“If we only knew what these three bullets meant.”
“Miss Collins,” Rachel says, eyeing the loaded heater in her former employer’s hand, “you must put the gun down. You’ve got to realize!” And then: Ka-POW! It turns out she doesn’t got to, after all.
So we start the week off with a bang, and it’s going to get messier from here. This is a particularly dangerous time to be a Dark Shadows character; we had two murders last week, and there’s going to be three this week, including the governess who just got fired ten seconds ago. Soap operas don’t usually have a weekly body count like this, except for General Hospital, obviously, where they have a dedicated budget for ammunitions.
Now, the decision to pull the plug on Rachel’s scattered story arc was not the result of a long-range storyline master plan. It’s a backstage production decision, as is almost always the case on every single television show ever, no matter what anybody says, especially Damon Lindelof, Stephen Moffatt, Shonda Rhimes, Joss Whedon, Chris Carter, and whoever writes Game of Thrones. Yes, they are lying to you. They write lies for a living.
Kathryn Leigh Scott wanted to go spend the summer with her boyfriend, a photojournalist who was doing a story for Time on African photo safaris. Apparently, in 1969, weekly newsmagazines had the money to send photographers and their actress plus-ones on months-long field trips. They didn’t realize that they should start saving up, just in case the internet was invented.
Anyway, Kathryn said she wanted some time off, and Dan said okay, because who can say no to those eyes? And now Barnabas has the blood of another Josette on his hands, which is a bonus, because every once in a while you want to give Barnabas a new reason to feel sorry for himself.
The story point here is that hotshot vampire Dirk Wilkins has decided to punish Barnabas for refusing to bring his dead girlfriend back to life, which Barnabas couldn’t do anyway. I don’t know where people get these ideas. So Dirk vampire-hypnotized Judith, gave her a gun, and told her to use Rachel as target practice. This plan worked perfectly, because Dirk is good at follow-through.
Rachel’s boyfriend Tim rushes to the scene, and naturally, he picks up the gunshot victim and jostles her around a bunch; he must be working for the African photo safari tourist board.
He asks what happened, and Rachel gasps that Judith shot her. Tim looks over at the blood-dazzled Judith and yells, “Are you crazy? What did you do that for?” which is pretty much everything that’s wrong with Tim, condensed into one moment. P.S. This is my favorite television show.
For the last few episodes, Dirk has been absolutely dominating the show, just chewing his way through the cast with no regrets, and at this point you could make the case that he’s interesting enough to consider at least a junior membership into Murder Club. But, sad spoiler alert: this is his last episode. Within the next twenty-two minutes, Edward is going to pound wood through Dirk’s reckless, untamed heart, and he will be lost to us forever.
Dirk makes three crucial mistakes today, so we might as well identify them, and do some post-post-mortem Monday morning quarterbacking.
Mistake number one: He forgets to turn Judith back on. Left at a loose end, she just strolls back home to Collinwood, smoking gun in hand. Edward and Trask have been standing around the drawing room, drinking sherry and talking about how frantic with worry they both are, and they probably would have gone out to look for her at some point, especially if the sherry ran out and they had to go on a supply run anyway.
But Judith walks back in with the evidence in hand, which proves once again that if you stay home and drink, things usually work out okay.
Mistake number two: He changes his mind. Edward and Trask put Judith to bed and keep watch over her, and then Dirk calls and says he wants her to come back and work another shift.
So she gets up and sleepwalks her way out the door, with Edward in hot pursuit. Judith is dazed and wearing bedroom slippers, and she’s not really built for speed in the first place, so it’s not hard for Edward to keep up. He could probably stop off in the drawing room for another sherry and still pick up the trail without breaking a sweat.
Mistake number three: In just one night, Dirk managed to assemble a team of three blood slaves — Tim, Judith and Rachel. That’s not exactly an elite commando unit, but between them, they were more than adequate protection during the day. They even had a gun! There’s no reason for the organization to fall apart this easily.
But Dirk had Judith shoot Rachel, and then Tim took Rachel over to the Old House to die on a couch, leaving the coffin unprotected. You’ll notice that all of these mistakes are related to staff management; it’s just one resourcing snafu after another.
Here’s how it should have gone down: The whole team together — forget the Barnabas revenge thing, focus on security first. Find guns for all three of them, and tell them to shoot anybody who comes through the door.
They could have had an epic last-stand shootout. Yes, eventually the good guys would organize a posse and take Dirk down, but not like this. He should’ve gone out Butch and Sundance style, in a hail of bullets.
But they had to kill him, because they couldn’t contain him. Dirk was too beautiful for this world, a rebel teen idol who flamed out in a blaze of glory. He lived fast, he died young, and he left a good-looking corpse. Several of them, actually, all over the place.
Tomorrow: All Points.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Judith pulls the trigger, and Tim hears the shots. As he’s opening the cellar doors, Judith clears her throat. I can’t quite describe why that’s funny — you need to see the shot of Judith, standing there with a gun in her hand and clearing her throat, like she thinks the gunfire isn’t quite enough to get your attention.
Exasperated with worry, Edward exclaims, “It can’t go on like this. What does he want? Who is he? What does he want from us? What does he want from her?” This might actually be scripted, for all I know.
When Edward urges Judith to go upstairs and get some sleep, you can hear people walking around in the studio.
When Tim carries Rachel into the Old House, he passes a camera, which intrudes in the shot.
When Judith gets up from the bed and Edward follows her, the mist machine is going nuts in the background. They might be using it to represent smoke in the fireplace. It’s hard to say.
Tomorrow: All Points.
— Danny Horn