Episode 483: Free Willie

“He could be perfectly normal by now.”

We open today with Julia puttering around in the Old House with absolutely nothing to do, just staring into the fire. Barnabas walks down the stairs, sees her sitting in the drawing room, and smiles as he approaches.

He says that there’s something he has to do before Dr. Lang’s experiment on Friday, and he needs her help. She says, “Oh, I’ll do anything for you. You know that.”

So I’d say that’s pretty much the final destination of that particular journey. Barnabas + Julia: Best Friends Forever. And now that we’ve got that settled, it’s time to get the band back together. Gas up the car; we’re driving out to Windcliff Sanitarium to spring Willie Loomis.

293 dark shadows willie loneliness

This is good news. It’s been seven months since Willie was shipped off to the sanitarium, and I for one have missed him terribly.

John Karlen, who plays Willie, is probably the most skilled actor to ever appear on Dark Shadows. Almost everyone in the cast is a New York stage actor, but Karlen is the one who really brings that intensity to the part every day.

Karlen took Willie Loomis — a third-rate hood, looking for a quick score — and turned him into a haunted, soulful young man, tormented by the horrors that he witnessed and was unable to prevent. When everyone around him was doing cheap vampire soap opera acting, Willie was in A Streetcar Named Desire.

And apparently, I’m not alone in admiring his work. According to the book Barnabas and Company (which is excellent, by the way, and super affordable), Karlen never had a contract on Dark Shadows. Executive producer Dan Curtis thought Karlen was fantastic, and allowed him to basically leave the show and come back whenever he wanted. Karlen’s part of the cast all the way through the end of the series, but there are these periodic gaps where he decides to go off and do a play for a while.

483 dark shadows free julia barnabas

And now he’s ready to come back, so all of a sudden Barnabas decides that Willie would be the ideal assistant for Dr. Lang’s experiment.

Now, Julia’s in charge of the Windcliff Sanitarium, where Willie’s been in stir for the last seven months, and she can get him out if she wants to. But she doesn’t approve of Lang’s experiment, so Barnabas has to come up with another excuse to set Willie free. He lands on “I feel sorry for him.” Julia is unimpressed.

Barnabas:  He could be perfectly normal by now.

Julia:  Or he could be a very disturbed man, possibly even a dangerous man.

Which is a good point, except that he isn’t.

483 dark shadows normal barnabas julia

So what’s happening in this scene is that Barnabas is proposing a retcon — a new version of what happened seven months ago — and he’s pitching it to a skeptical Julia.

Barnabas:  The poor man was shot down by the police, accused of murder. He was judged to be insane, and confined to a mental institution, all because of me.

Which is mostly true, although I’m not sure why he thinks Willie was accused of murder.

What actually happened was that Julia and Barnabas deliberately framed Willie for Maggie’s kidnapping. After Willie was shot, Barnabas was planning to murder him to keep his mouth shut, but then Willie caught a bad case of convenient amnesia, and they packed him off to Windcliff.

He was never dangerous to anyone; the only “danger” he posed was that he might tell people about Barnabas and Julia’s laundry list of felonies.

But it’s been seven months, and that’s a long time for a soap opera audience — especially in 1968, when nobody had access to tapes of old episodes. The actual, by-the-numbers facts about what happened are less important than the audience’s “folk memory” of what happened.

483 dark shadows visit julia barnabas

There are basically three memorable images that the audience is guaranteed to remember — Willie opening the coffin and releasing Barnabas, Barnabas beating Willie with a cane, and Willie getting shot in the back trying to warn Maggie. The writers can count on people having fuzzy memories of exactly what everyone said at the time, but the big visual set pieces stick.

So if they’re trying to sell us a revised story where Willie actually deserved to be sent away to the sanitarium, then they have to address our memory of the cane mutinies.

Barnabas:  Is it inconceivable to you that I could do an act of kindness?

Julia:  Everyone’s capable of performing an act of kidness. But let’s be honest about it, Barnabas. With you, it isn’t — shall we say — characteristic.

