Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Dark Shadows Diary, Episode 84

Episode 84, "Panic Room"
Oct. 20, 1966

Damn, this episode is bleak.

DARK SHADOWS can be a surprisingly fast show when the mood strikes it. Because it didn't have the artificial structure created by primetime television "seasons," the pacing of DARK SHADOWS could often be wonky. Later on, you'll know a story arc is reaching it's end when characters start dropping like flies (usually at the hands of Barnabas Collins) but, in these early episodes, there's little opportunity for resolution. Devised as a fairly traditional soap opera, the early narrative of DARK SHADOWS was open ended, not to mention a little depressing. You can always count on bad shit to happen in these early episodes, but there's rarely any relief from them.

David Collins is the best example of this. He tried to murder his own father, but there wasn't anything the characters could do about it. The family dynamic is to hide these kinds of problems from the world, which makes proactive behavior almost impossible. Had David been successful, it would have been a much different story, but for the time being everyone seems to be hoping he'll grow out of his murderous impulses. In this episode, Victoria finds out how well that plan is working when she finds herself locked in the West Wing, abandoned by David to starve to death.

Well, eventually starve to death, anyway. He takes pleasure in showing her around his grody little hideaway in the closed-off section of the house, which comes furnished with a bed, canned food, candles and stacks of newspaper. I don't know what use the latter is, but I've seen enough episodes of HOARDERS to know that stacks of newspapers are the universal sign of crazy.

He cries for help several times to illustrate to Victoria how secluded the part of the house is, talks up his ghostly friends that sometimes visit the room, and then locks her inside. He later celebrates with a glass of milk and a slice of pie, telling Liz he has no idea where his governess is.

This episode also sees the formal end of the Nice Carolyn/Joe Haskell/Crazy Carolyn love triangle. Feeling a sense of buyers remorse over her most recent bratty outburst, Carolyn convinces herself she can patch things up with Joe with yet another empty apology. "Who knows?" she asks. "I might even tell Joe I'll marry him."

Joe's lucky she didn't make this decision a day earlier,otherwise he'd be screwed. Unable to reach Carolyn because she was actively freezing him out, Joe made plans to have dinner with Maggie and Sam Evans that evening. When she finds out about his plans don't involve her, Carolyn reverts back to character and throws Joe out of the house. It's a reminder to everyone within earshot that Joe just dodged a bullet.

It might seem like a bad thing that Victoria is still trapped in David's panic room, but at least she won't have to listen to Carolyn's whining for the next few days.

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