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Episode 990: Let It Burn

“Coming back from the dead is not a trick, Bruno!”

Okay, everybody gather round the table; it’s seance time again. Our hands must touch, obviously. Everybody knows about the hands. You can’t get anything done unless your hands touch.

Today, we’re making contact with my friend Randall Jessup, who’s going to confer with me on several subjects of great importance, specifically: what’s wrong with Sabrina, the dubious value of re-enacting things, what’s wrong with Parallel Time, what’s wrong with Sabrina (again, at length), and finally, a foolproof plan for what’s going to happen in the final year of this blog.

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Danny:  Hello, Randall! Welcome to Dark Shadows Every Day.

Randall:  Thank you, this is exciting. Do our fingers have to touch?

Danny:  They do. It’s going to be a very finger-touchy episode. Before we start today’s episode: How did you get into the show?

Randall:  I caught it on the Sci Fi Channel one morning, when I was a freshman in high school. I actually caught it in Parallel Time, basically where we’re at right now.

Danny:  Oh, really?

Randall:  It was the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde storyline; I remember that he was sneaking back into his lab. That was the first episode I saw, and there was something immediately captivating about it. It’s very theatrical, I guess; it doesn’t look like anything else on television. I mentioned it to my mom and my grandma, I saw this weird show, and they said, oh yeah, that’s Dark Shadows, I grew up watching that.

Danny:  Aww, that’s cute.

Randall:  And I just decided, I have to consume this. And then I found out it was like a thousand episodes.

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Randall:  So I got the DVDs through Netflix, and it took four years. I watched Dark Shadows every day, all through high school. I only watched a few on Sci Fi — whatever they played that day, and the next day. And then I went back to the beginning, which on Netflix was Barnabas coming out of the box.

Danny:  Which is good; that’s the correct way to do it.

Randall:  And I kept waiting to catch up to that first episode that I saw…

Danny:  And it was three years away, and in a different universe.

Randall:  Yeah. And it was actually frustrating, because — the Parallel Time thing? I’m not really a huge fan of, actually.

Danny:  Excellent, so this is a great time to talk to you.

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Danny:  What doesn’t work about Parallel Time for you?

Randall:  Well, it’s disconnected from the rest of the story. It’s fun, it’s interesting, I thought it was a really creative thing to do, and it was really cool when he discovers it.

Danny:  When Barnabas finds the Parallel Time room?

Randall:  Yeah, I thought that was magical, there’s almost a Christmas feel to it. But clearly they’d realized a while ago that the show was less about the characters, and more about the actors, and I think Parallel Time was really pushing those limits. They’re not going to the past to research anything. There’s no connection.

Danny:  It’s just a Dark Shadows type story, starring these actors.

Randall:  And I don’t think it works. It’s a cool experiment! But I don’t think it works.

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Danny:  Yeah, I talk about the show as serialized narrative, with this natural selection process that helps them identify what works over time. But really, the thing that they learn best is how to keep starting over.

Randall:  Right! They Ryan Murphy the whole thing. They don’t know what to do, so they reboot the story.

Danny:  Yeah, once a year, it’s just a different show. You know, I hadn’t really thought about American Horror Story, as a similar experience. There’s the same repertory theater cast, taking different roles.

Randall:  Especially season one. There’s a curse, where anyone who’s ever died on the property doesn’t actually die. There’s a monster in the basement…

Danny:  And everyone’s obsessed with this one house.

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Danny:  So by the time they get to Parallel Time, they’ve got that structure, where they start over every few months. And the beginning of these storylines is always super exciting.

Randall:  Yeah, the pilot episodes are always great.

Danny:  Because they get really excited, and they say, we can do all these stories, and have all these things going on, and then after a while, it’s like the fun drains out of it.

Randall:  It always feels like a vacation, where eventually you want to get back to the 1960s. By the last couple weeks, you’re like, I’m tired, I’ve run out of clothes… I just want to go home!

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Randall:  But I think Parallel Time backs up your theory about the show really being about the house.

Danny:  What do you mean?

Randall:  Well, Collinwood is the only constant in Parallel Time. The house is the house. The house knows what it’s doing. It always was and it always will be, in every permutation of the universe.

Danny:  And the great thing is — spoiler alert from, like, forty years ago — but it’s great that at the end of Parallel Time, they just burn down the house.

Randall:  Yes! Exactly.

Danny:  And that’s the real ending of the show. If they’d actually planned a conclusion for Dark Shadows, it would have been: burn down the house, laugh maniacally, and then run away.

Randall:  Yeah, what other ending could there be? Even staking Barnabas wouldn’t be the right ending. You don’t kill the vampire —

Danny:  You kill the house!

Randall:  You kill the house. It’s the only way to do it.

Danny:  You know, we should probably watch the episode, and then we can talk more about why Parallel Time doesn’t work, while we’re watching not-working Parallel Time.

Randall:  Just watching it not work?

Danny:  Yeah, let’s do that.

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David Selby:  The great estate of Collinwood, in another band of time… a band so similar to our own, and yet so different. Barnabas Collins has reached this other time…

Danny:  It’s amazing how important the opening narration is for Parallel Time, to help people understand what the hell they’re looking at. Like, if you missed a couple weeks — it’s the same characters, it’s the same sets — why are Quentin and Angelique married, exactly?

Randall:  Yeah, on soap operas, usually you’ve lived with the characters for so long that even if you come back and something’s different, you can suss out what happened. But in Parallel Time, you don’t even know these people.

Danny:  Or, rather, you think that you do, so why is Roger talking about how great Angelique is? Completely baffling. And the great thing is that the explanation at the beginning of the episode doesn’t make sense either. David Selby says they’re “in another band of time” — which, just, what does that mean?

Randall:  Yeah, they assume that we’re all quantum physicists.

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Danny:  So this episode is mostly about what a pain in the ass Sabrina is, and I’m hoping that you can help me figure out my deep sadness about her.

