Episode 666: The Second Coming

“I know what I’m saying, Julia, he’s out there, Barnabas is out in the mausoleum, and he’s alive! He’s alive!”

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned…
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

Or, to put it another way:

“If you believe,” he shouted, “clap your hands! Don’t let Tink die.”

666 dark shadows ben barnabas yelling

And so we have come, for the second time, to the dying days of the 1795 storyline. Barnabas Collins, the once-and-future vampire and self-appointed timecop, has taken it upon himself to rescue girl governess Victoria Winters from the natural consequences of her deeply flawed life decisions, and all that remains is for him to re-penetrate the barrier of time and space, and get back to the rest of us, here in 1969.

The problem is, he didn’t arrange for a ride home, and for some reason his time travel app isn’t working. Yes, he tried standing in a graveyard, staring into space and yelling at Julia, obviously he did that, duh, it’s the very first thing he thought of. It just didn’t work. So he’s booked a trip to the future the old-fashioned way, by sealing himself up in a tomb and waiting for a wake-up call.

666 dark shadows nathan natalie coffin

And then along comes mere anarchy loosed upon the world, in the form of two amateur vampire hunters, wielding a hammer and stake. It’s your typical buddy cop scenario, a tough-as-nails French countess partnering up with a cocky young Naval lieutenant who doesn’t play by the rules.

666 dark shadows ben natalie murder

But it all works out okay, in the sense that Barnabas’ servant Ben murders Natalie and Nathan and buries them in shallow, unmarked graves, which is the only way that anybody on Dark Shadows ever solves a problem.

This is helpful, because originally Natalie survived this storyline, and if you’re in the make-believe Shakespearean tragedy biz, then you want to inflate the body count as much as you can. It’s just one more corpse on the pile, but every little bit helps.

666 dark shadows willie julia believe

Meanwhile, 173 years later, it’s nearly 7:30pm. This is about as far as you can stretch the word “meanwhile” without snapping it in half, but Dr. Julia Hoffman is an all-state narrative wrestling champion, and she hasn’t lost a match yet.

She was with Barnabas when he hitched a ride to the late 18th, and he told her that he’d try to come back the next night at 8:00 sharp. They both seem to be under the impression that they can synch up their timelines if they show up at the same spot at the same time of day, and apparently on Dark Shadows anything you say about time travel is automatically true. We are playing nothing but Calvinball these days.

Willie’s not having it. “How can a sensible woman accept the fact that Barnabas has gone back 200 years?” he shouts. “I mean, it doesn’t make sense!”

“No, it doesn’t, Willie,” Julia admits, pulling on her coat. “But I must believe it. I saw him disappear, Willie. I must believe that my being at that graveyard at eight o’clock will bring him back.”

Then she gives him another in her endless series of significant looks. And if you ever need a significant look to drive home a lunatic plot contrivance, then Julia is the man for the job.

666 dark shadows willie portrait barnabas

As Julia hurries away to her appointment, Willie looks at the portrait of Barnabas, and he does something that Dark Shadows characters almost never do: he remembers something that happened more than six months ago.

Willie (thinks):  You can’t tell me about Barnabas, Willie. Not one thing. You remember the night you went to the mausoleum hunting the jewels, huh? You remember that first night? Yeah, and his hand… His hand came out of the coffin and grabbed you? Well, you didn’t believe that while it was happening. But it did, Willie. Maybe you can’t go back in time, but Barnabas? Barnabas isn’t like anyone else!

Willie has started addressing himself in the third person pretty much full-time by now. I don’t think there’s anything we can do about it.

210 dark shadows willie coffin

But there’s an interesting trend towards developing a long-term memory for the show. This week’s trip back to 1795 has been all about reminding people of the good old days of last April, back when Barnabas was a vampire and the show made some kind of basic sense.

Now Willie’s rewinding even farther, all the way back to the very first episode of the show, when he opened up the mystery box.

(Note for historians and nitpickers: yes, I’m aware of the mystery surrounding the first episode, which is commonly known as “episode 210” for some reason that archeologists are still trying to explain. But what the hell, if we’re playing Calvinball, I might as well join in.)

666 dark shadows willie julia concentrate

Anyway, while we’ve been dawdling, Julia’s been out here on the moors, arching her eyebrows as far as they can arch, and launching text messages into the atmosphere.

This is one of those fruitless ghost-communication Garfield Minus Garfield situations, where all we hear is Julia’s side of the conversation — but Barnabas was doing the same thing on Friday from the other direction, so here’s what it would sound like if you mixed them together.

