Tag Archives: decline and fall

Episode 1133: Low Clearance

“But actually, I did not come here to discuss the dead.”

It’s another one of those mysterious messages that Quentin’s been finding lately, scattered around his mansion. They’re cryptic little postcards from beyond the veil, signed by an old, extinguished flame, and they’re starting to get to him. They say things like “Joanna is dead and you are responsible,” which is upsetting, and they have these impenetrable adamantium wax seals that can only be opened by experts.

This time, the wax seal is even more troublesome than usual, and he’s really struggling with it. Quentin’s been opening his own mail for years now, it shouldn’t be this big of a deal, but the paper is determined to resist his advances. It must be some kind of trick judo paper that uses the attacker’s strength against him; the seconds are ticking by, and he’s still wrestling with it. He lunges at the seal one last time, and still it eludes him, and that’s when David Selby mutters “Oh, shit,” on network television.

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Episode 1116: That’s Us In There

“I cannot go through eternity alone!”

Samantha tells Julia how Roxanne is feeling, and then Barnabas sneaks into Collinwood and leaves a note for Ben, and then Gerard thinks about killing Samantha but doesn’t, and then Ben and Julia read Barnabas’ note and go over to the Old House where they talk about Roxanne for a while, and then Gerard talks to Samantha about Gabriel, and then Samantha finds Roxanne, who’s been bitten in the gazebo.

So Samantha runs into Collinwood to get Gerard, but by the time Samantha and Gerard get back to the gazebo, Julia and Ben have taken Roxanne to the Old House. Julia sends Ben out to get alcohol, which I don’t know if he ever does. Then Gerard finds Julia in the Old House, which makes him suspicious, but then he stops being suspicious and goes home. And then Barnabas shows up and has a fight with Julia. Okay, that’s over with; now we can talk about something else.

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Episode 1105: The Burning Question

“You don’t know how much I’d like to have been in that crypt.”

“I didn’t know what else I was going to do,” says Dan Curtis, Dark Shadows’ executive producer and driving force. “I couldn’t think of another idea.” This is from an early-2000s interview for the DVD box sets.

“I was becoming very disenchanted, right along with the audience. Probably, over the last six months of that film — people didn’t see a lot of me, during that last six months of the show.”

So there’s a Freudian slip for you — when Dan looks back at this period, he can’t help thinking about the thing he really cared about, which was the Dark Shadows films.

“I was just hoping it was going to end,” he continues. “I just wanted to move on. I couldn’t squeeze my brain any harder to come up with one more story, and I wanted to move on and out.”

You can tell that we’re approaching that last-six-months mark, because they’re currently doing scenes from House of Dark Shadows as if they’re part of the show. For today’s episode, they drag poor Willie Loomis back out of retirement, so he can shine his flashlight through the door of a darkened crypt, and find the coffin of the vampire who’s killing Maggie Evans. They might as well put up a chyron saying “House of Dark Shadows, currently in theaters”.

So it’s worth asking the question: How do you run out of ideas for a soap opera, a genre that’s specifically designed to run forever?

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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?

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Episode 1096: Rose Cottage Was the Sled

“We’re only going to die so we can live again!”

Here’s what’s supposed to be scary today: Evil scheming ghost pirate Gerard Stiles leads young David Collins out of his house, and across the lawn to an undiscovered country house that’s located within easy walking distance.

David follows Gerard through the woods, asking where are we going the whole time, and then they reach a clearing, and Gerard brushes a bush away so that David can check out the destination. “It’s Rose Cottage!” David says. “It’s real! It really exists!” Which it does, so they keep walking and eventually they get there.

Meanwhile, back at the main house, there’s Hallie Stokes, the show’s other ghost-addled teen, who the adults are trying to protect. Julia tells Quentin to keep an eye on Hallie, and Quentin says okay, but when Julia goes upstairs, Daphne the ghost governess appears, and she distracts Quentin, and Hallie runs out into the night.

So now Hallie is following Daphne through the woods, and saying where are we going, and so on. Then we return to Collinwood, where Julia is asking Quentin what happened, which we already know what happened, because it just happened, a minute and a half ago.

Then Gerard brings David inside Rose Cottage at last, and it turns out Rose Cottage is just a disappointing little hallway, with some drywall and a door and a curtain and a chair. They’ve been talking about Rose Cottage for weeks, and now that we’re here, it is profoundly depressing. There isn’t anything surprising here at all — we do eventually see more than just this little corner, but the other room is just as sad and empty but with more chairs in it, and everything that they do there could just as easily have been done back at Collinwood, in the playroom or the dollhouse or a dream sequence, or all of the above. In fact, they’ve already done everything that they’re about to do, in various visions and assorted daydreams, it’s just that now everybody stops asking where is Rose Cottage, and they start saying, well, here we are in Rose Cottage.

