“She’s lonely, very lonely. She’ll talk to anyone… anyone but you.”
The vampire, the doctor, the lawyer, the governess, the niece and the little boy who talks to dead people. For months, they’ve been scrambling around each other — a little chaos engine that chews its way through anybody who gets too close.
And now we’ve gotten to the point where it just can’t go on. Barnabas is the most popular character on the show, but he’s radioactive — every character that he touches ends up murdered, hypnotized, lost in the jungle, or packed off to an insane asylum.
So far, we’ve killed off Jason, Burke, Dr. Woodard and Willie. Pretty soon, we’re going to start losing members of the Collins family, and that gets expensive, story-wise. If you kill one of the kids, that’s a hard stop on any other plot development; the show just becomes one long funeral.
In fact, my estimate is that this storyline has about three more days left in it, and then they’re going to have to come up with a whole new idea.
Continue reading Episode 363: Anyone But You
“Perhaps it will happen tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after that.”
Quiet, everybody; Dr. Julia Hoffman is on the phone. At the beginning of an episode, I usually try to give a little summary of what’s going on, to help orient you to where we are in the story. But, as we learned yesterday, recaps are for the weak. As far as Dark Shadows is concerned, you’re either on the bus or off the bus. Try to keep up.
Because this is the thing about Julia: she goes to eleven. And she doesn’t even work her way up to it — today, she starts at eleven, and continues from there. Twelve is an option.
Continue reading Episode 362: The Day After
“Blood… oozing through the wall! Where’s it coming from? What does it mean?”
This is the beginning of an important week for Dark Shadows, as we lead up to one of the all-time great storyline twists in soap opera history. In fact, the upcoming story is so bizarre that they aired a special promotional announcement to warn the audience that it was coming.
In the 25-second bumper, Vicki is filmed against a stark black background, looking off into the distance with her typical dazed expression. They play one of those rising-tension music cues, made of strings, kettle drums and reverb.
An announcer says, “This Friday, you and Victoria Winters begin a strange and terrifying journey into the past, back to the year 1795, to discover the origins of this man,” — Barnabas, posing against the darkness — “and the secret of the chained coffin.” The scene fades on a shot of his hand resting on the coffin.
They don’t actually say, “Oh, by the way, it’s Dark Shadows,” or the time slot or anything. They don’t have to. What else could this possibly be?
Continue reading Episode 361: The One Where Julia Loses Her Mind
“Don’t start imagining a lot of things just because someone we barely know is acting peculiar.”
All week, I’ve been talking about Sam Hall, the new writer who just joined the show. He wrote the last three episodes, and now he passes the baton back to Ron Sproat, who tends to be lackluster and frustrating. And today, just to prove the point, Sproat turns in a script that appears to be made mostly of reconstituted episode parts. Damn it, Sproat! Get it together.
Continue reading Episode 360: Crazy Lady on the Loose
“I don’t think it’s very healthy, living in this house.”
Mrs. Johnson must be an angel in human form, that’s the only way you can explain it. I don’t care how many wings they’ve shut down — Collinwood is a mansion, and as far as we know, she’s the only person taking care of the whole place. She cleans all the rooms, cooks all the meals, and monitors the radio for plot-relevant air disasters. Plus, four months ago, Mrs. Stoddard held a wedding in the drawing room, confessed to killing her first husband, and asked the local sheriff to dig up his body in the basement, and Mrs. Johnson wasn’t even invited.
And now she has to deal with this nonsense. She walks into Julia’s room, and finds her standing on a chair, trying to take the drapes down.
Continue reading Episode 359: Love and Death
“Okay, you’re pretty, but we’re not on a bus.”
So then Carolyn rushes over to the Old House, to tell Barnabas what happened in yesterday’s episode. It’s not easy.
Carolyn: Barnabas, I saw it! Hoffman’s notebook!
Carolyn: In her hands. She’d taken it from the clock.
Barnabas: The clock? What clock?
Carolyn: The large clock, in the foyer at Collinwood.
Barnabas: Well, you seized the notebook, of course?
Carolyn: I couldn’t!
Barnabas: Why not?
Carolyn: This lawyer came in.
Barnabas: What lawyer?
I know, right? I feel bad for the guy; he’s only missed one episode, and now he has no idea what she’s talking about.
Continue reading Episode 358: Boy Meets Ghoul
“Why do you think you’re the only one who hears dogs?”
Let’s start, once again, with the notebook. I’m going to assume you’ve been following the story, and you already know everything you need to know about the vampire, the doctor, the experiments, the murder, the notebook, the niece and the crystal chandelier. If you’re new to the group, feel free to read up on the old episodes, because frankly I’ve had it with trying to explain this weird little knot of a storyline.
Fortunately, the show is less than two weeks away from coming to the exact same conclusion.
Continue reading Episode 357: When Worlds Collide
“You feel that you have no more use for me, and you’re planning to dispose of me. Is that correct?”
Dr. Julia Hoffman is standing in the foyer of Collinwood, clutching a red notebook and emoting. And when Dr. Hoffman expresses emotion, it stays expressed. She has an internal monologue that can be heard up to three miles away, if the wind is right.
This notebook contains the notes on her experiments in curing Barnabas’ vampirism. Barnabas has decided that Julia has betrayed him, and he’s planning to kill her once he’s sure that the notes have been destroyed.
Now, thinking about this situation rationally, there are several options here. For example: Tear some relevant pages out of the notebook, put them in an envelope, and mail them to a friend. Or copy the notes into another notebook, and use this notebook as a decoy. At a pinch, she could even write BARNABAS IS A VAMPIRE on her driver’s license, or in black magic marker down her arm, Memento style.
Julia does not consider any of those options. As far as she’s concerned, the smallest indivisible unit of measure is the notebook.
Continue reading Episode 356: Beat the Clock
“I’m sorry, Maggie, it happens to be my favorite scarf, but if my touching it bothers you, I’ll stop.”
You know that it’s been a fairly static week on Dark Shadows when the first line of dialogue in Friday’s episode is, “How long are you going to stand there?”
Lately, I’ve been postulating a lot of hypothetical writer’s room drama, because things are starting to seem a little fraught in there. Gordon Russell handed Ron Sproat a pretty interesting situation this week — Carolyn, now under the vampire’s control, discovers that Julia is hypnotically conditioning Vicki to reject Barnabas’ advances — and now Sproat is handing it back, two days later, entirely unchanged. He basically just had everybody walk in place for a couple days.
So today’s episode opens with Carolyn asking Barnabas what the hell he’s waiting for. After all, he’s been talking about getting rid of Julia all week. What’s the holdup?
Continue reading Episode 355: Julia Hoffman Must Die
“In order to be his bride, you must die.”
Julia looks up from her book. “Carolyn?”
“Yes?” Carolyn says, sorting the mail.
“Is it really necessary to follow me around?”
Carolyn shrugs. “Is that what I was doing?”
Julia gets up from her chair with a sigh. “Well,” she says, “You came into the dining room while I was having my breakfast. I went for a walk, and saw you in the distance. Then I went into the study for a moment, and you wandered in. And now, here you are.”
In other words: We’re not going to get a lot accomplished on the show today. So we might as well relax, and have some fun.
Continue reading Episode 354: Haunted House of Cards