Tag Archives: supercouple

Episode 889: It’s From the Past

“You mustn’t touch this, Julia. It happens to be very old.”

Barnabas was boring, is the problem. Around this time last year, they wrapped up all of his storylines — Angelique was banished back to Hell, Adam ran away, and all the other villains just burned or fell to powder. At last, Barnabas was triumphant — free from his vampire curse, surrounded by friends and family, universally respected and trusted. It was a nightmare.

With nothing else to do, he became Barnabas the butler, a facilitator for other people’s story progression. The show always faces a crisis when they don’t know what to do with the star attraction, and their usual response is to visit a different time period. When “toxic Barnabas” was getting too hot to handle in November 1967, we went back to his origin story, and when “tame Barnabas” ran out of story potential in March 1969, the show packed him off to 1897.

Barnabas is at his best when he’s on the defensive, struggling and scheming and making terrible mistakes. His trip to 1897 put him on the back foot immediately — no allies, a vampire once again, and generally confused about what he was even supposed to be doing. He had to ingratiate himself with a whole new family, and learn everybody’s secrets without letting on about his own.

And it worked! Even a month-long vacation didn’t diminish his charms; his miraculous return gave the show its all-time best ratings. But now he’s heading back home, where the outlook is even more drab than it was before he left: Quentin’s evil spirit is gone, and Collinwood is more or less at peace. The immediate future looks even more butlery than before.

So the writers, in their infinite lunacy, have decided to dodge the butler problem by making Barnabas the bad guy again. Instead of a happy homecoming, they’re giving him a mysterious new agenda, which splits him away from his friends and family.

It’s a risky idea, with the potential to squander all the good will that they’ve built up with the audience. But what is Dark Shadows except a string of terrible ideas, which sometimes turn out to be amazing?

Continue reading Episode 889: It’s From the Past

Episode 798: Everyone You Love Must Die

“I know your feeling. Everyone I love must die, too.”

“How dark it is!” says the unresting spirit of Julianka. “I do not like death at all!” She was only killed a few hours ago, so she hasn’t had a lot of time to get used to it, but here she is, already submitting her post-mortem Yelp review. I guess even dead people get impatient sometimes. That’s kind of comforting, in a way.

Continue reading Episode 798: Everyone You Love Must Die

Episode 703: The Problem of Beth

“The problem with you, Judith, is that you hate the fraudulence of gypsies.”

Okay, let’s review what it means to be a “couple” in fiction.

The mistake that people sometimes make is that they think that a couple needs to be romantic. Obviously, there are lots of love stories with a romantic pairing at the center, but there’s a deeper definition that’s more useful if you’re trying to figure out how stories work.

A couple is two people that you want to see on stage at the same time, because they have chemistry together. A scene with both of them is funnier, or more exciting, or more romantic, or more interesting, or the plot moves faster. It doesn’t matter exactly why that pairing makes the scene better, as long as the structure of the story bends around putting them together.

Sulley and Mike from Monsters, Inc. are a couple. Bertie and Jeeves are a couple. Holmes and Watson, Starsky and Hutch, Laverne and Shirley, the Doctor and Amy Pond, basically any two characters who are best known as “X and Y”.

In fact, sometimes giving one member a love interest can be a distraction. Buzz Lightyear has a romantic subplot with Jessie in Toy Story 3, but the main story beats are Woody/Buzz, because a Woody/Buzz scene is more interesting than a Buzz/Jessie scene. (Except for the Spanish dancing scene, obviously, but that’s an outlier.)

This is why a “will they/won’t they” relationship can be so compelling — Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, Sam and Diane, Jim and Pam, Clark and Lois, Kermit and Miss Piggy. It’s an evergreen structure, because it’s fun watching those characters interact, whether they happen to be officially “together” or not.

If the couple doesn’t appear on screen together very much — because they’re separated, let’s say, and they’re trying to find their way back to each other — then they don’t really count as a couple. In the lit crit biz, we call that a “Princess Peach” — a kiss at the end of a story that wasn’t really about the kiss after all. You can always tell what the important relationships in a story are, even if the characters pretend otherwise. The important characters are the ones they point the camera at.

