“I’m always with fear, Barnabas, but we don’t have time to think about that.”
Okay, I get that it’s a rough way to wake up. It’s dusk, and Barnabas gets up out of his coffin, and the door to the secret room in the mausoleum is wide open. Someone’s been sneaking around his coffin, and obviously that’s an unpleasant surprise.
But then Quentin appears at the door, which is pretty much the best case scenario. If somebody’s going to suddenly appear in your bedroom, then it ought to be Quentin Collins, right? You can’t improve on that.
And this is how out of control things have become for Barnabas: he opens his mouth and bares his fangs. Dude, seriously. What are you planning to do? Put that back in your mouth, and try, for the first time in your long and ridiculous life, to be a grownup.
At the moment, Barnabas has time-hopped back to 1897, where he’s supposed to be figuring out how to protect the present-day Collins family from being driven out of their house by the angry ghost of guess who? Quentin Collins. So threatening to kill the guy in a way that simply begs for a revenge-haunt is not good policy.
But everything is falling apart now. Carl Collins’ fiancee was killed by a vampire, and he wants to do something about it. So he staked out the mausoleum, so to speak, and discovered Barnabas’ secret hiding place. Carl was foolish enough to bring his brother Quentin to help him destroy the vampire, but Quentin double-crossed him, and locked him up here to be killed when Barnabas woke up.
And that plan — as with every plan — has gone awry. It’s been a bad year for plans.
But at least Quentin knows how to handle a tricky social situation. He stops Barnabas short, by saying those magic words that change the fates of galaxies far, far away: “You’re my only hope.”
It’s a terribly romantic thing to say. It would be more so if he wasn’t talking to a psychotic vampire who is essentially in the process of being hunted by villagers carrying torches and farm implements.
Surprised, Barnabas says, “You can look upon me without fear?”
“I’m always with fear, Barnabas. But we don’t have time to think about that.”
So here we are, in another meeting of Murder Club, the social network for monsters who cover up for each other’s crimes. Quentin has called the meeting to order, and he starts with old business: Is Carl dead?
Carl is not dead, as it happens. Carl figured out how to escape before Barnabas woke up, and now he’s running loose among the populace, probably trying to figure out where you get torches from in a hurry.
As ever, Barnabas takes charge. He’s the main character of the show, so obviously he has to be at the center of everything. He needs to step in, and make the big decisions. The problem is that he is unbelievably bad at this job.
Barnabas: How long ago did he escape?
Quentin: I don’t know. I just left Collinwood, he wasn’t there.
Barnabas: Well, go to Collinwood at once. Find him!
What? I just told you he isn’t at Collinwood. I mean, yeah, he might have come back — this is Dark Shadows, and you only get so many locations per episode — but this isn’t a promising start.
Quentin: What if Carl’s already talked? What if I can’t stop him?
Barnabas: You’ve offered to help me!
Barnabas: Then do as I say. Now go to Collinwood — and if it’s too late, then come to the Old House. I’ll be there as soon as I finish what I have to do. Hurry!
So that’s the plan. Go to Collinwood, then go to the Old House. It’s so crazy it just might work.
As it happens, Carl did go back to Collinwood, and told Reverend Trask about the coffin in the mausoleum. Trask didn’t believe him, obviously, so now Carl’s dragged Trask over to the mausoleum to prove it. They’re not armed or anything. Plus, the last guy that Carl showed the coffin to turned out to be on the vampire’s side. Nobody on this show can think even one step ahead.
But this time, the coffin isn’t even there. Carl opens up the door, and the secret room is empty; Barnabas pulled off another one-handed coffin shuffle. I don’t know how he manages those — I remember when I was back in college and I tried to move a futon on my own; it was a disaster. He must be using TaskRabbit.
Anyway, the coffin’s not here, so Trask starts in about how “high-strung” Carl is. And you know how crazy people get when they think you’re calling them crazy; it makes them upshift a gear and get even crazier.
Carl: Now, you’ve got to believe me! Quentin! Quentin was here!
Trask: Then we shall ask him.
Carl: Oh — but he won’t admit it!
Trask: Oh really? I wonder why.
Carl: I don’t know. I mean, I don’t understand any of it.
Carl: You stop that! And don’t you look at me like that! I am not crazy, I am not! And don’t you think I am, because you’re wrong!
Trask: Now, there’s no question of right or wrong, Mr. Collins. The Devil has told you to say these things, you are in the clutches of someone far stronger than yourself.
Carl: Well, I’ll prove it to you, then. I’ll prove I’m right.
Trask: You have already tried to do that, haven’t you?
Carl: But this time, I will. Somehow, I will!
So I think what Dark Shadows is doing here is deconstructing the concept of a reasonable person. Carl is correct here — there really is a vampire — but Trask thinks that he’s crazy. But Trask’s sneering doesn’t make sense — he agrees that vampires exist; he just doesn’t believe that there could possibly be a vampire hiding in this room, which was literally constructed to hide vampires in.
In fact, there’s only four characters on the show today, and every single one of them is out of their mind. Who is the adult today?
Carl runs home to sulk and call the police, but guess what. Remember how Barnabas told Quentin that he was going to be at the Old House? He changed his mind. Because here he is! With a spooky green light and everything!
Now, to be clear, Carl is entirely in the right here. Barnabas is incredibly toxic, and needs to be put down. Barnabas didn’t personally kill Carl’s fiancee, but he did turn Dirk into a vampire and then just set him loose, to bite and kill whoever he pleased.
