Episode 676: Murder Club

“Well, it’s obvious you’ve forgotten that you attacked me in this graveyard, the night before last.”

And then, one day, you find yourself walking with a mysterious older man to a secret place where he says he can keep you all night and nobody will ever know, and you ask yourself, how did my life end up this way?

676 dark shadows chris barnabas clubhoue

Chris Jennings thought this was going to be just another cycle of the full moon, where he’d turn into a savage killing machine a few times and try to beat his high score in casualties. (So far this month: one dead, one injured, assorted abrasions.)

And then eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins came along, and changed everything. Barnabas has figured out that Chris is a werewolf, using the uncanny sorcery of looking at what’s going on and thinking about it for more than ten seconds, and for some unfathomable reason, he actually wants to help.

676 dark shadows chris barnabas coffin

There’s going to be another full moon tonight, and Barnabas has brought Chris to his secret clubhouse — the back room of the old Collins mausoleum, hidden behind a wall of solid granite, where Chris can turn into as many werewolves as he likes.

It’s a little humbling for Chris — he’s never been able to figure out a plan to keep the wolf-killing under control, and then Barnabas comes along and figures it out in one day.

676 dark shadows chris barnabas why

Now, I’m going to ask you to keep your eye on the body language for a minute, because things get a little subtexty.

Chris:  Mr. Collins… why are we here?

Barnabas:  To keep you from committing further violence tonight.

Chris:  That’s not what I mean. I mean, why are you helping me?

676 dark shadows chris barnabas gay

Barnabas:  Because I want to help you.

Chris:  There must be more to it than that. After all, you’re taking a great risk to help me. There must be some… underlying reason why you’re willing to do it.

676 dark shadows chris barnabas lips

And I swear to God, Chris does that thing where you look at someone’s lips and then you look at their eyes, and that means you’re about to kiss.

I mean, you and I both know that Barnabas is helping Chris because Barnabas is a recovering vampire, and he knows what it’s like when you’ve killed a bunch of people and you don’t have a mausoleum clubhouse to retreat to, just until you get your head together.

So it’s only natural for Chris to get his signals crossed. He figures Barnabas has brought him to the secret makeout cave, and he’s okay with it.

676 dark shadows chris barnabas murder club

What’s actually happening is that Barnabas is inviting Chris to join Murder Club, his social network for monsters who kill people because sometimes you just can’t help it. So far, the only other member of the club is Julia, who got in on a technicality. If Chris plays his cards right, he could be vice-president of the club, or treasurer at least.

But first, Chris has to go through the initiation, which involves explaining his origin story to the audience. If he wants to be the put-upon bloodthirsty heartthrob, he needs to make with the Oprah confessional.

Barnabas:  When did the first transformation occur?

Chris:  About seven years ago.

Barnabas:  Tell me about it.

Chris tries a little dodge — there’s no time, you’re not safe, sun’s almost down and you’re starting to look like an entree — but Barnabas has a silver cane and eighteen million US households who want to hear all about it.

676 dark shadows barnabas chris confessional

And then they just go for it. Last week was a blur of crazed werewolf action, and it’s time to switch gears. So the writer — on paper it’s Gordon Russell, in reality it’s Violet Welles — says, Okay. Today we’re doing this.

Chris:  It was just a few days past my twenty-first birthday. I’d just graduated from college; I was going to be an architect. Oh, I was gonna be an architect to be reckoned with! Bold, imaginative — revolutionary. I thought nothing could stand in my way.

You know, that reminds me — when was the last time you reckoned with an architect? It feels like forever. A moment of silence, please, for the lost art of architect-reckoning.

676 dark shadows barnabas chris pain

Chris:  And something did — something that I thought happened only in fiction. One night, just shortly after sunset, I began to feel a great pain, all over my body. And as it began to increase — oh, man, I was terrified, out of my mind. All of a sudden, it stopped. But then I got the most — shocking thing that ever happened to me in my life.

