Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 21


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 458

Naomi faces the ultimate choice when she discovers her son is one of the living dead. Naomi: Joan Bennett. (Repeat; 30 min.)

After seeing Millicent with Barnabas, an increasingly agitated Naomi discovers that Joshua may have found a relief to the curse in Boston. She nonetheless responds with pessimism. After writing a note, she visits Vicki, who remains concerned about Peter’s freedom. Vicki feels as if her visit with Naomi is the last she shall have, at which point Nathan arrives to take her in a gunpoint, unmoved by her admission that she, not Peter, killed Noah. Naomi drinks a draught of poison and then visits Barnabas, who confesses all. Despite his pleas to the contrary, she persists in her love for him. Joshua enters and cradles her as her body grows cold.

And then, it got really dark.

Naomi is one of Dark Shadows’ stronger, more willful characters. Every bit the equal to Joshua, which is saying something, she is admirably strong, honest, and loyal. These are all qualities that make her suicide either a show a defiant self-determination or a betrayal of her essence. Forgive the politics, and apologies to those whose loved ones have made that terminal choice (I rank among you), I see it as the former. Romantic literature might not… or might. These are Barnabas’ last moments before being sealed into semi-suspended animation, so this event and example -- this disposition toward death -- heavily influences the man we see rise in 1967. Death is both an option and simply one more choice. When he murders, perhaps he is consigning others to what he sees as an inevitability that exists without shame. These are very existential questions, and when you look at  in little bits, without considering the big picture, they are easy to ignore. Just as heroes in real life don’t go about spouting their ontologies like characters out of Chayefsky or Rand, nor do those on this show. Still, we can and -- as responsible fans of the show -- should discern what we can about the philosophies of the characters from their actions. With Barnabas, that’s a sticky wicket. Not only does he evolve, appearing in more episodes than anyone, but his perspective changes depending on whether or not he’s under the influence of what I refer to as the Beast. Critics of Barnabas are quite right. He can be the master of the double standard, easily rationalizing like a machine. In the balance, his life, abilities, options, threats, and nature of existence change violently and frequently. The choices he has to make and the range of shifting tools and consequences tied to those choices are rarely the same. The consequences demand categorical thinking. Seeing that his own mother held death as a choice galvanized Barnabas’ thinking, I believe. If it were not a shameful destination for her, it is not a shameful destination for anyone. Of course, she chose it and Barnabas’ victims do not, but if it becomes a questionable destination, then his actions to consign others there become equally questionable. Thus, Barnabas must maintain a casual attitude toward the undiscovered country.

Kids, don’t try this at home.

This episode was broadcast March 27, 1968.

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