Barnabas, where are you?
Hear me!
Can’t you feel me willing you back?
Hear my voice echoing through the centuries!
Can’t you?
Hear me, and draw me to you!
Hear me, Barnabas!
Hear my voice!
Come back to us!
Draw me forward in time!
Let me see you!
Let me return to you!
Reach out to me!
Hear my voice! Hear me!
Give us a sign!
Draw me to you!
Barnabas, please!
Drawwww me to you!

It doesn’t work, obviously, because it’s not enough if Julia is the only one clapping her hands. The kids in the audience have to help, too.

666 dark shadows julia willie magical thinking

And so, continuing the parade of magical thinking, Willie suddenly decides that Barnabas must have given up on the graveyard, and found another way home. He pitches his idea to Julia, who gives him a remarkably honest assessment.

Willie:  Hey, Julia — what if he comes back the way I found him? You know, in the mausoleum, in the secret room? Well, why not?

Julia:  Because he told me to meet him at the grave.

Willie:  Yeah, Julia, but maybe he didn’t know! Maybe he thought it was that way, but it wasn’t!

Julia:  Willie, that makes no sense!

Willie:  Well, I don’t care if it does or it doesn’t, I’m gonna go to the mausoleum anyway!

666 dark shadows willie julia excited

And look at his little face, all lit up like a Christmas tree. This is what it looks like when you believe in fairies. Willie can’t wait to get out there, and defile the dead.

Dark Shadows has invoked its past — both 1796 and 1967 — in order to banish it completely. It’s time to pop open the mystery box, and loose whatever’s in there that needs loosing.

We can bring Barnabas back to life, powered by our belief in candles and costumes and Chromakey. Clap your hands, boys and girls, and raise the dead from their slumber, just one more time.

666 dark shadows barnabas raise the dead

The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Tomorrow: Take the Actors, Please.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

When Ben shoves Nathan against the wall, the mausoleum wobbles.

Ben has a little trouble closing the coffin lid on Barnabas.

They need Grayson Hall to play Natalie in the mausoleum scene in act 1, and playing Julia immediately after. They must have pretaped the first scene, which gave them more freedom to edit the tape. There are at least three edits in the scene. After the first edit, Natalie says “You killed him!” a second time.

When Willie notices that the tombstones are gone, there’s a branch dangling in front of his face. After about ten seconds, he brushes the leaves away.

There’s another lighting problem today. When Barnabas is doing his “I feel the need for blood” routine, his face is in shadow.

There’s a candelabra with blue candles in the mausoleum’s secret room in 1796. When Willie comes look in the coffin, the candelabra is still there. I don’t think we’ve seen it before in the present day, but time is all screwed up at this point.

The camera moves a couple times during Josette’s appearance, which makes the Chromakey effect a bit silly.

When Willie sees Josette’s ghost, Julia is waiting at the top of the stairs, waiting for her cue. The camera’s at the wrong angle, and we can see the bottom of her skirt peeking into the frame. The camera operator notices the problem a couple seconds later, and the camera adjusts.

Behind the Scenes:

Josette’s ghost is played by Natalie Norwick, a background actress who appears in six episodes. We last saw her in June 1968, when Josette’s ghost sobbed in front of the basement wall where Barnabas was entombed. We’ll see her again in March, when she subs in for Edith’s hands.

Florence Stanley did the sobbing they use for Josette’s ghost; this is the fourth and last time this recording was used. Stanley’s crying first appeared in episode 4, in June 1966.

Tomorrow: Take the Actors, Please.

666 dark shadows calvinball

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

22 thoughts on “Episode 666: The Second Coming

  1. In this episode and later when Barnabas returns to 1897, he is depicted as “awake” in his chained coffin and trying to escape. I guess this is just an aspect of the time travel, because the general assumption is that he was in some sort of suspended animation until Willie opened the coffin. Joshua says as much in the last episode of 1795.

    I also like how the writers decided to basically make Willie a modern-day Ben with only a few minor tweaks. It makes no actual sense, as Barnabas, when human, was kind to Ben and developed a true friendship, which is not the relationship we saw between him and Willie in 1967. But I think they realize that a “vampire support system” of a Renfeld and a doctor who’s in love with him works better narratively.

    1. The unlikely change in Barnabas’ treatment of and overall demeanor toward Willie probably has more to do with John Karlen’s as well as Jonathan Frid’s fan mail than anything else. During his 1969 Merv Griffin appearance Frid relates how in a fan letter he was once chided by a young viewer who thought he shouldn’t be so mean to Willie because he’d heard Willie saying some nice things about him recently.

      Likewise, the fact that the Julia Hoffman character survived beyond the thirteen weeks that was originally planned was because of the volume of fan mail that began pouring in for Grayson Hall. Otherwise, if writer Joe Caldwell had had his way, she would have been upended into a vat of acid courtesy of Barnabas in revenge for having botched the vampire cure experiment that wound up aging him.

