“This room could play an important and perhaps tragic part in your life, if you let it.”
Happy Halloween, everyone! Today’s episode aired on October 31, 1967 — not that you can tell from watching the episode, because they don’t mention it. But Carolyn seems to be getting into the holiday spirit — she wakes up early, walks downstairs to the foyer, stands in front of Barnabas’ portrait, and brushes her fingers across her brand-new gaping neck wound.
Continue reading Episode 352: Disturbed Children
“There are many secrets you haven’t known before, but you will soon know all of them, because you will become a part of them.”
So, I guess this would be the morning after. Young David has been going around for the last several weeks telling everyone that Cousin Barnabas is dead, and sleeps in a coffin. On Friday, Carolyn thought it would be a good idea to sneak into the Old House basement and see what all the fuss was about.
The short answer: She found out. Julia’s mad-science-fair project to cure the vampire has aged him, transforming Cousin Barnabas into Great-Great-Grand-Uncle Barnabas. He needed to drink somebody’s blood, so that he could “revert” back to his youthful form.
Friday’s episode ended with the hands-down, no-contest, intentionally creepiest moment of the series so far. Barnabas grabbed his young cousin, tenderly brushed her hair away from her throat, and said, “Don’t be afraid of me, my dear. I’m not going to hurt you. I wouldn’t do anything to hurt… my own flesh and blood.”
So it turns out that there’s something way scarier than a blood-sucking ghoul who feeds on the life force of the innocent and pretty, and it’s a blood-sucking ghoul who fantasy-metaphor-rapes his own niece.
And the very worst thing about this whole astounding very-worst-thing plot point? She loved it.
Continue reading Episode 351: The Grateful Dead
“That’s the first time you’ve ever called me by that name.”
Not very much previously, on Dark Shadows: Two days ago, David gave Carolyn the antique toy soldier, which he said would protect her. Then she was visited by the spirit of Sarah Collins, and she realized that the wild stories David’s been telling might actually be true. There, that’s your background on Carolyn’s character arc for the week — steadily building an awareness that David’s “fantasies” might be real.
So it’s a bit disappointing when David walks into the drawing room at the top of today’s episode, and hands Carolyn the toy soldier again.
David: I came to bring you this.
Carolyn: A toy soldier?
David: Yes. You should have it with you all the time.
Yeah, good question. I have several “why” questions of my own, starting with: Why doesn’t David climb up on a chair and smack her upside the head?
Continue reading Episode 350: Grumpy Old Man
“Strange… It never occurred to me that being human would make me become the man I was.”
Man, talk about a senior moment. For the last three months, Julia’s been working on a revolutionary new medical treatment to cure Barnabas, and make him human again. It turns out he should have asked her to be more specific.
Continue reading Episode 349: Secret Aging Man
“I just wanted to make sure that you weren’t dead.”
Dawn has not yet come to Collinwood. You can tell, because they’ve got the establishing shot up, and it’s dark blue. They’re playing the sub-theme music cue, and somewhere in the studio, fading film star Joan Bennett is standing in front of a microphone.
“Dawn has not yet come to Collinwood,” Joan says, in a world-weary tone which indicates that she’s one sentence into a three-sentence introduction, and it’s not going to get a lot better from here. “The earth hovers between night and day, as though terrified to bring into being the days and nights that lie ahead.”
And it’s amazing, watching it now, to think that there was a time when it was okay to open a television show like this. They don’t take practice swings like this anymore. When your show starts, you start the show.
“But time is indifferent to terror,” says Joan, and you have to admit she has a point. “And the earth obeys the primal command creating nights and days, creating the moment when fear no longer stalks… but stops to strike.”
In other words: it’s October 1967, and you don’t have a remote control. If the earth obeying primal commands isn’t a stop-the-presses level event for you, then you’re going to have to get up, walk across the room and do something about it.
Continue reading Episode 348: Mission Accomplished
“Did you ever try to find the exact center of a piece of fine crystal?”
The doctor is advising prudence. She asks the patient, “Are you sure you want it this way?”
“I am through arguing the point,” he sniffs. “The treatments must be accelerated without further comment.”
She reminds him that she will not accept responsibility for the consequences.
“If we don’t hurry,” the patient says, “it will soon be morning. Now, begin the treatment.”
And then she fastens the straps on his electric chair.
Continue reading Episode 347: Mad Science
“Enter Julia Hoffman, bearing flowers.”
INT. JOSETTE’S ROOM – DREAM.
Vicki, wearing a bride’s veil, is staring at herself in the mirror on the vanity in Josette’s room. Barnabas walks in, and tells her that she’ll be a beautiful bride.
Hesitantly, Vicki asks, “I will be a bride… won’t I, Barnabas?” He says that she will. She asks where Burke is, and Barnabas says, “He’s here, Vicki. Right here. Look on the bed.” She turns, and sees Burke’s corpse on the bed, covered in a shroud.
Which raises the question: What is the purpose of “love” in an open-ended narrative?
Continue reading Episode 346: The Shipping News
“When that time comes, and it will be very soon, my dear Josette will come to me quite willingly.”
Burke Devlin is dead. We might as well get that out of the way.
We’re about four seconds into the episode, and a breathless Mrs. Johnson runs into the drawing room to tell Elizabeth, “I just heard a report on the radio. They said Mr. Devlin’s plane went down over the Amazon.” Apparently, Mrs. Johnson listens to the Top 40 plot-point station from Gilligan’s Island, and the drive-time news roundup covers South American business-class mishaps.
They can’t find the body, so if you’re familiar with soap opera narrative tropes, you know exactly what happens next: Vicki and Barnabas are at the altar, and the justice of the peace says, “Should anyone present know of any reason –”
Then the doors swing open, and there’s Burke Devlin — shaggy hair, unkempt beard, torn clothing, deep tan, possibly accompanied by a macaque. He’s just in time to stop the wedding, and reclaim the woman that he stayed alive for.
So, to be clear: Not gonna happen. Burke’s dead, he never comes back, and you can feel free to forget that he ever existed.
Continue reading Episode 345: Rest in Pieces
“Terrible things happen, and no one seems to do anything about them.”
At the top of today’s episode, the ghost of Sarah Collins appears in David’s bedroom, and tells him that Dr. Woodard was murdered.
Sarah says that she doesn’t know all the details, but it was horrible, and “it shouldn’t have happened the way it did.” David asks who killed him, and Sarah says that she can’t tell him. Then she disappears.
This is all standard operating procedure for Sarah, who is powered entirely by narrative convenience, and always gives David exactly enough information to set up the next scene. Usually, I would complain about that, except that the next scene is unbelievably sad and beautiful, and it makes me want to cry.
Continue reading Episode 344: Haunted
“I wonder what I’ll be like, as a human being?”
Okay, now we’re talking. Right out of the gate today, the first thing we see: dark red liquid bubbling in a glass jar. It’s connected with tubes and wires to a bunch of other equipment, and there’s a grinding motor noise that indicates that there’s some kind of complicated machinery at work.
Backing up a step, we see Dr. Julia Hoffman in a pale blue lab coat, squinting at equipment and making adjustments. She’s in a basement room, with brick walls, exposed timbers and huge cobwebs. The doctor uses a pair of tongs to grab chunks of dry ice, and she drops them into a huge bubbling cauldron.
That cauldron is full of more dark red liquid. It’s a bubbling cauldron of blood. This is mad science, we’re actually watching mad science.
Continue reading Episode 343: The Apparatus