“Without even planning it, I’ve committed the perfect crime.”
And then, I suppose, Gabriel and Edith’s children come home from boarding school to find an empty house. Their parents are dead, their grandfather is dead, Aunt Samantha is dead, Uncle Quentin has run off to Boston with the governess, and Uncle Desmond has run off to New York with a music hall performer. Nobody’s buried Samantha or their mother, or this strange Valerie Collins who they’ve never even heard of, because the funeral director has mysteriously disappeared, and the police are busting open brick alcoves all over Collinsport, just in case he’s behind one of them.
Aunt Flora is the only one left on the estate, and she’s gone mad, apparently; she can hardly answer a single question about the last four months without babbling about ghosts and vampires and mysterious decapitations. Uncle Quentin was tried for witchcraft, she says, but he was spared at the last moment by a witch, who accused somebody else of witchcraft, and then Uncle Desmond shot somebody, and somehow nobody went to prison.
Now they have to arrange for Aunt Flora’s stay at Rushmore Sanitarium, and sell Rose Cottage to young Mr. McGruder, and clear out the empty coffin in the basement of the Old House that their mysterious cousins from Philadelphia apparently left behind, before they too vanished without a word of explanation.
And then they’re alone, this unknown handful of necessary descendants, to repopulate the mansion and try to survive. Is it any wonder, on that terrible night, that they called upon the dark creatures of nature to bring their dead mother back from the grave?
So that about wraps it up for Dark Shadows, I guess, going down in a hail of gunfire, as we always knew that it would. Yesterday’s lunatic climax was everything this storyline deserved: a huge, silly going-away party full of shouting, surprise confessions and exploding warlock heads. We rid ourselves of Gerard and Judah, in a ghastly triumph of spectacle over sense, and we will never be the same.
The purpose of coming to 1840 was to avert a disaster, which was absolutely not averted in any way. The show is still leaking audience members, and ABC is hungrily eyeing the 4pm slot. The cancellation hatpin hovers in the air, as the zombie pirates beneath our feet stir in their untidy graves. We’ve got nine and a half weeks and no longer, and if we’re going to do anything nice for the Collins family, it’s going to have to be now.
Everyone needs to find a partner, on their way out the door and into the all-consuming darkness beyond. The Dark Shadows writers are assembling a happy ending, which they’ve never done before, and they’re not sure how it’s supposed to work.
A case in point: Quentin and Daphne, reading a sentimental Hallmark card left by someone who hates them worse than poison. Quentin is free from jail now, released on all charges including the ones that he actually deserved, like beating up a prison guard during his unpunished flight from justice. His wife Samantha’s last act was basically screaming at the top of her lungs that all she wanted out of life was to see him dead, and then she was conveniently killed by a revenge ghost, and now he’s skipping away with his governess girlfriend toward their next inevitable heartbreaking calamity.
But first, there’s a note!
Daphne: Is there something wrong?
Quentin: No, no, everything’s beautiful! Listen to this: “Dear Quentin, I’ve done you a great injustice with regard to Tad. Whatever else went wrong between us, it didn’t involve Tad. I lied to you. He is your son; for Tad’s sake, you must know the truth. Samantha.”
So that rings false on so many levels, including the fact that I’d completely forgotten that Tad’s parentage was even a story point. When did Samantha write that down, and what was she planning to do with it? Where did she leave it? How did he find it? Why is it here, in all of our lives?
But this is what happens, when the writers decide it’s the end of a Shakespeare comedy; they reward all the surviving characters with what they most desire, and if it doesn’t make sense then that is up to you to deal with. I can’t come back, I don’t know how it works, goodbye, folks, goodbye! is basically the attitude here.
At least there’s room for one more crippling tragedy, which comes courtesy of the unquestioned king of bad ideas, Mr. Barnabas Collins. He’s decided, at the last minute and for no good reason, that he is and always has been madly in love with his mortal enemy, Miss Angelique of Martinique, who turned his life and afterlife into a private Hell of devastating consequence. He’s killed her and burned her, rejected and spurned her, but here she is, the mad mademoiselle, rushing to his open arms, if she can make it across the drawing room alive.
“Angelique?” he says, and she stands and awaits his command. They gaze into each other’s hopeful eyes, and they see each other — not as they truly are, but as they both willingly delude themselves into thinking they would like each other to be, as with all great lovers through the ages.
“Barnabas?” she says, and clasps her hands in front of her in nervous expectation, and oh, the look on her face could melt the most cynical heart. If there ever was a moment when these two could finally match each other’s madness, this is it.
“I know now,” he says. “I know how I feel…”
And we’ll never know how that sentence was going to end, ’cause here comes karma, red-faced and armed.
