Episode 560: Messing Around with Dead People

“I can’t stay around here while this thing is happening. It’s just too horrible.”

One of the rules of Dark Shadows is that there’s always something terrible happening in the Old House basement. The details change — it could be a vampire sleeping in a coffin, or a dead girl singing a nursery rhyme, or a patchwork corpse monster chained to the wall — but there’s always some kind of nightmare taking shape there, down among the dead men.

“Woe unto them,” as they say in the Book of Isaiah, “that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?” It’s like Isaiah knew Barnabas and Julia personally; that is exactly what they do.

Today, it’s Willie’s turn to say “Whoa” unto them. Let’s see how far that gets him.

560 dark shadows willie barnabas whoa

The current crisis is that Adam, our enormous adolescent Frankenstein man, has demanded that Barnabas and Julia create a mate for him, so that he won’t be lonely anymore. They’re not wild about the idea, to be honest, but Adam is threatening to kill pretty much everyone they know if they don’t go through with it, so the project is underway.

So that’s going to be our A story for the next couple of months: making a lady. You might as well go ahead and get comfortable with that.

Now somebody has to go out and get the raw materials. Barnabas has the most money and the deepest voice, so he’s project director. Julia is the doctor, so she needs to study up on her mad science journals. That means Willie has to grab a shovel, go out there and start digging up some local talent.

560 dark shadows willie won't

But Willie says no. Bless the boy, he still thinks that there’s a limit to the depth that a Dark Shadows character can sink. Barnabas and Julia can say whatever they want, but he’s not going to snatch bodies from their graves.

Barnabas already has a threat all lined up — if Willie doesn’t do as he’s told, then Julia will send him back to Windcliff, permanently. But Willie stands his ground.

Willie:  Okay. You go ahead and do it.

Barnabas:  Willie — you know that you don’t want to spend the rest of your life in a mental institution.

Willie:  That’s right, I don’t. But I’d rather go back there than mess around with dead people!

560 dark shadows willie julia mom

The conflict doesn’t really get resolved, so later, Willie approaches Julia in the basement to see if he can get anywhere with her alone. Essentially, he’s talking to his mom after his father already said no.

Several months ago, when Adam was chained up in the basement, we started to see Willie acting like an older brother who resented having to babysit the new kid. That dynamic has completely settled in by now — in every way that matters, Willie is now Barnabas and Julia’s son.

And, as often happens in a family — they’re stuck with each other.

Willie:  What you’re trying to do, Julia — it’s crazy.

Julia:  Willie, I never thought that I’d be involved in anything like this… but I am.

Willie:  I mean — putting parts of dead people together! It isn’t only crazy, it’s wrong!

Julia:  I no longer know what is right, or wrong. I only know what is necessary.

Her voice sounds hollow. She doesn’t really understand what she’s doing anymore.

560 dark shadows willie julia thinks

And she can’t do it; she can’t go through with the threat to send him back to Windcliff. For her, at least, the family dynamic is strong enough that she can’t look him in the eye and say that she’s going to have him committed to a mental institution.

She says, “But Willie, where will you go?” And it turns out that he doesn’t know. He can’t stay here, and be a part of this gruesome business — but he honestly can’t think of a single other place in the world.

560 dark shadows barnabas joe visit

Meanwhile, upstairs, Joe’s come over for a visit. A little while ago, Barnabas took Joe to the hospital after he was attacked by Adam and left for dead, and Joe is still innocent enough in the ways of Collinsport to think that Barnabas did him a favor. In fact, Barnabas was just covering up another crime, because that’s what he does, pretty much 24/7.

560 dark shadows joe note

While he’s here, Joe asks if Barnabas knows anything about Nicholas Blair. Joe met Nicholas last night at Maggie’s house, and they didn’t exactly hit it off.

Joe:  I got sort of a strange note from him this morning.

Barnabas:  What does it say?

Joe:  Well, he wants me to come to his house at seven this evening. He says he wants to talk to me.

Barnabas:  What about?

Joe:  I don’t know; it doesn’t say. It just says, “Please come to my house at seven.” I can’t imagine what he wants to see me about.

560 dark shadows joe barnabas seven

Now, that doesn’t seem very mysterious to me; I think it’s perfectly obvious why someone would ask Joe to come over in the evening. If I’d known it was this easy, I would have sent Joe a note a long time ago.

560 dark shadows barnabas willie family

Anyway, back to Willie. It’s been a while since I’ve written an entry like this, just hopping from one scene to another, without really having a thematic through-line for the whole piece. This feels very “episode guide” to me today, which I usually try to avoid, because anybody can do an episode guide, and I’d rather have something useful to say.

But today’s episode is stuffed with interesting little character moments. They’re not all pointing in the same direction, but they’re all worth paying attention to, and I don’t want to skip anything, because it’s setting up things that I want to talk about next week.

