Episode 883: The Tate Murders

“You know, I rather look forward to going to the future as Barnabas Collins.”

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

883 dark shadows petofi sleeping

Ugh, and look at this. The mastermind, sleeping on the job again.

This is the end of the line for the wandering wizard Andreas Petofi, the Count of someplace nobody’s ever specified. Petofi swept onto the scene four months ago and took the hell over, a sinister showman with the stage presence of a hypnotic owl. Now, we need to sweep him back out again.

The problem is that he’s started to repeat himself. This is always a bad sign, in the cutthroat world of serialized narrative. He’s trying once again to steal the adorable immortal carcass of Quentin Collins, so that he can travel into the future and record a new pop song.

Petofi’s meditating at the moment, trying to project himself into Quentin’s airspace, poised to strike as soon as his rival falls asleep. The audience does not want him to succeed. We want him to go away. This is the story of how we make that happen.

883 dark shadows pansy petofi catch

You can always tell when a villain is over; it’s when they’ve already done the biggest thing they can think of. The same thing happened a year ago, with Adam and Eve and Nicholas Blair. When the lonely Frankenstein demanded that Barnabas and Julia create a mate for him, it took them forever to set everything up, and they had to run through the mad science experiment four times before the Bride finally woke up. Then she didn’t even do anything; she just walked around and complained.

So after Eve died, when Adam and Nicholas demanded that Barnabas and Julia bring her to life all over again, it was obviously time for them to go. You don’t wear everybody out with your boring plot points, and then start over again. I mean, Once Upon a Time does, but who wants to be Once Upon a Time?

When Pansy interrupts Petofi’s remote control voodoo, he grabs her and he’s like, ha ha, this is just a delay, I’m totally going to start meditating all over again. Somebody needs to inform him that there’s a change in plans.

883 dark shadows petofi tate pansy tie

Pansy snatches Petofi’s glasses and makes for the wide open spaces, but she’s caught by Charles Delaware Tate, who used to be a famous painter and now I guess he’s just a henchman. She struggles and shouts, and says terribly brave things, because Pansy is not interested in playing pretty girl in peril games.

But look at what’s happened to Petofi. He tells Tate to tie Pansy to a chair, and then go to Collinwood and tell Quentin that if he doesn’t come over within an hour, Petofi will kill the girl. And then he lights a cigar, nyah ha ha. It’s sad, really.

I mean, the name Count Petofi used to mean something in this town. Now he’s tying up a girl, with an arbitrary countdown ticking away. He might as well have a big barrel marked TNT. Those whom the gods would destroy, they first give a mustache to twirl.

883 dark shadows barnabas tate petofi happy

But Quentin is gone. Our sexy antihero has loped off into the darkness, catching a late-night train to New York so he can find his soon-to-be long-lost love.

So here comes eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins, reclaiming his proper role as protagonist. He’s come to face down the monster and save the girl, unarmed and with no plan at all. He just walks in and says, “Let her go and deal with me,” whatever that turns out to mean.

And take a look at this shot, with Barnabas and Petofi squaring off, and Tate and Pansy in the background. They don’t typically do a lot of four-person scenes in Dark Shadows, because it’s hard to fit all those people onto the cramped sets and still give them something to do. But today is full of these marvelous little compositions, where everybody hits their mark, and the camera’s in the right place, and it looks fantastic.

883 dark shadows tate barnabas pansy

Meanwhile, Petofi’s had another bright idea. “Quentin is gone,” he shrugs. “I must resign myself to the fact that I won’t see him again, until I get to 1969.”

Barnabas protests that Petofi won’t exist in 1969, but the villain is still puffing on that cigar. “Oh, yes I will, Mr. Collins… in your body.”

“No!” Barnabas gasps, but the mad Count is now deep into the monologue.

“The solution’s been under my nose all the time, and I haven’t seen it until now!” he grins. “But then, you know, my eyesight’s not of the best, Mr. Collins. I fear you’ll find it tiresome at first, but I expect you’ll get used to it.” He chuckles. “You’ll have to.”