Barnabas:  You know perfectly well I’ve always been very fond of Willie.

Julia: You’ve also been very cruel to him.

Barnabas:  Julia, are you going to grant me my request, or aren’t you?

This is a trick that TV Tropes calls lampshade hanging — dealing with a story element that might threaten the audience’s suspension of disbelief by acknowledging it, hanging a lampshade over it, and then moving on.

483 dark shadows now julia barnabas

They’re rewriting this piece of history because we’ve entered a new Dark Shadows regime, where Barnabas and Julia are the most important characters, and the rest of the show bends around them. Since we returned from 1795 a month ago, the writers have been furiously rewriting history, asserting several new backstories that place these two nutjobs at the center of everything.

And just to clarify: I am entirely in favor of this change. It’s a great idea, and absolutely necessary for the survival and future success of the show.

Five months ago, in the lead-up to 1795, you could see that the fall 1967 storyline was heading for a crash. The cast was splitting into pro-vampire and anti-vampire factions, and if things continued along those lines, they would have either killed Barnabas, or started killing Collins family members. Continuing the 1967 story as it was written then would have damaged the show forever.

483 dark shadows best barnabas julia

Besides, this is serialized narrative’s strongest advantage. The producers can respond to what’s working, and they change the story based on audience reaction, and based on their own sense of what feels story-productive and what doesn’t.

How attuned a show can be to the audience reaction is basically determined by the production schedule. The big question is: Can the production team get feedback and audience response while they’re still writing and filming?

Typically, a new network night-time show will get an order for 13 episodes in the first season, and if the ratings are promising, they get a “back nine” order, to finish the standard 22-episode season. They’ve got an opportunity at that point to respond mid-season to what’s clicking with the audience.

A filmed cable show doesn’t usually have that chance. On Mad Men or The Walking Dead, they’ve got a full season in the can by the time it starts airing. If they hit a rough patch, they can’t really fix it until the next season.

Daily soap operas can be very responsive, because there’s an ongoing production schedule. There are always new episodes being written and filmed all year round, so they can react relatively quickly to what’s working.

Dark Shadows was especially light on its feet, which explains how they could turn the show around so drastically in the first year. They only filmed a week or two ahead, and they wrote maybe three or four weeks ahead. There are lots of examples where the show does a quick pivot, to take advantage of something that’s working, or downplay something that’s not.

In general, I’m very much in favor of pivots and retcons when they benefit the story, or when they allow a good character to stay on the show. Unfortunately, this one doesn’t really work.

483 dark shadows nurse willie

So let’s get to the sanitarium. A nurse brings Willie to a waiting room, to talk to Julia and Barnabas. It’s a nice, tense moment, because it’s not clear what’s about to happen. Does he remember Barnabas, and the horror that he lived through?

483 dark shadows remember someone

It’s a big entrance, and he milks it for as long as he can — approaching Barnabas with a quizzical expression, and getting really close.

Barnabas:  Don’t you remember me? It’s… Barnabas.

Willie takes his time.

Willie:  I haven’t seen ya in such a long time, Barnabas.

Barnabas smiles.

Barnabas:  Then you do recognize me.

Willie:  Yes.

483 dark shadows recognize willie barnabas

They sit down on the couch.

Barnabas:  Do you remember where you lived before you came here?

Willie nods, and speaks in a gentle tone.

Willie:  The Old House.

Barnabas smiles, like Willie’s a dog who’s just performed a trick. He says, “You remember, don’t you?” but what he really means is, “Good boy, you get a biscuit.”

483 dark shadows flowers willie

We get our first close-up of Willie’s reaction… and he’s smiling.

Willie:  Sometimes I think about the Old House.

Barnabas:  Do you have… pleasant thoughts about it?

483 dark shadows thinks willie

Willie takes a second to think about it…

483 dark shadows expect willie

… and he breaks into a wide grin.

Willie:  Yes.

483 dark shadows leave willie julia

So that’s certainly not what I would have expected. There are a lot of options for Willie’s reaction right now — fear, resentment, trauma, complete amnesia, angling to get out of the hospital so he can run away.