But Barnabas says, “What have you done, Carl? Whom have you told?” as if this is all Carl’s fault. I mean, it doesn’t really matter what they say to each other — Barnabas is going to strangle Carl no matter what happens — but he doesn’t need to be such a dick about it.
So that went great. And naturally, the next person who walks by just opens the doors and finds Carl lying there on the ground, because obviously if you’re planning another serial killing, it should be in the drawing room of an occupied house. Barnabas makes a little show of hiding behind the door, which is adorable, because he is made of stealth.
Luckily, it’s Quentin who opens the door, so at least Barnabas doesn’t have to keep piling up bodies in front of the drinks cabinet.
“You had to do it,” Quentin says, looking down at his dead brother. “I know that. But — oh, god — will tonight ever see an end to all of this?” The answer to that question is don’t hold your breath.
Barnabas tries to be reassuring. “This may give us time,” he says.
“May?” Quentin yelps. “You mean, you did this without knowing for sure that it would?”
And then somebody knocks at the front door. This is typical for a Murder Club meeting; it’s an aerobic sport.
Barnabas tells Quentin to go answer the door; he’ll deal with this. So Quentin walks to the door, and he’s already starting to learn what it means to be Barnabas’ henchman. It’s just one damn thing after another.
It’s Reverend Trask, of course — there are only four characters today, including the corpus delicti, so if it’s not Trask then this must be one of those self-knocking doors. Yes, I know that joke doesn’t make any sense. Look at what’s going on right now. Nothing makes sense anymore.
Okay, so Trask — he wants to talk to Edward or Judith, because he’s longing for the company of someone who at least pretends to be sane. Quentin says they’re not home — god knows what they’re up to, while we’re not looking. Trask says he’ll wait for them in the drawing room, and Quentin tries to divert him to an alternate route. But today is the day for people to do whatever the hell they want, so Trask opens the drawing room doors and walks right in.
And just look at what Barnabas has done. For Pete’s sake.
Trask walks into the middle of the room and starts yelling as usual, and Quentin is horrified to see Carl’s arm, dangling from behind the curtains.
That was Barnabas’ plan. Quentin should stall Trask, while Barnabas hides Carl’s body behind a curtain. That was the best he could come up with.
There’s a secret panel in the wall, by the way. Barnabas knows about it; he could have hidden Carl’s corpse in there. Or stick him behind the sofa, at least. When you’ve got a dead body to hide, who thinks “curtain”?
So the body just tumbles to the floor, obviously, which arouses Trask’s suspicions. I mean, he’s not the brightest bulb on the tree, but even he can tell when a dead body suddenly flops to the pavement right in front of him.
And I have to ask: who thought that strangling Carl was a sustainable solution to this problem? People are starting to wonder if there’s still a mad killer on the loose. Why would you add one more body to the pile? How did Barnabas think this evening was going to go?
So it’s impossible to avoid the obvious conclusion that Barnabas is terrible at this — and honest to god, it’s the only thing he even knows how to do.
So this week has been a referendum on Barnabas’ tactics, and the concept of the Establishment Vampire. Everything that’s happened here, all the steps that led the angry villagers to the castle drawbridge to put a stop to things — they’re all Barnabas’ fault.
He went out of his way to educate the family about the existence of dangerous supernatural creatures. He put himself in the middle of every crisis, taking on Jenny, Laura, and the werewolf attacks. He turned away Angelique’s offers of help. He bit Charity Trask for no reason other than to be a jerk, which led to Trask discovering the bite marks and ending up right here.
And worst of all, he’s been trying to run this entire carnival of destruction when he’s out of action for almost 12 hours a day.
So, news flash for Barnabas: A vampire is not supposed to be a civic leader.
A vampire sneaks around in the darkness. Furtive is the keyword. He’s the creature under the bed; he’s the tapping at the casement window. He is not an active participant in local affairs.
Back in 1968, Barnabas took on the role of the kindly uncle/butler, taking care of the Collins family. He could manage that because he was cured, and didn’t have to worry about the sunrise anymore.
But on this time trip, he’s a vampire again, and he’s still trying to be in charge of the family. He’s the Establishment Vampire, who discreetly snacks on the young ladies and then goes back to the board meeting.
There are so many reasons why this doesn’t work, but the main one is that a vampire is actually less powerful than everybody else, because they can all operate 24 hours a day, and he’s out of action during daylight. So there have been tons of scenes with Barnabas telling somebody to guard him, or leaving little notes for the gypsies while he tucks himself into his coffin at dawn. This is no way to run a criminal organization on this scale; you need to be on call.
And so, as the Convenient Rooster crows and a new day begins, Barnabas has to look back at this evening’s events, and reflect: Is there anything I could have done differently?
Monday: The Hunt.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
When Carl leads Reverend Trask to the cemetery, you can see the edge of the green burlap used to represent the grass.
Carl rushes to the drawing room doors to escape from Barnabas, and the wall wobbles slightly as he pulls on the door handles.
When Carl’s dead body is lying on the floor, you can see that he’s breathing. Barnabas moves to kneel next to him, and you can see a blocking mark on the floor.
After Carl falls from behind the curtain, Quentin rushes over and kneels by his body. A shadow passes over them as a camera moves by.
Monday: The Hunt.
— Danny Horn