He strolls around the room, and Barnabas follows like a puppy, shouting, “Petofi, you can’t do this!”

“Now, there’s another advantage in going to the future in your body, Mr. Collins.” Petofi is still monologuing. “You are here. This time, I don’t have to wait for you to fall asleep, or to lose consciousness.”

Barnabas doesn’t move. “What are you going to do?”

“First,” Petofi announces, “I shall put you to sleep.”

And Barnabas just keeps on standing there, an inch away from the evil wizard, thinking, I wonder where he’s going with this?

883 dark shadows blackwood chain

So the next thing you know, Barnabas has been laid low, and he’s crashing on the couch for a while. Petofi is meditating, Tate is holding Pansy back, and all seems lost. We’re doing another body swap storyline; I guess we might as well get used to the idea.

And then Garth Blackwood enters the picture.

If you’re not familiar with this particular dark-souled demon, Blackwood is a furious undead prison guard who walks the Earth, brought to life with black magic and art supplies, dedicated to punishing the man who murdered him. He’s already killed his killer, Petofi’s henchman Aristede, and you’d think that would put an end to things, but Blackwood is still out hunting for accomplices.

He bursts through the door, and smashes his heavy chain on the bannister. “TWO prisoners in this cell block!” he cries. “Both of them awaiting JUSTICE! I am here to BRING IT to them!” Dude knows how to make an entrance.

883 dark shadows petofi pansy blackwood barnabas

Now, I know that some Dark Shadows fans aren’t crazy about this diablo ex machina, because he basically comes out of nowhere to resolve the storyline. He arrived on the scene last Tuesday, as part of a late-onset origin story for Aristede. He’s not connected to anything we’ve seen before, and he’s about to bring down the big bad crime boss, which technically is more of a protagonist thing to do.

I don’t care. I think he’s great. He’s shouty and weird — a formidable sight, in his black cloak and sinister facial hair. He has an English accent, more or less, and he carries a big scary murder weapon everywhere he goes. We’ve never seen anything quite like this, and that’s exactly what this fading storyline needs — another loose cannon.

Tate takes one look at this terrifying creation, and bolts. “STOP IN THE NAME OF THE LAW!” Blackwood bellows. “COME BACK!” This never works.

Pansy’s trying to keep up. “Are you some kind of a policeman?” she asks. I love Pansy, too.

883 dark shadows petofi pansy barnabas blackwood fiend

So Blackwood is officially more unpredictable than Petofi is, which means he wins. He declares that Petofi is under arrest, and wakes everybody up.

Barnabas is a bit groggy. “What’s happening?” he mutters, as the prison guard looms.

“The TRIAL of Andreas Petofi!” Blackwood bellows. “How do you testify, FOR! or AGAINST!”

Barnabas says, “Who are you?” which is so cute I can’t deal with it.

Eventually, he manages to get a handle on what’s going on, and gives a little smirk of triumph as he swears that Count Petofi is guilty.

883 dark shadows petofi caught

“You aided the PRISONER!” This is still Blackwood, obviously. “Years ago, you aided my murderer! Now, you must DIE!”

So the question is: Is this the appropriate end for Count Petofi? We never heard of Garth Blackwood until last week, and even then he was Aristede’s problem. So it’s odd that yesterday’s combo of Dark Shadows all-stars — Barnabas, Quentin and Angelique — could only delay the mad count, while Blackwood just stomps in and owns the room.

883 dark shadows widow romano

It would be more appropriate if Petofi’s downfall came at the hands of the gypsies — his mortal enemies, the people that have hunted and haunted him since the day he arrived. But — be honest — do we really want the gypsies to come back?

Last week, King Johnny Romano’s widow showed up to dispense some gypsy justice. I didn’t get a chance to write about her, because she was only in two scenes, total. In her second scene, she was choked to death by Blackwood, and utterly forgotten.

