“The blast from that gun should’ve killed any living creature. And it should’ve.”
Eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins is out on the grounds of his family estate in the middle of the night, hunting for werewolves by the light of the full moon.
He hears something moving in the woods — and as the vicious beast advances, Barnabas lets fly with a rifle shot, smacking the animal right in the heart. But this is a supernatural creature with the raw power of whatever demon cursed its malignant soul; it shrugs off the gunshot, and comes back for more.
Thinking quickly, Barnabas tosses the rifle aside, and prepares to beat the snarling beast to death with his cane.
You know, they don’t make eccentric millionaires like this anymore. It’s a lost art.
And suddenly, the fight is over. Barnabas’ cane is topped with silver, and one look makes the scaredywolf rear back and run away. It’s the damnedest thing.
By the way, this idea that a werewolf can be killed with a silver bullet comes from a series of strange animal attacks in the mid-1760s, in the French province of Gévaudan. There were reports of an enormous, unstoppable wolf-creature — the Beast of Gévaudan — who attacked dozens of men, women and children, reportedly killing over 100 people in two years. The Beast was finally brought down by a hunter, and legend has it that the kill-shot was a blessed silver bullet. Yeah, I know, I don’t care either.
Meanwhile, there’s trouble on the home front. Young Amy has decided to get out of bed, put on some clothes, and head out for the evening. Julia spots the kid on her way out the door, and asks her what she thinks she’s doing.
Amy starts babbling about her brother Chris, as usual. She had a dream that he was in terrible danger, and she’s got to see him, and make sure that he’s all right.
Julia tries to redirect, but Amy heads straight for the door. Julia blocks her way, and pretty soon the whole show is just a woman and a young girl yelling at each other in the middle of the night.
Julia decides that the only way to get the kid to pipe down is to go to the cottage, and check on Chris herself.
Remembering the refugee from Gévaudan who might still be prowling through the underbrush, she goes into the drawing room, opens a drawer and pulls out a loaded gun. Once again, Collinwood is bristling with murder weapons. This really is the most irresponsible show.
Now, the great thing about handing a gun to an actor is that they treat it like any other prop, pointing it at whoever they’re talking to. In this case, Julia’s aiming directly at Amy’s midsection. She must really want that kid to go back to bed.
So can we talk for a second about Amy? She’s a relative newcomer, having just arrived two months ago, but she’s kind of taking over the whole show. Ever since she moved into Collinwood, she’s been in four episodes a week. It feels like we keep tripping over her, every time we’re trying to get something done.
She’s a super weird kid, always saying and doing things that nobody can understand. She’s occasionally remote-controlled by the forgotten spirits in the west wing, and she’s also got this sputtering sibling-risk detector that fires up every once in a while.
She sees pentagrams on people’s faces. She has upsetting prophetic dreams. She’s afraid of the moon, and she doesn’t know why. The girl is a mess.
So it looks like Amy’s got a bad case of heightened narrative-sensitivity, a fictional condition commonly known as Spidey-sense. This means that she automatically knows whatever the writers need her to know at any given moment, in order to move the scene along.
Amy can sense what’s happening in scenes that she’s not in, basically filling in for the audience. She knows everything that we know, so she takes our place in the narrative, running out of the house to go and see the stuff that we want to see.
That actually used to be Julia’s job, before Amy came in and grabbed all the screen time. And considering where Julia’s pointing that firearm, it looks like she’s starting to figure that out.
Determined to take back her rightful place in the narrative, Julia orders Amy to stay at Collinwood, and hurries over to Chris’ cottage. That’s where she finds the shambles.
In the dramatic arts, a shambles is a helpful information-management technique that moves the story ahead, and you don’t need to pay for two actors. You have a character walk into a room, survey the shambles, and presto, instant mystery. For dramatic value, you really can’t beat a good shambles.
Julia’s still packing heat, by the way, but she’s not pointing her gun at anything in particular. It’s obvious that she’s forgotten that she’s holding it. Gun safety doesn’t appear to be a concern for actors; Hollywood must be more or less shot to pieces by this point.
With that bit of upsetting news in the tank, Julia struts back to Collinwood and does what she always does: she puts on her brightest smile, and tells as many lies as she can think of. This is typical for Julia in the way that being hot is typical for the sun.
Here’s a sampling: He’s fine, I had to wake him up, he said to tell you not to worry about him, he had to go into town, your new haircut looks great, there are WMDs in Iraq, it’s about ethics in gaming journalism, it depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is.
Amy’s delighted and relieved, because Julia’s lies have the power to rewire her narrative-sensitivity alarm. You can’t mess with Julia; she’s the one who has the Spidey-sense in this house. Amy needs to stand down.