“The judges refused to hold you,” announces Lamar Trask, “but I am not afraid of you! Die, witch!” And you have to admit that he has a point.
So it all falls apart, in violence and noise. Those of us who choose to link our lot with witches know that it always ends this way.
“I could have killed you before,” Barnabas reminisces as he chokes Lamar, “when you walled me up. I should have finished you then!” We all have our regrets.
There’s no blood, of course; these clothes are a rental, and besides, Barnabas already ate. But Angelique is dying, once again the victim of her own reckless curse, and she takes the show down with her.
He’s taking this pretty hard, but she doesn’t mind, really. She’s been killed a whole bunch of times, and there’s no reason to expect that this is the last time she’s breathing her last. She’s already got return gigs booked in 1897, 1968 and 1970, not to mention her engagement at the Brooklyn Marriott in 2003. Angelique in the abstract will be just fine.
But this is the last time in this narrative universe that this Barnabas will cradle this Angelique in his arms and offer her a final farewell, and I believe in it completely.
“Angelique,” he pants, as he dabs at her bosom with a handkerchief and glances at the teleprompter, “I never knew…”
“What, my darling?” she smiles, closing her eyes.
“What you did tonight…” he stammers, trying desperately to remember what he’s supposed to say.
“That I always loved you,” she says, skipping ahead to a cue that he’ll recognize. It is her parting gift to the man that she loves.
“And I love you,” he says, back on track. “That’s why you must live. I love you, Angelique — after all those years, all that happened between us, I can say it now, because I know it’s true. I love you.”
But she’s gone. Her soul has slipped back to that dark cavern, where she waits for her next regeneration.
“No!” her lover shudders. “Angelique! You never heard me…”
And I believe in it completely, despite everything, because for the first time in a long while, Dark Shadows has remembered who the main characters are. The show drifted away from Barnabas, Julia and Angelique in these last couple months, and it’s taken a toll.
But now, they make sure that Barnabas Collins has one last big moment, the final kiss from a kaiju before they all disappear into legend. I accept it with gratitude.
Still, the show must go on, for a little while at least, so there’s more noise and violence as they hare up the stairs for the last big dance number. “You will pay for this with your life!” Barnabas shouts, as Trask wishes he had thought to bring two bullets to the party.
Fortunately, Collinwood is liberally sprinkled with murder weapons on every flat surface, and Trask grabs a dagger from a passing table as he scurries into the darkness. If he survives this encounter, there’s still a lead pipe, a rope and a candlestick around here somewhere, and we’ve learned recently how handy those candlesticks can be, in a crunch.
Barnabas catches up with him in the wild west of the east wing, where life is cheap but not cheap enough. Another kaiju must die in this clash of the titans, and this version of Trask, while enjoyable, is not the man he once was. Hardly anyone is, these days.
And so the last villain falls, stuck in the stomach and turned into chromakey for a final farewell to the insanity we’re leaving behind.
We are Trask, in this moment, confused and suffering, transformed into a special effect and thrust into a parallel universe that we did not specifically ask for.
“What’s happening?” he cries. “Where am I?”
The world blinks, and Trask is gone, trapped in that other time. If you were hoping that Barnabas would go with him into the next chapter of the story, as the audience doubtless expected, then you’re out of luck. But this is Barnabas’ chance to deliver a going-away present to that other band of time, and he sends them a terminally wounded Trask. He won’t be around for April Fools’ Day, so this is the best he can do.
“So this is how it ends,” Barnabas says, clutching at his bloodless wound as he enters the drawing room. He picks up the gun, just to make sure that he gets his fingerprints all over the evidence, and deposits it on the table, in case he needs it later. I don’t know if there’s anyone left alive in the whole mansion who needs to be put down, but you never know.
And here, at the finale, the Ralston-Purina lamp stands sentinel, a silent witness to the proceedings. I told you that lamp was important.
Now that the final murder is taken care of, Barnabas gets one last soliloquy, which is presented here free of charge.
Your beautiful face… How quiet, as if you were asleep. Am I never to see your eyes again? So often, they looked at me with love, and I returned nothing but hatred. I was blinded by my fury, that my rejection of you caused. And so throughout the years, we battled and fought. I never guessed that beneath my rage, I felt a love as strong as yours.
This is an unlikely turnabout that doesn’t really connect, but who cares? They want to wrap up four years of lunatic vampire storylines that rattled unsteadily across the screen in no particular direction, and any ending they come up with would probably contradict at least sixty percent of the story as we remember it. This one is fine.