It was an odd choice, to say the least. The only person who even knew she existed was Aristede. You have to wonder why they bothered to cast somebody for just two scenes, if she wasn’t going to make the slightest difference.

But what if that was intentional, a way to signal that the end is near for Count Petofi? Essentially, the show is saying that the endless parade of gypsies will never accomplish anything. They have tried, they are trying, and they will try forever to kill Petofi — but if it’s been going on this long, then they’re just as predictable as Petofi’s become.

Imagine the gypsies riding in on a caravan, with a new day player flanked by three non-speaking extras, waving the golden scimitar, and saying all the same things that King Johnny said three months ago. Is that really what we want out of life?

883 dark shadows petofi blackwood turpentine

So I say, don’t grieve for the lunatics we might have had; just enjoy the lunatic that’s here. Garth Blackwood is an implacable force of destruction, and isn’t that exactly what we implacably need?

He chases Barnabas and Pansy out of the house, and reaches for his stranglin’ chain — but then he hesitates. Like the artiste that he is, he realizes that this is a special moment. So he grabs for the bottle of turpentine on Tate’s workbench, and gets to work.

He splashes turpentine all over the room — especially the couch, which I guess we’ve decided not to use again — and he sets the room ablaze.

883 dark shadows blackwood petofi fire

And the two creatures set to battle, as the world burns, and our hopes and dreams and fears tumble to the ground. As always, the cleansing power of flame eradicates the evil in our midst. The world of 1897 — our home, for all these months — burns to the ground. The ravenous fire consumes us all, and we are ashes and loss and pain, at last, at last. Finally, a happy ending.

Tomorrow: Widow’s Hell.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Just after Petofi tells Tate to lock Pansy up, you can see a camera and one of the camera operator’s legs in shot.


The poem quoted at the top of the post is “Fire and Ice,” by Robert Frost.

Tomorrow: Widow’s Hell.

883 dark shadows quentin fire

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

37 thoughts on “Episode 883: The Tate Murders

  1. This seems like a good place to park some info about John Harkins (Garth Blackwood), one of the more interesting day players outside of those who became better known. Harkins was and remained a character actor; like many DS folks, he began on Broadway (originating the part of social worker Gladhand in WEST SIDE STORY, and a bunch of straight plays).

    After DS, he made the rounds of the prime-time sitcoms, including “All in the Family,” “Alice,” “Taxi,” and most notably, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” episode “Chuckles Bites the Dust” (as the minister delivering Chuckles’ eulogy). He did bunch of TV movies, the miniseries “Winds of War,” an Alger Hiss miniseries (as Whittaker Chambers), and a few films including BEING THERE, SIX WEEKS (with two Moores, Mary Tyler and Dudley), ABSENCE OF MALICE, BIRDY, and a couple others.

    He continued on the guest circuit, including three “Cagney and Lacey”s (with John Karlen; while he often played ministers, doctors, bosses, here he was a ruthless drug dealer, even returning for a 1994 reunion movie), “Matlock,” “The Golden Girls,” and my favorite discovery on his resume, a 1994 episode of “Picket Fences” where Fyvush Finkel’s lawyer character argues before the Supreme Court; Harkins played Chief Justice William Rehnquist, and how many people could claim that? He passed away in 1999.

    1. I’ve been wanting to say this since it was announced in this blog, about John Harkins who was the minister at the Chuckles the Clown funeral on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I remember that, but when I look back and play it in my head, I always see and hear character actor Richard Stahl, who presided as The Minister in The Odd Couple over Oscar Madison’s dear departed pet fly Saul in (season 1, episode 10) It’s All Over Now, Baby Bird from 1970. I haven’t seen the Chuckles episode in many years, but have recently been viewing The Odd Couple on DVD, so maybe that’s why. But never underestimate the talent of a great character actor, no matter whether you may not see them too many times on a given show. But, yeah, Nehemiah Persoff (and OMG! He’s still alive!) on Gilligan’s Island, and hell yeah, what we’ve just seen from John Harkins as Garth Blackwood on Dark Shadows — indeed, Mr. Harkins is one of Dark Shadows’ hidden strengths.

