Episode 1200: The Woman in What?

“No one will find me, including the thing in that room!”

It’s difficult to build up an audience for a daytime soap opera; you have to catch lightning in a bottle just to get people’s attention in the first place. You need to create likeable characters that people can relate to, and put them in interesting and dramatic situations. You have to write dialogue that speaks to the audience, and touches on their concerns. You have to create an intimacy, a real connection, that makes the audience want to tune in every single day.

I mean, unless it’s the last two months of Dark Shadows, in which case don’t bother. Who even cares?

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Episode 1199: The Wuthering

“Sometimes I regret all these things we’ve had to do because of that room.”

Yesterday, Dark Shadows as we know it came to a close, as eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins and his boon companions Julia Hoffman and T. Eliot Stokes completed their journey to there and back again, returning home in debatable triumph. They’d traveled to the year 1840 with the goal of changing history, hopefully in a localized area and not one of those Nazis won the war type deals. All they wanted to do is stop Gerard and the unhallowed dead from tromping through Collinwood in 1970, leaving the house in ruins and killing a whole bunch of people that they liked.

Whether it actually worked or not is very much up for debate, because they never really had a clear idea of exactly what they were trying to stop. When they pulled this kind of maneuver the first time, in the 1897 storyline, Julia was told the chain of events that specifically needed averting, so it was child’s play to consult the chronometer and find out whether they’d done it or not. In 1840, they didn’t have a map, so the reckless wreakers of time crime just went around stomping on butterflies and hoping for the best.

Well, somebody must have done something clever while they were gone, because they climbed the magic stairs back to a world where everyone is alive, including them. Apparently, someone’s been living at Collinwood for the last four months in their place, doing things that the travelers don’t remember doing, which is yet another surprising choice on the part of the Dark Shadows writers. It would have been easy to have Elizabeth asking where they’d gone, we’ve been so worried, and so on, but Dark Shadows took the road less traveled, as they so often do, and personally I’m grateful to have one last impossible mystery to remember them by.

That’s the end of the show, really, with Barnabas, Julia and Stokes merrily skipping off to the historical center, where they’ll learn how the Nazis won the war. But everyone who watches Dark Shadows knows that just because you die, it doesn’t mean you have to lie down and stop bothering people. Death is just a change of address, and Dark Shadows still has one last story to tell. So off we go, into the unknown.

Continue reading Episode 1199: The Wuthering

Episode 1198: Goodbye to All That

“Without even planning it, I’ve committed the perfect crime.”

And then, I suppose, Gabriel and Edith’s children come home from boarding school to find an empty house. Their parents are dead, their grandfather is dead, Aunt Samantha is dead, Uncle Quentin has run off to Boston with the governess, and Uncle Desmond has run off to New York with a music hall performer. Nobody’s buried Samantha or their mother, or this strange Valerie Collins who they’ve never even heard of, because the funeral director has mysteriously disappeared, and the police are busting open brick alcoves all over Collinsport, just in case he’s behind one of them.

Aunt Flora is the only one left on the estate, and she’s gone mad, apparently; she can hardly answer a single question about the last four months without babbling about ghosts and vampires and mysterious decapitations. Uncle Quentin was tried for witchcraft, she says, but he was spared at the last moment by a witch, who accused somebody else of witchcraft, and then Uncle Desmond shot somebody, and somehow nobody went to prison.

Now they have to arrange for Aunt Flora’s stay at Rushmore Sanitarium, and sell Rose Cottage to young Mr. McGruder, and clear out the empty coffin in the basement of the Old House that their mysterious cousins from Philadelphia apparently left behind, before they too vanished without a word of explanation.

And then they’re alone, this unknown handful of necessary descendants, to repopulate the mansion and try to survive. Is it any wonder, on that terrible night, that they called upon the dark creatures of nature to bring their dead mother back from the grave?

Continue reading Episode 1198: Goodbye to All That

Episode 1197: The Night I Sang My Song

“How can we know with any certainty whom this head possesses?”

So that was it! Oh, you clever boys; the Dark Shadows team has done it again. That’s why the horoscope was unfinished. Now we understand why Gerard needed to bring Tad and Carrie back to life, and the significance of the dollhouse and the carousel, and why Gerard showed up at the picnic, and where all those dead pirates came from.

It was all about the playroom, after all, just like we knew it would be. I bet anyone who thought that the Dark Shadows writers were just making things up as they went along must be feeling pretty silly, right about now.

Continue reading Episode 1197: The Night I Sang My Song

Episode 1196: The Dark Creatures of Nature

“You are a woman again, a natural woman, and therefore you can cause a lot of trouble.”