In fact, the only thing you wouldn’t expect is this. He’s doing a vague, gentle Flowers for Algernon thing. He remembers Barnabas and working at the Old House, but he doesn’t really have an emotional response to it. He hardly speaks above a whisper.

483 dark shadows retcon willie julia

So it’s hard to tell what’s going on here.

Julia:  Willie, I want you to tell me how much you can remember of the time before you came here.

Willie:  Well… I remember I used to work for Barnabas at the Old House.

Julia:  Do you remember why you were brought here?

Willie:  Maggie Evans.

Julia:  What about Maggie Evans?

483 dark shadows trying willie

Willie:  Wait a minute, let me think. Yeah, it was at night… and I went to her house… and there was a lotta men outside. Policemen! I wanted to tell her something.

Julia:  What did you want to tell her?

Willie:  I’ve been tryin’ to remember that.

Julia:  Would you like to leave here?

Willie:  Well, I’d like… I’d like to work for Barnabas again. You see, him and me, we were good friends, and he did a lot for me.

483 dark shadows work willie barnabas

So, I don’t know. I’m all for surprises — that’s the whole point of television, and especially Dark Shadows — and I’m happy to accept a good retcon, if it’s story-productive. But I don’t really understand what’s going on here.

I mean, I want Willie back. But I want the guy who left — the conflicted, self-aware Willie who offered a strong counterpoint to Barnabas’ self-obsessed madness. Willie was the character who saw things more clearly than anyone. That’s who I’m excited to see.

483 dark shadows caught julia

And instead we’re getting Lennie from Of Mice and Men.

Willie:  Do you think there’s a chance I can get outta here, Doctor?

Julia:  I don’t know, Willie. We’ll have to wait and see.

Willie:  Well, see, I’m not weak anymore. The doctors, they fixed me up real good, and I’m strong, and honestly, if I got outside, I wouldn’t cause anybody any trouble, Doctor. You think you can get me outta here?

As far as I can tell, Willie is now living in the retcon that Barnabas and Julia proposed in the first scene. He was mentally disturbed, and everything that happened was his fault. He just needs to apologize, and then we can move on.

483 dark shadows character willie maggie

But it’s hard to get a handle on this new version of the character, because they can’t even keep him consistent through the whole episode. As soon as he gets home and Barnabas takes his eye off him for two seconds, Willie runs straight to Maggie’s house, and scares the hell out of her.

He tries to tell her that he never meant to harm her — he was just trying to warn her about the danger she was in. But he doesn’t get a chance to say what the danger actually was, so we don’t really know what he’s trying to do.

On the upside, he at least sounds like Willie in this scene, trying to do what he thinks is right. He gets chased off by Joe, and for just a moment, we can see the character that Willie used to be.

483 dark shadows gun willie

But by the end of the episode, he’s found an unloaded rifle, and he’s hiding in the shadows. He eavesdrops as Joe confronts Barnabas about why Willie was released. As Joe leaves, Willie steps out of the shadows and trains the rifle on Joe’s back, giggling like a madman.

This makes exactly no sense, and connects to nothing. It’s really a shockingly bad way to end the episode. Dark Shadows is creaky and slow sometimes, but it rarely does something that’s just fundamentally wrong like this. Willie is apparently playing three different characters today, and only one of them is Willie.

So for today, at least, this retcon doesn’t work; it’s just confusing. I think the problem is that there isn’t really a plot-motivated reason to bring Willie back. The on-screen rationale is that Barnabas wants him to be Dr. Lang’s assistant in the experiment, but that idea gets dropped tomorrow, so there’s not really anything for Willie to do. He’s just back because John Karlen is available again, and they want him back on the canvas. They’ll figure out who he is and what they want him to do later on.

Unfortunately, botching the reintroduction like this is a bad sign for later character development. We’ve got Willie back, but this isn’t the Willie that went away.

Tomorrow: Chekhov’s Gun.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

At the end of act 2, Barnabas tells Julia, “I could tell that your heart went out to him every much as mine did.”

