“We’re only going to die so we can live again!”
Here’s what’s supposed to be scary today: Evil scheming ghost pirate Gerard Stiles leads young David Collins out of his house, and across the lawn to an undiscovered country house that’s located within easy walking distance.
David follows Gerard through the woods, asking where are we going the whole time, and then they reach a clearing, and Gerard brushes a bush away so that David can check out the destination. “It’s Rose Cottage!” David says. “It’s real! It really exists!” Which it does, so they keep walking and eventually they get there.
Meanwhile, back at the main house, there’s Hallie Stokes, the show’s other ghost-addled teen, who the adults are trying to protect. Julia tells Quentin to keep an eye on Hallie, and Quentin says okay, but when Julia goes upstairs, Daphne the ghost governess appears, and she distracts Quentin, and Hallie runs out into the night.
So now Hallie is following Daphne through the woods, and saying where are we going, and so on. Then we return to Collinwood, where Julia is asking Quentin what happened, which we already know what happened, because it just happened, a minute and a half ago.
Then Gerard brings David inside Rose Cottage at last, and it turns out Rose Cottage is just a disappointing little hallway, with some drywall and a door and a curtain and a chair. They’ve been talking about Rose Cottage for weeks, and now that we’re here, it is profoundly depressing. There isn’t anything surprising here at all — we do eventually see more than just this little corner, but the other room is just as sad and empty but with more chairs in it, and everything that they do there could just as easily have been done back at Collinwood, in the playroom or the dollhouse or a dream sequence, or all of the above. In fact, they’ve already done everything that they’re about to do, in various visions and assorted daydreams, it’s just that now everybody stops asking where is Rose Cottage, and they start saying, well, here we are in Rose Cottage.
So David goes to sleep in a chair, which he might as well, and then we see Hallie and Daphne in the woods, behind exactly the same bush, and Daphne moves some of the foliage away. Hallie peers through the underbrush and says, “It’s Rose Cottage! It’s a real place!” And yes, we get it. It’s Rose Cottage, and Rose Cottage is real.
They want us to pretend like that’s scary, but obviously it’s not. This is the opposite of scary. The thing that’s actually scary is that I have to write one hundred and fifty more blog posts, and is this really what I want to be doing with my life right now?
So here I am, thirty weeks away from the finish line. Episode 1245 is real — it’s a real place, that really exists — but thirty weeks is a large number of weeks, and they’re not going to get a lot easier. This show — my favorite television show, and the subject that I’ve devoted several years of my life to writing about — is dying. It’s time to start talking about that in the present tense. In a few weeks, we’ll go back to the nineteenth century, which is the Dark Shadows equivalent of hospice care. And I’m going to spend one hundred and fifty days watching it not really get that much better, until it takes a turn for the even worse, and then it dies.
I knew, when I started this project, that the Dream Curse would be repetitive. I knew that the end of the Leviathan story would be disappointing. I knew that they were going to struggle with coming back from the movie shoot and kick-starting the show again. And I knew that at some point after that, I would start to lose the will to live, and this would stop being fun, and the blog would become a burden.
Hang on a second, I need a picture of Gerard.
Okay, there we go. Seriously, that is what keeps me going right now, the lunatic hotness of Gerard. I can’t believe I wrote a post a couple months ago questioning Gerard’s hotness. Looking at Gerard’s face is currently my favorite thing in the world.
So one thing that I need to make super clear at this point is: I am going to finish this project. So far, I’ve written 919 posts, and I’m going to write another 150, and the blog will end exactly where it’s supposed to, on April 2nd, 1971. That’s non-negotiable.
There’s a story that I want to tell that starts at episode 210 and ends at episode 1245, and it wouldn’t be fair — especially to you, the lovely people who are accompanying me on this uncertain and frightening journey into the past — if I suddenly decided that Hallie was ruining everything, and dropped out.
The other reason why I have to finish this blog is that there’s something else that I want to write about — a new project, that also follows a particular story through time, including weird tangents and subplots and side missions that I come up with along the way. I’ve had this project in the back of my mind for a couple years now, and as I’m approaching episode 1245, I’m thinking about all the fun research I’ll be able to do for the next thing.
