“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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
— Danny Horn