Randall:  Yeah, you mentioned that before. Why the Sabrina hate? I don’t remember hating her.

Danny:  I just really don’t like her, and it’s been hard for me to write about it, because I can’t put my finger on exactly why. For one thing, everything that she says just feels forced to me. I don’t think that she’s a good actress.

Randall:  Oh, so it’s just that. It’s not the character, it’s just —

Danny:  Yeah, I mean, there’s not much to the character.

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Danny:  But look at this, look at how upset Elizabeth is, walking into the drawing room and finding Sabrina there. That’s how I feel, every time she’s in an episode.

Randall:  I think it’s misogyny.

Danny:  Yeah, that’s possible. I just hate women.

Randall:  You hate women!

Danny:  I guess I do. Me and Elizabeth, we both hate women.

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Danny:  Cause here she is, the strong female character, constantly being traumatized and abducted.

Randall:  Well, what’s the problem here? She got attacked?

Danny:  Yeah, Cyrus proposed to her, and then he drank a potion and turned into Mr. Hyde. Then he broke into her house to steal the engagement ring back. So now she’s traumatized, and she thinks it’s six months ago, so she’s broken into Collinwood, and she refuses to leave until they have a seance.

Randall:  Right. And why does her dress match the bedsheet?

Danny:  That’s a good question. I don’t have any information on that.

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Roger:  Why does she insist upon the seance?

Cyrus:  Evil… moments of evil. It’s the only explanation I can think of.

Danny:  Which doesn’t really explain it. He says that about everything.

Randall:  Do we know who they were trying to contact, at that seance?

Danny:  I don’t think so. Just that they were doing something, and then Angelique died, which you’d think would put them off seances for a while.

Randall:  It’s a hazardous hobby.

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Cyrus:  She was attacked in her room, and the shock has made her mind go back to that night! Now, there’s nothing wrong with her physically. I called Dr. Law, the psychiatrist at the hospital. He said that if she went through the seance again, it might make her all right again!

Randall:  This is a great idea — like, if someone is traumatized, it’s really best if everyone just goes with whatever she says. That’s the cure for her trauma, apparently. Whatever delusion she comes up with, we all have to participate.

Danny:  What’s the opposite of an intervention — an outervention? Is that a thing, at all?

Randall:  Yeah. This is very healthy.

Danny:  And then pretty much the whole episode is just them going up to people and saying, will you do this ridiculous thing?

Randall:  Which is kind of a metaphor for how Dark Shadows was made. Approaching people and asking them to participate in these weird scenes.

Danny:  And we just keep re-traumatizing ourselves. Every day.

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Randall:  One thing that I like about Parallel Time is how they’re able to tie everything together around Angelique. There’s so many random characters — the musician, and the scientist, and the writer, and they’re all connected because they’re fascinated with this one incredible woman. It’s very Laura Palmer.

Danny:  Oh, it is. When the show starts, she’s already dead —

Randall:  And they can’t get over her. She’s this huge missing hole in the cast, and in these people’s lives. She’s obviously the best character on the show, and they’re all having trouble detaching from her.

Danny:  Oh, and then her identical cousin shows up, and everyone gets confused. You’re right, this is Twin Peaks.

Randall:  Yeah, Parallel Time is a mashup of Twin Peaks and American Horror Story. Even though they were made later.

Danny:  Because of how time works. It’s very complicated. We need David Selby to come and explain it to us.

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Bruno:  Or did Angelique die?

Cyrus:  Bruno, don’t start that again!

Bruno:  I can’t stop wondering, until I’m sure. Angelique had many tricks.

Cyrus:  Coming back from the dead is not a trick, Bruno!

(We both laugh)

Danny:  That is true.

Randall:  That’s a good one, I like that.

Danny:  Yeah. Coming back from the dead is not a trick. What is it, exactly?

Bruno:  Maybe at the seance, we should ask lovely Alexis to sit in for her late sister.

Danny:  And then she’ll get killed.

Bruno:  Why not? The dead can’t die twice. What if, by some macabre miracle, Alexis is Angelique?

Randall:  They really can’t wrap their minds around the concept of twins. Twins aren’t really that hard.

Danny:  Mm hmm. I guess, partly that’s — it’s what he wants to believe? I don’t know. I’m retconning his motivation.

Randall:  They’re all delusional?

Danny:  Yeah, they’re just all delusional.

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Randall:  So what’s interesting is that Barnabas brought us here to Parallel Time, and then they lock him up, he disappears. We really have no connection to these people.

Danny:  Well, that’s because — You know what? I’m sorry, before we go on — look at this shot! Look at Alexis, with Angelique’s portrait reflected in a mirror over her shoulder.

Randall:  Oh — that’s good!

Danny:  That’s beautiful!

Randall:  Yeah.

Danny:  They rarely do anything like that, but they’ve decided for Parallel Time that they’re going to pay attention to how the shots look. Anyway, the thing that happened with Barnabas is that everybody left the show to make House of Dark Shadows, to make the movie.

Randall:  Ah! Okay.

Danny:  And that’s why Maggie and Barnabas are gone, and this is Liz and Roger’s last episode, they’re going to go away, and Carolyn and Willie have gone away —

Randall:  Right.

Danny:  So that’s why we’re left with Quentin and Angelique, and then all the new characters that we don’t care about. Cyrus and Sabrina, and Bruno — this is going to be our cast now, for three weeks, and you just have to get used to it.

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Danny:  But, look — Sabrina looks fine! She’s sleeping, she’s totally fine.

Randall:  Yeah, they gave her a sedative. That’s Dark Shadows medicine.

Danny:  It would be great, actually, if at this point, they’ve just convinced themselves that they have to do the seance, and Sabrina’s not into it anymore. She’s totally fine! She’s going to wake up and say, hey, what’s going on?

Randall:  She doesn’t even care. But now we’re committed. We’ve been talking about this for the whole episode, we have to do it.

