“They aren’t ideas, and I’m not imagining things.”
Well, it’s Friday, so we might as well talk about cliffhangers.
Over the next couple of months, the Dark Shadows writers are finally going to get the hang of how the show is supposed to work, and a crucial part of that is learning how to create episode endings that get people to come back for the next episode. That’s especially important on Fridays, when the cliffhanger needs to last us all the way to Monday.
High-quality cliffhanger construction is a very specific skill, and as the writers develop it, a cynical observer might start to wonder if the structure of the entire narrative is being twisted in order to service the audience’s bottomless hunger for bigger and bolder thrills.
In other words: Does this entire twenty-two minute slice of television exist only to set up a surprise twist in the last sixty seconds?
There are two answers to that question, which are as follows: a) Yes, it does, and b) Which is awesome.
Continue reading Episode 330: Twenty-two Minutes
“I’m afraid of the night! Don’t let it be dark! Please, don’t let it be dark!”
Willie’s been in a coma for several days now, recovering from getting shot in the back by a trigger-happy police squad. If he comes out of the coma, then he might tell the Sheriff that Barnabas is a vampire, so Julia’s been sent to Willie’s hospital room to make sure that doesn’t happen.
In yesterday’s episode, Julia was considering pulling out Willie’s IV. Today she’s decided to go the slow route instead, killing the patient with secondhand smoke.
Dr. Woodard, like the fool he is, comes up behind Julia and tells her that he thinks the Sheriff’s right — he doesn’t think Willie was the kidnapper. Julia takes a drag on her cigarette, turns around, and blows a puff of smoke right into his face.
Continue reading Episode 329: Willie Loomis Must Die
“There are a dozen reasons why that’s impossible.”
So here’s your standard, kitchen-sink soap opera situation: Willie was shot a couple days ago, and he’s still in a coma. Barnabas is pacing around the drawing room, waiting for Julia to come back from the hospital to report on the patient’s recovery.
But this is Dark Shadows, and what he’s really worried about is that if Willie pulls through, he’ll tell everyone that Barnabas is a vampire. So when Julia tells him that Willie is still alive, Barnabas explodes with anger.
“I know what you’re going to say!” he shouts. “You’re going to tell me to remain quiet and forget it. Well, I refuse to do that any longer! Willie must die!”
Continue reading Episode 328: Look! A Ring!
“Why should he be afraid of a harmless piece of jewelry?”
Yesterday, Julia was just minding her own business in the drawing room, trying to hypnotize David into forgetting that his cousin is a vampire. But he recognized her medallion from the prophetic dream that he had the night before, and he ran out of the room screaming.
Shocked, Elizabeth says, “Miss Hoffman, I hope you can explain all of this,” but there’s not much to explain. All Julia has to do is show them the medallion, and David freaks out again. He gets sent to his room. End of story.
So it turns out that it’s super easy to terrorize a child. This show is like a how-to manual on gaslighting ten-year-olds. I can’t wait to try it; somebody get me a ten-year-old.
Continue reading Episode 327: David vs the Goldfish People
“He isn’t dead all of the time. Just some of the time!”
We open the new week with a reprise of David’s dream from Friday’s episode. I’m not usually a big fan of repeating a dream sequence, but in this case it’s entirely justified.
For one thing, this dream delivers some long-overdue plot development — David finally realizes that his friend Sarah is a ghost, and his cousin Barnabas is a vampire. Plus, Friday’s episode was a black-and-white kinescope copy, and today we get to see the dream in full color. Well, in two colors anyway, namely: yellow and purple.
Continue reading Episode 326: A Time Like This
“I died, and everyone brought me such pretty flowers.”
Today’s episode opens with young David wearing pajamas and a robe, walking all the way downstairs to the foyer. He positions himself in front of the 18th century portrait of Barnabas, looks at it, and then makes what appears to be a conscious, deliberate decision to freak the hell out.
Continue reading Episode 325: The Spirited Child
“The eyes in the painting… They were alive! I could feel them!”
At the top of the show today, Elizabeth finds young David standing in the foyer, staring at the 18th-century portrait of Barnabas. She asks David what’s wrong, and he suddenly runs upstairs and slams the door. Perplexed, Liz looks at the portrait.
And unfortunately, that’s as close as we’re going to get to the vampire today. Elizabeth is actually just coming back from four weeks of summer vacation, and we hardly noticed. But Barnabas is at the heart of every storyline now, and if he takes even one day off, the show starts to sag.
This is the first episode without Barnabas in two weeks. That portrait is going to get a workout today.
Continue reading Episode 324: The Wrong Man
“I haven’t spent the evening browsing through anything.”
At the end of yesterday’s episode, the trap was sprung — thinking that Maggie’s memory had returned, the kidnapper came to Maggie’s room in the middle of the night, and was shot by the police.
Today’s episode starts with a reprise of that scene, and darn it, the guy shows up and gets shot all over again. People in teasers just never learn.
Continue reading Episode 323: Fire at Will
“I have to stand by and let her die. All of them… one by one.”
For the last few episodes, it’s mostly been Barnabas, Julia and Willie standing around in the Old House and discussing whether Barnabas should kill Maggie Evans or not. At the top of the show today, Barnabas has finally made a decision, and he’s on his way out the door — and there’s Julia on the doorstep, ready for another round of negotiations.
No wonder vampires sleep all day. Their nights are just one long staff meeting.
Continue reading Episode 322: To Bite or Not to Bite
“There are men all over the place.”
It’s Monday, which means that Barnabas has had the whole weekend to think things over, and he still has the same stupid plan. He’s heard that Maggie’s started to remember what happened when she was abducted a few months ago, and the Sheriff thinks there’s going to be a big break in the case. If that’s true, then she’s probably already told everyone that Barnabas is a vampire, and now her agent is booking the promotional tour for her tell-all autobiography.
Barnabas’ brilliant response to this situation is to go to Maggie’s house while she’s sleeping, and kill her. Willie and Julia have tried to explain why this isn’t an award-winning idea, but it’s an uphill battle.
Continue reading Episode 321: What We Talk About When We Talk About Ghosts