“Are you serious about trusting your secret to her?”
You know that your climactic vampire reveal is not all that it could be, when you raise the lid of the coffin and do the dramatic music cue, and then one character turns to the other and says, “Who is it?” That can’t be what they were going for.
Because it’s Roxanne!
Who, if you happen to have watched the two count ’em two scenes that Barnabas has had with her over the last five weeks, you immediately recognize as the latest iteration of the love of his life.
Now, technically, Barnabas hardly knows Roxanne, because he’s spent a grand total of about six minutes in her presence, but she happens to be the spitting image of Parallel Time Roxanne, the girl who was entirely unconscious up to and including the moment that he decided he was in love with her. Then she woke up and imprinted on him like a baby duck, and followed him around for four days until she died in a fire. And that Roxanne had the same name and hairstyle as this Roxanne, which means that love is real.
But now we have to come to grips with the fact that Roxanne is the fiendish creature of the night who lurks in the shadows, wearing a hat and preying on the young and innocent, specifically Maggie. Roxanne has been slowly killing the Collins family governess for the last three weeks, apparently because she was jealous that her bloodstained love slave Sebastian took Maggie out on a dinner date. And that is why Barnabas loves her.
I have no diegetic way to explain the hat. The hat is an artistic choice that Roxanne has made for reasons of her own.
But now we know, at least, and all the mysteries have been cleared up, like why we never saw Roxanne during the day, which I never noticed but apparently Julia did, and why we never saw Sebastian during the day, which is absolutely not the case. I’m not going to bother to go back and look for evidence that we’ve seen Sebastian during the day plenty of times, because it’s unnecessary and it would cheapen us both.
Well, okay, maybe one. A few weeks ago, David left the house at 9:30 in the morning, and he went straight to Sebastian’s horoscope shop to buy a glimpse of the future. Then Sebastian decided to go to Collinwood, where he met Maggie, and invited her out to dinner.
Although I have to admit that when he returned to his astrology center later, Roxanne was angry with him for going out during the day. “I think it was unwise for you to leave today,” she snapped, “and in the future, you will exercise more caution.” So that implies that he was supposed to stay at work all day, guarding the coffin.
But now we know that the coffin is in this old mausoleum, where Tad and Carrie took shelter after they escaped from Windcliff last week. They saw the coffin, and then they watched from a secure hiding place as the lid opened and a caped figure emerged into the night, and there was no sign of Sebastian. Also, Julia and Willie just walked into the crypt with a hammer and a stake, and once again, Sebastian is not among those present.
Still, if you were wondering what Sebastian was doing during the day, then you have your answer. He was here.
But that’s just nitpicking, which doesn’t matter in the least. The important thing right now is that Julia is about to participate in one of the all-time amazing scenes of Dark Shadows.
Willie holds the stake in position and raises the hammer, but just at the last moment, Julia wrestles them out of his hands, and walks over to a corner of the set where she has some room to emote.
“Julia, we gotta do what we came for!” he shouts, but she just tightens her grip on the props. “Barnabas said, whoever it was didn’t matter!”
She shakes her head. “He didn’t know. He never suspected!”
“But the Roxanne he loved was in another time!” Willie retorts. “She was no vampire, this one is! He don’t even know who this one is!”
“He thinks he does,” Julia says, warming up for a whole series of pained facial expressions. “We can’t do it, not without his knowing.”
Then she does all of these expressions, one after another, in less than a minute.
“She’s who he always wanted,” she says, skidding her way through fear, guilt, satisfaction, self-reproach, grief and resignation. “Someone with whom he could share eternity.” And then her lip quivers. Grayson Hall has been preparing for this moment since basically birth.
“But this one ain’t like him,” Willie says. “She’s vicious! That’s what he said, I heard him!”
“Julia, I’ll take the blame,” he offers, and she smiles at him, with affection and gratitude.
“Willie, you didn’t even want to come here.”
“But I am here,” he says. This is an amazing Willie scene, too. “Because Barnabas told me — Julia, you just walk out of here. I’ll do it. I’ll do it for Barnabas.”
She starts to hand over the hammer and stake, and then pulls back, cycling through several more facial expressions.
“No, I can’t, Willie,” she quavers. “I can’t! There’s got to be a better way!”
She makes a decision. “Close the coffin, Willie.”
He doesn’t move.
She looks him in the eye. “Close it!”
So this is why we do it, why we watch this insane, slapdash monster movie soap opera.
Now that this scene has happened, you realize that it’s obvious this was always going to happen. Julia’s deep love for Barnabas, and his affection for her, combined with his reckless and nonsensical amatory obsessions — of course there’s going to be a plot point when Julia is willing to sacrifice anything, for a chance to help him find the happiness that he thinks he wants. This is where the Barnabas/Julia relationship was going, all this time, right up to this moment and this heartbreaking choice.
I mean, ultimately it doesn’t mean a hell of a lot, because Roxanne is an absurd nonentity, and there are no lasting consequences to any of this. But it’s worth digging, if there are still diamonds like this scattered around.
Tomorrow: You Must Stop What Is Happening.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In the opening narration, Sebastian says that Barnabas discovered the vampire’s resting place. He didn’t; Willie found it.
Julia says that she and Elizabeth were wondering what Sebastian did during the day; we’ve seen Sebastian during the day lots of times.
Sebastian’s weak on his lines in his scene with Julia at the Old House. He says, “I thought we could talk honestly, Doctor.” “Oh, about what?” she asks. Then he says, “And I thought you’d return the compliment.” She just looks at him, perplexed, and he continues, “The subject is Maggie Evans, Doctor…”
Sebastian asks Julia, “Why do you keep Maggie here, at Collinwood?” They’re in the Old House. He asks if he can go upstairs and see Maggie, who’s upstairs somewhere else.
As Sebastian sneaks into the crypt, there’s a lot of studio noise; it sounds like they’re opening the secret bookcase and getting the props ready for the next scene.
Julia coughs, as Barnabas leaves the basement in act 2.
Barnabas says, “Julia, she did shave our lives in Rose Cottage!”
Tomorrow: You Must Stop What Is Happening.
— Danny Horn