Monday, May 7, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 7


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 491

Barnabas and Julia think the experiment is a failure, but just as she leaves to consult Lang’s notes, Adam comes to life. He and Barnabas bond as the creature indicates speaking and shows basic motor skills. As a reward, Julia stabs him with a tranquilizer. As they speak with Liz, Adam awakens and wrecks the lab after slicing his hand on a scalpel. Barnabas nervously encounters the sunrise and survives, but must help Julia contain the hysterical lug.

After weeks of waiting, he’s alive. Alive! It isn’t often that soap writers get to introduce a character from the basement floor-up, but Adam provided that chance. I’m not sure how much was planned, how much was an accident, or both, but Adam’s interactions in this episode with Barnabas and Julia will inform those relationships for months to come. The dynamic with Julia is wholly understandable; her voice is as sharp as the needle she brandishes. Adam’s reaction is predictably negative. His relationship with Barnabas is more complicated. It’s a wariness that always floats toward total mistrust -- guilt by association with the woman who stabbed him, no doubt. However, there’s that pause before he commits, indicating that he may be misreading the situation. That little glimmer of human ambiguity is where the actor lives, and Rodan handles it with great sensitivity.

The addition of a Frankenstein’s monster was inevitable. “Dracula and Frankenstein” go together so frequently, they might as well be one word. The inclusion of Adam was so much a part of the ritual that they even gave him the Frankensuit costume. The problem is that the character isn’t really that scary. He’s a passive villain for much of his tenure, dangerous in how he might react more than plan. Once he starts planning, he’s still a dupe to Nicholas. Audiences expecting another Barnabas or Angelique will be confused; I’m still uncertain how you make a big, childlike thug actually frightening. Intriguing? We’ll see.

491 is also Exhibit A on the sadism of the soap format. The idea that “nothing really happens on soaps” misses the obvious; proponents of that are blinded by the fact that things are ALWAYS happening on soaps. So much so that characters never get a show or two to rest their feet. That it ends with Barnabas and Julia desperately trying to contain a superpowered madman? No surprise. It’s hard to remember, amidst the action, that just seconds before, Barnabas was taking in the sun for the first time as a fully cured human. However, he’s a fully cured human in a relentless universe determined to make him earn his keep.

This episode hit the airwaves May 13, 1968.

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