And then in walks Dr. Julia Hoffman, sadly stripped of her importance over the last few months. If there are any regrets, as Dark Shadows winds itself down, then that is first on the list: leaving the show’s most interesting character on the sidelines for the last two months. She’s had no meaningful part to play in this conclusion, and the show has suffered in her absence.
“I loved her, Julia,” Barnabas asserts. “She is my only love, and I never knew it.”
And Julia looks at him through narrowed eyes, clearly thinking, what are you even talking about, you insane man.
When this is done, as it will be soon, let us not dwell on the diminished role brought on by her eyelift-related absence. Let us remember Julia as she was just two months ago, bringing a patchwork Frankenstein to existence, breathing life into a body that would have been inert and worthless without her.
It doesn’t matter who Barnabas thinks that he loves; Julia is the one who raised Dark Shadows from the dead. It is hers, it will always be hers, and everyone else can go to hell.
She asks Barnabas what happened, and he brightens as he explains that he stabbed Trask, and sent him across the boundary of time.
“Julia,” he smiles, “without even planning it, I’ve committed the perfect crime.” And he’s pleased about it, this madman, a perfect criminal to the last.
All that’s left is to clear up the casualties, who are treated even more casually than usual. “The police accepted my story,” Barnabas says, which is hard to swallow. Collinsport law enforcement must be okay with anything, at this point. They’ve clearly made the decision to stay away from anything related to Collinwood, a police-free autonomous zone that should be walled off from the rest of the population. Bringing the Collins family to justice just leads to more heartbreak, and you don’t want to get caught in the crossfire.
Now that’s cleared up, it’s time for the three time travelers to remember what they came here for in the first place.
“Barnabas, we can’t stay here any longer!” says Professor Stokes, popping up from wherever they’d stashed him for the last couple weeks. “We must go back to our own time. I came from 1970 down Quentin’s Staircase Through Time. Now we must try to go back up those same stairs.”
Barnabas is tired and shell-shocked, but Stokes insists, “You’ve done what you came here to do! You’ll never know how well you succeeded in changing history, until you return to Collinwood.”
I’m not sure what kind of success they’re supposed to be celebrating. Gerard/Judah haunted Collinwood in 1970 out of revenge for what happened here in 1840, and I can’t imagine what could have happened to cool that hot spirit down. He was gunned down, and his hated rivals set free. How is that supposed to be a calming influence on his future behavior?
Well, let’s find out. “It’s 1971 there, now, Barnabas,” Stokes continues, meanwhiling for one last time. “Was the house destroyed? Are Elizabeth and the children dead? Are Quentin and Carolyn mad?”
This rouses Barnabas from his grief and gets him up on his feet, explaining to Desmond that time travel is real, and if he loves them, then he will send them on their journey home, and then pull the ladder away, so that nobody will ever be able to come back and do this all over again.
Now it’s time for the travelers to tap their heels together and take the leap home, and they’re sent off in the finest Wizard of Oz tradition.
“My cousin, my friend,” Barnabas says, clasping Desmond’s hands, “goodbye.” He doesn’t say “I think I’ll miss you most of all,” but that’s the general gist.
Desmond says goodbye to Barnabas, as we all will three and a half minutes from now, and asks, “How will I ever know if you have made it?”
“You must always think we have,” Barnabas says, because that’s how it works, when imaginary people take their leave. We will always remember them, and think well of them, but all that remains are those shadows in our minds.
“But what if we find Collinwood destroyed?” Julia frets, as Stokes mounts the stairs. “What if it’s the way we left it, in 1970? What will we do?”
Barnabas has the only possible answer. “We will have to do the best we can,” he says, which is what these three have been doing, these last four years. It’s always worked before.
So they climb the stairs, and for now, there are no missing steps.
And Barnabas Collins takes one brief look back at the world he knew, before closing the door on the psychedelic kaleidoscope that carries them all home.
Disembarking at an unbroken Collinwood, the happy trio all change into their street clothes — even Stokes, who doesn’t live here — and they look around the empty mansion for clues of where they’ve landed.
“Barnabas! Julia!” Liz says, entering the drawing room in a hurry. “Really, the three of you are impossible; you’re very late!”
“Late for what?” Julia asks, trying to keep up.
“Well, have you forgotten?” Elizabeth frowns. “The opening of the historical center! I wouldn’t have come back, but Roger forgot his speech. Now, do let’s hurry!”
So who knows where this parallel Kansas is, in some world they call 1971? Liz doesn’t know that they’ve been away, and she talks about things that they’ve done recently, which they don’t recognize. “Eliot,” she chides, “I know that Barnabas and Julia are always preoccupied, but it’s not like you to forget something we’ve been planning for so long.”