      Any character actor who can finally reign in one of the most tiresome, overly drawn-out storylines ever before it finally implodes on itself, well, I’ll bet you a filigreed fountain pen that he must be worth quite a lot… And, yes, come to think of it… well, this storyline getting resolved does come at the hands of a, sort of, day player… quite unlike 1795, where the regular players resolve it all by themselves. It kind of tells us that this 1897 story had gotten way out of control.

      1. Now I remember John Harkins being in the credits (I know him from as many things as you do, especially sitcom roles). But I somehow never expected to see Richard Stahl’s name on this site. (Like you, I know him from The Odd Couple and many other things.)

  2. The wheels of justice grind slowly but exceedingly fine, is the proper quote. Wiki that it goes all the way back to Plato

    1. Oh! Thank you, that was driving me crazy. I’ve just taken that section out of the piece, because it’s not interesting or funny, just something that confused me. So now nobody knows what you’re talking about. But LaurA is right.

  3. Thanks for that information, Andrew! I didn’t recognize him behind those eyebrows, but I loved John Harkin, especially in the Chuckles episode of MTM.

    I suppose we can claim that this is poetic justice and that Count Petofi, who summoned Garth Blackwood in the first place, was hoist on his own petard. But the truth is that it’s bad storytelling. I think that even gypsies would have been too deus ex machina for me UNLESS the killing blow had been delivered by Magda! Grayson Hall picked a FINE TIME to do a play! But I would have been satisfied to have Quentin, Barnabas or Pansy – or any combination thereof – destroy the Count. I don’t know why I’m surprised, but I would have thought the writers could have come up with something better. As it is, this week and next is a series of fails for Barnabas.

    1. It’s interesting to note how our televisual literacy has changed since 1969. Petofi attempts to swap bodies with Barnabas, and within a week or so, we’ll see Barnabas behaving very strangely. In a post-Internet world, there would be much discussion connecting the two events but Petofi is essentially forgotten save for a few offhand references.

      1. “Presumptive Democratic party nominee Hillary Clinton dismissed Palin’s warning, labeling it [‘]a blanket statement.[‘]’

        TA-RAA, ching!

    1. Totally agree. For the second time in two years, one of my favorite sets, the Evans Cottage, gets trashed. I don’t believe we’ll ever see it again.

      1. Yes we do, during the Leviathan story. Maggie mentions that the tenants had moved out and that she had to go get it ready for new tenants. We see her on the set for one last time. I guess we are supposed to believe that the cottage was rebuilt exactly as it had looked before the 1897 fire.

      2. and SPOILER ALERT I have seen hope for the survival of the afghan in the early 900s…it can perform certain psychic things you know

        1. ‘Darkness falls over the haunted rooms of Collinwood. Barnabas Collins returns from the past of 1897 a changed man. A new author of horror is having his ideas “creatively adopted” – while through the swirling mists of time a homing afghan seeks its rightful place and time…’

  4. Poor Blackwood. What did he ask? Not much.

    “A little stomp,
    A little pain,
    A little choking with a chain.”

    (It’s been going around my head since I read John Harkins’ credits. Like a Dream Curse, I am compelled to share it.)

    1. If only there’d been a place in this violent scene for a “Senor Kaboom.” (I haven’t seen that MTM episode in a long while, but that’s the part that always stays with me.)

  5. “Let her go and deal with me.” This is perhaps my favprite version of Barnabas, still the eccentric millionaire, but genuinely concerned for the safety of others and willing to throw himself into the lion’s den if necessary.

    Sadly, we won’t see this Barnabas again for another few months.

    But with this episode, Frid reclaims his status as series protagonist/anti-hero, which Selby never regains.