“Prince of Fire,” says Angelique Valerie Cassandra Miranda DuBois DuVal Blair Bouchard Rumson Collins, “I call upon the flame to summon you in this, my most desperate hour of need. I call upon all the dark creatures of nature to aid me in the destruction of one who is my mortal enemy! I beseech you, grant me the power to destroy this man!”

It’s a weird way to begin a love letter, but she’s been married at least three times more often than I have, so what do I know?

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Episode 1195: The Trask Parts

“If you give me any trouble, there won’t be any need for an execution!”

A bloodthirsty creature of the supernatural! A child who has been touched by a witch! A ring fit for Satan himself! A small, frail body possessed by a giant, evil force! A warlock named Quentin Collins! A well-known signature of the Devil!

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Episode 1194: No Exit

“I have a plan. A marvelous, marvelous plan!”

And they ran. Quentin and Desmond Collins, leaders of the notorious occult crime family, slipped the surly bonds of the Collinsport Gaol, and headed east for a week-long beach party. Holed up in a hideout within limping range of the lockup, the crafty pair planned their great escape, evading their mutual death sentence for witchcraft and abetting witchcraft, respectively.

Alone against the world, the fugitives remained undiscovered in an old abandoned fishing shack, hidden away from everyone except Quentin’s girlfriend, Desmond’s girlfriend, Quentin’s ex-girlfriend, Desmond’s mother, their accomplice Dr. “Bones” Hoffman, a couple boat captains, a getaway carriage driver, probably some ghosts, and their sworn enemy, the dread warlock Judah Zachery. And it would have worked, too, if it wasn’t for you meddling kids.

Continue reading Episode 1194: No Exit

Episode 1193: Already Dead

“There’s only one flaw in your logic: it makes too much sense.”

You know how sometimes you get tired of arguing with somebody about whether they’re a ghost, so you shoot them in the stomach just to get them to shut up, but it turns out they really are a ghost so your bullet goes right through them, and then they’re still pretending that you’re crazy and they’re not a ghost? It’s like the worst case scenario for winning an argument.

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Episode 1192: The Weissman Theory

“Why is she so young and beautiful, instead of being a decaying mess?”

“I’ve got to get to Collinwood,” says condemned criminal Quentin Collins, heading for the door of his makeshift hideout.

“No, no,” Joanna urges. “The police are watching Collinwood!”

Quentin considers this. “No, I know what I can do,” he decides. “I can reach the estate through the back forty. The woods are very thick there.”

His wounded sidekick moans, “Quentin, Gerard is at the house. And Samantha would turn you in, if she saw you there!”

“I’ve got to take that chance,” says Quentin, and somewhere in Vienna, an angel gets its wings.

Continue reading Episode 1192: The Weissman Theory

Episode 1191: The Great 1840 Wrap-Up

“You turned this hand cold, as my heart turned cold toward you!”

“Why didn’t you stay in that room? We could have done so much together!” laments the hopeless romantic Gabriel Collins, struggling with his girlfriend as she tries to pry herself loose from his grasp. “Do you think I want to do this?” he says, adjusting his grip on her larynx. “Do you think I want to?” I think she probably does.

Eternally beset governess Daphne Harridge has recently torn herself away from one of those dank hideouts that honeycomb the secret interior of the great house at Collinwood. Gabriel was keeping her in lockdown until she fell in love with him, or until he could get Gerard to cough up some money, or possibly some third option that never quite came together. These kidnapping courtships rarely work out to anyone’s satisfaction; that’s why you don’t see a lot of wedding photos where the bride is tied to a chair.

Daphne thought, as everyone did, that Gabriel was differently-abled, but it turned out he was even more different than that. He can walk after all; he’s just been sitting in the chair all this time to rack up frequent-flyer miles. That’s why nobody suspected him of killing his father, or his wife Edith, or that wet sap Randall Drew, until Daphne found a blood-spattered monogrammed cufflink that blew the case wide open. Now she’s outside on the lawn in a dry thunderstorm, with one hundred and ninety-five pounds of Gabriel’s fury compressing her windpipe.

Fortunately, a car pulls up just at that moment and out pops the deceased Daniel Collins, standing erect in a sea-green spotlight and informing his incel son of some upcoming changes to the arrangement. “I told you I would come back,” he thunders. “I’ve come back for you! You will kill no more!”

Now, if Daniel had stepped in a few days earlier, he could have stopped this reign of terror one murder ago, but I guess he just didn’t like Edith very much. I mean, I never cared for her myself, but if I was in Daniel’s place, I would have intervened to save her life, probably, two tries out of three.

Continue reading Episode 1191: The Great 1840 Wrap-Up