Monday, March 30, 2015


Enter: Barnabas Collins.

I’m sure a lot of people have spent the last five episodes (and a prologue!) waiting for this moment. For many fans, there is no DARK SHADOWS without Barnabas Collins. These people have probably been baffled by Big Finish’s insistence on continuing the DARK SHADOWS story without the character. I don’t count myself among that demographic, but I’d be lying if I said the presence of Barnabas Collins in BLOODLUST is unwelcome.

But I’d also be lying if I said this episode wasn't a bit of a letdown. After the slow-build of the first five episodes (which allowed the writers to establish the story’s many characters and conflicts) this episode seems a little rushed. And the entrance of Barnabas Collins smacks of dues ex machina.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Quentin Collins (David Selby) is back in Collinsport, to the delight of absolutely nobody. His reputation remains that of a dangerous troublemaker, so many of his conversations in this episode begin with polite chitchat followed by “So, when are you leaving?”

Maggie (Kathryn Leigh Scott) is particularly hostile, pointedly telling him to go back to wherever it was he came from. In this case, that happens to be London, where he’s started a new life with a new wife. Before moving on, though, he’s got a few wild oats that need sowing.

You see, Quentin hasn't forgotten the rush of becoming a werewolf. Even though the magical portrait created by Charles Delaware Tate has protected him from physical ailments (including age, injury and gypsy curses) he’s decided he needs to feel that lycanthrope high again. He’s in Collinsport, we learn, to seek Angelique’s help to “wolf out” one last time. If you’re thinking this subplot is a little gross, you’re not wrong.

But Quentin’s issues haven’t robbed him of wisdom. While he lacks perspective on his own problems, he’s got a firm understanding of Maggie’s demons. He cautions that her group therapy sessions are in danger of turning into a lynch mob, which is exactly what happens in this episode’s closing moments. “There are normal people here who have done terrible things,” Quentin says. “And then there are creatures like me who have saved your life. It’s not black and white, Maggie.”

Oh, and there’s one other complication: Man-baby Tommy Cunningham is also Quentin’s great-great grandson, making him subject to the werewolf curse. Good luck with that!

Artist’s rendering.
If the bigotry subtext of this series wasn’t strange enough, there’s also an underlying criticism of post 9/11 U.S. foreign policy buried in the narrative. Maggie is spouting off a lot of “If you’re not with us, you’re against us” Bush-isms, flavored with just a hint of lawlessness. “It’s time for us to stop waiting to die,” she tells her followers, directing them to take action without providing them with legitimate guidance. The message: If we don't take action immediately, we leave ourselves vulnerable to attack. Consequences are a problem for other people.

People like the Rev. Trask, who gets his ass thoroughly kicked as Maggie's Lynch Mob(TM) descends on the cave where Angelique is lurking. Sheriff Tate (Lachele Carl) is essentially powerless to stop them, leaving Quentin to take charge. Luckily Quentin has a cunning plan.

A very confused Barnabas Collins arrives, heralded by localized earthquake.  “He just likes to make a dramatic entrance,” Quentin tells Angelique (which isn't exactly true, but whatever). Quentin was preparing for this moment, admitting that he's the one who invited Barnabas to the party. In a melodramatic moment, they dub themselves “The Trinity” — the vampire, the wolf and the witch.

While it all sounds very exciting, I couldn't shake a sense of disappointment in this episode. Barnabas’ presence didn't feel earned, especially since there’s been so much talk of a vampire being responsible for the recent violence in Collinsport. The "V" word has been bandied about quite a lot, yet there's been no mention of Barnabas or his whereabouts. He’s introduced near the end of this episode to justify the moment, and it didn't work for me. His appearance felt like a glorified talk show "walk on."

In fact, the entire episode felt decidedly unbalanced, as though the return of Quentin Collins somehow upset the narrative scales. We've spent a lot of time getting to know the "Next Generation" cast of BLOODLUST, but Quentin's return advanced the story so quickly that Amy, Cody, Kate, Harry and the rest were momentarily pushed aside. It's going to be interesting to see how all of these pieces fit together in the second half of the story, once the dust from this installment settles.

This episode marks the end of the first collection of episodes, contained on Vol. 1 of the compact disc collection. I have no idea where the story is headed, or how this collection of misfits is equipped to deal with … whatever is going on. Barnabas, Quentin and Angelique aren’t able to solve their own problems, and I suspect things are going to get worse for everybody before they start to get better.

This week's song is ...

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