So David goes to sleep in a chair, which he might as well, and then we see Hallie and Daphne in the woods, behind exactly the same bush, and Daphne moves some of the foliage away. Hallie peers through the underbrush and says, “It’s Rose Cottage! It’s a real place!” And yes, we get it. It’s Rose Cottage, and Rose Cottage is real.

They want us to pretend like that’s scary, but obviously it’s not. This is the opposite of scary. The thing that’s actually scary is that I have to write one hundred and fifty more blog posts, and is this really what I want to be doing with my life right now?

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Episode 1093: The Shrinking Shares

“How can this be? There is no room!”

“You asked what would happen to you,” says the ghost, directing the children’s attention to a nearby dollhouse. “Look through the window. Find out.”

So they look through the window, and they see Allen Ludden, giving the first word to Jack Klugman and Brett Somers. The word is “caterpillar”.

Brett chooses to pass, so the first turn goes to Jack and some housewife from Indiana. Jack says “moth,” but Indiana can’t figure it out, so they lose their turn, and it goes to Brett and some housewife from Kentucky. Brett tries “butterfly,” but Kentucky’s at a loss.

They punt back to Jack, who says “crawl”, and the light dawns on Indiana. “Caterpillar!” she cries, and she gets eight points.

This is what will happen to them. It’s called Password.

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Episode 1059: World Beyond the Doors

“I’ll first give you the pleasure of viewing the dead, disintegrating body of Barnabas Collins!”

So, I don’t know. What do you feel like talking about?

“I never thought it would end this way,” Maggie says, taking a last look at the house she helped to destroy. She came to this moldering manse thinking it would be all cocktails and crabmeat, a dream house where she could live with her dream husband Quentin, who’s currently in custody. I don’t know how she thought it would end. It’s not even clear how it’s ending now.

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Episode 1056: The Parallel Sky

“Well, at least there’ll be no more murders.”

Angelique returned from the dead to destroy her ex-husband Quentin, and between you and me, she’s done a kick-ass job. Quentin’s on the run from the law, accused of several murders that he’s only partially responsible for, all of his friends are dead, and a minute from now, either he’s going to murder his second wife or she’s going to murder him. This is about as destroyed as a person needs to be.

We’re down to the last week of the Parallel Time storyline; there’s just a few more people to kill, and then Barnabas and Julia can go back to their own dimension, satisfied with a job well done. Everything Must Go, says the sign in the front window, and here it is: everything. Let’s see how it goes.

Angelique herself is only seconds from destruction — her vitality depends on sucking the life force out of a woman named Roxanne, and if the mysterious Claude North can get Roxanne to speak, then it’s lights out for Angelique.

But Barnabas offers the witch one last shot at redemption, handing her a confession to sign that would clear Quentin’s name. She won’t even touch it. Screw you, she says, if you people don’t appreciate me, then I’ll go down, and I’ll take the whole goddamn show down with me.

Then Roxanne speaks — and Angelique dies with a curse on her lips, as Angeliques should. Really, at the core, she’s saying: I don’t want to live in a world where Roxanne has dialogue. You’ve got to admit she has a point.

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Episode 1047: The Invention of Feelings

“Go on, go out! You’re protected by my indifference!”

A month ago, I declared that we had reached The End of Love — for Parallel Time at least, if not the whole series — because this months-long storyline revolves around protecting and maintaining one romantic relationship, which isn’t worth all this trouble.

According to how much the characters talk about it, we’re all supposed to care about volatile one-percenter Quentin Collins and his marriage to the parallel Maggie Evans, who isn’t even a governess so I don’t know how she got on the show. The main storyline is about the mostly-dead sorceress Angelique, who’s plotting to separate and destroy the couple by fair means or foul.

But Quentin and Maggie’s relationship has negative rooting value; they have nothing in particular in common, and by this point, they each believe that the other is in league with the Devil. Quentin can’t have a single conversation with his wife that doesn’t end in shouting and small arms fire. I’m just going to assert right now that if the end of this story involves Quentin and Maggie reunited, I for one am not going to consider that a happy ending. These people do not belong together, and the only good thing about them being married to each other is that at least they’re not able to marry anyone else, and ruin even more lives.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that love is dead, in Parallel Collinwood. Maybe we were just looking in the wrong direction.

Continue reading Episode 1047: The Invention of Feelings