In act 3, Willie and Maggie cross wires for a moment:

Willie:  But I’ve gotta tell ya what happened that night!

Maggie:  I know why!

Behind the Scenes

Nurse Jackson is played by Ann Davies, in her only episode. I can’t find any other screen credits for her, but there’s an Ann C. Davies listed on the Internet Broadway Database who was active in the 1960s. She appeared in the Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof from 1964 to 1972, and was an understudy in Pickwick in 1965. We saw Nurse Jackson in a few episodes last summer, when she was played by Alice Drummond.

And one other thing:

I didn’t include this in the post because it would have interrupted the story, but I have to mention this because I love it: When Barnabas is alone in the waiting room at the start of act 2, he looks at a magazine on a table, and flips through it for a second. It’s a rare moment where Barnabas interacts with something “modern”, similar to his car trip a few weeks ago. It’s not an anachronism, but it feels like one.

Tomorrow: Chekhov’s Gun.

483 dark shadows magazine barnabas

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

38 thoughts on “Episode 483: Free Willie

  1. Julia releasing Willie from Windcliff without getting Maggie’s approval or at least informing her and ensuring that Willie doesn’t come anywhere near her as a condition of release is a frustrating plot hole. Yes, it takes place in a storyline about a Frankenstein monster and witches and dream curses, but that just makes it all the more imperative that anything approaching the real world and real world emotions be handled logically.

    I also found it strange that the writers didn’t just use a lame cop-out for wiping Vicki and Carolyn’s memory of Barnabas as a vampire and essentially resetting their characters but didn’t go all the way: There’s no reason that Willie or Maggie should remember what Barnabas did to them because of the same magic/science that removed the vampire bite marks from Vicki and Carolyn. It will even later be a plot point that Maggie’s memory *returns,” as if her amnesia is totally dependent upon Julia’s hypnosis.

    This could have been a way to bring back the original Willie Loomis, who shouldn’t remember even opening Barnabas’s chained coffin. Unfortunately, while sane, that Willie is a disturbed and violent man. Without the trauma of working for Barnabas, he’d revert to the borderline rapist who pulls switchblades out on people.

    So, as you say, we get Lennie from “Of Mice and Men.” Karlen is deliberately playing an entirely different character. A somewhat crazed Renfield to the (now normal) Barnabas.

    This is the version they use in the DS 1991 series and like many of the decisions that show made, it’s a bad one: Willie is a crazy, addled drunk from his first scene, which eliminates any character arc (after all, the Willie of 1967 was a loathsome grave robber — pretty much the bottom of the barrel). Worse, because Barnabas is still a vampire at this stage, it removes the strong counterpoint that the original Willie provided. The DS 1991 Willie is a broken animal who sits on the floor like an obedient pet while Barnabas reads from his sister’s diary. He actually likes this monster (whereas there was no mistaking that 1967 Willie hated Barnabas), so now we get to watch an overtly abusive relationship. Barnabas beats him, chokes him, and then “makes it all better” by patting him on the face. It’s sickening.

    The version of Willie introduced in 1968, while a steep drop from the original, is preferable to the 1991 model. For one thing, Barnabas no longer is physically violent to him. He’s still selfish, manipulative, and downright cruel to him at times but he’s more a bad boss than an overt psychopath (granted, that can sometimes be a thin line — even in real life).

    1. When Barnabas’ hold on Carolyn disappeared (thanks to him becoming human), the first thing I thought of was “What about Willie?” I knew he would be returning and I assumed that he would no longer be under Barnabas’ control and have foggy memories of what happened (like Carolyn). The first scene in the hospital seems to take this approach – he remembers working for Barnabas, but doesn’t recall him being a vampire, etc.

      But then we have the weird scene with Maggie – does Willie remember it was Barnabas that kidnapped her and why? Unclear.

      And then we get crazy Willie at the end, with the shotgun. When I first saw that, my initial thought was “oh, he faked his amnesia at the hospital and he does remember everything and he’s got some kind of agenda – perhaps revenge on Barnabas.” But as it turned out, not the case.

