Friday, January 19, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: JANUARY 19


Taped on this date in 1971: Episode 1198

Lamar Trask shoots Angelique before she can hear Barnabas pledge his love. Barnabas is stabbed in the attempt to apprehend Trask, and stabs him in return. Trask stumbles into Parallel Time, never to return. Meanwhile, Desmond and Letitia are reunited, and he oversees the destruction of the staircase after Barnabas, Julia, and Stokes return to a restored 1971. Barnabas is shaken, but proceeds with his friends and Liz to see Roger speak at the opening of the other Collinsport Historical Society.

I have watched this episode far more than is healthy. It is theatre as opposed to cinema. It is about consequences more than action, although Barnabas does what he can. As Barnabas chases Trask, and they have exactly the awkward and inept fight that you would expect from two guys who have no idea how to spar, the mortician finds himself in the Parallel Time room in an awful irony. (I kind of wonder how the show would have fared had he survived and tried to blend in.) When that happens, I wonder how Barnabas feels about Collinwood. He says that, without knowing it, he committed the perfect crime, but did he or did the house? It is the closest we come to the house being a character and exacting vengeance for one of its own. We rarely think of Collinwood as a character, but Collinwood shows more free will than any of its inhabitants. Do the Collinses find time portals, doors to mirror dimensions, and the crypts of ghosts on their own or does the house reveal them when its residents need them? With this episode, I think we can argue the latter, and that understanding reorders everything we’ve seen. Of course, it pingpongs Vicki and Peter back and forth to 1795 and 1796 from 1968. Of course, it unfurls Quentin and Gerard to David and the family even though they’ve snooped endlessly through the house and never found them before. What, don’t you think that Roger and Elizabeth’s dad ever wondered why his uncle’s room vanished? And what about the way it toys with the playroom’s blueprint baffling presence? What about the way in which it turns a Parallel Time room into a Vertical Time room to take Barnabas and Julia into a future it wants averted? Or how it gets Julia out of harm’s way on a staircase through the centuries when she needs it most?

It’s both completely random and completely intentional, and in this one moment, it has more than an investment in the survival of its denizens. It cares for the very recently cleansed conscience of its favorite and estranged son, Barnabas Collins — for whom the house was built, and who never lived there except to save it. Turnabout, etc, etc.

It’s easy to talk about the tearjerking nature of the episode and of Jonathan Frid’s masterful performance as he, Lara Parker, Joan Bennett, Thayer David, and Grayson Hall say goodbye to their most beloved characters forever. Just as touching is when we see the future of the Collins family, not just in Tad but in Desmond, and by Desmond, I mean Willie. Because they’re all the same characters, metaphorically, just in the drag of different centuries. To see Willie and Barnabas as brothers, and to see Willie finally clean himself up and win “Carolyn,” with the approval of “Liz” is a beautiful balance to the loss that Barnabas is suffering.

The most strangely poignant moment is only seen as such when you ask why it’s happening at all. When the subject of Angelique’s funeral comes up, Stokes insists they leave before it takes place. His lame excuse is that the time portal may not wait if they stay any longer.

How emotionally tone deaf. How sad for Barnabas.

My theory? He knows that if Barnabas sees that ritual, he’ll never come back… either to 1971 or be the man he was the moment before Trask fired the weapon. And Barnabas needs to return if he is to ever traverse the time stream and rescue Angelique.

It’s the last and most important DARK SHADOWS story, and the one that has never been told. 

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