671 dark shadows werewolf hands

Chris:  I looked down… and my hands — my hands had begun to grow hair all over them!

676 dark shadows chris face

Chris:  And I looked in the mirror — and there was hair growing all over my face, too! I couldn’t believe it! I couldn’t understand what was happening!

676 dark shadows chris blacked

Chris:  And then — I blacked out. Just blacked right out. The next morning, I woke up, and I was myself again, I thought, oh well, it was just a nightmare, you know?

676 dark shadows barnabas chris blood

Chris:  Until I looked around. I saw the evidence — evidence that I’ve seen, oh, must be a hundred times since then. Muddy tracks on the floor, my clothes all torn, the furniture just knocked all around the room.

676 dark shadows chris crying

Chris:  And always — always the news that someone had been attacked… and often killed… by a vicious animal. And I knew —

676 dark shadows barnabas chris audition

Chris:  I knew the animal was ME!

676 dark shadows chris barnabas monologue

So that’s a nice monologue. I mean, I wouldn’t use it as my audition piece for Long Day’s Journey Into Night, but for Dark Shadows, it’s great, just the right balance of remorse and self-pity. That ought to be enough to get you into Murder Club, no problem.

676 dark shadows chris barnabas member

Chris does end up with a provisional membership, but he never manages to upgrade to Murder Club Select.

It’s a lot like Professor Stokes last year, who had a fantastic run of episodes when he was fighting Cassandra and contacting Reverend Trask, and it looked like he was on his way to becoming a permanent member of Barnabas’ entourage. But it never quite clicked for Stokes, and it’s not going to click for Chris — not like some other characters who join the Club over the next year.

Really, the four paid-in-full charter members of Murder Club are Barnabas, Julia, Angelique and Quentin. They’re the ones who have no secrets from each other, the enormous earth-shaking kaiju who meet on an equal footing. Chris is doing really well right now, but he could never hang out in the clubhouse with Angelique. They wouldn’t have any idea what to say.

676 dark shadows barnabas lion

The problem, for both Stokes and Chris, is that Barnabas never confides in them. They hang out, and share some intense experiences, but they never find out that he used to be a vampire.

Stokes could never really join Murder Club anyway, because he never actually murdered anyone, except for when he almost killed Tony, but that one hardly even counts.

But with Chris… it just never really comes up. Barnabas being a vampire is super low in the mix right now — he’s the kindly uncle/butler at the moment, cleaning up other people’s messes because nobody else can.

676 dark shadows barnabas listen

When you think about it, the funny thing about the core members of Murder Club is that they all start out as enemies. Barnabas, Julia, Angelique and Quentin — they learned each other’s secrets, because they were trying to expose and destroy each other.

And when that didn’t pan out — because you can never really destroy a kaiju, not forever — then after a while, they become the characters who know each other the best. They’ve shared the same experiences, all those bonkers nights that nobody else knows about.

The members of Murder Club are like old army buddies, who went through the war together. They get together, and talk about old times — really old times, like a century or two. After a while, the fact that they fought on different sides hardly even matters.

Tomorrow: Lycanthropology.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

During Chris’ abbreviated transformation scene, the camera pans from his face down to his right hand, which has become a werewolf hand. Unfortunately, his normal-looking left hand is also in the shot, which kind of spoils the effect.

The kids have to crouch down and crawl through the wall to get into Quentin’s room, but when they leave, they just run straight out the door.

Tomorrow: Lycanthropology.

676 dark shadows chris hand

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

20 thoughts on “Episode 676: Murder Club

  1. It is hard to believe nobody has caught Chris by now if he’s been turning into a Werewolf every month for 7 years. But I guess Barnabas is just that much more awesome when compared to the local law enforcement, as we’ve seen.

    This is an amazingly fun string of episodes, this is like the fourth or fifth straight day we’ve had werewolf action.

