“Slow agonizing death is the worst kind, you know!”
It’s three days till Christmas 1970, and here we are in the dying days of Dark Shadows, a show that has specialized almost exclusively in dying days since its ratings peak in October 1969. Don’t tell the 1970 audience, but between you and me, the show only has 15 weeks left to run, which means, if my recent posting schedule is any guide, that this blog will shudder to a stop somewhere around the middle of 2075.
So we should get back to The War for Dark Shadows, the ongoing struggle to define what kind of story Dark Shadows becomes when it’s not a half-hour daytime soap opera anymore. This battle has been raging for decades in books, movies, comic books and the hearts of children, and there’s a lot of it, so we’d better buckle down and start taking this seriously. I mean, those deck chairs aren’t going to rearrange themselves.
Continue reading Episode 1172: The Deck Chairs
“It will give me great joy to see you rise from the dead, and walk the night.”
“Believe me, it would make me very happy to kill you,” said Angelique, “but I have decided that you would be more valuable to me alive.”
“Why?” Julia asked.
“For various reasons.”
And yeah, I guess so, because here we are again. That was from July, when the Parallel Angelique imprisoned the actual Julia for a week in a secret basement cell, and now it’s November, and the 1840 Angelique is back at it, but in a deserted lighthouse this time. The spectacle of a power-crazed Angelique tying Julia to a barrel of TNT is so irresistible that they’ve done it twice in four months.
We’re getting close to the end of Dark Shadows, and this story point is the logical conclusion of everything that’s happened since 1967. Strip away all of the details — the families, the time periods, the wannabe it ghouls — and this is the result.
Unable and unwilling to stop himself, Barnabas bites a pretty girl, and then stands around and feels bad about it. Angelique steps in and kills the girl, who turns into a vampire. Then the vampire girl bites Julia at Angelique’s instruction, and now Angelique stands there while Julia slowly succumbs to her wounds, and talks about how happy it makes her.
This is the culmination of all of Barnabas’ bad choices and general ineptitude, and he has no idea what’s going on. He’s just wandering around asking questions, while the women in his life are merrily murdering each other. This is basically the most obvious thing that could ever happen to Barnabas, so it’s good that we’re getting around to it while we’ve still got the time.
Continue reading Episode 1144: The Merry Widow
“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
“You lie as well as you kill!”
Barnabas: Where is she?
Continue reading Episode 941: When Something Happens
“Not run out, Willie. Go. Because there’s no reason to stay.”
Barnabas Collins is dead and buried, planted in the Earth by the only two people who can stand the sight of him.
“So, it is over,” says the First Gravedigger. “The end… The end.”
“You’d feel better if you cried,” says the Second Gravedigger.
“No, I’m past crying, Willie,” says the First. “Far past that. If I could imagine living without him — I could cry. But I can’t. I can’t.”
“No,” says the Second, staring off into the middle distance. “Neither can I.” He turns to face the First. “What’s going to happen to us?” he asks. “What are we going to do?”
And then the opening titles begin, waves crashing on the bleak shore of a town where life has no meaning and God is dead.
In other words: Yeah, it’s going to be another one of those entries today. Sorry.
Continue reading Episode 537: Life Without Barnabas
“The more one learns, the worse one feels. I did not realize life was like that. But probably it is a well-known fact that no one bothered to tell me.”
There’s big news from the royal family, as usual. They think that just because they’re rich and powerful, that means they’ve got a patent on the epic tragedy — although to be fair, they usually do. Regular people don’t poison each other and throw themselves off cliffs; they just don’t have the time.
So here’s the top headlines: Barnabas, Prince of Collinsport, killed his uncle Jeremiah in a duel. Barnabas was then killed by his own wife, the witch Angelique, and cursed with eternal life. After dispatching Angelique, Barnabas courted his dead uncle’s wife, Josette, and planned to make her his vampire bride.
On Friday — confused and frightened by a vision created by the ghost of Angelique — Josette rejected the undead Prince, and killed herself by jumping from the cliff on Widow’s Hill. It’s basically a cross between Hamlet, Macbeth and the juicier episodes of Dynasty, as directed by George Romero.
Continue reading Episode 426: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
“I will hate you until I end your life, and I will end it.”
Man, did you ever have one of those days where nothing goes right? Meet Barnabas Collins. He’s experiencing an epic, unbroken string of days like that, which is a real shame, because he doesn’t have a whole lot of days left. As the saying goes: Life sucks, and then you die. And then things start to go seriously downhill from there.
Continue reading Episode 403: But I Loved You, and Other Excuses
“Why do you think you’re the only one who hears dogs?”
Let’s start, once again, with the notebook. I’m going to assume you’ve been following the story, and you already know everything you need to know about the vampire, the doctor, the experiments, the murder, the notebook, the niece and the crystal chandelier. If you’re new to the group, feel free to read up on the old episodes, because frankly I’ve had it with trying to explain this weird little knot of a storyline.
Fortunately, the show is less than two weeks away from coming to the exact same conclusion.
Continue reading Episode 357: When Worlds Collide