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836 dark shadows julia beth reporter

Episode 836: Murder, She Wrought

“I thought killing him would help me release from loving him. But it didn’t.”

Terror stalks the great estate at Collinwood this night, just exactly as it has for the last 189 nights in a row. The terrifying specter of Quentin Collins still rules the silent halls, while the family is couchsurfing at the Old House, waiting for it to blow over. Young David is still leaking get-up-and-go, teetering semi-permanently on the brink of death.

Hoping to resolve this difficult problem, Barnabas Collins used an ancient Chinese divination technique to contact the spirit of Quentin, and negotiate a cease-fire. It’s now six months later, and the problem has not been resolved in even the tiniest way. I think Barnabas needs to step aside, and let somebody else take a crack at it.

Continue reading Episode 836: Murder, She Wrought

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Episode 745: Rendezvous at the OK Corral

“What I was is not what I am. What I am is what I will be.”

So let’s say you have an entirely crazy person on your hands, and you need to keep her in your home for an unspecified amount of time. This is a common concern for modern homeowners. According to the experts, you should keep her in a warm room with indirect light, check the top of the soil before watering, and fertilize once a month in the spring and summer. No, wait, that’s ficus trees.

Well, here’s what vampire-about-town Barnabas Collins does, once he’s taken it upon himself to immure Quentin’s crazy wife for the foreseeable. He stashes her in an upstairs bedroom, locks the door from the outside, and then goes down to the basement to sleep in a coffin, leaving a note for the comedy gypsies who serve as his unwilling housekeepers.

I’m not saying that’s the appropriate way to handle it, I’m just telling you what Barnabas does.

Continue reading Episode 745: Rendezvous at the OK Corral

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Episode 732: Rules of Engagement

“Don’t you ever do that to me, or you’ll find yourself beyond the borderline of death!”

This is how Barnabas’ life is going these days — he walks into the cottage, and finds his ex-wife Angelique standing over Quentin, who’s out cold on the carpet. And Barnabas just sighs, and says, “Is he dead?” in the resigned tone that you use when the puppy’s peed on the rug again.

After all, this is the second time that Quentin’s died, just in the last two weeks. It’s like the Tom Cruise movie Edge of Tomorrow, except the aliens are sarcastic women and it all takes place in the same house.

Continue reading Episode 732: Rules of Engagement

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Episode 725: The Unrest

“Where is this uncle he thinks he is?”

Okay, let’s see if we can summarize.

Eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins has traveled back in time to 1897, in order to stop Quentin from dying alone, sealed up in his bedroom, and then sitting around and stewing about it. If Quentin dies under those circumstances, then he’ll return as a ghost in 1969, to haunt the family and kill David.

We’re currently a month into this loosely-defined rescue mission, and Quentin has already been stabbed to death. Barnabas decides that this is a mission-critical failure for some reason, and he asks Angelique to use her magic and bring Quentin back to life. As an act of spite, Angelique brings Quentin back as a mindless zombie who attacks the governess and tries to bury her in his own grave. To make matters worse, Quentin’s spirit possesses the body of his nephew Jamison.

Once the governess is rescued, Zombie Quentin leaves the cemetery and goes to the Old House, bashing the door in and fighting his way past several gypsies to make it to the basement, where he sits down quietly in a chair and just kind of chills out. Barnabas and the gypsies try a seance to reunite his body and his spirit, but it doesn’t work, and the zombie leaves the basement, with Barnabas in pursuit. We finished yesterday with a shot of Zombie Quentin on his belly, dragging himself desperately toward his open grave.

Nope, it looks like we can’t summarize this after all. That’s a negative.

Continue reading Episode 725: The Unrest

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Episode 665: Vicki Ruins Everything (Reprise)

“She did have to undergo the hanging, yes.”

Victoria Winters is dead!

Sorry, spoiler alert. I always forget to say that. Sorry!

Still, this hardly counts as a news item anymore. VDub has tried to leave the show twice now, and they keep on dragging her back on screen. A few weeks ago, she disappeared from Collinwood, traveling back to 1796 to reunite with her husband Peter “Jeff” Bradford-Clark. Then she found out the authorities still wanted to execute her for witchcraft, so Barnabas had to cross the barrier of space and time in order to save her.

Unfortunately, Barnabas arrived too late to stop the execution, which makes you wonder why he chose to shatter causality just to show up at the last minute. And now here’s Vicki, freshly hanged and laid out to dry.

Today, the sorcerous soap vixen Angelique stands over the body, and says a bunch of words about putting Vicki under a spell, and now Vicki’s going to be buried alive. Angelique is super into burying people alive these days, even though it sounds like a damp fizzle of a story point. It’s like an annoying song that’s stuck in her head, and she can’t shake it.

And hey, you know what would be great to see right now? David Selby.

Continue reading Episode 665: Vicki Ruins Everything (Reprise)

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Episode 663: Being This Way Again

“I had forgotten how overwhelming this urge for blood could be, and how helpless I would be to resist it.”

