Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 15


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 239

Maggie, now in Josette’s wedding dress, joins Barnabas for dinner in an hypnotic haze. This is interrupted by a visiting Sam and Joe, who are sent away with Sam’s paints. Maggie, breaking free of her programming in her upstairs room, tries to escape, and Barnabas threatens her to stay.

Sometimes, DARK SHADOWS’ reputation for romance can be hard to understand if all you catch is a random episode. It shows us that a lot of people on it are in love, but only certain images and lines can make us feel why. But when it makes us feel why, few shows do it better, and few if any episodes do it better than 239.

At the heart of the ‘why’ is that word, “Gothic.” No other sensibility appeals to life in quite the same way because it openly acknowledges, confronts, and coexists with death. It refutes death by insisting that life will thrive despite it; the quintessence of romance is to want and strive and hope against all reason. As Barnabas Collins watches Maggie descend the stairs in Josette’s dress, glide through the decaying remnants of the House that was not always Old, and sit for a dinner that has been almost two centuries in the making, there is nothing rational to any of it. It is, however, necessary for this man, and as uneasy as the circumstances are, the beauty and authenticity of his motives cannot be denied. In the hands of another actor, Barnabas would have seemed lustful and selfish. Jonathan Frid’s sad gentility makes it clear that this is unrelated to the carnal. This is about Josette, and releasing her from her reincarnated prison known as Maggie Evans. It’s a strange and desperate gamble to win after what seems to be the ultimate loss.

We were supposed to see this from Maggie’s perspective, also, and sickening as her Stockholm syndrome is, it’s just as disheartening to feel that it’s always on the verge of failure. Go one way or the other, but let’s have some resolution. But romance in art is about suspense more than fulfillment, and the knitting of suspense to desire is what DARK SHADOWS is all about. At the end of the episode, as Maggie’s personality threatens to eclipse what Barnabas has tried to instill, she panics. Barnabas lunges for her, and the image fades to the credits. Is he going to attack her or is he going to beg? It’s unclear, and if it were not, I don’t think the show would have been a success. If there’s a mystery to DARK SHADOWS, it’s there.

On this day in 1967, the US Supreme Court recognized that juveniles accused of adult crimes have adult rights, as well.

This episode hit the airwaves May 25, 1967.

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