“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.
Continue reading Episode 1070: Gangsta’s Paradise
“We can stop the cause of what’s made all this happen if we go back!”
There’s a moment in this episode when it looks like Julia might give Quentin a lethal injection, as the Sheriff of Collinsport just stands there and watches.
It doesn’t happen, but that’s how bleak the current storyline is, that you sit there and think, wait, is Julia casually murdering one of her friends? Last year, we spent six weeks with the main character of the show mind-controlled by lurking horrors from the depths of space who wanted to cleanse the earth of humankind, and it wasn’t anywhere near as scary as this.
Continue reading Episode 1069: Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me
“I did it from right here — with this coin.”
Tumbling through time, Barnabas and Julia have come to a hard stop at 1995, lured by the siren call of alternative rock and Richard Linklater movies. No one has a mint-with-tag Beanie Baby or anything, but you can tell it’s 1995 because everybody keeps dying hard, with a vengeance.
The Collinwood of the future is in ruins, abandoned and left to rot after a particularly brutal cancellation twenty-five years ago. The main characters who aren’t dead are irretrievably insane, stumbling through a devastated ABC Studio 16, waiting for someone to turn on the cameras again. They don’t cancel soap operas like this anymore; they have a much more humane system, where actors who can’t be placed in foster soaps get their own web series.
Here in 1995, Carolyn Stoddard Hawkes, Dark Shadows’ signature twenty-something sweetheart, is now pushing fifty, and apparently she’s been pushing it with her face. She looks awful. She’s spent the last couple decades becoming that loneliest of creatures, a cat lady who doesn’t have cats.
But from our perspective, this is still the Carolyn Yet to Come, and if Barnabas and Julia can find out what caused all this daytime trauma, then maybe it’s avertable. Like A Christmas Carol, The Terminator and 12 Monkeys, the question of this story is whether the future can be changed if everybody stops acting like a jerk for five seconds.
Continue reading Episode 1068: Just a Girl
“The only sedative I need is to get my hands around Stokes’ neck.”
Julia Hoffman follows the ghost of a young girl from the Old House to Collinwood and all the way upstairs to the mysterious playroom, where it turns out maybe don’t follow ghosts all over the place.
There, she comes face-to-face with the demonic supernatural force responsible for the destruction of everything she knows and loves; according to the credits, its name is Gerard. He’s a dark-haired scowling guy in his late 20s, plus however long it’s been since he died.
He glares at her from across the room, and takes a step forward. “Don’t come any closer,” she warns, looking around for an escape route, but she’s glued to the spot. “Stop looking at me that way!” she cries. “Please, stop!” He keeps on looking at her that way; looking at her that way is his entire strategy. She looks back, and then there she is, a wholly owned subsidiary of Gerard, LLC RIP.
Which raises the most important question of the 1995 storyline: Is Gerard hot?
Continue reading Episode 1067: No More I Love You’s
“They didn’t dance that way in 1970!”
“I’m convinced that this room holds the key to what we’re looking for,” Barnabas tells Julia, without evidence. “I know this room didn’t exist in 1970, and yet — this room had something to do with what happened then!”
“Even though it didn’t exist?”
“Strange as that sounds — yes.”
So this is the curious incident of the playroom in the night-time, where, as Alexis Stokes once put it, the absence of the disturbances is more frightening than the disturbances themselves. Dark Shadows has once again declared its independence from material reality, and taken up residence in the world of dreams.
Continue reading Episode 1066: This Is How We Do It
“No — you can’t be who you look like!”
And I’m here to remind you
Of the mess you left when you went away
It’s not fair to deny me
Of the cross I bear that you gave to me
You, you, you oughta know
Continue reading Episode 1065: You Oughta Know
“A shadow, yes — a shadow that fell over all of our lives!”
Barnabas and Julia have been thrust into the far-off space year of 1995, which means they’ve already missed three seasons of Melrose Place and they’re not going to understand what anybody at the office is talking about. They’d better stay away from watercoolers altogether; you can’t be too careful.
But the time-tossed twosome have other things on their minds, like for example that their house got destroyed twenty-five years ago, killing most of their friends and driving the survivors out of their everloving minds. So Barnabas and Julia are snooping around, trying to find out what caused the catastrophe. I’d suggest taking a close look at Dr. Kimberley Shaw, who’s recently developed an interest in detonating apartment complexes, but they wouldn’t have any idea what I mean. You see what happens when you don’t watch Melrose Place? Let this be a lesson.
Continue reading Episode 1064: Here Comes the Hotstepper
“If we’re never to find that out, we may never know.”
“Julia!” he exclaims. “Somewhere, in a room upstairs, someone, or some thing, is playing that music. Now, it can’t be very dangerous, because music is seldom used to frighten.”
Continue reading Episode 1063: Wonderwall
“Will tomorrow tell us any more than today?”
Every once in a while, I have to take an unplanned break from writing this blog — usually for a conference, or a seance, or I have other things on my mind — and when I come back, it’s always the same. The blog is a shambles, all caved-in and overgrown with vines and creepers. Everything’s dusty, the commenters are ravenous and desperate, and you don’t even want to know what happens to the Twitter feed.
Suddenly, it’s the distant future — or at least, a lot more distant than I wanted it to be — and if I could figure out what happened, maybe I could go back in time to make it right. I mean, I probably can’t, but you never know.
Continue reading Episode 1062: Don’t Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days)
“For as long as I exist, I’ll despise this room for what it has done to me.”
“Why is fate so determined to offer me a chance for happiness and then destroy it right before my eyes?” says Barnabas, because everything is always about you.
Continue reading Episode 1061: I’ll Be There For You