Gosh, there’s still a lot to talk about. This is a Ron Sproat script, by the way, so you wouldn’t expect it to have this much story in it.
If you’re just tuning in, Ron Sproat is the boring guy on the Dark Shadows writing team, and he’s on the verge of getting booted from the show. He’s only got three episodes left, counting today’s, and you’d think he would just run out the clock like he usually does.
But this episode is great, and yesterday’s was too. There’s more plot, more surprises, and it moves like a dream. Why is Sproat breaking his long streak of static episodes?
Well, the cynical answer is that the werewolf story is so exciting that even Sproat can’t screw it up. The even more cynical answer is that Sproat knows he’s only got another couple weeks on the show, so what the hell, let’s burn through story. The correct answer is both of them.
As the sun rises, the wounded werewolf passes out in the woods, and changes back into good ol’ loveable Chris Jennings.
And then who should show up but Beth, the deceased governess who’s been helping Quentin mess with the kids at Collinwood. We haven’t seen a lot of Beth so far, so this is an exciting moment.
Beth looks down at Chris, and shakes her head, and she looks sad, and what does it all mean? No idea. But it’s mysterious and surprising, and the world is full of possibilities.
Okay, back to the shambles. Chris finally gets up and staggers home, and he registers a quick “oh, for crying out loud” reaction when he sees what his night-time activities have wrought on the decor. He rushes around for a minute, trying to clean up the wreckage, but this kind of mess doesn’t clean up that easy.
There’s a knock at the door, and Chris looks down at his bloodstained, bullet-ridden shirt. And then we have another opportunity for Dark Shadows to give the people what they want.
It’s just a good episode, is what I’m saying. Dark Shadows is giving us value for money today.
Chris grabs his shirt and literally tears it in half, bursting buttons, and thrilling me and all the other teenage girls in the audience. Then he heads for the bedroom to find another outfit that doesn’t have so many body fluids on it.
Chris pulls on a robe, messes up his hair, and opens the door to let in his visitor, eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins. I don’t know what Barnabas has been doing since we saw him chase a hell-beast away with a stick last night. Victory laps, I guess.
Chris arranges his robe as Barnabas asks, “Did I wake you?”
“Oh, no, I was just getting dressed,” Chris says, making a big show of yawning. “Excuse me, I don’t know why I’m yawning, I got plenty of sleep.” He’s got shoes on, by the way.
Then they launch into a peculiar little scene that I can’t quite account for. Barnabas sits down, and reports that Carolyn was attacked by an animal last night.
Chris: Is she — Carolyn isn’t —
Barnabas: Dead? No.
Chris: Thank God.
Barnabas: She managed to escape, but she was hurt.
Chris: How badly?
Barnabas: She has some cuts on her face.
Chris: Is that all?
Barnabas: Yes, but she was still shaken up quite badly.
And then Barnabas just gets up, without another word, and walks to the door. It’s like everybody’s forgotten how to be a human all of a sudden.
So here’s a question: why did Barnabas stop by, just to tell Chris that Carolyn was hurt, and then leave? There’s no particular reason why he should be the one to deliver this news. Also, telephones exist.
But this is actually the point of this week — the writers are moving Barnabas and Julia back to their rightful place in the narrative.
The two big current storylines are about Chris’ lycanthropy, and the ghosts in the west wing possessing the children — and so far, Barnabas and Julia have been shut out from participating. That was okay while there was still some leftover 1968 story to mop up, but that’s all over now, and we’re left with a pair of promising storylines that don’t happen to include the show’s two main protagonists.
That changes, starting this week. Barnabas and Julia are going to take control of the show again, and if they need some plot contrivances to make that happen, then they’re just going to have to go ahead and contrive.
So when Chris tells Barnabas and Julia that he was sleeping at the cottage all night, that rings an alarm bell for Julia, on account of the shambles.
“Why would he lie?” she asks, and Barnabas says, “I don’t know,” and that can only mean one thing. Grab your guns, your cane and your magnifying glass. The Junior Detectives are on the case!
Tomorrow: Donna of the Dead.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In act 1, the chime of the clock fades out before it’s finished. The volume goes back up to finish the sound cue.
Someone coughs as Julia crosses the foyer to get the gun.
Amy says the following sentence: “Oh, no. I’ll be able to go to sleep now, because I won’t have any problems about worrying about having nightmares.”
Chris has a little trouble pulling the shade down at his cottage.
Barnabas and Julia talk over each other in act 3, when he says that he shot the animal point-blank.
Barnabas tells Julia, “The blast from that gun should’ve killed any living creature. And it should’ve.”
Amy is clearly watching for a cue before she burns the shirt.
Tomorrow: Donna of the Dead.
— Danny Horn