Last year, Dark Shadows took a bold leap, spending four months in a detailed flashback to the 18th century. This risky endeavor turned out to be a huge win, a creative high point for the series.

When the time travel story ended in April, the question was: after an ambitious and successful storyline like that, what do you do for an encore? And then they spent the rest of the year not really coming up with a coherent answer to that question.

Instead, they stumbled their way into a set of tangled story threads involving a mad doctor, a Frankenstein monster, a time-traveling witch with dream powers, a demonic crime boss, an occult expert, a root cellar, two new vampires, multiple kidnappings, a brick wall, an anagram, the French Revolution, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Jim Morrison and a View-Master reel.

It’s not easy to tie that all up and have it make sense, so they didn’t bother. They just threw a werewolf at us, which kept us entertained while they quietly directed the surplus characters to the exit.

But now the production team is doing a bit of soul-searching, trying to figure out where it all went wrong. And since there are clearly no rules about what qualifies as acceptable afternoon programming anymore, they might as well take us along on their annual review.

This week, they’re doing it all over again. Dark Shadows is going back to going back in time.

Continue reading Episode 663: Being This Way Again

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Episode 650: Happily Ever Before

“I’ll close my eyes — and when I open them, you’ll be here, and the watch will tick!”

And then, six hundred and forty-nine episodes later, she was gone.

This is girl governess Victoria Winters’ last day at Collinwood, so it’s a good time to go over her original briefing instructions, and see how well she scored.

My name is Victoria Winters. My journey is beginning — a journey that I hope will open the doors of life to me, and link my past with my future. A journey that will bring me to a strange and dark place — to the edge of the sea, high atop Widow’s Hill. A house called Collinwood — a world I’ve never known, with people I’ve never met — people who tonight are still only shadows in my mind, but who will soon fill the days and nights of my tomorrows.

Well, she was spot-on with opening the doors, at least. Like every other Dark Shadows character, she spent the last two and a half years basically just killing time between opening and closing doors. So that’s a slam dunk.

What else?  Widow’s Hill, Collinwood, people she’s never met — check, check. Yeah, I’d say she’s done pretty much everything on the list.

There’s just one more item that she has to check off — linking her past with her future. Well, she’s got one more episode; let’s see if she manages it.

Continue reading Episode 650: Happily Ever Before

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Episode 627: Bad Moon Rising

“What kind of life do you lead, Mr. Jennings?”

Two weeks ago, Dark Shadows entered a period that I’m calling The Great 1968 Wrap-Up, a long overdue narrative house-cleaning. Soap opera storylines are always a bit of a tangled web, but if you’re not careful, the structure becomes so dense that it collapses in on itself, and becomes a dangerous gravitational singularity.

For example:

  • Barnabas Collins isn’t a vampire anymore, because his life force is shared with
  • Adam, a Frankenstein monster who’s trying to start a family with
  • Eve, a female monster who’s animated by the life force of
  • Danielle, a French Revolution-era murderess, who’s madly in love with
  • Peter, the 18th-century lawyer who’s traveled through time to follow
  • Vicki, the Collins family governess, who was just left at the altar by
  • Jeff, who’s discovered that he’s actually a reincarnation of
  • Peter, and he’s not very happy about it.

Obviously, that’s a complex set of facts and relationships for the audience to keep in mind, especially because the one thing that absolutely everybody knows about Dark Shadows is that it’s the story of Barnabas Collins, who yes he is a vampire, what are you even talking about that he’s not a vampire anymore?

So that’s the level of mess that we’re dealing with here. We’re currently two weeks into this massive clean-up project, and we’ve now reached the stage where they’re just strangling cast members and leaving them in the closet.

Continue reading Episode 627: Bad Moon Rising

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Episode 608: You Are My Someone

“Is that what you’ll do with me, when you don’t want me anymore? Will you have someone carry me to the woods, and kill me?”

“You are my slave,” Angelique says, staring directly into the camera. Try not to take it personally. She probably doesn’t mean you, specifically.

“You must come to me,” she adds. “Hurry!” Then she says it again, in an increasingly urgent tone. “Hurry! HURRY!”

I need to point out that this is not what normal television usually looks like. I feel like I have to say that every once in a while, just to remind myself that normal television exists.

Continue reading Episode 608: You Are My Someone

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Episode 532/533: In Darkest Hour

“If I had known you were going to pursue your usual nonsense, I would never have come downstairs.”

Okay, there’s just one more week of the Dream Curse, one of the most tedious storylines in all of Dark Shadows. When I started this blog, I knew that the Dream Curse was going to be a hard period to work through. The problem for me isn’t really that the episodes are bad — some of my best entries are for bad episodes — it’s that they’re so repetitive. There are only so many ways that you can talk about a three-month storyline where exactly nothing happens.

But soap operas are resilient beasts; they rise on stepping-stones of their dead selves to higher and better things. Probably. I’m pretty sure we’ll get to cool stuff at some point.

So here we are, in the darkest hour, fidgeting and waiting impatiently for the dawn. But what the hell. Let’s have some fun.

Continue reading Episode 532/533: In Darkest Hour