“I know I shouldn’t summon you, but won’t you appear to me?”
It’s exactly midnight, obviously, and in walks Maggie Evans, dazed and consumed.
She’s come home from a brisk walk that she took through the pitch-black dystopian nightmare surrounding her extremely haunted house. She was just going out for a bite, she said, and look what happened.
Julia sees Maggie stumble through the door, and she knows at once that something is amiss; Maggie’s head is traveling south, while her heels are trending north-north-east. You don’t have to be a doctor to tell that she’s in a bad way, although Julia is a doctor, so even more so.
Julia says, “Maggie, what is it?” as the girl topples over, but you know what it is, as well as I do. It’s vampires, is what it is.
So here we are again, and not a moment too soon. The current storyline is making me lose the will to live something fierce, but a vampire story is sure-fire; we’ve never had a bad one. Vampires, werewolves and Angelique getting mad, these are Dark Shadows’ core competencies. A Dark Shadows storyline without a single vampire would be intolerable, so thank goodness they’d never consider doing such a thing.
Naturally, Julia’s not as pleased as I am; if Barnabas has fallen off the Drac wagon, then that’s going to cut into their spook-detective time. She’s been trying to make progress on this whole ghosts-from-the-future thing or whatever it is, while he’s been traveling around the country, judging beauty pageants and telling people how vulgar his new movie is. Now that he’s back, she doesn’t want him wasting his time on side missions.
Earlier in the evening, Julia caught Barnabas ogling Maggie’s juicy jugular. He claims that he was just window shopping, but that does raise the question of where he’s been slaking his thirst lately. This is one of the rare stories in the history of vampire fiction that’s about a protagonist who just happens to be a vampire, so when he’s involved in non-vampire-related activity, it’s not super clear who and how often he’s eating.
This time it isn’t Barnabas, as it happens; it’s some new freelancer, so we get all the fun of watching Julia get boiling mad at Barnabas with none of the calories. It goes like this.
We open on Barnabas in his easy chair, quietly reading a book. He happens to look up, and discovers that his friend Julia is standing two feet away, erect and motionless in the middle of his living room, as if she silently materialized on the premises.
Casually, he says, “What is it, Julia?” and she scowls, furiously.
“You know very well what it is!” she hisses, and turns to stone. And haven’t we all had moments like this, when the thing that’s wrong is the fact that you don’t know what’s wrong, and even asking them to explain what’s wrong is going to make things so much more wrong that it’s probably best to just apologize and pack your bags?
The conversation gets progressively fraught.
Barnabas: What’s happened? Something to the children?
Julia: Oh, Barnabas, why did you do it? We’ve been trying so desperately to save Hallie and David from Gerard, and now, to do this to Maggie!
Barnabas: To Maggie? Julia, what are you saying?
Julia: Barnabas, you cannot get away with it! You cannot possibly!
Barnabas: Can’t get away with what? Julia, tell me! What’s happened to Maggie?
Julia: You know as well as I do, Barnabas! You cannot possibly get away with your attack on her tonight!
And then this expression, and one of those big Dun! Dun! DUNNNNNNNN! dramatic stings that are basically all that I live for.
Naturally, if you’re going to do an intensely dramatic, heart-stopping scene about nothing at all, then the first thing you have to do is go out and get Julia, because she is where the facial expressions come from. The pictures above depict nine seconds in the life of Grayson Hall.
Barnabas: Julia, are you sure — absolutely sure — that Maggie was attacked by a vampire?
Julia: Oh, Barnabas, I saw the marks on the neck myself — marks that only you could have made!
Barnabas: Julia, I swear that I didn’t —
Julia: Barnabas, stop it! You attacked Maggie when she was walking through the woods. How can you deny it?
And then Barnabas gets a perfect little closeup, as he says, gently, “I can deny it, Julia, because I didn’t do it.”
So this is still my favorite show, Hallie or no Hallie, because I get to watch these two haunted people battling over heartbreak, just before daybreak.
Julia: What you’ve done is terrible enough, Barnabas, but to lie to me, the one person you can trust!
Barnabas: Julia! The sun will be up soon. I must convince you! I tell you that I never lie to you.
Julia: I want to believe that, Barnabas, but it’s so incredible!
And it really is incredible, this little two-person tribute to the alienation of modern life. This is a tricky bit of scripting, because we want to enjoy Julia’s fury and sorrow, but not for too long. She has to stop suspecting him pretty soon, because otherwise it’s a betrayal of their actual relationship, but still, you want them to clash like this, at least for a scene or two.
And then they get into this position, and they hold it for a full twenty seconds.
Barnabas: Julia, I beg of you, believe me! Now, go to Maggie, and stay with her. There’s no point in questioning her, as long as she’s under the spell of another. But she may let something slip, or give us some clue!
Barnabas: Now, go to Maggie! She needs you! I will see you tonight, and I will find out whoever has done this.
It’s a love token, really, from the writers to the audience. We’ve fallen down a well, they’re saying, and we can’t find our way out. We’re halfway through a terrible story that isn’t working, and we can’t skip past it until Kate Jackson graduates from drama school. But here, if it helps: a little piece of the best we can do.
“Listen to them,” he says, indicating the dognoise. “How well I know that sound. The summons to Maggie… is now a summons from someone else. I hereby swear with all solemnity, on the graves of all my ancestors, that when I’ve found who has done this to her, I will drive the stake myself!”
And then he walks away, into history.
Tomorrow: The Tenterhooks.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In act 1, when Julia tells Hallie to go to her room, her closeup is out of focus.
Hallie says, “David, please! To question him directly — and you mustn’t!”
In act 4, after Carrie watches the carousel, the scene cuts to the drawing room — where somebody on the left is holding a script on camera.
Tomorrow: The Tenterhooks.
— Danny Horn