“Julia — what if he’s some kind of a monster?”
The story so far: Barnabas Collins isn’t a vampire anymore. He got cured, and he wants to stay cured. But the bloodlust is returning, as it usually does, and the witch who originally cursed him keeps giving him dirty looks, so last week, he did something even more reckless than usual. He got his pal Julia to complete the late Dr. Lang’s botched experiments, and try to transfer Barnabas’ life force into the empty shell of the doctor’s patchwork Frankenstein creation.
Obviously, this is a foolproof plan, as these fools have just proved. The experiment ended prematurely, with only part of Barnabas’ life force going into the creature. And now something new and terrible is unleashed upon the world.
I’d like to say that he has his mother’s eyes and his father’s nose, but he was pieced together from scavenged corpses, and it’s hard to trace where all the bits came from with any degree of certainty.
This is a Sam Hall script today, by the way, which is nice. We’ve just heard the sad news of Sam’s passing over the weekend, so it seems appropriate to be watching one of his episodes today.
This story is a good example of something that Sam brings to the show, more than anyone else — the ability to push the characters in a surprising new direction. Other writers might be comfortable keeping the characters swimming in circles around the goldfish bowl, but not Sam. He has one of the greatest gifts that a television writer can have: He gets bored.
So I don’t know what kind of show you guys were planning on watching, but as of now, Dark Shadows is the story of the two most selfish people on Earth, raising an enormous, terrifying child.
So here they are, the New Normal: a vampire, his mad scientist gal pal and their very own Frankenchild. Adam is a new life form, and he’s already 6’6″, so good luck finding a car seat for him.
At least he’s already got a nice set of clothes, including a snazzy sport coat and a turtleneck sweater. Apparently there was a phase of the experiment that involved buying the headless, inanimate corpse-monster a full outfit, including shoes. That must have been quite a shopping trip. Although they assembled him out of previously-owned parts, so maybe the shoes just came with the feet.
Now, everybody on the show is going to make a big deal about how hideous Adam is, but obviously he’s Hollywood ugly, which is to say: Gorgeous, with glasses.
In Adam’s case, the big flaw is supposed to be the stitches holding him together, which I guess might be a problem if you already know a bunch of tall, handsome guys who don’t know what “kissing” means yet. Personally, I could always use another one of those around the house, if nobody else wants him.
I mean, if I wasn’t married and he wasn’t fictional, I would take steps. That’s all I’m saying.
Anyway, the dude’s been alive for a little over a minute, and they’re already giving him an assessment, like they’re worried that he won’t get into a good preschool.
Julia: What does he understand?
Barnabas: I don’t know, Julia. I don’t think he can talk. He didn’t say anything. And as he stood up, he seemed to be dizzy. Perhaps he can’t walk, or move properly. Julia — what if he’s some kind of a monster?
And, oh, wouldn’t it be great if we could get somebody to say that to a new parent, the first time you see their baby? “I don’t think he can talk. Perhaps he can’t walk, or move properly. What if he’s some kind of a monster?” I would pay cash money to see that.
And the wonderful thing about Dark Shadows is that they’re playing this absolutely straight. This isn’t a self-aware spoof of well-trod genre tropes. They’re acting like people who have never seen anything like this before, and they’re genuinely trying to figure out what to do.
Julia: Move away from him, Barnabas.
Barnabas: Well, what would that prove?
Julia: I want to see if he trusts us.
Barnabas: And that would show you?
Julia: It’ll give an indication.
That makes about as much sense as anything else, so they give it a whirl. Barnabas stands on the other side of the room, and Adam shuffles to follow him, knocking over a stool on the way.
“Exactly what a child would do, learning to walk,” Julia says, which makes you wonder what kind of kids she’s been hanging out with.
She dangles a shiny bracelet in front of him, and lets him snatch it out of her hand.
He plays with the bracelet, examining it closely and shaking it to make a jangling noise.
And, oh my god, do we even need to have a rest of the episode? We could spend the next twenty minutes just watching Adam play with a bracelet, and I would be totally fine with that.
It’s 3:30 in the afternoon; there’s no way that The Edge of Night is more fun than this. If he starts to lose focus, just throw him another accessory.
But it looks like Adam’s getting frustrated about not being able to communicate with them, so they start making questionable child care decisions.
Barnabas: You must calm him!
Julia: I’ll give him a sedative; then he’ll sleep for several hours.
Barnabas: Yes, yes!
Julia: Then we’ll decide what to do.
This is a typical Julia decision; in her experience, almost anything can be solved with a sedative. That’s why she’s ahead of the curve on this; it doesn’t usually occur to new parents for at least a couple weeks.
So one thing that I like about this story is that it’s a very practical problem. There’s a new creature loose in the world, and they’re not sure what to do with him.
Barnabas and Julia’s usual bag of tricks won’t work here. They can’t threaten Adam, or lie to him, or make a deal with him. Barnabas can’t bite him, and Julia can’t hypnotize him.
They’re completely out of their depth, just like new parents always are, and it’s only been a few minutes. Just wait until they realize that they’re going to have to start saving for college tuition.
Tomorrow: The Terrible Twos.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
At the start of the teaser, Julia is fiddling with knobs. She looks up to get a stage direction, and we can see someone’s arm sweep across the bottom right corner of the screen, to give her a cue.
The repeat of Friday’s cliffhanger is different in a couple respects. At the end of Friday’s episode, Adam was still covered with a sheet. In today’s episode, Julia chooses a moment when the camera’s not on her to whip the sheet off and reveal Adam in his new outfit.
At the end of the teaser, Barnabas looks at Adam and cries, “You are alive!” without completing the line, as he did on Friday, with “We’re both alive.” Also, a little fleck of spittle flies from his mouth as he says that line.
Barnabas cries, “Julia, you’re right, if that pleases you! Now, we must discover — decide what we’re going to do with him!”
In the middle of Julia’s line about giving Adam a sedative, she coughs.
In the final scene, when Adam starts chasing Julia, you can see a crew member’s head at the bottom of the screen.
Tomorrow: The Terrible Twos.
— Danny Horn