“It is so complex that no one could do it before you. Now, think about that.”
For the last several weeks, Adam’s been threatening to kill Vicki if he doesn’t get his way. At press time, he hasn’t gotten his way, so it’s probably best if he just kills her now, and then we can all move on.
So he sneaks into her room while she’s sleeping, and just reaches out and strangles the life out of her. She doesn’t scream, or even struggle very hard. She just kind of sighs and breathes heavy for a second, and that’s it. Vicki was an idiot.
So, that’s that; the Collins family is now minus one governess. I guess they’ll have to put an ad on Craigslist or something.
I mean, there is obviously no way that she could have survived this attack. Adam is an enormous Frankenstein creature; it’s been established that he can bend steel bars just by giving them a stern look. Even for a soap heroine, there’s no way that Vicki could maintain structural integrity under these circumstances. She’s just not built for it.
It’s quite a grisly little scene, actually, because it happens so quickly. She doesn’t really get a chance to react. She was sleeping, and then Adam put his hands around her neck, and now she’s dead, and she doesn’t even know what’s going on.
Alarmed about Adam’s intentions, Barnabas rouses Carolyn, and they pile into Vicki’s room to perform whatever the opposite of first aid is.
They find her lying on the bed, freshly strangled, and the first thing they do is pick her up by the shoulders and jostle her into a more pleasing visual arrangement. This is going to do wonders for her spinal cord injury.
Carolyn hurries off to fetch Julia, and Barnabas looks off into space and has a little thinks monologue on the subject of whether this is his fault or not. They still haven’t checked Vicki’s vitals, by the way. I guess they never really liked her that much in the first place.
Carolyn goes downstairs to call the police, but she’s interrupted by Nicholas, the Satanic wizard who isn’t staying at Collinwood anymore, and should really have a better reason for why he’s hanging around in the foyer, getting in the way of emergency services.
Carolyn tells him about the attack, and says that Adam’s out of control. They’re about four assaults in on Adam’s attempted-murder spree, and it’s probably a good idea to get the monster out of the house before he breaks somebody that we like.
But Nicholas has recently signed on as Adam’s agent, and he provides an alibi, claiming that he and Adam were playing chess together for the last two hours.
Carolyn instantly believes Nicholas, and fair enough — she doesn’t know any reason why he would lie. But that means there’s still a killer loose inside the house, and she doesn’t seem particularly interested in identifying any other suspects. As far as she’s concerned, if it’s not Adam, then it must have been some kind of misunderstanding.
By the time Carolyn returns to the scene of the crime, Julia’s already been and gone — the invisible off-screen soap doctor who doesn’t actually appear in this episode.
Barnabas tells Carolyn that Vicki’s alive, but she’s in shock. I am too, actually; our lame Frankenstein monster can’t even kill a governess at point-blank range.
He doesn’t really know how to make a getaway, either; he just goes upstairs to his room and sulks. This is not a high-quality monster reaction.
I guess the audience is still supposed to think that he’s conflicted about violence, so that he can maintain his status as a character that we care about, but it’s not an easy sell. Adam’s whole shtick used to be that he didn’t realize what he was doing when he lost his temper, but they’ve been riding that horse for so long that it’s collapsing under the weight.
Two weeks ago, Adam started playing chess, which was a remarkable moment where they tried to leave the old Frankenstein cliches behind. But Nicholas is supposed to be the real mastermind behind this operation, so Adam still ends up reduced to being the dumb muscle, rather than a strategic thinker.
Unfortunately, Nicholas’ management skills are also kind of questionable at the moment. We see him scolding Adam for trying to kill Vicki, but where has Nicholas been for the last couple weeks?
It’s up to Adam to fill Nicholas in on the latest plot development — that Barnabas has chosen Maggie to be the sacrificial victim in their Bride of Frankenstein mad science experiment, giving her “life force” so Adam’s new mate can live.
