“I cannot die… because I am already dead.”
It’s another gloomy evening in the great house at Collinwood. Naomi has died from poison and plot points, and they’re going to have to reset the “3 days since last accident” sign again. It’s a good thing we’re leaving the 18th century soon; we’re pretty much down to the minimum viable family.
So I guess Barnabas — who everybody thinks is either dead, or in England — just feels free at this point to stand around in the drawing room where anyone can see him. We’re not bound by rules anymore; if you look down, you can see the shattered pieces of civilization lying at our feet.
We are now free to do the most unlikely things, like watching a Revolutionary War soldier and a blood-soaked ghoul have a conversation about their feelings.
Joshua: I thought she had stopped loving me long ago.
Barnabas: Because you stopped loving her.
Joshua: Perhaps. I wanted to love her. She was my wife!
Barnabas: But you didn’t.
Joshua: I’m not a sentimental man. I never have been. Perhaps… perhaps I’m incapable of loving anyone. I don’t know why.
Barnabas: It could be your salvation.
Joshua: My salvation?
Barnabas: You’re incapable of loving me, so you will be spared as a victim of the curse.
I don’t know if any other character in fiction talks like this. I think Dark Shadows is inventing a new kind of person.
As we talked about the other day, this is the week that executive producer Dan Curtis is trying out directing for the first time. He loves gimmick shots, and today’s gimmick is to shoot all of the intense conversations in super-tight close-ups. In this scene, it works, because we really get to see Joshua, a broken man who is now running entirely on pain.
Joshua: The curse must be ended!
Barnabas: It cannot be.
Joshua: It must! And I must be the one to do it.
Joshua: Yes. I cannot allow this nightmare to go on any longer. I cannot allow more people to die! I must destroy you.
And then they have a calm, thoughtful and unbearably painful conversation about how they’re going to make that happen.
Joshua says it won’t be a stake through the heart — “I couldn’t bring myself to do that.” But he’s learned about another way — a silver bullet fired directly into Barnabas’ heart will destroy him.
I think that’s werewolves, but never mind; there’s no stopping these people once they get an idea in their heads.
So Joshua says the kind of line that you only get on Dark Shadows.
Joshua: I have sent Riggs into town with a silver candelabra. I have instructed him to go to a silversmith, and have six bullets made. I will fire those bullets into your heart.
It’s a deeply peculiar thing for a person to say, but bless his heart, he says it with complete conviction.
Ben interrupts with a news bulletin — Vicki, who was on the run from the law and hiding in the study, has been taken away. Barnabas and Joshua realize that Nathan must have turned her in for the reward money.
So Barnabas comes up with a plan, and guess what, it’s the same plan that he always comes up with.
Barnabas: He must die.
Yeah, no kidding. This is what we always do on this show when there’s rough justice to be meted out — we call the bat/man.
Nathan is down at the Eagle drinking and bragging about leaving his wife, now that he’s got the reward money for turning Vicki in. A flapping bat casts a shadow at the window.
And then we switch genres again. Barnabas enters the saloon, and he squares off with Nathan like two gunslingers in a Western.
They go through another one of those pre-murder career retrospectives, where Barnabas runs through a list of Nathan’s crimes: Naomi is dead, Millicent has been driven mad, and Daniel is still in danger.
So I reckon the marshal has this dastardly hombre dead to rights. But they’re going to settle this cowboy style, with hot lead.
Dan is still committed to the close-ups today, which is kind of a mixed bag. It’s nice to see everyone emoting away like crazy, but this is a showdown. At one point, Barnabas smashes some glasses with his cane, and you don’t really get a good look at it. You want to see the guys facing off.
Anyway, Nathan shoots, somewhere more or less off-camera, with the predictable effect. This gives Barnabas the chance to deliver one of his killer lines.
Barnabas: I cannot die… because I am already dead.
Then Barnabas does something strange.
Barnabas: I do not plan to kill you… at least, not here and now. Later, Forbes. After you’ve had time to think about it. Nine o’clock. When the clock strikes nine… you will die.
That doesn’t mean a great deal to us, so we zoom in on the clock, to see that It’s eight-thirty.
There’s a big dramatic tension sting to close the act: Eight-thirty!!!
So it turns out we’re doing High Noon, another unexpected narrative collision. With a killer on his trail, Nathan spends the next ten minutes running around Collinwood, trying to talk Joshua into helping him.
Joshua isn’t thrilled about this situation — he really doesn’t want Barnabas to kill anyone, even Forbes — but he knows that he can’t do anything. Nathan is going to have to face this on his own. We’re going to have that final showdown after all.
So Nathan does what anybody in this situation would do: he grabs something from the wall of loaded weapons in the study. I’ve had several occasions lately to wonder about why the Collins family scatters murder weapons around the house, but here’s a situation where it really comes in handy.
So this is it — we’ve got one more episode in 1795, before we hightail it back to the present day. And this is how we’re going to end things, with poison and bullets and crossbows and clocks.
If we have to go, at least we’re going down fighting. Is there any other way?
Tomorrow: Eats, Shoots and Leaves.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Barnabas skips a line in his conversation with Joshua in act 1, and then steps on another line a moment later.
Joshua: She said something to me before she died. Something I didn’t expect her to say.
Barnabas: You didn’t know that?… What was that?
Joshua: She said that she loved me.
Barnabas: And you didn’t know.
Joshua: No… I thought she had stopped loving me long ago.
Barnabas: Because you stopped loving her!
Joshua: Perhaps. I wanted to love her.
Barnabas: But you di–
Joshua: She was my wife!
Barnabas: But you didn’t.
The last time that we saw Barnabas’ cane, in episode 445, it was in Nathan’s possession; he showed it to Joshua. Nathan also bragged to Noah in episode 454 that he could show the cane to the authorities, as evidence that Noah attacked Millicent. In today’s episode, Barnabas has it again, and he smashes some glasses with it.
In the Eagle confrontation scene, Dan is so busy playing with his close-up gimmicks that he misses the two physical actions in the scene — Barnabas smashing the glasses with his cane, and Nathan pulling the trigger.
When Nathan begs for help, Joshua isn’t sure how to react:
Nathan: He threatened to kill me.
Joshua: I’m surprised. (pause) I’m surprised he didn’t.
Kicking off the big climax, the clock on the mantelpiece chimes nine — but the hands show 8:58.
Behind the Scenes:
The barmaid at the Eagle is played by Rebecca Shaw, who also appeared two weeks ago as a streetwalker on the docks. This is Shaw’s only television credit.
I’ve found some references to Shaw being married to Jerry Lacy, who plays Reverend Trask, but I’m not sure when they were married. An item in a 1970 newspaper from Anderson, Indiana notes that Lacy and Shaw were both appearing in productions of Woody Allen’s Play It Again, Sam, but in different cities — Lacy was in the Broadway production, and Shaw appeared at the Cocoanut Grove Theatre in Miami.
Shaw and Lacy had apparently divorced by 1972, when he met actress Julia Duffy on the set of the CBS soap Love of Life. Lacy and Duffy lived together for many years, and married in 1984. That’s all the information I can find on Shaw.
Tomorrow: Eats, Shoots and Leaves.
— Danny Horn