Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 1


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 465

Barnabas fears that Vicki will reveal him, and orders her to elope with him and flee Collinwood. Before she leaves, Vicki has a dream where she is in 1795, unable to convince Nathan Forbes to recant and unable to prove that she, not Peter, killed Noah Gifford. After seeing Peter die in the gallows, she awakens. When Barnabas comes to collect her, she insists on proving that the mausoleum has a secret room. She hid there in the 1790’s, and if there really is one, it will demonstrate that she actually traveled through time. On the drive with Barnabas, Vicki crashes to avoid a man who stepped into the road. The man is the modern day doppelganger for Peter Bradford.

DARK SHADOWS at its darkest and most riveting doesn’t necessarily mean kidnappings and curses. 465 centers on guilt, self-doubt, paranoia, and compulsions. Barnabas is doing something he desperately wants -- taking Vicki to marry him -- and he’s doing it for the worst reason: to silence someone who knows just enough of the truth to either ruin him or force him to kill her. Vicki’s knowledge is sufficient to drive her to find and prove the truth, but stops at WHY the truth unfolded as it did. When she’s driving Barnabas to the mausoleum, talking about the kindness of Ben Stokes and the pride she takes in his later happiness, Barnabas seems to be straining to agree and reminisce. She’s experienced so much of the fantastic, what does one more element matter? You know, “By the way, I was the vampire back then, but it’s not like you think. We both got the royal screw from Angelique and lost people we actually loved in the process. Let’s have a good cry, okay?”

Seeing Vicki this focused and this disinterested in the approval of others is a startling glimpse into the character she might have been, and it’s a shame that she enters her final act on the show with a strength we’ve been longing for in our protagonist. Like so many people trapped in small worlds, just when she gains the moxie to be interesting, it’s clear that she’s only going to use it to go away. Swell. We get to hear her not understand things for two years. Now that she does, Vicki becomes a short timer.

But she has to run over Peter Bradford, first. It’s a morbidly fatalistic ending for an episode dominated by a nightmare more disturbing than anything the dream curse could throw at us. A lover she can never save hangs as a result, his legs kicking impotently in the air until they stop. Nathan Forbes turning his back on his own conscience to gloat at her that, “Death is the best of all possible worlds!”

This is metaphysical helplessness, chased by an undefeatable monster of our own creation… and created for a damned good reason. Of course, it’s a reason we can’t prove and a creation that cannot be undone. This is deep and deeply troubling writing that takes two years of brewing to turn into the deep water dream Vicki inflicts on herself.

The slash-and-burn destruction of Barnabas and then herself is the only possible response to uncovering the untruths that tortured her sleep. The only thing that could reverse something like that is an impossible love appearing centuries out of place to wave you down with new hope. Which is precisely what happens in the worst and happiest ending of any episode in all 1225.

This episode hit the airwaves April 5, 1968.

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