      So yeah, confusing reintroduction to Willie (though I’m glad he’s back). I think they fell into a standard writing trap – “oh, if we make the character crazy enough we can do whatever we want with him, regardless of inconsistencies, because he’s crazy.”

    2. I guess it was okay that Willie did not remember Barnabas cracking him upside his head with his cain, leaving cain marks on his face.

    3. The more I think about the Barnabas/Willie relationship, the more confused I become. Willie certainly knows Barnabas is a vampire at the end of the Dream Curse. I’m sure he would say anything to get out of Windcliff whether he remembered or not. But he shouldn’t remember if Vicki and Carolyn don’t, right? Eventually Willie is Barnabas’s loyal servant again. He’s protective of him again. If Barnabas no longer controls him, why does he stick around? Why doesn’t he just go find a ship and sail away? He becomes friends with Julia but I’m not sure if Barnabas ever considered him a friend during the series. I don’t remember him treating Willy as an equal, only as a servant.
      I have no idea what they thought they were going to do with crazy, gun-toting Willie at this point, I’m just glad they dropped it. It’s good to have Karlen back.
      On an unrelated subject, Julia’s outfit is really nice. Not only did she get a new haircut, she got a new, more fashionable, wardrobe.

      1. I know, right! I’m loving the new Julia. Somehow she evaded the hideous 60s colors and styles the others are trapped in and has managed to get tailored sophisticates in gorgeous colors. I would wear that wardrobe today.

  2. Plus the writers of DARK SHADOWS had the advantage of their teen-age fan base hanging around outside the studio doors, so they could get feedback from them at just about any time! 😉

    Supposedly sometimes the writers, if stuck on remembering a particular plot point from a year or more ago, would go out and ask the fans if they knew the answer!!

  3. Just when I think Barnabas can’t become a more vile creature he does this: goes to Windcliff to further taunt, not just physically but emotionally down to the core of his being. ‘Oh Willy do you want to come back and work for me’ he asks in his usual wheedling smarmy tone. Willy should reply ‘Oh yea you’re the creep that regularly used me as your personal drinking fountain and beat me within an inch of my life with your stupid-a*& cane. I would really appreciate the opportunity to once again make you a member of the ‘human race’…NOT!! Also I’m keeping a running list of the characters that had to be ‘lobotomized’ to accommodate our new supercouple: Vicki, Roger, David, Carolyn, Maggie, and now you can add Willy to this list.

      1. Burke was in trouble when Mitch Ryan got fired. If they had done good recast, maybe Burke could have kept on but Anthony George was a disastrous choice for new Burke. Removing Barnabas’ rival was a small part of it, but if they wanted to give him a clear shot at Vickie they wouldn’t have cast Roger Davis as Peter/Jeff.

        1. It’s ironic how Mitch Ryan was fired for being drunk on the day when he was apparently going to be in a scene at the Blue Whale. If you’re sitting in a bar, you can be forgiven for being drunk. There was one Burke scene at the Blue Whale where he (the character) was rip-roaring slur-drunk.

          Maybe it was a form of character suicide. Ever since Burke made amends with the Collins’ and Joe and even Willie, there was really nothing left for him to do on the show. He was good at playing conflict, but now there was no longer any conflict. He became such a nice guy, always willing to help out in any way, like with searching for missing people. Perhaps Mitch Ryan just became bored with the character as a result and felt he was in a bit of a rut career-wise.

          When Burke’s plane went down later on, my first time watching the series through I wondered if Barnabas had anything to do with it, as if he psychically willed the plane to crash, because you didn’t at that point really know the limits of Barnabas’ vampire powers, and it did work perfectly to his advantage.

          I don’t think Mitch Ryan would have lasted long anyway. If he had stayed, then the only possible new conflict he could have had in that role was as Barnabas’ rival, and one would have had to have ended up killing the other. Even if he had made it to the 1795 storyline, I couldn’t see Mitch Ryan toning it down and putting on the colonial mannerisms for the Jeremiah role, only to be relegated to occasional cameos as a half-bandaged zombie.

