Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 6


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 447

Joshua learns that Barnabas is a vampire created by Angelique. He vows to rescue Victoria and hide his son until a cure can be found. Meanwhile, Millicent transfers the fortune to Daniel, and Naomi knows that Joshua has a secret life in the tower room.

It’s easy to get used to Barnabas as an easily flummoxed hero because he spends so much of the series overwhelmed, frustrated, and asking Julia, “What are we going to do?” This is as inaccurate as seeing him only as the Collinsport Strangler. In this episode, we witness his proud savagery on full parade. Joshua foolishly orders him not to kill, and Barnabas resolutely reveals that this is a useless request. The blunt, uncompromised ferociousness of Barnabas’ thirst is surprising, and it demands more of Joshua than we’ve seen. A man used to getting his way, firm of vision, Joshua quickly revises his stance and shows enormous adaptability. It feels as if the entire 1795 sequence has been a slow-burning setup to see him quickly and dedicatedly grow into modernism in the space of a few seconds. Seeing your son survive your gunshot and bellow, “I am a vampire!” can have that effect. We’re not used to seeing adults grow up, but Joshua discovers and dives into moral particularism like a pro.

As feral as Barnabas is, there is another villain whose shadow looms over this episode and sequence. If Barnabas is the most inhuman heavy in 1795, Nathan Forbes is the most human… and (in the hands of the masterful Joel Crothers) maybe one of the most interesting and well-rounded. Technically, he’s not in this episode, but the news of his engagement to Millicent makes up the B-story, spurs her to secure the family fortune, and allows us to see him through Daniel’s eyes, and Daniel has no complaints about the overgrown kid-lieutenant. Growing up (occasionally) in that house, would you? For all of his opportunism, Forbes has moments of compassion, charm, and conscience. In other circumstances, he’s Harry Flashman. The man is never a hero. Never trustworthy. But we see the clockwork of his impulse management control clicking away, and it’s understandable in a sad and uniquely engaging way.

It’s the birthday of the Caretaker! Daniel F. Keyes was born on this day in 1914.

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