Tag Archives: cliffhanger

Episode 1104: The Burning

“You will not be able to do anything to this house unless you deal with me first!”

At the top of the show today, mad medico Dr. Julia Hoffman rushes into her patient’s bedroom to announce, “Daphne is the one who is to be murdered, and the destruction of Rose Cottage — will be tonight!”

This is welcome news, because these characters have been discussing the destruction of Rose Cottage for weeks and weeks; it’s a pivotal moment in the story that I can’t wait for them to pivot to.

Alarmed, Barnabas gasps, “Julia, we need to get help!”

“But who can help us?”

“Possibly Sebastian,” he answers, as the other one hundred percent of the world asks, In what way?

Continue reading Episode 1104: The Burning

Episode 1084: 100 Things That I Would Like David and Hallie to See When They Open the Playroom Door, in No Particular Order

“If he himself can transcend time mentally, he should be willing to accept the fact that it can be transcended physically.”

To be honest, there’s not a huge hell of a lot happening on the show right now. Two kids are inching their way towards being supernaturally swapped for two other kids, one of the romantic leads is being catfished by a ghost, and there’s two independent story threads about a main character hoping that a secondary character will turn out to be a dead person that they used to know. None of these storylines are particularly compelling, and they don’t cross over with each other at all. It feels like the writers have gotten into a rut, and decided to stay there.

Usually, the thing that extricates us from this kind of morass is the show’s insistence on having an exciting cliffhanger at the end of every episode, but even that has failed us. This week, there are four episodes in a row that end in exactly the same way — David and Hallie open the playroom door, and then gape in open-mouthed astonishment at whatever they see.

In episode 1082, they open the door and see a dollhouse, with little dolls inside that they recognize from their shared dream. In episode 1083, they open the door and see that the dolls that they burned in the fireplace are back in the dollhouse. In episode 1084, they open the door and see Tad and Carrie, reading from David’s notebook. And in episode 1085, they open the door and see Tad and Carrie again, standing on a staircase.

And that doesn’t even count episode 1074, where they open the door and see the linen closet; episode 1075, where they open the door and see the playroom for the first time; and episode 1080, where Hallie opens the door and sees Tad, and then turns around and opens the door and sees David.

It’s possible that they’re going to keep doing this from now until the end of time, and there’s nothing I can do but try to make it more enjoyable for everyone. Here is my list of 100 things I would like David and Hallie to see when they open the playroom door.

Continue reading Episode 1084: 100 Things That I Would Like David and Hallie to See When They Open the Playroom Door, in No Particular Order

Episode 832: The Triangle Factory

“You don’t seem to be one certain age, the way others are.”

You know, when I started this blog back in April 1967, I figured the format was one episode a day, no more and no less. I would talk about the whole episode from start to finish, and I didn’t let stuff dangle over the side to pick up tomorrow. If there wasn’t a theme or a problem or a story that I wanted to tell, then that’s just how it went — so there are a bunch of posts back in the 200s that ended with “and that’s a really boring cliffhanger, see you tomorrow”.  They had a lot of boring cliffhangers back then.

Eventually I realized, wait a minute, this is my blog and I can write it any way I want, so now I jump around a lot more, pulling things from different episodes together if it helps whatever point I’m trying to make. I think that’s made the blog better, and I get to have more fun without stressing out about the rules.

But that style means that I don’t really spend a lot of time talking about cliffhangers, which is a shame, because they’re incredibly important on Dark Shadows. This is a show that doesn’t just have an exciting story beat at the end of every episode — they build to a suspense moment every six minutes, just to get you through the commercial break. So I should really treat the cliffhangers with more respect.

And yesterday’s cliffhanger is a top-of-the-line nailbiter. Secret werewolf Quentin Collins is locked up in a jail cell, which happens to be in his own basement for some reason. The sinister Reverend Trask has learned Quentin’s dreadful secret, and they’re going to stay down here until the full moon rises. Once Quentin transforms into a slavering man-beast, then Trask can head for the police station and alert the authorities. I guess some people just live for tattling.

So the episode ends with the two of them on opposite sides of the bars, waiting for moonrise. Although now that I think about it, that’s basically the same cliffhanger as the day before, when Trask found Quentin manacled to the wall, and told him they would wait until moonrise. Yesterday, they just said, well, it’s not quite dusk yet, and then they moved locations and said, this time it’s really dusk. So maybe I shouldn’t bother trying to respect the cliffhangers after all.

Continue reading Episode 832: The Triangle Factory

Episode 796: Death and Taxes

“I have a small nagging wonder at your even being here.”

When we last left Quentin, he was strapped to a table under a slowly descending swinging axe, not at all in danger of being brutally killed. Quentin was trapped in this entirely non-lethal predicament by Aristede, who rigged up some “Pit and the Pendulum” machinery, and then left him here to not die.

The clock was not winding down and time was not running out, and the pendulum was not inching ever closer to our hero. It was inching, yes. I will concede the inching. But towards what?

Continue reading Episode 796: Death and Taxes

Episode 795: The Pits

“You have never been willing to admit to yourself that I might have feelings.”

Aristede smiles, as he tightens the straps around Quentin Collins’ wrists. So far, the plan is working out just fine. The razor-sharp axe is suspended by a rigged-up pulley system that allows it to slice in a nice, clean arc. The gears are timed to lower the axe slowly, inch by inch, until it reaches the helpless body strapped firmly to the wooden table. And Quentin will be trapped, watching the blade as it descends inexorably in the direction of down. Unfortunately, it’s still uncertain at what point this turns into anything but a crafts project.

Aristede wants the Legendary Hand of Count Petofi, a powerful artifact that Quentin does not have. And there’s nothing that Quentin can do to help Aristede obtain it, especially not when he’s tied down to this horological murder machine.

The big idea appears to be that Aristede is going to go to Angelique, who actually does have the Hand, and tell her that Quentin only has thirty minutes to live. As the pendulum swings closer to Quentin’s midsection, Angelique will gladly give up the Hand in exchange for her friend’s life.

Now, obviously, he could achieve exactly the same results by just locking Quentin up in a closet and telling Angelique anything he wants. That would have saved him all that time and expense, and probably two trips to Home Depot. This just looks like a whole lot of hassle to me.

Continue reading Episode 795: The Pits

Episode 506: After the Fall

“You broke into my room to tell me about a dream?”

Here’s the kind of thing that Dark Shadows had to deal with: They moved the taping schedule around to accommodate Jonathan Frid’s insane ten-city publicity tour a couple weeks ago, and as it shook out, there were three episodes this week that taped the day before they aired.

It’s actually hard to get your mind around how close to the edge that is. If anything went wrong with the taping, then there’s nothing to show tomorrow; it’s dead air. And this is Dark Shadows; of course something’s going to go wrong. Things go wrong, like, all the time.

So if this was a show produced by sane people, they’d probably want to throw together a couple episodes where everybody sits around in the living room and talks over the events of the day. That’s what every other daily soap opera ever made does all the time anyway. But, no — it’s Dark Shadows, which means we need three cops and a Frankenstein monster and a seance and a dream sequence and a skeleton and a brick wall falling apart and a root cellar.

Continue reading Episode 506: After the Fall

Episode 330: Twenty-two Minutes

“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