    1. They sort of almost explained this in his early episodes, when they state that he “went off into the mountains” and such. The idea being that he came to Collinsport so unexpectedly after Tom’s death, that he didn’t have time to make the “proper preparations.”

  2. I totally buy “architect-reckoning.” First it was the 1960s and all young people that anything they did was amazing just because THEY were doing it. Second, avante guarde ’60s architecture was out there. Amazingly ugly and stupid, but they were shaking things up, man! 🙂 LOL

    The only new thing I’d like to see in architecture is somebody who actually followed the maxim figure out what you need for the function of the building to work first and then you can be creative, but not until you have a good shell of the inside that works. 🙂

  3. I know asking for continuity on Dark Shadows is like begging for mercy from Diabolos, and generous layers of fanwankery must be applied like fondant to smooth out the rough edges, but if Chris’s story (“About seven years ago… It was just a few days past my twenty-first birthday.”) is true then either Tom’s gravestone is wrong* or Chris and Tom are just lookalike brothers rather than twins.

    *Which is quite possible, given the number of erroneous tombstones in the cemeteries of Collinsport. The engravers at the local monument company seem to have a bad case of dyscalculia. Tom’s gravestone gives his year of birth as 1944, making him 24 to Chris’s 28.

    1. Oh, that’s funny — I didn’t notice that. Yeah, that’s the kind of thing that would never have occurred to them to make consistent. Who would have paid attention enough to write down the birthdate on a gravestone? The answer is: Fans watching and re-watching on DVD, of course. We live in a science-fiction future that the Dark Shadows producers could never have imagined.

    2. Yeah, and Don Briscoe really was 28…so I guess they forgot the earlier statement and in classic DS style, just edited the character according to the actor playing them.

  4. When I heard that “I looked down and I’d grown hair” remark my immediate thought was, “It sounds like puberty to me.” So if vampirism is a metaphor for being gay (or drug addiction? ) in Dark Shadows, is lycanthropy a metaphor for adolescence?

    Of course in real life, it’s usually females who get monthly problems upon hitting puberty…

  5. Yeah, well, we males don’t have to wait a whole month.

    So, we got dat goin’ for us…….which is nice.

  6. After that “I could have been a great architect” speech, I came here looking for an Ayn Rand reference.

    As someone else remarked above, the scene about the sudden growth of hair (on my face yet!) seemed to echo some kind of adolescent anxiety confession. I was bracing for Barnabas to explain that a certain teenage pastime won’t really make you go blind…

    I remember reading years ago, somewhere, that all monster tales are really about the awkward entry into adolescence; this one perhaps fits better than most.

  7. That teaser scene is magical. Barnabas and Chris, tramping through the woods in silence, stop at exactly the same time for no particular reason, then have a bit of a chat about the situation. The kind of chat they should probably have had before leaving – where are we going, what’s the plan, that kind of thing. Then Barnabas casually announces he’s carrying the only thing that’ll kill Chris is his other form and, with no discernible reaction whatsoever, both men just silently turn at the same time and carry on the trek. This… this is not how nature walks are supposed to work.

  8. So many people now know about the “secret” room that I wouldn’t be surprised if the Collinsport Rotary Club starts holding its meetings there.

    Really nit-picky blooper: David mispronounces “Strychnine” – should be strik-NEEN. Also, the bottle appears to be empty.

  9. Chris’ explanation didn’t really explain why he becomes a werewolf. I was hoping for a specific reason as to why he started his transformations, not just when.

    David and Amy are so creepy and annoying in this one! Mrs. Johnson should’ve left them have it.

  10. I’m assuming Quentin isn’t trying to kill Chris because he wants to end his suffering.
    Amy’s line about “playing the game” and David’s reticence sounded like children being molested. (It may be that Danny has sensitized me to subtext.) I’m not saying that there is any sexual abuse because there isn’t. But by giving me that association, it makes what’s happening to the children more disturbing. They’re not just playing a game with a ghost. They’re innocents being corrupted and for the first time, I’m afraid for them.

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