Episode 1070: Gangsta’s Paradise

“You don’t understand the enormities of your problems!”

It’s not really about the future, of course. If it was, they wouldn’t be doing Turn of the Screw II: The Returning. 

Dark Shadows has a future, of sorts, in reboots and reruns and spinoffs, but right now, they’re running out of energy and ideas. They spent the spring making House of Dark Shadows, a feature film that explicitly rejects the idea that Dark Shadows is a continuing story, and kills off every character that you could possibly be interested in, just to make sure that there won’t be a sequel. (They make a sequel anyway.) Now they’re back to making a daily TV show, and they’re finding it increasingly difficult to imagine a future that runs as far as the next six months.

But for two weeks, at least, they’ve managed to put together a tight, emotionally engaging mini-storyline set in 1995, which focuses on exactly the right characters and manages to turn the familiar sets into an alienating nightmare landscape. Today’s episode is essentially the season finale, with Barnabas directly challenging the Big Bad, and daytime soaps don’t even do season finales. My argument, based on this episode, is that they should.

Chronologically speaking, this is the last evening that Barnabas Collins will ever see, so it’s a shame he doesn’t enjoy it more. It begins with the vampire opening his coffin, and finding Collinsport’s Model Sheriff of the Future holding a cross in his face. I don’t know how Robocop here decided, with everything that’s going on in this savage murdery wilderness, that the problem is Barnabas, but I suppose when you’re a Collinsport cop, you take the wins any way that you can get them.

The Sheriff got a tip that something interesting was happening in the Old House basement, so he grabbed his emergency cross-and-silver-bullets kit that everyone in Collinsport keeps handy, and came over to deal with the situation. You can’t actually kill vampires with silver bullets, that’s werewolves, but even in the future, they’re not up on the latest developments. This is just going to make everyone look silly.

But the lawman raises his pistol, and yells, “I know all about you, Barnabas Collins!”

And then: Carrie!

Or Hallie. It’s somebody. We don’t know about Hallie yet, so it’s probably Carrie, except she’s wearing modern clothes so who even knows. It doesn’t really matter either way.

The important thing is that she’s a ghost, silently materializing in the basement, an event that the Sheriff takes in a big way.

“You!” he cries. “It’s you!” and the audience says, who?

“You’re the one!” he continues. “You’re the one I saw!”

So I’m just going to go ahead and admit that I have no idea what the Sheriff is talking about. Was there a scene in some episode that I’m not aware of, where the Sheriff saw Carrie? (Or Hallie? It might be Hallie.) Is somebody making episodes of CSI: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern that I’m not aware of?

But somebody needs to save Barnabas from this cliffhanger, so here comes Carrie (or Hallie). The last time they did The Turn of the Screw, the male ghost was malevolent and the female ghost was helpful, which is not at all the way that The Turn of the Screw works, but it was story-productive, which is all that matters. They haven’t done a lot with the “friendly female ghost” motif this time around, so they might as well use it here, and it might as well be Hallie (or Carrie), since we’re going to see her at the end of the episode anyway.

But they can’t just pretend that there’s a previous scene that established that the Sheriff is terrified of the blonde ghost girl. Can they?

Well, I guess they can. The Sheriff is distracted, so Barnabas gets up out of his coffin and strangles the lawman, and now everybody’s dead and nobody’s responsible for explaining what the hell is going on.

It’s good to know that even twenty-five years into the future, the Collinsport police are still utterly useless. I believe the score is now Monsters and Murderers 900, Law Enforcement 0.

Meanwhile, the mean ghost is upstairs, staring contentedly at Julia as she falls noisily to pieces. Gerard has taken control of Julia’s will, more or less, and he wants to destroy Barnabas, so he arranged for her to squeal to the cops. Now he’s keeping an eye on her, so that she doesn’t go downstairs and help.

She’s not happy. “Have I done enough for you?” she wails. “Have I done enough now?” She sinks into a chair and bursts into sobs. “Why do you keep watching me? Are you determined that I be here, and hear the shots?”

And then, suddenly: Barnabas.

“Julia!” he says. “The sheriff — he’s dead. I killed him! We must move quickly. The police will be here — they know about me! I saw the silver bullets! I don’t know who told him –”

She positions herself across the room, and gives a little chuckle. “Don’t you?” she says.

The music cuts out, and Barnabas stares at his friend, as the penny drops.

You betrayed me,” he realizes. And that’s how you set up a kick-ass commercial break.

This scene is pretty much the entire point of this adventure, so I’m going to give it to you in  detail.

Barnabas:  You told the Sheriff!

Julia:  I will again. Believe me Barnabas, I will betray you over and over!

Barnabas:  Julia!

Julia:  You’re not safe with me!

Barnabas:  Why?

Julia:  Don’t tell me anything, and don’t ask me to go with you anywhere, Barnabas. Just go! Go!

