Thursday, January 22, 2015

DARK SHADOWS: BLOODLUST, Episode the Third


Spoiler warning.

Robert Graves’ “I, Claudius” begins with the novel’s hero venturing into a cave to seek the advice of a Sibyl. After making the proper sacrifices and introductions, he spends several tense minutes waiting for a response from the oracle,
only to discover she’s dead and partially mummified. Claudius doesn’t fare much better with the next Sibyl he meets, who not only delivers her prophecy in the expected cryptic verse, but mocks his stutter while doing so.

The moral of this story, and of so many others, is that oracular women are not to be trusted. From “MacBeth” to MINORITY REPORT, bitches be crazy.

This motif is explained by western culture’s gender bias, which is insidious. The message behind so many of these tales is that women are not to be trusted with power, because they’re likely to make decisions based on icky feelings rather than penis-powered logic. It’s not my intention to delve into this phenomenon too much, but I thought the parallel between the Sibyls of Greek myth and the identity of the ghost residing in the cave at the base of Widow’s Hill in this episode is interesting.

In fact, our first visit to the cave revealed quite a bit. Not only is the ghost of Angelique Bouchard among the spirits haunting the joint, but Collinsport’s newest reporter is an even bigger jackass than previously implied.

I might have turned a blind eye to Andrew Cunningham's jackassery in the previous episode because it made me uncomfortable. Played by Matthew Waterhouse, Andrew's a guy with a clear lack of consciousness, a slave to his Id who treats his wife and children with thinly veiled disdain. I shouldn't have been too surprised when he descended into the cave to force whatever spirits lurked within to shower him with riches. As it happens, he hasn't been telling the truth about much of anything.

The fact that Andrew thinks he can go toe-to-toe with Angelique also makes him a clod. While I'm not ready to write off the character as a casualty of "Bloodlust" this early in the game (Quentin Collins suffered a series of humiliating setbacks and still managed to keep his relevance), I suspect Andrew's time in Collinsport will be an unhappy one. In fact, having already listened to episode four of "Bloodlust," I can pretty much guarantee it.

Alec Newman as David Collins.
We spend a decent amount of time in the metaphorical underworld in this episode, and finally get to meet a Collins. David Collins, to be more specific, who has ditched the family's historic shipping/canning holdings in order to go spelunking beneath Collinsport in a mysterious mining venture. In the years since the end of the original series, David Collins has become a bit of a spin master, ably answering Andrew's questions about the mines without actually giving him any information.

This isn't the first time a Collins and a Cunningham have matched wits. "The Creeping Fog," set in London during World War II, featured David Selby as Quentin Collins, and Waterhouse playing a Cunningham named "John."  In true DARK SHADOWS fashion, it's likely there's no significant ties between the two Cunninghams. It's simply a matter of the same actor playing a similarly shady character, connected by name to provide a sense of continuity. And neither Cunninghams (both Andrew and John) are character types without precedent on DARK SHADOWS. Roguish, greedy liars have a way of finding their way to Collinsport.

But Andrew is not the only Cunningham to confront Angelique in this episode. His son, Harry, goes exploring, looking for information instead of wealth. And the conversation he has with Angelique is ... interesting. It's a little unclear if she's found a friend in Harry, or just another patsy.

One of the reasons this write-up is a little late (Episode 5 should drop any day now) is my decision to revisit "The Creeping Fog." While it didn't provide clues about the direction "Bloodlust" is heading (any clues I'm aware of, anyway) it underscored how far the DARK SHADOWS line of audiodramas has come during the last two years. Many early Big Finish episodes relied on a narrative crutch I call "Two People in a Locked Room." While the performances in the series have always been strong, there sometimes wasn't enough story to fill the entire hour. "The Creeping Fog" is, sadly, one of those tales. While it's not exactly bad, it could have been told in half the time without sacrificing anything.

Meanwhile, "Bloodlust" is so richly layered that I'm finding it difficult to discuss without resorting to writing  episode summaries. Big Finish is getting about a week's worth of DARK SHADOWS storytelling into each half-hour episode, making "Bloodlust" feels very much in the vein of a modern soap. The scripts are so dense that many of my compliments of the series are being left on the cutting room floor: Waterhouse is clearly having a blast playing a rascal cut from the "Roger Collins" cloth, and I've fallen in love with the Jacqueline, Harry and Cody, who have become a sort of "Collinsport Goonies." Jeff Harding has me completely buffaloed as to the nature of his character, Michael Devereax, while Asta Parry brings a vibrant sense of chaos to the series. Meanwhile, Jamison Selby has an interesting arc involving his wife, who was murdered several months before but is still hanging around the Blue Whale.

So far, "Bloodlust" has been a wonderful example of how you to build upon the success of what came before, rather than just relying upon it.

You can find Episode 3 HERE.

1 comment:

Cousin Barnabas said...

I'm late but just finished Episode 3. So far enjoying the series. Having the story cut-up in small chapters helps keep my attention and seems to allow the writers to develop the story across several episodes. Looking forward to more of the original cast appearing!

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