This goes double for Dark Shadows, because it’s a soap opera that’s not really about romance most of the time. They don’t have time for the common soap tropes like weddings and babies — instead, they use ideas and plot structures borrowed from a mix of genres, including gothic romance, monster movie, film noir, door-slamming farce, avant-garde black box theater and the Doors’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

So the idea of a romantic couple on Dark Shadows is almost irrelevant. The couple that everybody talks about on the show is Barnabas and Josette, but they hardly appear together, even during that brief window when Josette is alive. Most of the action in 1795 centers around Barnabas and Angelique; Josette’s love is just the MacGuffin that they play for.

But the most important relationship in Dark Shadows is Barnabas and Julia, who are paired together because they’re just fascinating to look at. Their chemistry is so powerful that it even works when Julia puts on brown makeup, and pretends to be somebody else.

Continue reading Episode 703: The Problem of Beth

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

Episode 606: The Late Mrs. Collins

“Your hatred for me could never be as strong as mine is for you.”

Fictional characters, if you want a quiet life, listen up: Stop declaring your arch-enemies out loud.

It’s difficult, I know. You’re out for a stroll along the Reichenbach Falls, idly juggling a lightsaber with your two working hands and thinking about Gwen Stacy, your totally alive girlfriend, when all of a sudden, there he is — the One Who Must Not Be Named, waxing his mustache with Kryptonite and standing next to a sign that says Rabbit Season.

You draw back with a gasp, and the words spring unbidden to your lips — Aha, it is you, we meet again! The battle is joined. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine. I tawt I taw a puddy tat. And so on.

This is the moment. Take a breath. Remember your training.

And then you say, “Hi there. Have we met? I’m sorry, I am just terrible with names.”

Continue reading Episode 606: The Late Mrs. Collins

Episode 473: The Twin Dilemma

“I think explanations are so absurd, don’t you?”

“Barnabas, why do these things keep happening?” Vicki says. Barnabas sighs, and says, “One mistake can multiply into a thousand,” which is not that much of an answer.

But things certainly do keep happening, if by “things” you mean time travel and blood transfusions and dream sequences and harpoon attacks. And why would you ever mean anything else?

Continue reading Episode 473: The Twin Dilemma

Episode 463: Meanwhile, in the Past

“One cannot buy a witch in an antique shop.”

Today, Victoria Winters returns to the scene of the crime — the Eagle HIll cemetery, where she shot and killed a man two weeks and 172 years ago. I’m not sure if there’s still a warrant out for her — there’s a lot I don’t know about the statute of limitations in a time travel scenario.

She’s hunting for the grave of Peter Bradford, her 1795 boyfriend and accomplice, who was left behind when she returned to 1967. Or possibly 1968. It’s hard to say. I’m pretty sure it’s a Wednesday, if that helps.

I mean, she left in November 1967, but by the time she got back, it was already April 1968, and she’d missed Christmas and a new Beatles album, and her library books were, like, crazy overdue.

Continue reading Episode 463: Meanwhile, in the Past

Episode 462: No Place Like Home

“I think I expected a haircut to make me feel all new. It doesn’t.”

Victoria Winters is back from her trip to the 18th century — and like all young people coming back from break, she has a bullet wound in her shoulder, a barely coherent memory of what happened, and a new boyfriend who she doesn’t know how to contact.

Now, Julia Hoffman — who has just revealed that she’s a doctor — is providing some unorthodox therapy, spinning a medallion in Vicki’s face and interrogating her under hypnosis. Let the healing begin.

Continue reading Episode 462: No Place Like Home

Episode 425: Jump Street

“I would not let them be together in life… and they shall not be together in death.”

So far, there have been lots of surprises in the 1795 flashback storyline — some of them pleasant, and some not so much. I think the most disappointing surprise has been the characterization of Josette. She’s supposed to be the heart of the whole story, but as I’ve talked about this week, there’s not much there to hang on to.

Josette is basically just a spoiled rich girl. She never shows any real maturity, or makes any difficult decisions. She’s the blank slate that other characters write on — and not just the supernatural characters. There was that episode where Reverend Trask talked her into a weird, borderline-sexual exorcism ritual, and he didn’t use hypnosis. He just told her what he was going to do, and then he did it.

So, standing here at the precipice, the real tragedy is that Josette’s tragedy doesn’t feel like much of a tragedy. It’s the end of the girl as we know it, and I feel fine.

Continue reading Episode 425: Jump Street