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Randall:  I think they cleaned the fireplace for Parallel Time. It used to be kind of black, and dingier.

Danny:  Yeah, they’ve spruced up the sets. Oh, the magic drinks cabinet!

Randall:  Just pops up out of a table.

Danny:  Every piece of furniture in Collinwood does that. You go to the couch and pull it open — and instead of a sofa bed, it’s a bar!

Randall:  Yeah. Even the walls do it! All the secret passages, there are speakeasies back there.

Danny:  It’s a fully transforming alcoholic mansion.

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Bruno:  Perhaps Alexis would be interested in sitting in for her sister?

Alexis:  Sitting in?

Bruno:  Oh, haven’t they explained what we plan to do?

Quentin:  There’s no explaining needed!

Bruno:  Well, I thought Alexis would be fascinated to see the exact circumstances under which her sister died.

Danny:  Yes, everyone wants to know that!

Randall:  That’s so weird and sadistic. I’m sure she’d like to relive her sister’s death, from her sister’s point of view.

Danny:  Everybody wants that, that’s healing! That’s how you get closure.

Randall:  Right.

Danny:  They should do that instead of funerals.

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Danny:  Actually, we’re making jokes about it, but this is really clever. They’ve found a way to show us the backstory, without doing a flashback.

Liz:  I feel we must do it too, Roger. Not just for her. I don’t know why, but I do.

Danny:  I wouldn’t do anything for her!

Randall:  And she’s right there! She can hear you. She’s two feet away. Jesus. You sit down at Collinwood, and everybody thinks you’re furniture.

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Sabrina:  Cyrus will start now.

Roger:  Yes, let’s get this over with.

Danny:  I wonder if Sabrina was bossy like this the first time. They may have killed the wrong participant at this seance.

Bruno:  It’s almost exactly as it was before. There was a storm that night, too.

Randall:  Even the weather is delusional. They convinced the weather to go along with this horrible plan.

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Cyrus:  Our hands must touch.

Danny:  Let the healing begin.

Randall:  I like the idea of the empty chair? Like, this is for the spirits to —

Danny:  No, I think that’s for Quentin. He went upstairs, and doesn’t want to play.

Randall:  So shouldn’t this not work, since Quentin isn’t there?

Danny:  Yeah, I know. Sabrina has decided to let that one go. Everybody else needs to sit in their chair, but Quentin has a doctor’s note.

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Cyrus:  The spirit who appeared when I said these words before, will it come now? Do not be afraid! We need your help!

Randall:  Are spirits normally afraid?

Danny:  Yeah, they’re reassuring the haunted house.

Randall:  Yeah. Actually, the house should be more afraid of these people.

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Cyrus:  Who are you? Are you the spirit who came to us, six months ago?

Sabrina:  Let me go… oh! Let me go!

Danny:  Oh my god. This girl will do anything for attention.

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Sabrina:  She’s dying! She’s dying! Can’t you see, she’s dying! Murder! Murder! MURDER!

Randall:  See? Sabrina is fun. How can you not like that?

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Randall:  And then Alexis has a stroke and dies.

Danny:  Well, now they’re going to have to re-enact it all over again. Every six months, they need a new Lara Parker.

Randall:  I feel like if you do something, and someone has a seizure, you don’t keep exposing people to it.

Danny:  I wonder if that’s really the way it happened the first time. That Angelique was murdered, while Sabrina was pointing at her, shouting Murder Murder Murder.

Randall:  These people must be the worst detectives in the world.

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Randall:  So I’m okay with Sabrina. I’m not filled with Sabrina hate. She’s a little off, she’s a little weird, but that’s what I want to watch on TV.

Danny:  Yeah, I can’t really explain why I hate her so much. It’s possible that she’s just always traumatized?

Randall:  Okay. I could — that would be a little annoying, yeah.

Danny:  She came on the show as the traumatized werewolf girlfriend.

Randall:  That’s right.

Danny:  And then kind of slowly dyed her hair, and got up out of the chair.

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Randall:  And the Parallel Time version has a strange relationship with her boss. She seems extremely doting and submissive.

Danny:  Mm hmm, yeah.

Randall:  She’s his lab assistant, and she doesn’t seem to help. She just goes and does the dishes, and she says, I won’t let anyone interrupt you! It’s very weird.

Danny:  Yeah, she is submissive.

Randall:  She seems more obsessed with him, rather than in love with him.

Danny:  Yeah, she’s actually kind of a fan. Like, this week, she was saying, your devotion to your work is the thing I love most about you.

Randall:  The world’s strangest relationship!

Danny:  Yeah, she’s like a fan who got lucky.

Randall:  She got to meet her idol, and then he turns into a monster.

Danny:  Oh, you know what? She was engaged to Chris, too — she’s just bad at engagements!

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Randall:  Yeah, you’re right! Everyone she hooks up with turns into a monster, in front of her eyes.

Danny:  I think it’s her!

Randall:  They’re just desperate to get out of a relationship with her.

Danny:  You see? This is the thing! I told you.

Randall:  Is it a metaphor for abuse?

Danny:  It is, it’s just a really bad one.

Randall:  The men turn into monsters, and disappoint her, and run out on her.

Danny:  Yeah. And then they take the ring back, which is awesome.

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Randall:  Yeah, that’s right, he goes and steals his own ring from her! That’s so cold.

Danny:  Well, if you’re engaged to Sabrina, that’s the best case scenario.

Randall:  Yeah.

Danny:  Later that night, you break into her house, and you take the ring back.

Randall:  That’s rough! If anything says I don’t love you, it’s that. Now go do my dishes.

Danny:  Right. I broke into your house just to tell you, this engagement is over.

Randall:  Wow. That poor girl.

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Randall:  I think that’s why I like her. I feel bad for her, cause she’s misunderstood and she has no friends.

Danny:  You’re rooting  for the underdog.

Randall:  Yeah. I want her to move to the city, and throw her hat in the air in freeze frame.

