plot point entirely meaningless. So if this has worked, for you — if you feel something about Naomi’s death besides head-scratching bafflement — then this episode is a victory of sentiment over sense.”

    I can tell you why Barnabas’ mother drinks poison from a giant cup, speaks her truths to her son, and then dies at his feet in a huge dress: it’s because she’s Gertrude, from HAMLET, and that’s what exactly what Gertrude does, and Barnabas is Hamlet.

    I admit that it’s hard to explain WHY she must do exactly what Gertrude does in this case, considering that Naomi is the one who added the poison to her own cup here, but I say that all this horror and terr-or has broken her brain and she can’t stand to live in a world that has become a nightmare of death and madness.

    Realistically, it’s probably because Sam Hall told Gordon Russell that it had to happen that way because narrative collision, that’s why.

    To put it another way, although the death of a character who’s nice is a chance to keep the reader’s attention at the risk of losing the viewers’ interest after the character is gone, we’re closing out 1795, so we might as well clear the decks. It’s spectacle without real risk.

  13. Naomi was my 4th favorite character, right behind Barnabas, Angeliquè, and Joshua. I wish they would have put more on the background of Joshua and Naomi, they were the 4th most dramatic couple in the 1795 storyline

  14. I think Naomi’s death makes sense. Whether it was the toll of the curse on the entire Collins family that proved too much or the recent shocks regarding Barnabas, or maybe she doesn’t want to reach the point where she can’t continue to love Barnabas, I don’t know. Although presumably she’s compartmentalizing things or still in shock.

    A very sad death.

  15. Could not disagree more, Dan. Naomi appears to be a manic depressive who medicates thru alcohol. She has been a very heroic character the past few weeks – she saved Daniel and protected Vicki and Millicent. She even stood up to Nathan Forbes. But, the strain of discovering the truth about her son broke her. She loves her son but can’t bear to see what he has become. So, she tells him she loves him and kills herself. It is a very sad but poignant scene – one of my favorites.

    I don’t understand depression myself – I don’t suffer from it. But millions of people do, and some of them will take their lives. Before I retired, I was a manager in the Federal Government for over 25 years. Several of the management training course that I took over the years had blocks of instruction on recognizing signs of depression of your staff. It’s a big deal and big concern.

    I give DS a lot of credit here – 50 years ago, they (deliberately or accidentally) created a wonderful character who tragically suffered from depression.

  16. Stories – especially soaps – need more than just plot to function. Pilot’s just a series of events. Naomi was instrumental to the emotional arc of the story – we cared about her from the start, and through their interactions with her we came to care about others in the story too.

    So far, Naomi and Sarah’s deaths have been the only ones I’ve found truly affecting in the 1795 storyline.

  17. Everyone is reading way too much into this Naomi suicide. I’m sure that once again it is just another case of the writer’s taking a shortcut to the end they decided upon. My guess is Joshua blames Barnabus for Naomi’s death, which sends him into a vengeful rage, which leads to the whole chaining of the coffin thing. Conveniently Naomi is not around to talk him out of it so snip- snip tie the ribbon and put a bow on 1795.

  18. As I watched, I totally thought that, after seeing Millicent get bitten, that Naomi took a slow acting poison and then went to the tower to deliberately get bitten. I was expecting that she did this in hopes of taking down Barnabus, not knowing it could not work, and that she planned to die with him. As it went on, I guessed she just couldn’t go through with either offering herself or more likely, she loved Barnabus too much to cause his death. That it was meaningless or because of crushing depression never occurred to me til I read the remarks here.

  19. Well, I guess it worked for me. Three things sold the suicide, apart from the sentiment:

    1) She was clear that nothing mattering any more. Sure, you’d think someone who really wants to find out more about their son wouldn’t be so hopeless, but DS has given us bigger gaps in logic before. Plus we’ve seen her this hopeless before, Joan does shocked and hopeless pretty well, and this character was even introduced to us as someone who resents her life and had become self-destructive about it.

    2) The curse! When I first heard Angelique give that curse, I just thought it was her way of talking about the vampirism – any love interest would become a victim. Then Sarah died saying she loved Barnabas and I’m like “dang, this dude’s whole family is doomed.” Naomi’s professed love killed her as much as the poison. I don’t know how this curse works but it clearly involves things that don’t totally make sense.

    3) Danny said she was going to die in the last blog, so I was really ready for it.

    It’s frustrating that Naomi didn’t do more and that her character had been becoming more active and interesting just as a set-up for this. Glad Danny mentioned her skipped-over testimony, that really bugged me (maybe not as much as Peter screaming “objection!” bugged me, though).

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