I mean, originally, the Dark Shadows blog was supposed to just be a training ground. I figured the blog would have zero readers, because who the hell wants to read a thousand blog posts about Dark Shadows episodes? I thought I’d just write this for more or less myself, and I’d get good at it, and then I’d go and write about something that people have heard of.
But then you showed up, which as far as I’m concerned is a miracle, and the project became more real, and more fun. And reading what you write in the comments every day — the Dark Shadows discussion board that I basically just post headers for, at this point — has inspired and encouraged me, and allowed me to experiment with weird new ways to write about this story. Serialization is natural selection for stories, and seeing what works and what doesn’t on this blog has made me a better writer, or at least a more confident one, which was definitely part of the point.
So — because I love you, and I’m amazed that you even exist — I can’t do the next project without finishing this one. If I openly bailed on this journey, then I couldn’t expect anybody to get excited about the next one. It’s just not possible.
But I really am looking forward to writing about something that my friends will read. For a while, once the blog started picking up steam, I thought that maybe people who liked other stuff that I’d done would start reading this blog too, even if they didn’t know the show. The blog’s funny, and I thought people could kind of follow along, even if they didn’t catch all the references. That is a thing that did not happen.
You remember how I thought people wouldn’t want to read a thousand blog posts about Dark Shadows? It turns out that people who like Dark Shadows will, which is amazing. But nobody else will. That is a fact that I have learned about life. The audience on this blog capped a while ago, and it’s just not going to get meaningfully bigger.
So when my posts are late, then it’s stressful, because I know that every day I don’t write a Dark Shadows post is another day added on to the end of my sentence.
Now, I know that I’m being ridiculously self-involved today, and that “I want more people to read what I write about pop culture” is absolutely a first-world problem that requires zero interest on anybody else’s part. The reason why I’m bringing this up is that this is how the people making Dark Shadows were feeling too.
They had a crazy, hugely exciting run for about a year and a half, where it felt like everything clicked. They experimented and took weird creative risks, and somehow the audience kept growing, and it was really fun and rewarding, and it seemed like it could last forever.
But now they’ve peaked, and they know it. They’ve run out of stories to tell, in this format and timeslot. The ratings are going down — gently, but firmly — and there’s really not any way for them to get people to come back. Going into the future for two weeks was the last really bold, ambitious step they could take, and even that was just doing an old story backwards. Everybody in the US who’s available to watch TV at four o’clock in the afternoon falls into one of three groups: either they watch Dark Shadows, they used to watch Dark Shadows and then stopped, or they know about Dark Shadows and they aren’t interested in it. There’s no untapped market, no new people they can convert.
So everyone has half an eye on what they’re going to do next. They all have a next project that they’d like to work on. For some of them, it’s getting a writing job on another soap opera; for some, it’s going back to theater. Some of them are wondering if they can build on their Dark Shadows recognition to launch a movie career, including the executive producer. At least one of them is going to be a Charlie’s Angel.
Whatever their dreams are, individually and collectively, it doesn’t involve working on Dark Shadows for very much longer. I am not the only person who can see Hallie, and make the appropriate inferences. This too shall pass.
Tomorrow: Dawn of the Honey Badger.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In the opening narration, Quentin says, “Barnabas Collins and Julia Hoffman learned that a terrible cratastophe occurred at Collinwood.”
Hallie says to Julia, “But I’ve told you a dozen of times!”
Quentin tells Daphne, “I didn’t believe any harm would come to anybody. Youm led me to believe that! Now, if it isn’t true, and if danger — if David is in any danger whatsoever, you’ve got to tell me.”
As Quentin looks at the drawing of Rose Cottage, somebody passes by in the mirror.
When the scene shifts from Quentin in Daphne’s room to Gerard and David in the woods, there’s a little burst of studio noise, including people walking around, rustling paper, and something dropping on the floor.
Tomorrow: Dawn of the Honey Badger.
— Danny Horn