Danny:  You know, this might be what Mary Richards’ life was like, before The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Randall:  She left Maine, and ran off to Minneapolis to start a new life.

Danny:  If there’s ever a character who ought to just get out of town…

Randall:  And don’t go find yourself another man! You do you.

Danny:  Right.

Randall:  Cause they’ll just turn out to be — like, her next boyfriend is the Zodiac Killer.

Danny:  Which she’ll discover all of a sudden, yeah. Just stop doing this, stop dating moody guys!

Randall:  No more men with underground lairs.

Danny:  She dates the Zodiac Killer, and she says, the thing I love most about you is your devotion to your work.

Randall:  The poor dear. I feel like it’s cause she has no friends, no one’s there to read her a chapter from He’s Just Not That Into You.

Danny:  That would actually be the best He’s Just Not That Into You story of all time. He asked me to marry him, I accepted, he gave me a ring, and then that night he came back with a fake mustache on.

Randall:  And he took the ring. Yeah, this is dating advice from Dark Shadows. Do not date these men.

Danny:  Respect yourself more than this.

Randall:  Yeah. So now I see why you don’t like her. But I think those are the reasons I do like her.

Danny:  Well, then she’s your responsibility. I can’t deal with her.

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Randall:   So after this — I wish I remembered the Parallel Time stories more. Oh, they go to 1840, and then Parallel Time again.

Danny:  Yeah, they do another round of this.

Randall:  Well, at this point, I think they do another round of everything. They have the Gerard haunting, which is 1897 again. The two kids. The show starts to repeat.

Danny:  Yeah, there’s this moment at the end of Parallel Time, where they’ve basically taken the current concept of Dark Shadows about as far as it can go, and this is the time when they need to figure out something new to do. And then they basically bail on that idea completely.

Randall:  Yeah, they give up.

Danny:  Parallel Time is their last really original storyline. They’re doing Rebecca and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and then they run dry.

Randall:  Like, they’ve run out of stories to steal, and they’ve forgotten how to do anything else, so they start stealing from themselves, eighteen months ago.

Danny:  Yeah, they can’t go back to the library. They kept Rebecca for too long.

Randall:  They were only supposed to keep it for two weeks.

Danny:  And they can’t pay the fines! So they don’t have a library card anymore.

Randall:  Actually, I was imagining that at the start of the show, the writers just put all their books together in a pile, and they were like, we’ve got eight books —

Danny:  Oh god, that’s only going to get us to the summer of 1970!

Randall:  Yeah.

Danny:  And then we’re screwed. Somebody needs to go and write more literature.

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Danny:  But this is my future now. We’re pretty close to that point, when they run out of ideas, and that’s the next year of my life.

Randall:  Yeah, you’ll end up back here in Parallel Time, but the even more not-working version.

Danny:  So I’m constantly being harassed — and by constantly harassed, I mean occasionally someone mentions it — that when I reach the end, then I should write about the 1966 episodes, and make the blog go in a circle. Which I’m not going to do.

Randall:  Right.

Danny:  Because that is literally the opposite of what the blog is about.

Randall:  Because you’re telling a story?

Danny:  Yeah, exactly. This blog is the story of Dark Shadows — how it happened, how it works, and what we can learn from it. When that story’s over, it’s done, you don’t circle back and do a pointless prequel.

Randall:  Well, the beginning — have you watched those episodes?

Danny:  No. I’m sure they’re fine. I’ve seen the first two or three, and a couple of Laura episodes. But I honestly have zero interest in them. If that was the whole show, I’d be a fan of something else.

Randall:  They’re charming, though. I watched the first twenty episodes or so. It still has that theatrical quality, it draws you in. By episode three, I was intrigued, and I loved everything about it. It was moody and dark —

Danny:  Yeah, they’re great actors, and it has the music.

Randall:  I guess you could — I mean, blogwise, since sometimes you jump around in time, to explore the other iterations of Dark Shadows, you could do — I don’t want to say you could do a week where you do that —

Danny:  I can’t.

Randall:  If there’s a slow time, you could analyze at least the pilot or something —

Danny:  No, see the thing is, if I do that —

Randall:  People are —

Danny:  Then I’m just validating this idea that it’s okay to go backwards, and end up where I started, rather than moving forward into the future. Also, as much as I love this, I’m excited that there’s one year left. I just got there last week, and crossing that line feels really meaningful to me.

Randall:  Right.

Danny:  I’m excited about just finishing the project. I love it, but there has to be a point where I get to stop talking about Dark Shadows.

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Danny:  So I had this weird experience, just the other day. There’s a guy who was regularly commenting on the blog for a couple years, and when he started, he thought I was awesome and hilarious. And a couple weeks ago, he said, I don’t know why you even write this blog, you obviously hate the show.

Randall:  Really?

Danny:  Yeah. He’s really mad at me. I sent him an email, and said, dude, what’s going on? You used to like the blog. And I got this really angry reply, about how the blog is insulting and always negative, and why am I even writing it. So I was trying to figure out what I could possibly say, and I realized — that’s the story of the next year.

Randall:  What do you mean?

Danny:  Well, I started when Barnabas comes out of the box, and the story of Dark Shadows is that it gets better from there — more popular, and just creatively a way better show. And then you hit the peak, at the end of 1897, and things go downhill.

Randall:  And now you’re past that.

Danny:  Yeah. So the first two and a half years of the blog was about the show getting better and better. And the final year of the blog is, why the show is getting worse, and why it gets cancelled.

Randall:  Which is, like you said, that’s the story of Dark Shadows.

Danny:  Yeah, I couldn’t just do a year of how great everything is, and then all of a sudden it gets cancelled for no reason.

Randall:  So he was angry at you about that?

Danny:  He was upset. He was very upset. I was ruining Dark Shadows for him.

Randall:  I’m sorry that you ruined Dark Shadows for him.

