Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 22


Taped on this date in 1971: Episode 1243

Bramwell explores the haunted room and discovers the bodies of James Forsythe and Amanda Collins. Julia explains that if he touches them, he’ll be possessed. Meanwhile, Morgan tells Catherine that he knows she’s carrying Bramwell’s child. She persuades him to let Bramwell out, but instead, he locks her in the haunted room with her lover.

Entering the last three episodes, reflection is inevitable. Although, yes, it was “just the ending” to “just a soap opera,” it’s also neither. It’s the first of Gordon Russell’s last two scripts, and so a fine writer with hundreds of pages of investment is going to have something to say in and about this sprawling adventure of monsters and metaphors.

The episode is rich with parallels. Bramwell is trapped in the forbidden room with the ageless corpses of Andrew Forsythe and Amanda Collins. The latter was the wife of Brutus Collins, the ghost who rules the haunted chamber. She cheated on him with Forsythe, thus explaining the specter’s grumpy mood. The episode ends when Morgan, cuckolded by Catherine, tricks his wife into trapping herself in the room with her lover (and his brother), Bramwell. Two jealous and obsessive men -- Brutus and Morgan -- trapping two sets of lovers in a toxic room.

Although DARK SHADOWS’ main story literally ends at the end of the 1840 story, 1841PT can’t be ignored... if you choose to enjoy the show as one, complete story. What function does the last chapter serve? 1841PT comments on the series and story in a number of ways, testing and rewarding the archetypes that have inhabited the series from the beginning. 1243 echoes back to 1795 with a strong ethos. The vampire and witch elements are so entertainingly lurid that the emotional pain of infidelity and the accompanying messages are eclipsed. If we make one stretch, it’s easy to consider 1795 to be the (out of sequence) “beginning” of the story, if not the series. At its heart is the pain of the romantic betrayal inflicted on Angelique. A jealous overreaction. Nearly two centuries of ensuing misery. And then a discovery at the end that Angelique and Barnabas were actually the lasting couple in defiance of convention and expectation. Barnabas was supposed to marry the proper Josette rather than the low born Angelique. This is just as Catherine married the highfalutin Morgan rather than the rough hewn Bramwell. In both cases, with a brutal ardor, romance persists despite socially sanctioned pairings. To an audience of housewives, this was an attractive and subversive message. Be the Angelique. Pursue the Bramwell. At the very least, it’s wish fulfillment. In both cases, as well, they are trapped in a haunted place that is only conquered by their brave fidelity. For Barnabas and Angelique, it is all of 1840. In 1841PT, it’s narrowed down to a single room, bafflingly older than Collinwood, itself. Barnabas wasn’t prepared for the aftershock of Lamar Trask. His son, however, was, and Morgan crafted his own end.

Well, two more chapters from now.

On this day in 1971, Merle Haggard was a big winner at the Academy of Country Music awards, beating out fellow PBS luminaries, Alistair Cooke and Louis Rukeyser

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