“In the name of sanity, what’s going on in Maggie Evans’ blood?”
Good news: As a special treat today, we’re going to leave Collinsport and travel a hundred miles away, to a private sanitarium called either Windcliff or Wyndcliffe. (Or possibly Wyndcliff. We never see it written down, and nobody can agree on how to spell it. Someone asked the writers once, and they said they didn’t care.)
Even more good news: Maggie is now under the care of Dr. Julia Hoffman, who’s shining a penlight in her eyes and pretending to hypnotize her.
“Concentrate on the light,” she says. “Raise your right hand.” Maggie starts to move her left hand, and the doctor corrects her: “Your right hand. Raise your right hand.”
Maggie raises her right hand. “Very good,” the doctor says. “Lower your right hand.”
Which begs the question: Why doesn’t Maggie know which is her right hand? Also, what kind of voodoo medical care is this supposed to be?
Continue reading Episode 265: Doctor Strange
“This has the terrible sound of a family disintegrating.”
Happy birthday, Dark Shadows! Today’s episode aired on June 29, 1967, which is just a couple days past the show’s first anniversary. It’s an exciting milestone, because until very recently, it looked like the show was going to get cancelled at the end of the first year. The ratings were declining, and they’d never been that great in the first place. The end seemed inevitable.
And then they introduced a vicious, psychotic madman to the show, and America fell in love. Dark Shadows was renewed, and now they have the interesting problem of coming up with a new storyline for the undead creature that they never intended to keep around for this long.
This episode takes the first steps toward a new direction for Barnabas. When we saw him last, he was the vicious monster relentlessly pursuing Maggie through underground tunnels, determined to end her life.
But that was three days ago. Today, he’s… something else.
Continue reading Episode 264: Unconscience
“Apparently, that madman is still around.”
Yesterday, Vicki spent the entire episode having feelings about Maggie’s death, and today she’s going to have them all over again. This is exactly how a traditional soap opera is supposed to run — something happens maybe once a week, and the rest of the time is processing everyone’s feelings.
If you don’t watch a lot of soaps, that probably sounds like the most boring possible TV show, but a well-written soap opera makes it work. You just need to build up the stakes, so that a character’s emotional response has an effect on other people.
On Downton Abbey, when Matthew is wounded in the war, they spend weeks exploring how Mary feels, and how Lavinia feels, and how Matthew feels about Lavinia’s feelings, and how Mary feels about Matthew’s feelings, and on and on, and we’re all sitting there with our eyes glued to the TV, because we can’t imagine living another day unless we find out what these make-believe people are going to say to each other.
Continue reading Episode 263: Don’t Say Anything
“I just don’t care. I know that I should… but I just don’t.”
Up to this point, Dark Shadows has been one of the slower-paced soap operas, which is quite an achievement given the pace of the other shows in its weight class. But they’ve started experimenting recently with new storytelling techniques, including “creating interesting characters” and “having things happen”, and so far it’s working out okay.
So this episode plays kind of a mean trick on audience members who missed yesterday’s installment. The entire episode is about characters reacting to the news of Maggie’s death.
Continue reading Episode 262: Feelin’ Gloomy
“It could be a matter of minutes. Then again, it could be a matter of hours.”
On Friday, we had the first genuinely suspenseful Dark Shadows episode, with an exciting cliffhanger that promised an unpredictable change in the status quo. Today, they have to deliver on that promise. Let’s see what happens.
Continue reading Episode 261: Bigger on the Inside
“The clue is large! That doesn’t make any sense.”
Picture this: It’s 3:30, on a sunny Friday afternoon. It’s late June, so this might actually be the last day of school, and it’s 1967, so the kids are looking forward to a long, hot and mostly unsupervised summer. Mom’s been watching General Hospital, so the TV is tuned to ABC. The last notes of the Wurlitzer pipe organ playing the GH theme have faded away, as the kids pile into the house and throw themselves down on the living room floor.
And just at that moment, in a dirty prison cell in the basement of a haunted house, a man brings a tray of food to the pretty young woman who’s trapped there. They exchange a few words, and then he hands her a glass of poisoned milk.
Continue reading Episode 260: The Secret of My Suspense
“Cracking up your car and getting your life saved can be pretty exhausting, you know.”
Okay, this is a tough one. For one thing, it’s another Liz/Jason blackmail episode, and that storyline has been getting to me lately. But the really tough thing is that I have very clear memories of this episode, which it turns out are partly false.
The way I remember it, this episode is a turning point in Liz’s relationship with Carolyn. Liz takes a big step, Carolyn is touched, and they have an emotional breakthrough. Then there’s the climactic wedding sometime next week, and after that it’s all vampires and witches, and I don’t have to deal with this boring storyline anymore.
But I think someone must have come along and tampered with these episodes since the last time I watched them, because that’s not what happens, and the wedding is still three weeks away. Three weeks!
Continue reading Episode 259: Cell Blocked
“I’m the sole judge of who deserves what!”
Time is running out for Maggie Evans, who’s still being held prisoner in the Old House basement. Her only hope is that the mysterious little girl who she saw on Monday will come back, bringing parents, the police and a crossbow.
Maggie’s just on the verge of giving up when Sarah suddenly appears in the cell, still playing with a ball and singing “London Bridge”. This is a new milestone for the show. On Monday, it was possible that this was just a really weird kid who’s been hiding in the basement since the late 18th century. But today, the girl straight-up apparates through a brick wall, leaving no room for doubt.
Continue reading Episode 258: The Casual Ghost
“If you feel it… sit it.”
Here’s how you know you’re not making a hit with your fiancee’s parents: When her mother opens the door, she immediately shrinks back and murmurs, “Oh,” as if she’s just stepped in something. And this is Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, a woman who literally has not left the house in 18 years; you’d think she’d be happy with any new faces who come along.
But Buzz Hackett is an acquired taste, I guess. Liz says that she’ll tell Carolyn that he’s here. Buzz says, “Hey, can’t I come inside?” Liz says “No,” and shuts the door in his face.
Continue reading Episode 257: Bachelor Party
“You always choose the worst things to want.”
Maggie is in her basement cell looking bored, and no wonder; she’s gotten used to a pretty hectic lifestyle. She spent a couple weeks walking up and down the Old House stairs wearing a wedding dress, which sounds boring but at least it’s aerobic exercise. Now she has nothing to do but stare off into space and wait for spectral visitations.
So things perk up a bit when she hears a little girl outside the cell, singing. You remember last week when London Bridge was falling down, falling down, falling down? Well, it still is.
Continue reading Episode 256: Falling Down