          As for the recasting of Burke, I don’t think anyone would have sufficed. Burke Devlin is a forceful character who takes action, and Mitch Ryan gave the character a definitive face and persona. Mitch Ryan IS Burke Devlin.

          1. I do agree that Mitch Ryan was fairly irreplaceable as Burke. I also think that if MR hadn’t self-destructed Jeremiah would not have been killed when he was in 1795. I think they would have kept the history that was in the book, that Josette committed suicide while married to a still alive Jeremiah and he buried her far from the family plot. My guess is that Jeremiah would have been one of the last victims of Angelique’s curse and would have died because he did love his cousin Barnabas. It would have kept continuity with the way the story had been told since the beginning of the show and could have been worked into the Barnabas/Josette true love story AND explained why Barnabas came to hate Jeremiah, because he was a real obstacle to Josette going away with him. Maybe MR wouldn’t have toned down to play a colonial gentleman, but he could have played the rough hewn rebel who didn’t fit into Collinwood and who was willing to defend Vicki against witchcraft charges. Heck he could even be the type to run off with Vicki into the west, once she gets teleported back to 1795. At least we would have been spared Roger Smith.

            1. Yes, they could have gone the MACBETH route with 1795 — Angelique as “Lady Macbeth” literally turns Barnabas into a monster. They could have also built up the conflict, which the audience had expected, between Jeremiah and Barnabas — the former perhaps viewed by Joshua as the true heir to the Collins businesses against Barnabas’s wishes. The Barnabas who dabbled in witchcraft and knew warlocks prior to the flashback might have willingly married a witch. He now loathes his wife — who he would never mention centuries later — but longs for his uncle’s bride (the lack of chemistry between Frid and Scott would pay off here if Barnabas’s love is unrequited). Again keeping with the stated back story, Barnabas never kills Jeremiah and it’s actually Jeremiah and Joshua who chain up Barnabas.

              Of course, that would have just brought you back to where we started in 1967: Barnabas as complete, even if tragic in some ways, villain. 1795 reminds me more of HAMLET in character than in plot. Claudius is the true villain, and we are intended to sympathize with Hamlet but my god, does he make a mess of things and accumulates a body count. Hamlet and Barnabas are also known for their soliloquies. No, I think it was a brilliant move to really shatter audience preconceptions and depict a flawed but overall decent Barnabas whose tragic fate is the result of missteps fueled by either stupidity or pride or both but not intentional malice.

              This is a contrast to what we see in 1897. The Quentin Collins we meet is the rat bastard we’d expect from his actions as a ghost. His slow transition to likeable protagonist is always fun to watch.

              And ultimately, 1795 was about a happy — more or less* — family that was destroyed by one evil woman. Yes, Joshua is insufferable and Naomi is a drunk but let’s be honest — we probably know at least a few families that are like this. Whereas, the Collins of 1897 and later 1840 are portraits in dysfunction.

              That said, if they do ever make another DS TV revival, I wouldn’t mind seeing the MACBETH version. Josette, for me, is a boring character and I think it’s impossible to convince us that she and Barnabas are a couple we should root for. No, I’d prefer to see a George and Margaret Barnabas and Angelique with Josette as the unfulfilled fantasy. And true conflict between Barnabas and Jeremiah — like we’d been promised long ago — would be interesting. Arguably a flaw in 1795 is that the characters are Angelique’s chess pieces: Jeremiah doesn’t want to fall in love with Barnabas’s fiancée. Josette doesn’t want to betray Barnabas. This is artificial conflict, which is never as satisfying as the real thing.

          2. Yes indeedy – if Mitch Ryan had still been around, they could’ve used the original planned plot of Jeremiah being married to Josette, and had real conflict between the brothers when Barnabas falls in love with Josette as soon as she arrives.

          3. I would liked to have seen Mitch Ryan in the 1795 costumes! I think they could have used him after 1795 if it had indeed been Ryan. Especially with Jeff Clark. Clark, and Devlin, and Barnabas all vying for Vicki’s attention!