They’re playing all the notes here. Julia is horrified by what she’s done, but she knows it’ll happen again, and she can’t stop it. Gerard isn’t clouding her mind, and turning her into a puppet. He’s letting her feel everything. It’s worse this way.

So Julia’s flinging herself about the room, acting as hard and as loud as she can, and Barnabas just walks over to her, and says, “Who’s done this to you?”

Because he knows this isn’t her. He’s not angry; he’s not even scared. He’s worried, for her.

Julia:  Barnabas, they will be back. You’re right. And if you escape them… when dawn comes…

Barnabas:  You will come to my coffin, to kill me? Oh, Julia… who has saved me so often… what has he done to you?

Julia:  Nobody’s done anything to me.

Barnabas:  Julia… you have been with him.

Julia:  Don’t talk about him!

Barnabas:  Why not? Are you so terrified of him?

Julia:  Barnabas, I told you to go, while you can!

Barnabas:  And leave you to him?

He approaches, quietly.

Julia:  You can escape.

Barnabas:  Not without you.

Julia:  You can’t take me with you.

Barnabas:  Never without you.

And his voice is soft, and gentle, and there are so many feels.

So this is why 1995 works. No matter what happens after today, this two-week time tunnel was definitely worth exploring. We don’t know why the Sheriff is afraid of Carrie, or why Carrie is helping Barnabas, or why two teenagers are haunting an impossible playroom filled with toys suitable for eight-year-olds. It doesn’t matter. They got the people right.

The other thing that makes this work is that everyone believes one-hundred percent in the ridiculous things that they’re doing. They talk Stokes into helping them with a seance to contact the spirit of Carolyn, and after the usual preamble, Julia throws her head back and emits a lunatic little-girl voice that doesn’t sound like Carolyn in any way. Barnabas demands that Carolyn tell them more about the catastrophe that destroyed Collinwood, and Julia just repeats the weird set of six phrases that they’ve decided to call clues.

But everyone is humming with energy and anticipation; there’s no question that this hazardous display of artistic temperament is the most important thing that has ever happened to anyone.

The scene ends in confusion, of course. There’s wind noises, and the candle blows out. Julia cries, “He’s coming! He’ll kill you!” and then she faceplants on the table. Stokes gets up to look out the window, and Gerard is there, and he moves his hand, and Stokes just sits down in a chair and dies. Barnabas announces that Stokes is dead, and then suddenly Julia screams, and he turns, and she’s vanished, and he shouts “Julia!” and runs around the room. It’s mayhem. It’s hard to achieve mayhem with this number of people, but they manage it.

And it all ends in a direct confrontation between Barnabas and Gerard, sort of, with Julia in the middle, holding a dagger and on the verge of administering the last sedative she’ll ever prescribe.

“Put down that knife!” Barnabas shouts, and Julia looks back and forth between the two most important men in her life, and then she drops the dagger, and Barnabas wins.

But then Gerard touches her face, and she drops to the floor, and Barnabas crouches down to look at her, and he instantly shouts, “She’s dying!” which it’s not super clear how he knows that or what it means.

And I don’t know, maybe Gerard is hot after all. I’ve enjoyed looking at him in this episode; they’ve stopped putting lights directly under his chin and they’re allowing him the use of human facial expressions. He really can be cute, when they’re not deliberately sabotaging him.

So everything’s happening at once, the whole superstructure of the mid-1990s is converging on this utterly baffling plot conundrum. The Unabomber and the Rembrandts and the disquieting nipples on Val Kilmer’s Batsuit, Xena and Voyager and the Million Man March, Who Shot Mr. Burns and Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman.

If the glove doesn’t fit, as the saying goes, you must acquit, and it clearly doesn’t. Nothing fits. So Barnabas and Julia are sprung on a technicality, and a mysterious ghost with two names and no screen presence does a magical home carpentry project which installs a door just exactly where they need it the most.

They haven’t learned anything, and they can’t explain anything, but we have evolved beyond the need for explanations. Barnabas and Julia are still alive, and somehow — together — they are going to make this storyline work.

MondayBack from the Future.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

The Sheriff is still strangling a little, when we shift to the next scene.

Barnabas basically looks at the teleprompter for pretty much every line.

Barnabas tells Julia, “I saw six — the silver bullets!”

When Gerard watches Barnabas and Julia exit the Old House, you can see the top of the set.

At the beginning of act 4, Barnabas calls, “Cawolyn!”

Barnabas promises Julia, “Once we are back in our own time, he cannot aff– he cannot get to you!”

When Barnabas sees Carrie and says, “You helped me once. Help us now!” there’s a weird flapping thing on the right side of the screen that I can’t identify.

When Barnabas and Julia leave the playroom and limp up the staircase, Barnabas’ line to Julia is said off-mic.