Danny:  I know. He basically broke up with my blog.

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Danny:  So I’m cursed with this knowledge of the future. Dark Shadows is my favorite television show — it’s one of the best uses of television, of all time — and I’m going to spend the next year, knowing that things aren’t going to get better. And when I’ve watched the show in the past, back in my pre-blog life, I would just stop watching after 1840.

Randall:  Oh, you’ve never seen —

Danny:  No. I know what happens, because I read the episode guides, and I’ve seen some of it. I’ve definitely seen the last couple episodes. But it’s always felt like, this is the point where this thing that I love so much — it just gets worse, and then it dies.

Randall:  And it has the world’s saddest ending, because you never go back to the 1960s family that you care about.

Danny:  Yeah, the show goes into hospice care. You never go home.

Randall:  When I first watched it, getting the DVDs from Netflix, I knew that I was getting close to the end, and I kept wondering — when do we get back to Elizabeth and Carolyn and Roger?

Danny:  Right.

Randall:  And then you don’t! You’re just stuck in this spinoff that nobody cares about. It’s really depressing.

Danny:  Yeah. That’s the next year of my life.

Randall:  So you’ll just get sadder, and more insulting, and you’ll lose all your readers, and everybody sends you hate mail.

Danny:  Right. Although, actually, that sounds kind of amazing.

946-dark-shadows-barnabas-fire

Danny:  Because — yeah. That’s actually an amazing plan.

Randall:  You’re just going to get worse and worse, and then you get cancelled.

Danny:  I get cancelled! Exactly.

Randall:  Your blog should just peter out the same way Dark Shadows does.

Danny:  It totally should! That would be super badass and avant-garde, where all of my posts for 1841 Parallel Time are specifically designed to just drive people away.

Randall:  Just like 1841 Parallel Time.

Danny:  Yes! Just depressing, and I have nothing new to say. It’ll be just like the show.

Randall:  And you’re busy with other projects, so you start repeating yourself —

Danny:  Oh my god, I just realized, that’s actually what’s happening to me right now. I have all these other things that I’m working on —

Randall:  You’re doing House of Dark Shadows.

Danny:  Yes. I’m in Tarrytown! That’s why the blog’s been so erratic since December, because I’m in Tarrytown, filming a movie. That totally makes sense now.

990-dark-shadows-movie-depp-burton-collinwood-house-burns

Danny:  Oh my god, Randall. I cannot thank you enough for this conversation. You’ve helped me to understand what’s been happening in my life for the last three months. And now I know what I’m doing for the next year.

Randall:  It’s okay, though. The ritual’s already there for you. You just follow the ritual.

Danny:  Right! You’re right.

Randall:  Just follow in the footsteps. You’re good.

Danny:  Yeah. So I just have to be prepared —

Randall:  For failure. Yeah.

Danny:  As we all should.

Randall:  And at the end, you just burn down the house.

Danny:  That’s — oh my god, that’s the thing that they should have done on the show, just burned Collinwood to the ground. But they didn’t do it, so now I have to.

Randall:  You’ll burn down the blog.

Danny:  Yes. I’ll drive everyone away, I’ll burn down the blog, and no one will ever read it again.

Randall:  Yeah. There you go.

Danny:  Done, final answer. Randall, thank you so much for doing this with me today. You’ve helped me a lot.

Randall:  You know, I really don’t think that I have.

Monday: Parsing Sabrina.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Roger tells Cyrus they should call the police, and Cyrus says, “Look, they’re doing everything they can. They — the police are doing everything.”

Cyrus trips on another line: “Bruno, she was attacked in  her room, that’s all. Now, she — she was — she was in her room, and… and the shock has just made her mind go back to that night!”

When Alexis finds Roger talking to the portrait, there’s a lot of studio noise — a door opening, feet moving around, something falls over.

Quentin opens the magic drinks cabinet and tries to pick up a bottle, but it slips out of his hand and bangs on the cabinet.

When Liz tells Quentin, “Maybe that’s why life is so difficult,” a camera pokes into the frame on the left.

As Roger sits down at the seance table, the boom mic dips into the frame. A minute later, when the spirit speaks through Sabrina, the boom mic is clearly visible above them.

Monday: Parsing Sabrina.

731 dark shadows nora fire

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

60 thoughts on “Episode 990: Let It Burn

  1. I like to think that DS does have a “last episode,” when Barnabas and Julia return to 1971 after their adventure in 1840. It’s a true “happy ending” that I won’t go into too much right now, but I would say that 1840 ends — in the classic sense — “comedically” (couples paired off, noble sacrifices) while every other storyline ended “tragically.” 1841 PT is basically AFTERMASH.

    If it’s any consolation, Danny, I also thought that you are more positive about Leviathans and Parallel Time than most reviews of the series are. You single out the good bits in it.

    I like these characters but I don’t love them, I think. And that’s perhaps my big issue with PT. I think if 1897 or to a lesser extent 1840 didn’t have Barnabas for three weeks at the start, I still would’ve been engaged. Even 1795 doesn’t really have Barnabas in it for weeks until he’s a vampire.

    1. I agree. The return to 71 is a nice little knot on the whole series.

      At least we’ll all be going through the next year together.

      1. It would have been an even nicer little knot if after stepping out the front door Barnanbas, Julia, and Liz could have gone down to the coffee shop at the Collinsport Inn for salted cheeseburgers and coffee, with Maggie back at her old job as waitress there, of course (because who needs continuity on Dark Shadows?), saying “You’re all from Collinwood? You couldn’t pay me a hundred dollars a day to work in that spooky joint!”, and the ghost of Burke Devlin showing up to read The Count of Monte Cristo, pretending not to know anyone.

        1. Maggie was the only waitress who would pour you a cup of coffee, then one for herself and then proceed to sit down with you to drink it and shoot the breeze. No wonder she doesn’t work at the coffee shop anymore.