I think there’s a word for an episode like that. It’s called a good episode. I’d forgotten what those were like.

560 dark shadows barnabas willie episode

So, what the hell. Today’s episode is all about people getting pressured to do things that they don’t want to do. I might as well just bite the bullet, and write the episode guide that I appear to be condemned to write today.

Because I’m not going anywhere, and neither is Willie. Julia said he can leave, but Barnabas knows all the buttons he can push.

Barnabas:  Willie, did you ever stop to think of what might happen to Maggie if you were to leave? What if Adam found out that you refused to help with the experiment? He would be very angry with you… and he might take out his anger on Maggie.

Willie:  He doesn’t know anything about Maggie and me.

Barnabas:  He saw you together, didn’t he? And didn’t he once try to kill Maggie? Well, if he tried to kill her once, he could try to do it again — if you angered him.

This is nonsense, of course. Adam would never think of using Maggie to make Willie stay, unless Barnabas specifically recommended it, which is basically what he’s threatening to do.

So when you get right down to it, there’s essentially no difference between Barnabas, Nicholas and Adam. They each have a slightly different agenda, but they all use the same toolkit. Adam threatens Barnabas with killing Vicki; Barnabas threatens Willie with killing Maggie. Nicholas pretends that he just wants to have a chat with Joe, and Barnabas pretends that he doesn’t know that Joe is walking into a trap.

The idea that Barnabas and Julia are creating “a race of monsters” is hardly even worth worrying about. These people are a race of monsters. It’s hard to imagine that they could reanimate anything that’s worse than the characters we already have on the show.

Monday: The Big Sleep.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

In act 1, Barnabas urges Julia to go through with the experiment, “for the sake of every member of the Collinwood family.”

At the end of act 1, Willie backs up against a pillar in the Old House drawing room, and the pillar wobbles.

In act 3, Barnabas tells Willie, “You can’t lie — leave here, and you know it.”

Monday: The Big Sleep.

560 dark shadows barnabas willie pressure

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

22 thoughts on “Episode 560: Messing Around with Dead People

  1. I always hit a a bump in the road with Frankenstein stories because I can’t figure out why they have to dig up multiple bodies and piece them together. Do mad scientists love jigsaw puzzles? Are they trying to improve their sewing skills? I suppose on DS, it is possible Lang tried it with an entire body and got the “the dead must rest” speech, but otherwise why not just snag the freshest body and go?

    1. Well, my theory is that Lang was studying tissue rejection – in a spectacular way. Sew different parts together, and depress the immune response by an undisclosed method of his own invention…

  2. I think Barnabas will always be ‘ticked off’ at Maggie because in his delusional mind she ‘rejected’ him and he’s used to women falling at his feet and being willing to die for him. That’s why I’m really glad he’ll be getting his soon..

    1. Ooh, what an intriguing theory, Joanne. Really explains why Barnabas keeps ‘volunteering’ Maggie for the experiment. It seems so petty and vindictive … And that is Barnabas.

      1. Also as we get into the episodes where Maggie takes over as governess and Barnabas assumes control of Collinwood there are some interactions where he is really ‘bossy and snippy’ with her as he gives her orders to pack the children for they’re trip to Boston. The things you catch when you have the ability of watching and dissecting these episodes at your leisure.

  3. Despite that Willie is no longer the main caretaker for Barnabas, the role which has been taken over by Julia, Willie still performs an important function by being the voice of something Barnabas does not have a grasp of despite his rehumanized state: his conscience. And because in these instances Willie is voicing the deepest concerns of the viewer, when Barnabas threatens Willie with the usual ultimatum he is also threatening the viewer.

    Barnabas: If you really don’t like watching me the way I am, you know the alternative, don’t you?

    Viewer: Yeah, I know.

    Barnabas: I could have you sent back to General Hospital for the rest of your afternoons, or you might be forced to watch a game show, and you know that would be a fate far worse than when the television stations shut down for the night.

    Viewer: Alright. Whatever you do, I’m behind ya.

    1. I think Barnabas and Julia has become Willie’s kids. And Willie keeps Barnabas in check about his feelings for Julia and the way he should be treating her. He get the message too. Julia at this point classifies Willie as the child and Barnabas as the resident idiot.

  4. Willie is suddenly awfully squeamish for a voluntary grave robber.

    Julia can change from the slightly sinister heavy she was originally because the overall backstory can remain the same (doctor who came to Collinwood, discovered Barnabas was a vampire and tried to cure him). But the “reboot” of Willie as slightly touched good ole boy wobbles a bit when you consider his role in the show’s history. This is a guy who thought nothing about violating a tomb for profit.