Nicholas has a crush on Maggie, so he’s furious about this, but it’s a hollow moment. If Nicholas is the manipulative wizard running the show, then he should have known that they spent a good chunk of last week discussing this.
Dude, you have a magic mirror that can show you anything that’s going on at the Old House. You should have been on top of this. It’s just irresponsible.
But it’s not that hard for him to catch up. When Carolyn shows up, she actually apologizes to Adam for even considering that he might have strangled Vicki. This is a level of plot-mandated gullibility that actually threatens to break the show.
There are three big problems with this storyline right now. I am going to enumerate them, and then I’m going to go hunt up some analgesics, because it’s only Monday and I already have a headache.
Problem number one is the lack of consequences. They actually opened the week with the murder of a main character — and ten minutes later, everyone’s back to starting positions. Vicki’s not dead, and Adam’s not even being blamed for the assault.
Now, I’m not complaining that Adam hurt somebody and isn’t expressing any noticeable remorse. It’s true that today’s felony places Adam squarely in the villain column, but that’s fine. Fantasy-adventure stories need villains, and villains are supposed to do villainous things.
The consequences issue is that Adam basically just killed Vicki, and it hardly even registers as a plot point. There’s no investigation, no confession, and no character development; it’s just a thing that happened, and we can all forget about it.
Problem number two is that we’re still stuck in Adam’s little third-floor hideout. I can hardly even remember what life was like before Adam was holed up here in this abandoned west-wing suite. This plotline hasn’t changed much in the last several weeks, and it’s giving the audience time to dwell on all the refrigerator moments.
And problem number three is the women. I know that it’s odd to say, “This storyline about creating a female love-slave for a violent psychopath isn’t particularly strong on women’s issues,” but Dark Shadows isn’t just a fantasy-adventure story, where you can marginalize all the female characters and move on to the car chase. It’s also a soap opera, and soap operas are supposed to be about women, and women-related subjects like feelings and consequences.
But here we are, watching an episode of daytime television that begins with strangling a woman who doesn’t struggle or even cry out, and then the rest of the time is mostly Carolyn talking to a series of men who lie to her and boss her around.
This is a real problem, and it’s going to come up again. The Bride of Frankenstein story has turned into a reverse beauty pageant, where the guys get together and argue about which woman they’re going to sacrifice on the altar of mad science. This hot potato is going to be tossed around between Carolyn, Vicki and Maggie all week.
Julia is the one female character in the story who actually has agency of her own, but she’s kind of sidelined too — mostly just turning the knobs and flipping the switches while the guys decide whose life force they’re going to extract. The fact that they can have this whole episode with Julia off-camera pretty much says everything.
It’s going to be a rough week, folks, and I’ve already used up my Dark Shadows board game material. This might get ugly.
Tomorrow: In Which I Just Can’t Even With This.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In the teaser, when they cut from Vicki waking up to Barnabas in the hall, the camera on Barnabas swings wide, and it takes a second to get it under control.
When they’re in the hall trying to get into Vicki’s room, Barnabas asks Carolyn, “Are you sure there’s no other way to get in?” Vicki’s room was actually used as Josette’s room in the later part of the 1795 storyline, and Barnabas used a secret panel to get in and out of the room a couple of times.
Barnabas uses a key at Vicki’s door to push the key out of the lock on the other side. Carolyn looks at the studio for confirmation that the falling-key sound effect played, so they can go on with the scene.
When Barnabas frets over Vicki, he keeps talking and accidentally overlaps himself, as his thinks monologue begins.
Two weeks ago, Adam smashed through his door on his way out, upset over Carolyn’s rejection. Today, the door is magically fixed.
Nicholas says, “Adam is getting rather used to being blamed.” Adam shouts his next line, then trails off for the last word: “I AM NOT USED TO… it.”
Barnabas tells Adam, “Our bargain is to give you a life force.” He should have said, “to give you a mate.”
Tomorrow: In Which I Just Can’t Even With This.
— Danny Horn