    2. Agree. quit while you’re ahead. After all the mishogos they could have stopped. we could think Julia and Barnabas got together. Bramwell yuck.

    3. I like how you used the mansion burning with dying Angelique in chandelier from the Burton movie.

      Because I saw that before I ever discovered the DVD set at my library, and immediately misremembered the show, saying to myself, OH. THAT’s how she died.

      Yeah, try to fit even David in the real thing.

      And now I’ve seen 210-1245 four times in five years.

      Did 1-209 once already. Again? Of course.

      And there’s plenty of great Nancy Barrett and Lara Parker left for this blog until the end….no need for sadness.

      1. Should have guessed that was from the Burton film. Thought that screen cap was a bit opulent for one of Dan Curtis’ films, or even DS91. That is NOT Carolyn, then, I take it, draped over the smashed chandelier. (Okay, okay, I’ll watch the dang movie!)

  2. Somehow, as more of a spotty DS viewer, only having seen a smattering of eps during the Sci Fi channel years and seeing different eps in fits and starts on hulu (not on hulu now as all of hulu has gone over to being a premium channel, hulu-plus [at least the last time I saw it]) and Netflix, the show is better and more fun. To me, Vicki being kidnapped by Adam and the drama during that final attempt to re-animate Eve with Vicki as the life force was not the last gasp of a boring storyline, but was both exciting and compelling, and mostly because I was not watching it every day. I can remember being at a military training and was able to drop in on the Sci Fi channel for a brief time — I remember seeing Cyrus and a bit of Hoffman and Angelique, and I thought it was interesting and different and even compelling in its own right. I got from the opening that we were in PT and did not know it was because most of the cast was filming HODS. When it comes to DS, ignorance (and lack of knowledge about the bigger picture) is actually bliss! And reading your blog somehow, I feel less of a need to actually see every single ep for some odd reason — (although I would actually like to see 1897 from start to finish) — and it’s not because I think your blog is necessarily negative or anti-DS. Quite the opposite — I follow your blog quite faithfully and still find it both funny and entertaining. I’m very curious to eventually read your take on Kate Jackson’s debut (her character or character(s)), as I saw her film debut in NODS and remember her vividly in her primetime TV career in “The Rookies” and the iconic “Charlie’s Angels.”

    1. I like the idea that you like the show more when you watch it less. 🙂 But it’s true that the recap and repetition is much less annoying when you watch the show two or three times a week, as the networks figure people do. The show wasn’t really made for people who watch every single episode, starting from #1.

  3. Sabrina’s okay; she’s just got a case of the ninnies. Probably used Josette’s toothbrush or something.

    The comparison to Mary Richards is interesting, because there was that whole episode of MTM about how terrible Mary’s parties were. It doesn’t get much more terrible than having your boyfriend/guest of honor transform into a werewolf all over the surprise party decorations.

    1. I guess every show needs a straight man – or woman. That’s Sabrina’s job – playing it straight while everybody else gets to be outrageous.
      Just like Mary Richards- I always thought she was boring as hell. I way preferred Phyllis and Rhoda.

    2. I think it’s that she doesn’t make much DIFFERENCE on the show – the plots could pretty much move along without her, or with some other character. Put in Parallel Suki Forbes, I say! SHE would have perked things up considerably. And she wouldn’t have taken any of that ‘werewolf’ or ‘John Yeager’ doody, either! OR all that pawing from Ned…

  4. I admit I don’t really like Sabrina either. I was reflecting the other day, I can imagine she would be fine on stage – she has her lines, emphasis, timing, etc…but when you have to look at her up close her facial expressions just aren’t very convincing. Actually even the way she says things is kind of stiff when I think about it (again, probably OK on stage). She comes across as annoying and semi-shouty, but playing a weak character, so that’s pretty off.

  5. I wish there were a parallel time band where you and Randall did a podcast about DS in which you talk about every episode like you did here…excellent stuff! Thanks again for your blog – it’s only deepened my enjoyment of the show…

  6. I shall be a stalwart and vociferous defender of the honour of 1841PT when we get there, have no fear. I shall point out why i think it’s good. I may not convince anyone, but i’ll be here, doing that.

    Other than that, i guffawed throughout reading this particular dark entry.

    1. I remember liking 1841 Parallel Time when I saw it, but I remember feeling like it was somehow disconnected from the rest of the series. As sad as it will be that the blog will be close to an end, I’m really looking forward to Danny’s insights possibly helping me understand why I felt that way.

  7. OhmygodIloveyouso much. 😛

    I had read somewhere once that David Lynch wanted to keep bringing Sheryl Lee back, over and over, and he’d kill her character and then just bring her back again. Rinse and repeat. I kinda love that idea. That might have been amusing in parallel time; I suppose Angelique’s are slightly more durable than Josettes though, who tend to go over cliffs or consume stupid amounts of poison.

    Also: you have articulated exactly how I feel about the last year. I haven’t been able to make it through all of the Summer of 1970; I’ve watched most of 1840 but I can’t do it, I just can’t; and even though I’m the world’s biggest Shirley Jackson fan, I cannot for the life of me stomach 1841 PT. I love the actors, I love the costumes (my god, the costumes), but the story does zero for me. Neither do the characters.

  8. I can tell you how DS should end. Barnabas is back from 1840, certain that he has no more problems. But he finds a note ” You must go to the razorblade mirror, for you are going to revert to what you were” He and Julia puzzle over it, trying to find references to the razorblade mirror.

    In the meantime, in the past, Vicky feels herself drawn to Widow’s Hill, and she hears a voice “this way to the razorblade mirror”

    Barnabas finally figures that he must go back and rescue Vicky again. He manages to grab her as they fall off the cliff. At the bottom is a mirror, and they see razorblade, its edge pointing at them.

