“You don’t understand the enormities of your problems!”
It’s not really about the future, of course. If it was, they wouldn’t be doing Turn of the Screw II: The Returning.
Dark Shadows has a future, of sorts, in reboots and reruns and spinoffs, but right now, they’re running out of energy and ideas. They spent the spring making House of Dark Shadows, a feature film that explicitly rejects the idea that Dark Shadows is a continuing story, and kills off every character that you could possibly be interested in, just to make sure that there won’t be a sequel. (They make a sequel anyway.) Now they’re back to making a daily TV show, and they’re finding it increasingly difficult to imagine a future that runs as far as the next six months.
But for two weeks, at least, they’ve managed to put together a tight, emotionally engaging mini-storyline set in 1995, which focuses on exactly the right characters and manages to turn the familiar sets into an alienating nightmare landscape. Today’s episode is essentially the season finale, with Barnabas directly challenging the Big Bad, and daytime soaps don’t even do season finales. My argument, based on this episode, is that they should.
Continue reading Episode 1070: Gangsta’s Paradise
“A man doesn’t just suddenly choke to death for no reason at all!”
“I’d like to get it over with, all right,” says Quentin Collins to the detective, “with Bruno, and with my bare hands!” This is during an interrogation about the death of Quentin’s first wife, who he strangled with his bare hands. She didn’t die from being strangled — the murderer was actually a rogue hatpin, acting alone — but also Quentin was simultaneously strangling her at the time, which it’s been months since they’ve established that but I still can’t get over it.
So it’s probably not a great idea for him to start shouting about his bare hands in front of the gendarmes. Everybody has bare hands, anyway; it’s nothing to brag about. Sadly, this Trump-tweet level of self-incrimination is a common problem in soap opera towns, which are populated almost entirely by petulant narcissists with no impulse control.
Continue reading Episode 1041: Westworld
“Do you really think that I indulge in witchcraft?”
“Good evening,” says Inspector Hamilton, “I’m Inspector Hamilton.” And then it goes downhill from there.
Continue reading Episode 1040: Stupid Mystery Theater
“I’ll have to live all over what happened last year.”
“Cyrus Longworth is John Yaeger, and John Yaeger is Cyrus Longworth!”
The rest is silence.
Continue reading Episode 1007: Saving Dark Shadows
“Be cautious with it! We don’t want a string of strange deaths in our group.”
But it’s the age old story, isn’t it? Man comes into contact with something other — something beyond our grasp, beyond understanding, beyond words — and it changes us, occasionally for the better. And we take that encounter, and we turn it into story.
I mean, not this story, obviously. This story is insane. You know how Joseph Campbell and the Mythkateers say that all mythic narratives are just variations on a single great story? Yeah. This is one of the exceptions.
But even the strangest sound has an echo, and here, in the midst of the ragged and unruly Leviathan tale clattering across our screens in double-time, we can reach out and grab hold of another story that’s following a similarly erratic track.
There is another story where Barnabas very gradually fights an otherworldly menace, where Quentin appears and disappears with little consequence, where Maggie experiences carefully controlled doses of mild peril, and where an upsetting reptile pulls the strings, and makes the puppets dance.
This is a story that our people tell. We call it Barnabas, Quentin and the Mummy’s Curse.
Continue reading Episode 946: Universal Monsters
“Do you know why I brought you back from the grave?”
Who needs coffins? Coffins are for wimps and losers, say the grief-stricken loved ones of Sheriff J. Davenport.
Continue reading Episode 939: My Father’s Killer
“I don’t know what to say either, except that he died horribly.”
A man is dead.
Like, super dead. You know how some people are dead? Well, this guy is even more dead than that. Way more.
Kneeling, the Sheriff pulls a discreet sheet over the deceased, shaking his head.
“Have you told his family?” he asks the people who were in the room when the man died but claim that they have no idea what killed him.
“No, I didn’t quite know what to say. I thought after you saw him…”
“Well, I’ve seen him,” nods the sheriff. “And I’ve seen that room that he was destroyed in. I don’t know what to say either, except that he died horribly.”
He paces around the crime scene. “I’ve never seen a room destroyed the way that one was, or a corpse that looks like that!” He sighs. “I haven’t the faintest idea who, or what, murdered him.”
Yeah, no kidding; you’re a Collinsport sheriff. You live in the most murdery town in America, and you’ve never solved a single crime.
Continue reading Episode 934: The Pet Detective
“Is there anything in that milk?”
Sssh! Someone might hear! They’re after me! I’ve got to get away! Anywhere, away from here!
Continue reading Episode 917: The Spoon
“When you were putting Miss Balfour’s room to rights, did you find a dead snake on her dresser?”
Shadows of the night, falling silently. “Quentin’s Theme” is steadily climbing the Billboard Hot 100 charts, and pretty soon everyone’s going to be humming that tune, whether they want to or not. In this world that we know now, Quentin Collins is a bona fide Dark Shadows phenomenon, with a hit record and everything.
And this phantom melody is even starting to intrude on the hazy parallel world of the Paperback Library gothic romance novels. This peculiar line of spinoff books has been spinning its own cracked version of Dark Shadows for several years now, first chronicling the adventures of an ersatz Victoria Winters, and then tumbling head over heels for Barnabas Collins.
We last checked in with the Paperback Library four months ago to read Barnabas Collins vs the Warlock — the 11th novel in the series, and the sixth to feature Barnabas. By that point, the PBL was following clear editorial guidelines that the greatest human being who ever lived is named Barnabas Collins, and everybody else can go to hell. His only flaw is that his hands are cold, and hands are not everything.
But even the Paperback Library can’t ignore Quentin forever. They can ignore consistency and common sense and the limits of human patience, but Quentin Collins requires a response.
Continue reading Episode 782: Don’t Leave Home
“I know what the evil force wants you to do next.”
March 6, 1897. Evening.
Village of Collinsport, docks.
Sophie Baker — white female, mid 30s. Discovered in storage area behind the Blue Whale. Severe wounds to the neck, drained of blood. Dead, but still super drunk somehow. Eyes had a haunted look, as if they had stared into a subterranean chasm that would destroy us all. Officers advised to be on the lookout for a metaphor for the lust and greed that drives the exploitation of the lower classes.
Continue reading Episode 777: All Points