        2. Burkes’s ‘death’ never sat well with me so I had to come up with my own plausible story to logically explain this story thread – back around Episode 300 Barnabas is talking to Willy about the situation of the growing threat of Burke starting an investigation into the mysterious attacks on the local Collinsport citizens along with Maggie’s illness and subsequent disappearance and memory loss. Barnabas is also getting worried about Burke’s romance with Vicki. He said to Willy that Burke would need to be taken care of and that Willy would ‘need to help’…I’m taking this phrase a step further by explaining that Willy’s help would consist of staging an elaborate plot where Burke would be abducted in South America and staged to look like he was in the plane crash. Willy would help implement this plan with the help of long ‘missing’ globe trotting scam artist Paul Stoddard, whom Willy knew through his association with Jason McGuire, who was in fact the ‘half brother’ of Paul………and so on.

          1. Since Dennis Patrick played both Jason McGuire and Paul Stoddard on the show they actually could have been related and they also shared the same ‘get rich quick’ philosophy..

          2. I have come with a different theory about Burke’s death. I could not really believe that Barnabas could do it – not that he was incapable of doing it – because it involved technology – planes – which seriously freaked him out at that point. I do not see him tampering with planes, or coming close to any of them, for that matter.

            (Also note that there were 16 bodies in the plane – unless Burke used his own plane, 16 is too few for an international flight. But it could be a local flight in Brazil)

            My theory is that it involved Laura. Laura could believe, due to their past relationship that Burke had betrayed her when she went over to Vicky and helped defeat her. Laura was gone, but Ra, her god remained. Ra- the sun. So a plane leaves the ground, is up in the air, closer to the sun and CATCHES FIRE.

            Is as good a theory as any.

          3. Interesting, though I don’t think Willie was capable of a plan any more complicated than ordering Chinese over the phone.

            I agree that Burke’s sudden death is dramatically unsatisfying. It has weight only in the sense that we’re supposed to feel that David now has no allies — both men who believed in him and distrusted Barnabas are gone. And Barnabas has Vicki in her sights.

            But the problem with the storyline is that once Julia arrives, Barnabas’s objective as antagonist shifts from the overtly sinister (brainwashing woman to believe they are his dead girlfriend and turning them into vampires, effectively killing them) to arguably romantic (changing from a monster to a human). As Danny has commented, the costume party storyline is perhaps the start of this change.

            So, once he’s cured, everyone’s happy, right? They don’t really do enough to make it clear that a human Barnabas would be a threat to anyone and that he’d still want to kill David or anyone else.

            And Burke’s death effectively removes any real obstacle to Barnabas’s goals so Barnabas has to become his own antagonist — stupidly rushing the experiment for no compelling reason (e.g. Burke was still alive and engaged to Vicki). Killing Burke killed the motivation for the experiment’s failure.

            I suppose Julia could have deliberately sabotaged the experiments, as she did in HODS when she realized that Barnabas was only interested in Vicki. But that would have ended as the movie ended, which we wouldn’t want.

            1. And Barnabas again, becoming annoyed at Julia who points out his inconsistencies about Willie, mainly how cruel he was to Willie while acting like he wasnt. He hated that becoming somewhat agitated that she would point that out.

            2. Stephen: “I don’t think Willie was capable of a plan any more complicated than ordering Chinese over the phone”– hilarious!

              Also very funny: Danny’s comment about Barnabas’ “cane mutinies.”

  4. Just came to the site to find what ep brought Willie back…learned much in that I remembered a personlity shift but couldn’t remember why. Gonna have to marathon the eps now.

  5. There’s a Big Finish audio, “Echoes of Insanity” which features John Karlen and Lara Parker, set just before this episode.
    While Willie is recovering, he’s visited by Angelique in his dreams. She attempts to manipulate him against Barnabas.
    Without spoilers, it ends up with Willie fully in control of himself but knowing he has to play along in order to stay safe, telling Barnabas and Julia whatever they want to hear.

    It goes some way to give a retroactive explanation for Willie’s changes in behaviour. It’s also really, really good!

