“Your hand will burn if you touch me!”
Her name is Bathia Mapes. Even that doesn’t make sense.
It’s difficult to say exactly how we got here; it all seems like a dream. A year ago, Dark Shadows was a daytime soap opera that did a couple of mild ghost stories. And now it’s 170 years ago, where a French aristocrat from Martinique is praying over a candle, trying to bring a witch to the house to cure a vampire who’s locked in a tower upstairs. The door slams open, and there’s the sound of thunder, and then in walks this magical Yiddish elf.
Continue reading Episode 450: Scary Godmother
“Strange things may happen. Ignore them.”
This week, Joshua Collins has learned that his dead son, Barnabas, has returned from the grave as a vicious undead serial killer, and he’s made a vow to do something about it. And this is how desperate Joshua has become — he’s willing to suggest a team-up with the Countess Natalie Du Prés, who he doesn’t even like that much.
But things have become pretty flexible, here in the dying days of the 1795 storyline. They don’t have a lot of characters left, what with all the dying, so it’s hard to even get a decent bridge game going, much less a ritual of summoning.
So suddenly Natalie has the power to pray to a candle, sending out a psychic distress call to attract any passing occult-identified day-players. This is why we have a migrant witches problem.
Continue reading Episode 449: Something Nasty in the Woodshed
“Poor child. If I had any feelings left, I might pity you.”
It’s been a big week on Dark Shadows. On Monday, crotchety patriarch Joshua Collins found his dead son, Barnabas, sleeping in a coffin in the basement of the Old House.
Learning that Barnabas is the vampire maniac who’s been killing people all over town, Joshua vowed to find a way to remove Angelique’s curse. Now he’s keeping Barnabas locked in the tower room at Collinwood, while he tries to track down an occult customer support line.
So, obviously, this is a super exciting development. Collinwood has a tower room!
Continue reading Episode 448: Fight the Tower
“I told you I killed her. I never said she was dead.”
Okay. It’s Tuesday, we’re still in the basement, Barnabas is still talking to his dad, and we’re not getting out of here until somebody shoots somebody.
Joshua Collins has descended into the underworld — also known as the cellar in the Old House — where he’s found his dead son climbing out of a coffin. As you might imagine, the discussion has become somewhat complex.
Here’s where they left off: Barnabas has finally confessed that he’s a vampire, and he feeds on human blood. Horrified, Joshua raises his pistol, and says, “Forgive me. Forgive me, dear son.”
And then: Ka-CHOW! Joshua shoots his son, right in the chest.
Barnabas clutches at the entry wound — and then straightens up, unharmed. He walks over to his father, and says, “Don’t you understand? What I’ve been trying to tell you all along is that I am already dead.”
It’s kind of a dream situation, if you’ve ever had a long argument with your parents. I mean, who wouldn’t take a bullet, just for the satisfaction of delivering the ultimate “I told you so”?
Continue reading Episode 447: My Family, and Other Crazed Animals
“You must have always had so much hatred in you. No one could be filled with it so quickly.”
Friday’s episode ended with stern patriarch Joshua Collins descending into the basement of the abandoned Old House, poking into the buried secrets that should never be poked into. As usual in these kinds of situations, he arrives at the bottom step just exactly in time to see the mystery box open, unleashing a dark and primal terror that destroys everything in its line of sight.
Judging by past performance, this means that Joshua’s about to be killed. Dark secrets are a powerful story engine, because there’s lots of associated activity — mostly inventing, refuting and refining alibis and cover stories. That fills up time, and fools the audience into thinking that they’re getting somewhere. If you let characters actually discover the truth, then after a while you need to hire a writer who can come up with something else for them to talk about, and that runs into money.
So Dark Shadows has settled into a gentle rut over the last six weeks, essentially funnelling a single-file line of cast members down these stairs, to their immediate and lasting disadvantage. Joshua is just the latest patsy in the popular game of Let’s Kill the Collins Family.
Continue reading Episode 446: The Son Also Rises
“You don’t understand the world, or anything around you. Today, more than anything, has convinced me of that.”
It’s the old story, one of the oldest there is: The young couple wants to dance, and hold hands in the rain, and run away, and fall in love. They don’t care about money or tradition or whatever uptight hang-ups their uptight parents are hung up on. They just want to be free.
And this is early spring 1968, back when being young and free really meant something. I’m not totally sure if that spirit also applies to 1796, but Millicent is going to give it a whirl, and see how far she can get.
Continue reading Episode 445: Generation Gap
“I ask you to believe one thing, because it’s as true and as real as anything you’ll ever hear.”
Well, that scoundrel Nathan Forbes is at it again, manipulating the wealthy and naive Millicent Collins into marrying him, and giving him access to the Collins fortune. Exposed as a liar and an aspiring bigamist, Nathan is banned from Collinwood, plus Millicent tried to stab him with a letter opener, so figuring out the seating chart for the reception has been pretty decisively moved to the back burner.
Right now, the emotionally fragile Millicent is walking around with a box full of duelling pistols, looking for someone who’s willing to shoot Nathan in the face. It was that kind of breakup.
But Nathan, ever resourceful, has come up with a completely bonkers drawing-room-comedy-style plan, where his associate Noah attacks Millicent, wielding her cousin Barnabas’ cane. It’s all very fraught and complex.
Then Nathan jumps in and delivers some Batman ’66 style punches, and with a WHAM!, a POW! and a ZOK!, he chases the nasty bad man away. Millicent is overcome with emotion, and the whole production is a runaway success.
Continue reading Episode 444: Anatomy of a Speed Bump
“I lose track of time. The days are all the same here, and no one ever bothers to tell me what day it is.”
He is dead, alas! Reverend Trask is dead. The world is a little duller now — noticeably quieter — and we’re down another antagonist, which poses a real problem. We’ve been shedding characters like crazy as we approach the end of the 1795 storyline, and here’s the point where the cast really starts to look thin.
As we’ve seen recently, Barnabas has taken on a new role as the monster who hunts other monsters, kind of a cross between Godzilla and Dexter. That story structure turns out to be very productive for the show over the next couple years, but in order to work, you need an opponent who’s in the same weight class.
Angelique and Reverend Trask were both Barnabas-sized problems, and it was satisfying to see him take them on. Now that they’re gone, the only villain left is Nathan, who’s more of a charming con man than a threatening monster.
But he’s the best that we have to work with, so over the next week, we need to turn Nathan the adorable rascal into Nathan the predator.
Continue reading Episode 443: Fan Club
“Death is a valid reason.”
TRUE! — nervous — very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? Writing about Dark Shadows every day has sharpened my senses — not destroyed — not dulled them. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily — how calmly I can tell you the whole story.
Well, not the whole story. There’s, like, 800 more episodes; we’d be here all night. But let’s see if we can focus on the next twenty-two minutes.
Continue reading Episode 442: Cask Party
“You made them take my dead body away! They threw me in the water!”
So, stop me if you’ve heard this one before: sanctimonious witch hunter Reverend Trask comes back to his room, and finds the corpse of streetwalker Maude Browning lying on his bed.
Now, just to be clear — violence against women is not funny. Murdering somebody to cover up for your crimes is not funny. And yet — Reverend Trask walking into his room and finding a dead prostitute in his bed is extremely funny. Let’s see if we can break this down a little.
Continue reading Episode 441: Weekend at Maudie’s