    I think this was the major challenge with Willie on the 1991 DS. They wanted to present the Willie we’re seeing now but he was simultaneously a drunken lout who tries to steal the family jewels.

    When Barnabas was the primary antagonist, Willie did function somewhat as the “Jiminy Cricket,” as Willie’s former actions paled next to the evil vampire’s. But you could still believe he was the same man we first met. I think a version of that character would have been fun to watch. Freed from Barnabas’s control, he would have been a potential loose cannon. I could see him functioning somewhat as Harry Johnson does.

    1. But the “reboot” of Willie as slightly touched good ole boy wobbles a bit when you consider his role in the show’s history. This is a guy who thought nothing about violating a tomb for profit.

      Since violating a tomb for profit ended up with him being a slave to a vampire, and getting shot trying to save Maggie’s life, his queasiness in this case may be more because he’s gun shy. Who knows what he might dig up this time? I do agree that the heel turn into Jiminy Cricket is not totally justified, but they need someone to point out that this is a bad idea because it’s wrong and Julia and Barnabas aren’t going to do it, so Willie gets to point out the problems.

      I can hand wave the idea that between being Barnabas’ slave, almost dying trying to warn Maggie and undergoing who knows what “treatments” at Windcliff, Willie could have been changed, if only because he suffered mild brain damage because of all that. I can also see that grabbing jewels and gold from the coffin of someone who died hundreds of years ago and is simply a skeleton is fairly different from grabbing body parts and hoping that they are either fresh enough that they haven’t started to decompose, or that the funeral home did a good enough job embalming the person that nothing is rotting. Plus stealing stuff off a dead man that hasn’t been missed in 200 years is not the same as grabbing an extra arm or leg from a coffin. Willie would pick a person’s pocket, but he wouldn’t beat them up, or shoot them to get their wallet. (To be fair, I don’t remember Willie pre-Barnabas that much. Maybe he would shoot people for money?)

      1. Willie was definitely a loose canon pre-Barnabas, starting bar fights, threatening someone with a broken bottle, and almost raping Carolyn – so really, beating someone up to get their wallet wouldn’t have been much of a stretch. And I could totally see old Willie digging up body parts if there was some money in it for him. But I do think that everything the character has been through post-Barnabas is enough to warrant a change of heart – or at the very least, to approach things more cautiously than he used to.

    2. Yeah, I was wondering about Willie being squeamish about grave robbing. But Willie’s intentions were to open an old tomb, grab some jewels off a decayed fossil, close up the coffin again, and run away with the valuables in his pockets. His current task is to dig up the recently-dead, pull the bloody remains out of a casket, and carry the whole mess around with him. Most people wouldn’t want to do either job, but I could understand if someone who’d be willing to do the former might draw the line at the latter.

  5. Whenever there’s some dirty work to be done, Barnabas Collins volunteers someone else.

    (Personally, I’m glad he and Julia are “a race of monsters”. The bad characters are so much more interesting than the good characters. Imagine how dull the show would have been if every character had been like Victoria Winters! )

  6. Big blooper–When Barnabas is telling Willie that he must help them get dead bodies and Willie balks, Barnabas says, “There’s no way out for you.” Then he just stops speaking and stares off in another direction. Barnabas is clearly supposed to say something else–threaten Willie with commitment to Windcliff–but he doesn’t say his line. Then Willie fills in Barnabas’s line for him (off screen): “What are you saying, Barnabas? That you’re going to send me back to Windcliff?” (There’s no reason for Willie to have magically pulled that idea out of his hat.) Barnabas then says, “Yes, that’s right,” and goes on to say how Julia will commit him permanently.

  7. Angelique barely keeping it together at the mere thought of Joe speaks to me on a very primal level…

  8. Absolutely KILLER suit on Julia today! It more than makes up for Maggie’s Judy Jetson dress yesterday.

    Angelique the vampire is much, much sexier than Angelique the witch ever was. The hair, those eyes, the delicious “granny” outfits…everything is perfect. And her approach – “I need you! Protect me!” – is irresistible to the average heterosexual male. Poor Joe never had a chance.

  9. Adam just like everything else would have to be trained where even if he was on his best behavior & willing, would have cause more damage to his cause for many reasons such as he might be spotted by the police or someone, including Carolyn, as they have recently called the police onto the grounds since Jennings attack.

  10. When it comes to Frankenstein’s monsters, I always wonder about the internal organs. Sewing limbs to a torso and a head to a neck would be child’s play compared to acquiring and hooking up innards. Another concern is the embalming fluid, which is pretty deadly stuff. Julia has quite a challenge ahead of her.

  11. Boy would I like to be in Angelique’s shoes, cuddling up to sexy Joe and nibbling on his neck. Also, why is Vampire Angelique dressing like a hostess at a cocktail party ?

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