Barnabas and Julia escape out the back of the playroom, climb up a staircase and go through a door, and they end up in front of the same stained-glass window that’s in front of the playroom door anyway. They’ve gone in a circle!

Monday: Back from the Future.

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

46 thoughts on “Episode 1070: Gangsta’s Paradise

  1. I find it both funny and sad that this is the only Collinsport sheriff to directly go after the supernatural, knowing what he’s dealing with, and is still useless. I’ll give him points for trying, though (but they don’t even bother to give this one a name; of course, Collinsport sheriffs are so interchangeable and expendable, why bother?)

    1. They probably grow a new one each time the current one gets knocked off. Bet it’s something like the Leviathan’s Grow Your Own Anti-Christ, only the budget model.

    2. Just can’t figure out why Barnabas didn’t hypnotoad the sheriff, so Gerard could kill him instead; that way the writers could have made Gerard more evil, while letting Barnabas off the hook for (yet) another killing.

      1. John, here’s my theory. The more Barnabas uses his vampiric powers, the more evil and ruthless he becomes, and greater his thirst for blood and violence.

        1. The show didn’t delve into the psychological long term effects of supernatural conditions. As an immortal Quentin had to watch the people in his life grow old and die, not to mention the festering guilt. Chris didn’t dare have a social life in case he went hairy. Angelique was at the mercy of where her powers came from (which she would have had to ask for help from a lot with how often she was killed). Charles Delaware Tate had that whole art influencing life thing going on. Imagine poor Laura, compelled to burn her children above even maternal instinct (that was what brought her to David, Jamison and Nora). Amanda Harris was another immortal, having to disguise this and on a mission to find Quentin.

          1. And those were just the monsters! What about the poor Normals, mostly packed off to padded rooms at Windcliff…at least, the ones that survived.

        2. Six of one, half dozen of the other. I understand that regular murdering acts in pretty much the same way, psychologically.
          I like your theory, though.

      2. But…why would Gerard kill the sheriff? He wanted the sheriff to kill Barnabas in the first place (after all, he made Julia go to the sheriff and reveal all so that this could take place). He could’ve hypnotised him and bitten him into submission, but I don’t think he can do anything with that cross held over him.

        1. After Barnabas gets the sheriff in a headlock, he could do the “Look. Into. My. Eyes.” gig that he did in episode 787. Then before the sheriff can reveal who gave him the information about vampires, Gerard can administer the “Touch O’ Death” because the sheriff is an incompetent bungler (or a bungling incompetent, I forget which one the Big Bads call underlings. Maybe he’s an incomplete bungalow.) Barnabas doesn’t have to be a cop killer, Gerard gets to be even eviler. Besides, Gerard has killed almost everybody ELSE in the storyline…

  2. I always wonder whether that caused the show any extra controversy. All joking aside, Barnabas the protagonist is now “cop-killer” Barnabas.

  3. All that’s missing from this episode is an appearance by Special Agent Dale Cooper, so that he can ask what year this is.

  4. The two week length was perfect. The writers had time to have the beginning, middle and end all at the same time and at only ten or so episodes it wasn’t stretched out too long. There’s the mystery of what exactly happened and why the name of Collins has been dragged through the mud.

  5. Was there a scene in some episode that I’m not aware of, where the Sheriff saw Carrie? (Or Hallie? It might be Hallie.)

    Just fanwanking –
    Maybe that same day Sheriff-To-Be saw Carolyn, she was in town with Maggie and Hallie (they were buying picnic supplies) and was smitten; when he heard that she’d died, he decided to become a policeman so he could find her killer. That would have been easy enough to write into an episode, just a mention that he’d seen her back in 1970…

  6. Sheriff Gluteus there has a nice little bit of caboose going on. He’s no Dave Woodard, but he’ll do. He’ll do.

    Uncle Danny, I think I’ve enjoyed your write-ups of 1995 even more than 1995 itself, and I really enjoyed 1995.

  7. For the record, Sheriff Place Name Here was played by Don Crabtree. On-camera, he didn’t do a lot (stints on EDGE OF NIGHT and the eighties soap TEXAS, bits in THE HUSTLER and A MAN CALLED ADAM), but like many DS actors, he was busy on stage. On Broadway, he was in a slew of musicals between 1959 and 1980, first mostly ensemble or small supporting roles in stuff like musical versions of DESTRY RIDES AGAIN and GOLDEN BOY. He was in BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS as newspaper editor Edsel and understudied a bunch of roles (including the side-stepping governor). He was also in 1980’s 42nd STREET as the wealthy backer/sugar daddy Abner. According to Playbill, his hobby was acquiring and renovating antique houses and he also owned two farms.

    Later died.

      1. One of my favorite old radio shows, VIC AND SADE, had a senile old uncle whose rambling accounts of people he’d known always ended with “Later died.” I’ve found it a useful concluding phrase.