    When they fall, Bo Dennis wakes up, and Lauren explains to her that she stepped into the razorblade mirror, and her conflicts made her split into two people, Barnabas and Vicky “Vicky is the young girl you once were and whose questions still need answering. The young girl who wishes she never found out your were a succubus, and tries to deny it. That’s why you never figured out that there was something wrong with Barnabas.” “And Barnabas was the succubus in me?” “Yes, and he really could not cople with all those Vicky questions while handling what he was. He knew he needed her, but he did not realize how”

    “And everyone was there. Lauren, you were Julia.. Kenzi was Willie… The Old House was the place I live in. Trick was Elizabeth, Dylan was Burke…”

    “Yes. and you learned that you cannot neglect neither Vicky nor Barnabas in you.”

    THE END

  9. There’s quite a bit in this very evocative post It’s ab excellent post, ironic that it’s in conjunction with one of the more frustrating periods in DS. I’m always fascinated by the various stories of people becoming DS fans/watchers, when they started watching, etc.I really do think that colors their opinions about the first, non-Barnabas year and the last, convoluted year.

    1. As I’ve mentioned before, I recall distinctly the time when Jeb and Carolyn were on their honeymoon and the shadow appears in their hotel room when Jeb switches on the light — I was still only three (born in 1966). I also remember in the 1840 period when Trask walls up Barnabas. I remember other scattered bits and pieces, how the actors looked, the stained glass windows in the Collinwood foyer, and, most of all, the show’s intro with the theme music and the gothic lettering overlaying those crashing waves and then the “great house” shown in that murky spectral green haze as though submerged beneath fifty feet of seawater — a memory collage from childhood, resonating throughout life.

      Then again, I absolutely love the first 210 episodes. It’s among my favorite, most frequently viewed period of the show — despite that I’ve only discovered these episodes in the last five years, since I took to collecting the complete series on DVD.

      I’m one of the few who can find something to like in every period of the show, even 1840 PT — where Louis Edmonds revels in his juiciest, most evil role to spine tingling effect.

      I’m like that as a music fan as well — give me the later and lesser periods of my favorite artists as well, not just the celebrated salad days. Most people cherry pick their favorites, while I just appreciate the whole evolution of a given catalogue.

      I respect the opinions of others, but I don’t pay much attention to what is critically acclaimed or critically discredited, because I don’t need for anyone to explain how I should feel about something. I mean, it’s Dark Shadows, my favorite all-time show, and I love Dark Shadows.

  10. Another parallel with Twin Peaks is that David Lynch and Mark Frost were mostly absent during the second season, working on other things — Lynch on the movie Wild at Heart and Frost doing whatever he was doing. Then, after the series was cancelled, Lynch made his own Night of Dark Shadows. And now, decades later, there’s going to be a revival series.

  11. No. You’re never allowed NOT to talk about DARK SHADOWS. EVER.

    Seriously, though, I discovered your blog after hitting the point where the series began to lose steam, and this is what’s going to keep me going to the bitter end. However bitter it may be, and judging from this one, it’s gonna be bitter indeed.

    (They do Parallel Time AGAIN? Really?!)

    1. Tony – Yep. I was 13 when it originally aired on ABC – I was watching – and when the started re-introdeucing PT, I was like, you’ve got to be kidding.

      1. Robert, my experience with DS was that I knew about it growing up in the 60s and maybe saw snippets but it wasn’t until the summer of 1970 that i started watching..also at age 13!

  12. And I see from the screen cap of Jonathan Frid as Bramwell the REAL reason he wanted to change characters: so he didn’t have to put all that ‘greasy kid stuff’ in his hair! (The ‘wet head’ is dead!) He looks much better with his tousle. Although, that string tie…not so much.

    1. Personally, I don’t like the Bramwell hair. He had to have curlers in to get that effect. I always like to think that he got all pouty because he was the only one not to get curlers. But Barnabas can’t wear curlers, so they had to make a new character 😛

      1. It reminds me of the ‘shag’ hairdo that was so popular in the ’70s. I SO wanted to have that style, but my hair was all wrong for it. (I had to settle for an Afro.)

  13. I really think that episodes 1 through 209 deserve at least one viewing, if only to see how much the characters have changed. Roger, Carolyn, and David were absolutely horrible people, who would have thought that we would come to care about them a year later? It’s also fun to prop spot and note the first appearances of familiar objects like the Count Petofi Hand Box, the Collinsport Afghan, and the Ralston Purina Lamp.

  14. The first time I heard Dark Shadows mentioned was in Stephen King’s “Danse Macabre in the mid 80s.” So when Syfy (SciFi back in the 90s) started airing the show, I was along for most of the ride. I like the pre-Barnabas episodes, but the introduction of Barnabas, Maggie’s kidnapping and the 1797 storyline are my favorites. On days I had to work, the VCR caught the episodes for me and I would binge watch over the weekend.

    I admit I don’t remember much about this storyline. I know I wasn’t a fan of the Leviathan storyline either. By the time SyFy aired it the second time I was working 60-80 hours a week and basically lost interest.

    Though I haven’t commented much, I’ve been following the blog for about a year and a half and have enjoyed the ride. I hate to see it come to an end, but (gulp) I guess there is life after Dark Shadows.

    1. But what a comfort to know that Dark Shadows lurks there, waiting to ensnare some new ‘victim’, beckoning those who have been through the corridors to return, just for a little while…because once in, one is never really free of the Shadows.

  15. I was a DS viewer from the original ABC broadcast days. Loved the show. Ran from the school bus to get home to not miss a minute of the show. But I noticed a change in my excitement for the show when 1970 PT began. I was glad it wasn’t a trip back in time, but I wasn’t invested in these characters. When “1995” began I was shocked and really ready for it to be over. I was so hoping that we were not in for another period costume drama and that the in the Summer of 1970, Barnabas would prevent the destruction of Collinwood. But I knew that wasn’t going to happen. I had entered a “I can wait until this story is done” phase: I couldn’t wait for 1995 to be done; I couldn’t wait for Summer of 1970 to be done; ditto for 1840 and 1841 PT. Once I entered into this phase, I worried about the survival of the show, but with one bad storyline decision after another, I kind of wished the show would be cancelled. It was, of course, but I was then a little sad. And mad that it ended so badly.