  6. I figure Julia’s motivation for arguing against releasing Willie are less about being worried that Willie may be dangerous or unstable as she claims, and more because she wants to protect him from Barnabas (and his influence) – though I am surprised she agreed to allow Barnabas to go with her to meet with Willie while she was evaluating his condition.

    1. Agreed. Makes no sense. She would be trying to protect Willie now, and I find it incredulous that she would take Barnabas along.

      Unless she’s still trying to get Barnabas’ romantic affections….

  7. Maybe Grid fluffed his line (stranger things, and all that) and he was meant to say Willie was accused of attempted murder? The police could have made that assumption after catching him at Maggie’s.

    I also assumed Barnabas and Julia’s discussion about Willie wasn’t so much a retcon of his ’67 behaviour and more a concern that he might have become disturbed and dangerous after being left in a crazyhouse for 7 months… but that theory kind of fell apart when he actually appeared.

    (And are we just going to ignore that bit where Barnabas reflects that he’s “always been fond of Willie”? I can’t be the only immature person giggling at that one, surely?)

  8. I feel that Willie did become more mentally unstable at Windcliff. I mean, he woke up after being horribly injured, and he’s in the crazyhouse. If he dares speak of anything that he remembers, it is only proof to the doctors that he’s crazy. They had to have him on drugs, if not electroshock. I bet speaking loudly or appearing agitated was the quickest way to get yourself strapped down and pumped full of drugs. Meanwhile from therapists, Willie is told how good Barnabas was to take in a troubled young man. That is the only narrative that the therapists will accept. Drugged!Willie is so quiet, slow-moving and unfocused, and by now largely accepting what he’s been conditioned to think happened: Barnabas really was his benefactor. None of this is conducive to mental health.

    Then Willie is released and soon the drugs are wearing off…for the first time in months. He’s totally manic at first, and he’s frantic to reassure Maggie of his good intentions (completely unaware of how terrifying he is to her, both by suddenly appearing and his twitchy body language). Then Joe appears and scares the hell out of Willie, who instantly flees. Small wonder manic!Willie fantasizes about killing Joe. That his gun was unloaded was quite interesting; was Willie’s intent simply to scare off Joe, had he been found?

    For all of Julia’s faux concern about Willie’s release and ‘ability to cope’, she doesn’t hesitate to throw a mentally fragile man into a dangerous situation that utterly terrifies him. Despite all his piteous pleas, she brutally threatens him with lifelong imprisonment at Windcliff as an incurably insane patient. Totally immoral and against medical ethics and practice. She only considers Willie’s utility to her and Barnabas’ plans.

  9. I’m sure seeing Barnabas would have set my recovery back to square one. Holy moly!

    But for me this just reinforced what a self absorbed and manipulative scoundrel Barnabas was. He only cares about what people can do for him.

  10. Binge watching the episodes now. It was great to see Willie (John Karlen) come back on the show.

    However, it seems to me that moving back in with Barnabas would be the very last thing a recovering mental patient would ever want to do.

    Oh–and Windcliff Mental Hospital should open a new wing. Just for the people at Collinwood. It seems like most of the characters eventually end up there, at one time or another!

  11. Willlllliiiee! So good to see him again!… but I agree with Danny and all who commented here about the his return.

    Yeah, must be partly that any other existence would be preferable to him than being confined to a mental hospital where, if his whispers and delayed responses are any proof, he is apparently out of practice with speaking and feeling anything.

    Btw, was Burke (and maybe Dr. Woodward) the only side characters who push needed the strangeness of Barnabas never being seen during the day? I can’t recall if there were others; but if so, it makes me wish very much that he and Julia would take advantage of the current transitory suppression of his vampyrism and make a point of being seen by everyone while out and about in the sunshine.

    1. “push needed?” This isn’t the first time my Kindle has been possessed right before I hit ‘post comment’ but I swear it only ever happens when I’m using the keyboard to comment here.

      I wonder what I actually typed up there. “Noticed” fits but how did it become “push needed”?

      Must’ve been Sarah or another eighteenth century ghost to prove so clumsy with touchscreen typing…

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