  8. Not to be tiresomely pedantic, but silver bullets are a thing with vampires. I’m not sure where the tradition came from but I remember a vampire WESTERN called Curse of the Undead from the ’50s that starred the guy who wasn’t Clint Eastwood on Rawhide. It ends with a big duel and the vampire is pretty smug–but then he gets a silver bullet right through the heart and he’s like, WTF??? and then he drops. You’ll recall Stokes gets killed in HODS with a silver bullet, too.

    Awesome post, by the way. This episode moved you to the core. I’m guessing it was even better with JF reading everything off the teleprompter.

    1. To be tiresomely pedantic…
      In Curse Of The Undead, the vampire gunslinger is killed by a bullet with a tiny wooden cross embedded in it. (Yeah, I know, the wood should have incinerated when the shot was fired, but try telling that to the producers.) As far as I remember, silver is not involved – at least it’s not mentioned.

      But evidently silver has become a universal defense against the supernatural (and I don’t just mean Universal monsters); maybe they could use it on Godzilla next time he pops up?

      1. Too bad they didn’t think of that in all those pesky Mummy movies Universal churned out in the 1940s. Kharis just lumbered along dragging one foot along and always seemed to catch up with able bodied people. All that they had to was shoot him with silver bullets. By the way although DS made use of the big three (Dracula, Frankenstein & Wolfman) from Universal . I’m glad they didn’t do the Mummy, Invisible Man, or Creature From The Black Lagoon. But it might have been interesting if they had some kind of Phantom of the Opera storyline

        1. I was thinking of Cat People, but a mummy would have been fun (though a bit of a challenge to make the 3,000 year old corpse ‘hunky’ enough for the Teen Beat crowd).
          I understand Gerard will be bringing in some living-impaired in a few episodes. Hope he does better than Jeb did with them…

          1. They could have used Cal Bellini from Dan Curtis’ Dead Of Night pilot as a hunky Egyptologist who was in actuality a 5000 year old revived mummy. Also he could be a cult worshiper of the phoenix entity and that would bring him to Collinsport, the last place the phoenix (Laura) was seen

      2. Damn! That shouldn’t have worked. Okay, I know from silver and vampires but don’t know where. God forbid it should be Dark Shadows… egg foo yung on face!

        1. Did they have it in Universal lore? I thought for vampires it was crosses, garlic and stakes (Mmmmmmmm……garlic steaks……..), werewolves got wolfbane and silver, couldn’t kill Frankensteins, fire or swamps for mummies.
          Was Hammer Films doing the silver thing?
          What did Jesse James use to kill Dracula’s Daughter? I’ll be honest, I never sat through that one.

    2. Quentin used silver against Barnabas in 1897 when he mushed the silver head of B.C.’s cane into the chest of his voodoo doll.

      1. In the Burton movie, he has no cane, oh, for silver!

        At the Collins table, he’s testing the silverware with his claws, for his hands would turn to flames at the slightest touch.

        “I see that you sold off the silverware.”

        Roger- “How can you tell? They’re perfect replicas.”

        Elizabeth- “Yes….you have that strange metal allergy.”

    3. When I read your comment, I thought of something.

      It reminded me of a YouTube video for a Link Wray guitar instrumental (The Shadow Knows; 1964). The uploader added scenes from a vampire western; I just checked, and sure enough it was Curse of the Undead.

      That looks like a fun movie — I’ll have to track down a DVD.

    1. GodsAndMonsters.com says that silver as vampire repellent goes back thousands of years in vampire lore. Oh, and holy water and sunlight (though would holy water be effective on non Christian vampires? And the sunlight thing isn’t in all the lore.)

    1. What? The owners are going to let those “show people” into the house again? After the mess they left last time?

        1. I should think so!
          The Runway people should find that swimming pool they used in HODS.
          (Probably long gone by now though.)

  9. Personally, I really enjoy Grayson’s Nancy Barrett imitation. However successful you may or may not think it is, it’s the attention to detail that counts. But I think she captures Nancy’s voice tone pretty well at times.

    1. And it was a baby-ish voice.

      But you could say that the Barnabas voice of what wuzzit, Louis Petitsomething, was bogus, but I thought that it was a great performance.

      Seance is a GREAT actor’s challenge.

      There’s voice choices to make.

      If you can, then do it.

      Recently, watching Firefly, Summer Glau did this (I guess) Scottish impression as she entered the series. It was spot-on, with one minor glitch.

      I could only think of Pansy.

      But Barrett got every line right, no glitches.

      Or were there?

      Don’t think so.

  10. But Nancy may not have heard Grayson’s Magda voice yet.

    She could do it, I bet, at least a bit.

    Grayson, otoh, did voices, but of her own design, and they were great.

    But I don’t remember her doing one good impersonation.

    Anyone?

    Being a great actor doesn’t require that, anyway.

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