Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Dark Shadows Diary, Episode 87
Episode 87, "Secret Passage"
Oct. 25, 1966
Just when I was expecting a lengthy sequestration for Victoria Winters in the West Wing, she's freed from captivity. And it happens in a way that I don't think anyone was expecting.
And Roger's journey is pretty fantastic. The camera follows him down cobwebbed passages and a spiral staircase in a lengthy tracking shot that surely involved a little camera trickery. Not only is the photography top notch, but the live editing used to illustrate Roger's trip to the West Wing is so deft that most viewers would forget it's just an actor (and possibly a stand-in) walking between sets on a single soundstage. It's as impressive a use of space as I've ever seen on DARK SHADOWS.
Not to be outdone, Alexandra Moltke, who's essentially been benched during Victoria's captivity, pulls out all the stops upon her rescue. Roger finds Victoria has become a frazzled mess during the hours she's been missing. Not only has she been tormented by a very real ghost during her stay in the West Wing, Roger takes a moment to secretly terrorize her by banging on the walls and using his spookiest voice to warn her to leave Collinwood. He finds out in the episode's final scene, though, that the very real ghost of Bill Malloy had beat him to the punch.
Whatever empathy Victoria had for her charge has dried up. After referring to David as a "monster," she tells Roger, "He tried to kill you and now he tried to kill me." She's not wrong on either count, but she's probably confiding in the wrong person.
It's not Roger's only show of dubious moral ethics in this episode. Before venturing out to find Victoria, he shares a little family time with Carolyn, where he waxes philosophical about the governess's transient personality. "She came to us from nowhere, and now it seems as though she's disappeared into nowhere," he says. Carolyn is rightfully worried about the disappearance, prompting a morbid form of reassurance that would chill Sylvia Plath. When Bill Malloy disappeared, he explains, it was equally mysterious ... but there turned out to be a "logical reason" for his vanishing. Of course, that reason involved murder, so Carolyn fails to see how that's supposed to be comforting.
The B Plot is surprisingly sweet and energetic, especially when you consider that its featured characters are a little square. This should have been a huge speedbump in the episode, but the writers and actors are invested in making this part of the story work. Their scenes include tales of misadventure on the high seas, a Joseph Campbell reference and a shocking amount of nautical lingo that left me stumped (and I was a Navy brat.) Maggie makes a definite impression on Joe when she rattles off her intimate understanding of sailing, and you can see the exact moment when Joe falls for her. Joel Crothers deserves some praise for bringing the right amount of naivety to the role, but it's Kathryn Leigh Scott that really makes these scenes sing. She not only has to make Joe love her, she's got to make the audience love her, as well. And she knocks it out of the park.