Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dark Shadows Diary: Episode 58

Episode 58: "A Nine-Year-Old Horror"
Sept. 14, 1966

Americans will forgive people for almost anything, as long as they have to good taste to eventually die. If you doubt that, just take a look at the philosophical contortions put on display following the deaths of Richard Nixon, Michael Jackson and Strom Thurmond. Live long enough and you'll earn the coveted "controversial figure" award posthumously, your karmic slate wiped clean.

While Bill Malloy isn't one of America's most colorful rogues, he also wasn't the beacon of virtue that everyone is making him out to be since his death. I'm sure he was a good guy, but in just a few short weeks we've gone from Liz planning to fire him, to "Bill Malloy was god's gift to Collinsport." That's not a real quote, but it might as well be.

Joe Haskell has the day off from work after the Collins family closed the plant for the day, and decides to spend it at the Blue Whale. Sam Evans is already there when he arrives (though it's possible he spent the entire night there) and the two begin to erect the Myth of Bill Malloy. While Sam has always been a romantic, he's got ulterior motives for chatting up Joe about the murder. He wants to know how the Collins family has responded to news of the murder death, and is specifically interested in finding out if Roger did any spontaneous confessing during the night.

The episode features one of the most awkwardly staged scenes I can remember seeing on DARK SHADOWS. The show's blocking can be a little stagey as the actors jockey against each other for the audience's attention, but the first scene between David and Carolyn was poorly thought out. Just as Sam is studying Joe for any clues that someone (well, Roger) has sold him out to the cops, David is interviewing Carolyn about the gory details of Bill Malloy's death.

The boy has a limited social circle, and nobody's told him much of anything about the man's death ... so he takes his education into his own hands. But the scene is a little hard to follow: David is sitting on the floor while his cousin sits in a high-backed chair. You can see the cameramen struggle to shoot around the obstacle, but to no avail: from one point of view you can see David and the back of Carolyn's chair; from the other you see only Carolyn's face as she talks to his disembodied voice. It doesn't feel like an experiment on the part of the director as much as sheer laziness.

It doesn't undercut the weird tension between David and Carolyn, though. I don't want to take sides here, but David's natural (if creepy) curiosity about Malloy's death makes sense when stacked against Carolyn's insistence that the tragedy is really about her. "David, you're disgusting," she tells him as she moves to leave the drawing room. She stops just shy of actually leaving, though, because there's nobody in the foyer to listen to her bullshit.

There's an alarming method to David's madness. It's not bored cynicism that's driving all of his questions about Malloy's corpse; David has a plan. He wants to discover when Bill Malloy was killed so that he can help put the man's ghost to rest. Without that, he warns Carolyn, then Malloy's spirit is sure to haunt Collinwood forever.

David is not relying solely on his "friends" at Widows Hill for help; he's hit the books and done a little research into tidal currents in hope of understanding where Malloy's body might have entered the ocean. Which begs the question "When the hell did DAVID turn into the hero of this series?"

David Henesy steals the episode, and not just because he gets the best lines. There' a casual "fuck it" attitude about him, even when the dialogue addresses his sociopathy a little too directly. After locating Malloy's likely murder spot, Carolyn does her best to dissuade him from any activity that doesn't spotlight her own grief. "What you're doing, it's morbid. Can't you see that?" she asks him.

"No. Because I don't know what that means," he answers, and wanders off.

The rest of the episode is devoted to police procedural as Sheriff Patterson rattles Sam at the Blue Whale before making his way to Collinwood (again) to quiz Roger. We also take a ride in the Joe Haskell Shame Simulator as Carolyn makes a point of ritually castrating him with her every word. When he takes an interest in David's new hobby (which he probably doesn't know is really "Corpse Tracking") she even finds a way to twist THAT against him. Carolyn might be the most thinly written character on the show, but at least she's consistent.

I was going to point out that Maggie is right around the corner for Joe, but then I remembered his character doesn't exactly have a happy ending.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As the episodes progress I'm finding that I like the David character more and more, and at an equal rate Carolyn becomes more and more annoying!

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