  16. I’d take 1841PT over the next three weeks of 1970PT anytime.

    Your strong analysis of the rise of Dark Shadows and its overall (backstage) narrative will make your analysis of its fall worthwhile. I’m a fan of a show in its decline and I’m often called “too negative” about it, but it’s such a shame. I sympathise with your plight in writing this blog, keep it up!

  17. William here — hopping briefly out of the end of 1897 to join you in PT. I thoroughly enjoyed today’s post. Great insight and conversation between you two.

    Danny, you’re really getting it from both ends, aren’t you? (And not in a good way!)

    People mad at you for writing the blog — and then people like me who are such fans of yours that we can’t let go the hope you’ll circle back to the first 210 episodes. I reckon’ we’re Kathy Bateses to your James Caan. However, I promise not to bring you misery and break your legs if you don’t cooperate, Mr. Man.

    However, I will just say this: It would actually be very “Dark Shadows” of you to circle to the beginning because this whole frickin’ show right now (near the end of the 1897) is circles upon circles. We’ve got “the real incarnation” of Josette from 1795 and two and a half visitors from 1969 and Angelique from all over the place all playing out stories in 1897. There would be a certain logic to you deciding to end at the beginning.

    But seriously, I understand your desire to end the blog in the next year. What work you’ve put into this! I’ll try to be better behaved in the future about nagging you about the past.

    I just hate you were so far along with the blog by the time I decide to start the series from the beginning. I’m slowly catching up, but it will likely be 1840 or even 1840 PT by the time I catch up to you. I’m having a one-way conversations on the blog because I’m so far behind.

    But just again, great work. You — and all the great commenters — have made this journey with “Dark Shadows” so much more fun. I appreciate all of you. Thanks for making it happen.

    1. You are so right about going back to the beginning being in keeping with Dark Shadows. But he has his Fingers In His Ears on this one. And that is his right.

  18. Danny, I like the idea of Dark Shadows’ main character being Collinwood. And the comparison to American Horror Story really works too.

    1. I love this idea too. After all, Dan Curtis did go on and make Burnt Offerings…it’s possible he was already thinking about this.

  19. Unlike most of the commenters, I was first exposed to Dark Shadows through the Tim Burton movie. I suppose that’s why I’ve never been bothered by the film since I was able to accept it on its own terms as a campy comedy-melodrama. Then I was accidentally stumbled onto Danny’s blog while surfing the internet. After reading the first few entires, I looked for the episodes on Youtube and the rest is history.

    Danny, I totally support whatever you decide to do with the blog. Your commentary has made for an enriching experience as I have watched this one-of-a-kind show, and I would not have such a deep appreciation for the cast and crew without your insight. Its understandable why some people would interperate your recent posts as negative against DS, but I don’t read it that way. Its always hard to watch a show you love slowly begin to crumble in quality, especially when you know that it doesn’t get better from this point onward. That and many of your points of cirtique are quite valid. Its clear that the writers are running out of stories to tell.

    Of course I’ll be sad when this blog ends. It has been a constant companion through my college years. But like with every creative venture, there comes a time when you just need to move on to the next thing creatively. I look forward to finishing this strange and remarkable journey through Dark Shadows with you Danny. Thank you so much for introducing me to what is now my favorite supernatural tv show.

    Cheers!

  20. Danny, I definitely echo Evan’s sentiments above. Like Randall, I started watching DS when it was on the Sci-Fi Channel. I would catch it before school in the morning when I was in junior high, about the same age my mom would run home to watch it after school during the original series run! Now that I’m getting to watch the complete series all the way through for the first time (starting with Willie opening the box, of course), your blog has enriched the experience for me so much.

    Not only that, I now find myself watching other media differently than I did before. Because of your commentary on how a show gets made and concepts like televisual literacy, I apply that understanding when I watch, for example, House of Cards, Westworld, or even my all-time favorite sitcom, Cheers. I just wanted to let you know that I feel like I’ve learned a lot from you and had fun doing it. I appreciate your wit, your skill as a writer, and all the effort you put into this project, and although I’ll finish the series before the blog is complete (I’m currently in the middle of 1840), I’ll keep checking in from time to time. I look forward to continuing to learn more from you over the next year while enjoying one of my favorite things.

    1. Oh, I forgot I was also gonna say, I pay way more attention to symbolism in visual media since reading this blog! So yeah, thanks again, Danny!

  21. You mention parallel time having a Christmas feel. Perhaps if the show continued they would of ended up stealing a Christmas Carol as a storyline. Imagine it:

    Barnabas hides in the couch
    Roger: Is there a man in that couch?
    Quentin: Never mind that. Say some things about Barnabas and make sure they’re horrible, horrible things.
    Roger: Wait is Barnabas in the couch?
    Quentin: Forget about the man in the couch!
    Elizabeth: So there is a man in the couch!
    Quentin: Oh my God! Just say bad things about Barnabas!
    Julia: Just call Barnabas an asshole!
    Elizabeth: Okay, Barnabas is an asshole!
    Quentin and Julia: Thank you!

    (Sorry for the long winded always sunny reference. For some reason I just got this idea in my head. Never commented on here, but I love this blog!)

  22. When you do walk the final step will you look at the Big Finish audios that follow on after the last present day scene? In June there’s a short story collection being released called Dreams of Long Ago which includes a story set on New Year’s Eve 1971, as well as a few interquel stand-alones, and then on to the 1973 storyline. The audios aren’t a medium you’ve covered in any great detail and your take on them would be interesting. You could finish your Bloodlust coverage!

  23. Randall: Yeah, Parallel Time is a mashup of Twin Peaks and American Horror Story. Even though they were made later.

    I am a big Twin Peaks and am kicking myself for never making this connection on my own!

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