Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 29


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 250

The hypnosis on Maggie begins to wear off, and she plans her escape as Barnabas plans the wedding. Seeing the coffin he has had made for her, Maggie decides to kill Barnabas, but she is thwarted.

Jonathan Frid knew exactly what he was doing. I’m convinced of that. Maybe… just maybe… the appeal he saw in the character was a surprise. In the first four or five episodes. But by now, the character has been around for nearly a month and a half. Huge superstar. And despite his nervousness about lines and his reticence about being a sex symbol, it's kind of nice to have a modicum of success at what you have been trying to do for 20 years. Frid, himself, would say that he was not exactly living the life of a renowned Shakespearean actor.  So, when you look at an episode like this, it's very clear to see where he could have simply twirled his mustache and leered at Maggie maniacally. There are faint glimmers of that. Enough to please the more shallow members of the audience. But, if you exclude just a few line readings toward the end of scenes and focus on how he interacts with Maggie?  Barnabas shows a real optimism regarding his goals, finally achieving some kind of happiness. You're looking at a romantic lead in a romantic program. If there's anything that makes him unusual, it's the fact that this is a man who is pining away so sentimentally on the smallest details of a wedding. And yet, he doesn't lose his masculinity while doing so. This is endearing to watch and I think is a key, if not the key, to why Barnabas is such an attractive character for (not just) female viewers. I think that the actor knew that these choices were innately human. And they create reasons to be kept around. Certainly, in an episode that ends with your fiance attacking you while you sleep, brandishing a spike, you have an indication that the writers may very well be willing to “go there,” in terms of character reduction.

The elephant in the mausoleum comes down to whether or not Barnabas sees this as a kidnapping or a rescue mission. I think it's written as a kidnapping. I certainly know that Maggie feels that way about it. However, I believe that Barnabas casts himself as a deprogrammer. Somehow, this really is Josette. She really has been ripped into the 20th century, as has he. Unlike Barnabas, however, she's been stuffed into a new body and mentally conditioned to think of herself as someone else.  When looked upon this way, the episode changes tenor. I may not be the first to admit that a coffin is a vaguely morbid wedding present, but I will concede the fact eventually. However, I believe that Josette was open to becoming a vampire before; it was just Angelique's morbid sneak preview that dissuaded her. With that distraction gone, this seems to be an ideal time to try it again. And it just follows. If you're going to marry Barnabas, you're probably going to have to become a vampire, and if you're going to become a vampire, you're going to need a place to sleep. We were in that uncomfortable age between the Petries and the Bradys when it came to sitcom couples sleeping. It's not like she can climb into his coffin. So, yes, his and her eternal rest. It's a proper way to kick off a marriage.

250 is easily one of the most painful and beautiful episodes in the series if you tweak your expectations only about two degrees. It's about a lonely man, abused relentlessly over the one thing that so many other people take for granted: love. And he has one chance -- one, impossible chance -- after an endless journey that began with the death of his fiance and the suicide of his mother and ended in an age completely foreign to his own. To experience all of that, to keep an amazing monster of self in check, and then to find the love of your past life waiting for you at journey’s end? Given that, I think Barnabas shows the reserve of a saint. When people talk about his courtliness and restraint, this is what they mean. We don’t understand bloodlust, but we can understand the ultimate fantasy of winning back our Josettes, wherever they are.

Would you be as patient?

This episode hit the airwaves June 9, 1967.

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