Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 14


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 196

Jason McGuire reintroduces himself to Liz by requesting favors and a room, reminding her about Paul and explaining that he’s her most important guest. Carolyn is thrilled, Roger is concerned, and Victoria promises Liz that she will never reveal what she saw the night before.

It’s Dennis Patrick’s birthday, and it’s wholly appropriate that it should also be the episode in which Jason McGuire and Liz Stoddard are reunited, allowing her to have her “Burke Devlin,” and allowing Patrick to charm the daylights out of the cast, characters, and audience. The Zen of DARK SHADOWS rests in the Koan of Jason McGuire: how can the show’s most lovable character be it’s one of its nastiest villains? One of my first memories of the show was the dirty secret that I tuned in for Barnabas, but I stayed for Jason; he was the real villain. Barnabas was just making the best of a bad situation.

Jason parallels both Burke and Barnabas in nefarious ways, making him an ideal reflector character. Like Burke, he was wrapped up with a predicament where one of Jamison’s kids was wrapped up with murder. Burke took the rap for a crime committed by Roger. Jason helped Liz dodge the rap for a murder she only thinks she committed. No wonder Liz went so easy on a guilty Roger. Similarly, both Jason and Barnabas deal with reluctant brides. Barnabas moves the world to win back the woman he sincerely loves. Jason just uses old-fashioned blackmail. But both are engaged with dark engagements at the same time.

In this episode, Jason tests the waters with Liz, gently advancing in his campaign of Gaelic guile. In the era of #MeToo uber Alles, we’re all too aware of the power of grooming, gaslighting, and social compliance. Everywhere from the film, COMPLIANCE, to the recent Derren Brown special, THE PUSH, the dark force of gently escalating mind control is on parade. In this sense, DARK SHADOWS was so far ahead of its time, it makes me wonder if Ron Sproat worked for Ewan Cameron and MKUltra. Watch Jason’s technique in this one. By gently reminding Liz of Paul Stoddard while making small, vaguely inconspicuous requests of a person of wealth -- some new clothes, a room with a view out of so many empty bedchambers -- he makes more and more extravagant demands seem imminently rational. And he’s in for far more than a penny.

On this day in 1967, President John F. Kennedy’s body was permanently moved to Arlington National Cemetery. 

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