By PATRICK McCRAY
Taped on this date in 1966: Episode 126
Matthew intends to kill Vicki to satisfy the Widows. Meanwhile, David tells Burke and Roger where she is, leading the two men to break out the guns and go on a manhunt. As Matthew sharpens his axe, the ghost of Josette appears to Vicki to calm her nerves. Eventually, Bill Malloy’s ghost is joined by those of the Widows, who unite to kill Matthew by sheer fright. Or his diet high in saturated fat.
When we Collinsport Historical Society Irregulars did our “Ten Favorite DARK SHADOWS Episodes,” I’m not certain I’d yet re-re-re-reviewed this one. While it falls outside the essential Barnabas/Angelique narrative that I featured in my list, 126 is an unsurpassed twenty minutes of television, and it could be the most daring and important episode of the series -- even more so than 210 (or 211 or 212… whichever one introduces Barnabas in the way that works best for you). Episode 1 may be the premier of the show, but 126 is DARK SHADOWS’ first proper episode. If you get what I mean.
Okay, so what’s the big deal? This is not an episode that hints, teases, nor alludes to the supernatural. Rather, it blasts out out of the cathode cannon and right into the audience’s amygdala, ready or not. 126 establishes Collinwood as a place where the true and uncompromising residents are the ghosts, with humans as meddling short timers. This is not a program of mild supernatural innuendo, just delicate enough to leave sacrosanct the delicate sensibilities of those housewives who watch while putting the finishing touches on that ham loaf for the Wednesday church supper. This is not typical, thumb-twiddling, soap-opera time wasting. By God, Matthew’s got an axe, Burke and Roger have broken out the guns, and the ghosts of Bill Malloy and Josette team up to beat everyone to the punch. Patience? Bite it. Your day has come. On tonight’s DARK SHADOWS, we gotta rumble!
Episode 126 is also a taste of what I think Rob Zombie’s DARK SHADOWS would have been like. First of all, the story is told extremely well, with the actors hitting every note the writers set down. Additionally, it’s raw, violent, and grimly funny, with Thayer David menacing and goofy as a deranged and deluded (down east) redneck killing machine.
History? It’s all over the place in this one. Kathryn Leigh Scott speaks as Josette, truly going from an apt-looking stand-in to inventing the role that would cement her as one of the series’ four or five most crucial actors. We bid farewell to Matthew Morgan, but with such panache that it was just a warm-up for Thayer David. Bill Malloy is seen once more… with a musical number! Short of some kind of Orbach’s engineered wardrobe malfunction, this is not only a great DARK SHADOWS episode, it’s also, as the ad copy for THE RIGHT STUFF declared, “where the future begins.”