      Unlike others in the business, Dan Curtis was a guy who made casting decisions based on the graffiti etched by fans on the wall outside the television studio.

    2. I don’t actually like the idea of Barnabas sleeping through the ages. He’s a bloodthirsty immortal creature chained up in a box to slow down his brutal mass murder spree. It doesn’t have to be pleasant. I think he woke up every evening and tried to claw his way out.

      For Willie — yeah, the audience liked him, and the idea of a Barnabas/Julia/Willie “family” exerts a gravitational pull. If we need an in-universe explanation, then how about: He was beaten, tortured and forced to do terrible things for six months, and then locked up in a sanitarium. Upon his release, he was forced back into service under threat of being locked up for the rest of his life. Willie has created a sentimental fantasy past for himself, to help him survive in this supernatural murder cult that he’s trapped in.

      1. Brilliant theory, DH. Of course, Willie isn’t the only one creating a sentimental fantasy to survive a supernatural murder cult. That’s why I read Dark Shadows Every Day.

      2. As we will see later on as the show progresses, Barnabas has the power to disappear into thin air and reappear someplace else. I always wondered why he didn’t just do that whenever he got bored or desperate for blood if he was awake all those years in the coffin. I like to think he was kept at bay because of the cross affixed to the inside of the coffin (at least I think Joshua said he did that.) Suspended animation sounds right in this case because the thought of Barnabas trying to claw out of there every night for centuries makes me feel he would have come out a little bit crazy when Willie released him. Not just “brainwash a girl to be your long lost love crazy”, but more along the lines of “talking to people who aren’t there” crazy. Like Jenny in the tower. Can’t wait for her. 🙂

        1. My not very timely response to you 2015 comment, Jayson, is, as you mentioned, that the all-important cross that Joshua ordered Ben to “affix” to the inside of the coffin lid prevented Barnabas from moving in any significant way, effectively paralyzing him, and, we are led to believe, unable to dematerialize and escape his coffin while it remains closed. In fact, while in his coffin, a vampire’s usually super abilities may also be nullified at least until the box is opened. It’s part of the magical effects of the curse and the coffin’s special protective and limiting quality.

          It always puzzled me that whenever the chained coffin is mentioned AFTER Joshua orders Ben to secure it, that it’s made to seem that it’s the chains that hold and imprison him, which is wrong.

          For one thing, didn’t Barnabas possess a certain amount of superhuman ability? Remember when rooms were ransacked and by someone with otherworldly strength during the early story of Maggie Evans’s illness and disappearance? The very clear intention was to convey the fact that Barnabas possessed such strength that mere bars in a window or chains around a coffin wouldn’t stop or contain him. No, it was the cross facing him while the lid was closed that kept Barnabas in check. The chains, then, were to keep anyone from gaining easy access to the coffin, who could then open the coffin and allow Barnabas’ bejeweled hand and frilly-shirted wrist to snap up to grip the throat of the unwary intruder.

          This was emphasized “later” in 1897 when Count Petofi had Barnabas captive in his lair for a time, simply by having a cross placed on his chest. Even when the coffin was opened for the occasional negotiation scene between Petofi and Barney, there was no threat that Barnabas could easily trundle his way out of the box while the cross sat on his chest.

          The writers, and some fans, tend to forget these points, and seem to think the vampire isn’t strong enough to break the chains on his own if not restrained by the far more effective steel cross facing him inside the box. The chains aren’t the thing, it’s the well placed cross that keeps him in his place.

          So, Jayson from 2015, your analysis is spot on, I think, including with the thought that Barnabas might be in a kind of suspended animation while inside with the cross, except when a plot need allows him to awake enough summon a Willy or a Sandor to his secret room.

      3. I agree with you completely from a poetic-justice standpoint. However, if he woke up every night for 175 years but survived until the next day without biting someone, that pretty much negates all the claims we hear that Barnabas HAS to drink blood because he needs it to survive. If he can go 175 years without blood, then he has no excuse for killing anyone, ever.

  2. It’s fitting that Florence Stanley had a small part on the show, since Abe Vigoda also did, and they later played one of the great sitcom couples, Phil and Bernice Fish on BARNEY MILLER.
    Of course, she did a lot of other voices, and things like FAMILY GUY and the sitcom DINOSAURS.

  3. Sadly, this is our last glimpse of Joel Crothers on DS, too. But he left as Lt. Nathan Forbes, USN; and even though he was trying to put a stake in our ‘hero’, Barnabas, in order to save his own skin, he was trying (on some level) to do the right thing too.