  6. Blackwood taking out Petofi is a mixed bag. Having a cog in the machine that is Petofi’s Master Plan has a touch of dramatic irony, but it stinks of Deus Ex Machina. It would have been more satisfying to have Quentin finish the mad Count off, or Magda if we’re keeping with Quentin escapes via train. She was the one responsible for bringing Petofi to Collinwood in the first place when she stole his magic hand.

    1. Magda has my vote, too, preferably leading the band of gypsy zombies! Would have been a great scene, as she stood and cackled while Petofi disappeared ‘a la Sebastian Venable’ under the dogpile of vengeance!

        1. DS is all about ignoring the trivial limitations of space, time, logic and mere coherency. They already brought Sandor back for one trial. Why not another, with Magda as chief prosecutor?

          Sentence to be carried out by the late King Johnny Romano. Makes more ‘sense’ and even ‘DS sense’ than dreaming up a stompeding monomaniac lamprophone like Blackwood.

            1. I have to say, the last thing I’d want to see here is another episode-long gypsy trial. I totally agree that Garth Blackwood is a completely random way to finish off Petofi, but he’s way more entertaining than the more “dramatically correct” options.

              1. He does a good growl, but perhaps he should roll his eyes a bit more often. Constructive criticism…

              2. Like MAGDA would waste time on a trial? She is a rockstar, she don’t need no trial…she don’ need no stinkin’ trial!

              3. Blackwood gets a lot of credit under the “rule of cool.” He even has a compelling “bad guy disfigurement” (his leg). He kills a few red shirts, but ultimately, of the major players, it’s limited to Evan, Aristede, and Petofi. That’s not so bad. It’s not like Ben killing Nathan and Natalie out of nowhere.

                And although a little convoluted, Quentin does set Petofi’s destruction in motion. He tricks Aristede, who stabs Petofi and it’s perfectly in character for Petofi to be unforgiving. He is destroyed by his own evil made flesh in Blackwood.

        2. They were pretty clever with how Angelique polishes off twin sister Alexis in PT 1970, with both characters in the scene “together”. This would have taken lots of work and careful direction to have Sandor return to kill Petofi, but surely wouldn’t have been as dramatic as Garth Blackwood storming in and going out literally in a blaze of glory.

          1. The Hand could have grown its own personality while it was in the Box – it usta move by itself, after all! So it gets sick of being used for unrelenting Eeeeevil by Petofi, and it turns on him…closer and closer it gets to Petofi’s throat, while a desperate Petofi tries to fight it off with all the willpower he can muster…

            A faithful Aristide jumps in to try to help and is batted aside like a straw with literally inhuman strength…zoom in on Petofi’s gasping face…eyes larger than ever behind the glasses…’No! NOOOOOOOO!!!!’

            Sting and credits…it’s Frid-day, after all…

            1. I was hoping the Hand would strangle Petofi, then cut itself off so it could go back home with the Gypsies. They set us up for that- there are moments when Petofi admits to Aristide that he doesn’t fully understand the Hand’s powers. Having Petofi killed by one of his own conjurations is OK, I guess, but a disappointment compared to that.

  7. As Stephen Robinson suggests, Barnabas seems bound to come back from the past different, but why he is different? Coulda been that he became possessed by Petofi. Don’t know if Julia knew enough to consider that possibility, but she never seems to. Petofi is gone and forgotten by DS but not by his fans.

  8. This episode was broadcast four months after the murder of Sharon Tate. Arguably the most famous person killed by the Charles Manson “Family.” Just thought that, given the title of this blog post, that ought to be mentioned.

  9. I thought it was a great choice to have Blackwood kill Petofi. The only reason Blackwood is even around in the first place is because Petofi had Tate summon him into life as a needlessly roundabout and cruel way to dispose of his most loyal follower Aristede. Since Petofi made it clear he didn’t care about any collateral damage Blackwood might continue to cause in his absence, it seemed like poetic justice that the creation of Petofi’s own arrogant desire to show off ended up being the cause of his own death.

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