Like I said, they’re giving out happy endings today. Glinda the Good Witch has rewarded them with the timeline they were hoping for, where everyone is alive and well, and waiting for them just over the horizon.
“It’s really been a warm and cozy winter, hasn’t it?” Elizabeth smiles, alive and someplace. “So calm and peaceful. I’ve quite enjoyed it. Shall we go?” And they do, cheerfully leaving behind more questions than answers.
Where is this place? What Stokes was it, who helped her plan the opening of the historical center, and what version of history is it centered upon? Which Barnabas and which Julia were always preoccupied, and what were they preoccupied with, until now? What door was it that the three of them passed through, exploring another new and tragic world, just in time to leave their places open for these three to step into?
“We’ll never forget any of them, Barnabas,” says Julia, and Barnabas agrees. And then they walk away, into history.
Tomorrow: The Wuthering.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
The opening narration says that Barnabas and Angelique are about to have “the most eventful meeting in his life.” This is obviously untrue. It is eventful, sure, but it doesn’t beat the night when he shot his wife, and she cursed him for eternity and then he was bitten by a vampire bat. It’s hard to beat that, eventful-wise.
In yesterday’s episode, Angelique was sitting on the couch in the drawing room when Barnabas entered. Today, she’s sitting in front of the fire.
Also, yesterday Trask said, “The judges refused to hold you, but I am not afraid of you!” Today, he says, “The judges were afraid to hold you, but I am not afraid!”
Angelique’s left eye twitches slightly a couple times during Barnabas’ soliloquy — once after he says “we battled and fought”, and again after he says “a love as strong as yours”. This is extremely nitpicky, because you have to look very closely, and I only noticed it because I was taking a screenshot.
When Barnabas gets up to cross to Julia, the boom mic is in the shot. Immediately after that, a shadow passes across the armchair on the left side.
Julia tells Barnabas, “I’ll get my medicine bag.”
When Stokes says that they must return to 1971, Barnabas tries to jump the queue and deliver his line early. When Stokes asks, “Are Elizabeth and the children dead?” Barnabas stirs and starts to say “How…” Stokes continues, “Are Quentin and Carolyn mad?” and then it’s time for Barnabas’ line.
Barnabas says, “1971… see more — it seems almost impossible to believe.”
Desmond sneaks out of the drawing room scene while the other three characters talk, which gives him time to get to the laboratory set. Then we cut to a close-up of Desmond at the lab while he pretends to talk to the trio. You can hear their feet shuffling as they all arrive at the set.
When Julia says goodbye to Desmond, the boom mic pokes into the scene at top left.
Elizabeth and Stokes move to the drawing room doors too quickly, and Liz’s line is off mic. The boom mic dips into the picture as it tries to follow them.
Behind the Scenes:
This is the last episode for Jerry Lacy, who played Tony Peterson and four different Trasks, and gave us so much enjoyment all these years.
“I left the show before it went off the air,” he said, in an interview on Disc 43 of the MPI set. “Just several months. I’d been offered a job on As the World Turns — in the present, and you wore regular clothes, with pockets in the pants. It sounded very attractive to me. And you talked like a regular person. So I took that job.”
Lacy was on As the World Turns for a year, and then went to California to play Humphrey Bogart in the 1972 film version of Woody Allen’s Play It Again, Sam, a role that he originated on Broadway in 1969. He went back to New York and worked on the soap Love of Life from 1972 to 1978, where he met and married actress Julia Duffy. The couple moved to California, and he appeared on The Young and the Restless from 1979 to 1981. He made guest appearances on a bunch of shows in the 1980s and early 90s, including Knots Landing, Newhart (where his wife was a regular), Designing Women and a Love Boat special. He stopped acting in 1992, and played the stock market. He returned to acting in 1999, making sporadic appearances on TV shows and movies.
In 2013, he played Doctor Mabuse in a revival of the 1920s Dr. Mabuse series, which I was not previously aware of until I wrote this sentence. He also appeared in a 2014 sequel, Dr. Mabuse: Etiopmar, and a third film just released in summer 2020, The Thousand and One Lives of Doctor Mabuse.
Lacy has also appeared in a number of Big Finish Dark Shadows audios. He starred as Tony Peterson in Big Finish’s series The Tony & Cassandra Mysteries, and he’s played various Trasks in the one-shot stories, as well as the serials Bloodlust and Bloodline.
Re: Flora’s involuntary admission to Rushmore Sanitarium: I think I just figured that Flora Collins is the old lady in Providence, or the other one in Boston. You see what happens when you leave loose characters lying around, at the end of a storyline?
Tomorrow: The Wuthering.
— Danny Horn