  4. Another (sort of) blooper is that Barnabas cooks up a cover story that Natalie had to leave suddenly to go to Paris. Paris in 1796 is the very last place a French countess would be rushing off to.

  5. As johnny-come-lately said a little higher up any extra Nathan Forbes is a good day. You did such a lovely wrap up post for Joel Crothers earlier on. Thank you so much for posting the interview that mentions that he truly enjoyed playing Nathan Forbes. I think it showed. We lost Joel too young.

  6. I loathed the Johnny Depp “DS” movie, but recall one interesting (in the context of this post) aspect.

    When “Barnabas” was back in the coffin for about five minutes, he had no idea of how much time had passed; he thought (iirc) it could have been a century when it was a mere few minutes. Some sort of timeless, suspended state was evidently what was experienced when inside the coffin.

    Our Barnabas appears to be quite pissed off about being trapped in there again, but if the timeless suspension sleep was the case, it would make his decision to be chained up again more understandable; a quick nap and Willie and Julia will be here in no time…

  7. To make a bold and nonsensical claim: During Willie’s “Barnabas isn’t like anyone else” scene, he unlocks his true potential by joining Julia outside the narrative. It’s a simple rule in Dark Shadows, that generally humans live within the narrative structure, while supernatural characters exist in the metanarrative. Roger and Elizabeth and Burke Devlin must obey the rules of reality. Barnabas and Angelique are bound only by the rules of broadcast television, and what will generate interest, ratings, and dramatic tension. Before now, Julia has been the only human to exist in the metanarrative, due to her status as a mythopoetic trickster figure. But in #666, Willie realizes that Barnabas doesn’t act according to what is possible in reality, but according to what is possible in fiction. He recognizes that though Barnabas time-travelling doesn’t make sense literally, it makes sense literarily, and so for him, it is possible. He becomes aware of the metanarrative, and chases Julia out the door into it. The showrunners are aware of none of this, of course, but like I said, these people don’t play patsy to showrunners anymore. Welcome to our world, Willie, it’s an honor to have you.

  8. First of all, the first episode is obviously Episode 1 not Episode 210, a common misconception. But I know you knew that, Danny. Secondly, it’s amusing that this is Episode 666(though technically not the 666th episode) Thirdly, it feels like the writers went back to the past to “finish the job”, if you get what I mean.

    All in all, I really enjoyed this brief detour to 1796. Definitely a nice change of pace from the boring ghost storyline. Yeah I know it seems to be popular with most of you guys here on this blog, and I understand why(it’s a return to the character-driven storylines of the pre-Barnabas and early Barnabas era after the spectacle-driven storylines of most of 1968, with 1795 being a balance of both, as well as its introduction of Quentin), but it’s just boring and a little too kiddie for my tastes.

  9. So we’ve come to Satan’s favorite episode of his favorite series LOL

    I’ve literally had it with Julia! She needs to be taken to Windcliff as a patient! Why would she think just shouting into the atmosphere would bring Barnabas back?! And then she has the nerve to tell Willie that his theory about Barnabas being back in the coffin chained up like before doesn’t make sense?! It’s the ONLY thing that makes sense. She needs to go.

    The chains suddenly appearing goes along with the Parallel Timelines running concurrently, and I don’t like it. But I was glad that Willie was proven right.

  10. One of the things that leaves a sour taste in my mouth about this episode is that it seems to go out of its way to trash any last remnants of a moral compass. Ben Stokes — who’s been a decent man in impossible situations, who’s never done anything more cruel than when he gleefully turned his oppressive master into a cat — kills Natalie, for no greater reason than to protect Barnabas from exposure. Barnabas isn’t even in mortal danger any more. Ben has a moment of anguished realisation that he’s a murderer… and then they push that aside, and he and 1796 disappear apparently forever.

    Was it really beyond them to have Ben do it in a more convincingly accidental manner — say she’s still crazed enough to try to stake Barnabas while Ben is busy with Nathan, and then he tackles her in a desperate attempt to save his life at that very moment? Or even just to have Natalie get caught in the crossfire when Nathan tries to shoot Ben?

    The handling of Natalie is a terrible throwaway as well — there is so much mileage in the idea of Josette’s mother, knowing what Barnabas is and coming after him for vengeance. It could be such a challenge to the “love of his life” idea. But they couldn’t contrive any way to actually give them that scene together…

  11. When Willie and Julie are talking in the drawing room and say she has been in the cemetery for hours and she says that it’s almost morning. Then a minute or so later when she is trying to talk Willie out of going to the mausoleum she tells him it will be dark soon.
    Boy those days are short in Collinsport.

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