By PATRICK McCRAY
Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 650
In the wake of Madame Findley’s death, Victoria fixates on Jeff’s watch. When it begins to tick, she knows that his spirit is active and capable of contact. This is bolstered when he actually appears to her, drawn by the power of love. After he vanishes, she becomes determined to return to him. After tearful and sincere goodbyes to Liz and Barnabas, a solitary Vicki sees Peter appear once more. When they join hands, both are drawn back to the past as Liz and Barnabas look on in astonishment.
Maybe it was the mood I was in. Maybe it was the ensemble at its best. Maybe it was the quietly dignified compassion shared between the characters. Maybe it was Ron Sproat’s sensitive, emotionally mature script. Or the passionate sincerity of the performances. Perhaps it was the result of these things combined, capping stories that have been years in the telling. But we said goodbye to Victoria Winters. I was transfixed, teared up, and felt both elated and terrible for everyone.
Betsy Durkin, in her final appearance on the show, again ably carries the episode, with a Victoria pushed beyond arguable madness and into an understanding of time and destiny known by very few. Her farewells to Liz and Barnabas are as credible as if she’d been essaying the part since 1966. Roger Davis puts in a performance both heartfelt and heightened, without ever straying into the hamfisted. The unsung hero of the episode is Jonathan Frid. In saying goodbye to Victoria, we see the character’s pain, his restraint, his compassion, and his wise dignity. Of course, for Barnabas, his knowledge of her is fresh. He’s known her maybe a year? That includes how they met in 1795. His feelings for her are fresher than we, the viewers, realize. No, they’re more than that. He’s seen the range of her bravery, going back nearly two centuries. She’s an extraordinary woman, and no one else there -- not even Peter Bradford -- appreciates it in quite the same way. His longing is so clearly articulated, but it’s punctuated by his decision to control when they part company. It’s the last and only position of self-respect. How much has he lost? How ruthless is he in the pursuit of his desires? We know what he’s capable of. Thus, his choice to move on shows a thoughtful self-command that can only be credibly crafted and appreciated in the daily storytelling of the soap. With their parting, she leaves, he stays, the baton is passed, and it becomes clear who the ultimate protagonist of DARK SHADOWS is destined to be. The show begins with one lost stranger coming to Collinwood only to find her destiny in the past. It continues and ends with a man of the past finding his fate in the future. Is Victoria, in her unblemished purity, the past that Collinwood needs? Is Barnabas the stabilizing voice of yesterday here to balance the moral scales of yesterday? They become bookends. Both finding meaning through devotion to families that aren’t really theirs. Both meeting their ends in trials.
Special kudos to Louis Edmonds, too. Everyone who thinks that Roger remains a heartless, condescending cretin needs to take a good look at his depiction in an episode like this. He is strength and sympathy in equal measure, and as with Barnabas, it’s a believable result of the character’s evolution. When he asks Barnabas to look after things in his absence, there’s a sincere warmth to the request, and again, it makes me realize how far both characters have come.
I am impressed by so many of the DARK SHADOWS installments, but few leave me as emotionally winded as this one. And yet, I can’t wait to watch it again.
On this day in 1968, the president of Brazil runs rampant over their constitution, but manages to stabilize the country. It’s unclear if a surviving Burke Devlin is involved.