“Do you know how the world is? It’s so very light when I’m with you.”
Roxanne is terrible. Dear god, she is terrible.
I’m hard on Barnabas love interests in general; I don’t actually like Josette all that much, either, which I know is a controversial stance. I appreciate her role in the story — obviously, she’s crucial — but when Josette and Barnabas are together, they don’t talk about anything but love. His relationship with Vicki was neutered and unimportant — in that case, he was really just a third-wheel spoiler between Vicki and Jeff. The parade of Josette lookalikes were kind of fun, but only when they were Rachel and Kitty and Maggie; as soon as Josette took over, they got boring again. Really, the only story-productive relationships that Barnabas has are with Angelique and Julia, and everyone else is an also-ran.
But Roxanne is so far beyond anything we’ve seen before. Roxanne is toxic.
I mean, to start with: Who is Roxanne?
When Barnabas first met this girl, she was in a supernatural coma; all she did was flutter her eyelids a little bit. On the strength of that, Barnabas suddenly decided that he was desperately in love with her, a completely unearned postulate that I refuse to accept. At least with the Josette-alikes, there’s some history to fall back on, to explain why he’s into them. But if Barnabas is unaccountably drawn to this red-headed nap-taker, then that makes one of us.
As we’ve discussed many times, there are three steps to making the audience like a new character — make a friend, make a joke, and make a plot point happen. The friend gives the new character value in the narrative, promising that they won’t suddenly disappear with no consequence, the joke indicates a willingness to entertain, and the plot point means that we have a reason to care about what they do.
In this case, they establish a good plot point — when Roxanne speaks, Angelique dies — but once that happens, she’s completed her role in the story, and she’s only said three words so far. She makes a friend — Barnabas, obviously — but in the most cynical and unsatisfying way. The joke is one hundred percent off the table.
Because for some reason, they’ve decided that Roxanne is one of those Star Trek Noble Savage Jungle Girl types, who talk in a weird stagey syntax all their own, with nothing but short, declarative sentences, mostly one- or two-syllable words, and an incomplete understanding of human conversation.
“It was Claude’s, and mine!” she says. “It belonged to the two of us! It brought us together in a way that no two people have been brought together before!”
“He made me take a vow on it!” she continues. “That I would kill anyone who harmed him! And I intend to keep that vow!”
She’s being hypnotized there, but it’s really hard to tell much of a difference. That is Jungle Girl dialogue, and she does it when she’s not hypnotized, too.
Here, I’ll give you another one.
“Roxanne, you’ve got to help me!” Barnabas says, and she says, “I can’t help anyone!”
“Yes, you can!” Barnabas insists. “You can tell Inspector Hamilton exactly what you know!”
She goes blank — or blanker, if that’s possible. “The police?” she asks.
“Yes! You must prove to them –”
“No!” she shudders. “I couldn’t talk to them. I wouldn’t dare!” There is no available information about why Roxanne is afraid of the police.
“But you must!” says Barnabas. He keeps contradicting her. “They won’t harm you.”
“No! I can’t stay here any longer!” she says, not moving at all. “I must go!” Then she backs up a step. “They’d keep me! I couldn’t stand it!”
So that’s straight up Jungle Girl, right? “They’d keep me”? I am savage Jungle Girl, I do not understand your world. The men with fire-sticks will keep me in a cage! I must run free! And she does.
I could do this all day, and guess what, I’m going to. The only way I can deal with a Roxanne scene is to count how many three-syllable words she says. If you don’t count “Barnabas,” there aren’t many.
Here’s her lines from a tense scene in the woods with Stokes, the villain of the piece. He uses words like persuasive, preposterous, obviously and interesting, because he’s a literate human being from the United States of America. This is what Roxanne says:
- Stay away from me!
- He didn’t kill Claude! Barnabas didn’t!
- You don’t give me orders!
- Don’t make me remember any of that!
- Secret? What could his secret be?
- Even if it involves killing?
- Yes, and you used me to do it!
- Proud? You robbed me of my life! I know why you follow me! Why you keep bothering me! And I’m never going to let you use me again! Never!
She manages two three-syllable words — “remember” and “bothering” — so congratulations on that. Meanwhile, “I know why you follow me!” is probably the most Jungle Girl line ever spoken.
She runs back to Barnabas, appearing silently next to him in the Collinwood drawing room like Natty Bumppo in The Leatherstocking Tales, not letting a twig snap beneath her feet.
“You’ve come back!” he sighs.
And she looks him straight in the eyes, and says, “I am afraid when I am not with you!” which opens up a whole other issue.
The current storyline is essentially a catalog of things that make Roxanne afraid. Barnabas feels standoffish, because he’s suddenly remembered that he’s a vampire and she has blood, and her response to him turning away for two seconds is, “When you act this way, I’m afraid, even when I’m with you!” So she’s got a pretty simple worldview, which is that some things are light, and they make her happy, and other things are dark, and they make her afraid.
I seriously can’t figure out what the writers think they’re doing with her. This is Sam Hall writing today’s episode, and he knows how to write characters. He didn’t just hit his head and forget how adults talk. So what is going on?
The best I can figure is that they’re being sarcastic. Dan decided that they needed a new girl for Barnabas, and he’ll fall in love with her before she speaks to him. That’s a terrible idea, and Sam pushed back on it, but Dan says, we’re casting her, go make a girl. So Sam decides to write this character so badly that the audience will hate her, and he’ll be able to get rid of her.
I mean, think about it. “You treat me as a child, and I am not!” That’s an actual line in the script.
And the love dialogue is absolutely unbearable.
“Oh, Roxanne, I love you so!” Barnabas sighs. She gasps, “Oh, Barnabas!” and tries to hug him, but he turns away.
“I want you to hold me!” she demands, and he says no.
Outraged, she asks, “Is it WRONG to LOVE?”
So, I mean. Right? She’s terrible.
And the most terrible part is that the best character on the show is locked in the basement. All this time that Barnabas and Roxanne are standing around the drawing room chattering about love and being afraid of things, Julia is waiting to get rescued.
It’s obvious that one of these two women is going to travel with Barnabas back to his home dimension, and pretty much the whole week is about Barnabas slowly giving up on the idea of ever finding Julia. She has a dream about Barnabas and Roxanne going home without her, so it’s obviously on the table.
We know that’s not going to happen — they do a lot of crazy things on the show, but they wouldn’t let one of the leads quietly starve to death without some kind of dramatic payoff. But those are clearly the two choices the show is giving us — either Roxanne lives, or Julia does — and obviously we would pick Julia.
So it’s got to be on purpose, right? They want us to hate Roxanne. I just don’t see any way around it.
Tomorrow: World Beyond the Doors.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In act 1, the camera jostles awkwardly when Maggie says, “When I think how eagerly I looked forward to coming here…”
Maggie runs upstairs to get something from Hoffman’s room. As the housekeeper, Hoffman’s room would probably be downstairs.
In act 4, when Barnabas and Maggie are closing up the house, and Barnabas muses, “Of all the generations of the Collinses who have lived here…” a shadow passes by.
Tomorrow: World Beyond the Doors.
— Danny Horn