Tag Archives: televisual literacy

Episode 866: The Briar Patch

“Would you like to try and resist this hand again, my dear?”

The story so far: Count Andreas Petofi, magical gangster from the Boston Carpathians, is engaged in a tense low-speed chase with a pack of howling vengeance gypsies. For all his bluster, all Petofi really wants to do is run away and hide — in somebody else’s body, living in somebody else’s house, and traveling to somebody else’s time zone. It’s not much to ask, really, and so far it’s been going pretty well.

But as the poet said, the best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley, and this one is drifting in an agley direction. It turns out he’s not the only mouse in town.

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Strange Paradise, Episode 4: The Cryonic Woman

“I do believe you need me, to jack you up by the bootstraps.”

“Place it there, please,” says the man from the Cryonics Institute. He’s addressing three hulking men, who are lugging a heavy coffin-sized piece of science down into the ancestral basement crypt of the cursed Desmond family, here on this tropical island paradise where we, as you know, currently are.

The man from the Cryonics Institute is directing two underlings — large, late middle-aged balding men in turtlenecks — plus Quito, the silent man-brute who lifts all the heavy things around here. I don’t know what the Cryonics Institute would have done if the Desmonds didn’t already have a third large late middle-aged strongman on the premises. They’d probably have to pop somebody out of the freezer to pitch in. That’s the nice thing about working at the Cryonics Institute, you’ve always got another pair of hands if you need it.

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Episode 846: Plan Meets World

“I have powers, I guess. I didn’t used to have, but I do now.”

On Friday afternoon, fluorescent floozy Charity Trask followed Quentin along the shoreline, until he entered a cave. She waited until he left, and then investigated the cave herself — and discovered the coffin of fugitive vampire Barnabas Collins, asleep and unprotected.

Picking up the hammer and stake that Quentin had conveniently dropped on the ground, Charity opened the coffin, and stared at the unholy ghoul who’d killed the only man she’d ever truly loved. And then she got down to business, hammering the stake through the creature’s heart, and putting an end to him once and for all.

As Monday’s episode opens, she staggers into the Blue Whale, vaguely traumatized and entirely thirsty.

“I done it,” she moans, a single tear trailing down her heavily rouged cheek, and then she bangs on the bar. “I need a drink!”

Tim Shaw, doing some work at a nearby table, suggests, “Why don’t you try getting some sleep instead? You can’t carry the party on indefinitely, you know.”

“Party!” Charity giggles, cuddling a bottle of bourbon. “It wasn’t no party, luv, believe me!” And then she laughs and laughs, until she collapses into sobs, and never recovers.

So: Mondays, huh? I guess they’re tough on everyone.

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Episode 810: The Most Dangerous Game

“Satan is determined to take over Collinwood!”

In the summer of 1969, the young set gather every afternoon at four o’clock to watch one of the great pioneers in educational programming.

Not Sesame Street, of course; that doesn’t start until November. For the summer, at least, the kids’ choice is Dark Shadows, and what they’re learning is that murder is awesome, and you can totally get away with it.

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Episode 785: We Interrupt This Program

“This hand, it is not my servant. I tell it what to do, yes, but it has powers that I do not possess.”

If you think about it, it’s almost like this is a real soap opera. For months, the odious Reverend Gregory Trask has been slowly building a relationship with Judith Collins, the current mistress of Collinwood. He admires her virtue, her generosity of spirit, her strength of character, and (most of all) her enormous family fortune. If you admire somebody at close range like that for long enough, it’s going to make an impression.

Then a couple weeks ago, he arranged for his wife Minerva to be killed, and after a barely suitable mourning period, he laid his heart, such as it is, at Judith’s feet.

Now, looking at the structure of the other current storylines, it’s obvious that they’re just being made up from day to day — all this King Johnny Romano nonsense, and everybody suddenly knowing about the legendary hand of Count Petofi. Last week, Magda said that Julianka was dead, but she’s going to show up two weeks from now, alive and temporarily healthy. Barnabas’ fake “engagement” to Angelique, Edward becoming a vampire hunter, Jamison’s dream that had clues about Quentin’s death — remember that one?

All of those supernatural stories are just drifting onscreen and then off again, bumping into each other with no rational plan. But underneath, the writers have been carefully crafting this Trask/Judith seduction story, one story beat after another. There’s been an actual soap opera storyline just sitting there all this time, hiding in plain sight.

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Episode 728: The Pacer

“I understand a great many things, including her desire to kill you!”

Quentin says, “A lot has happened while you were away, dear brother,” and isn’t that the truth. Dark Shadows has been sprinting through plot points for weeks now, and if you need to catch up on current events, this is all the help you’re going to get.

“One night, my dear wife escaped from wherever you had her locked up. She found me in the cottage. Well, you can imagine how surprised I was at seeing her. But that was nothing, compared to how I felt when she put the knife in my chest.”

Edward cries, “Good heavens!” and Quentin just smiles, because Quentin is magical and lives entirely on surprise. “Rather shocking, isn’t it?” he says. “You know, at one point I was actually declared dead?”

“Dead?” gasps Edward, horrified. “Yes,” Quentin says, “but let’s spare the grisly details,” and then he just starts talking about something else.

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Episode 721: Dead Again

“If he stays dead now, then the course of history will be changed.”

Well, that didn’t last long, did it? They just let Quentin show up alive five weeks ago, and now he’s flat on his back, dead all over again. It looks like we’ve solved the big mystery of how Quentin died. It was the wife with a knife in the cottage.

We didn’t actually witness the stabbing, but Jenny came straight home and told Beth all about it, case closed. So this isn’t a whodunnit as much as a what are we gonna do about it.

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Episode 715: The Secret of the Mysterious Clue

“I see a night of terror! I see strange screams, muffled sounds!”

Rachel Drummond, plucky girl detective, climbs the stairs to the Collinwood tower room. According to legend, no one has set foot in this room for a hundred years, but something’s happening up there — something sinister.

As she climbs, Rachel reviews the case. She came to this big spooky mansion as the governess for Edward Collins’ two young children — but nobody is willing to say what happened to their mother. “My wife is not dead,” Edward said. “She is away. She is going to stay away.”

But Rachel’s seen a light in the abandoned tower room, which is impossible. She’s seen the maid bring a new doll into the house, but the children say they never received it. And every time she asks a question, everyone tells her that some things are better left unanswered.

They can’t put off Rachel that easily. There’s a mystery hidden in this house — something sad, and dangerous — and she’s going to get to the bottom of it. The idea that this is none of her fucking business does not seem to have occurred to her.

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Episode 688: Mostly Charmless

“I was hoping you’d say it was just a wild coincidence.”

Barnabas Collins has driven a stake through a vampire’s heart, beaten a werewolf into submission with his cane, bricked up an enemy behind a wall, and burned a witch to death with a torch, and Dr. Julia Hoffman has done everything that Barnabas did, except backwards and in high heels.

So you’d imagine that these two heavyweights would have no problem dealing with an awkward social situation, like if a guy shows up at your friend’s house in the middle of the night, and you can’t get him to leave. And yet here they are, stymied. Us Weekly was right; celebrities really are just like us.

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