Friday, October 26, 2018

Review: Dark Shadows: Bloodlust, Episode 10


1...2...SPOILERS AHEAD are comin’ for you. 3...4...better shut the door.

A Quick Mea Culpa Before We Start: So, last column I very dumbly misspelled Asta Parry’s name. Which is even more embarrassing as I was heaping praise onto her for about three paragraphs. So, my apologies to her and to you all.

“I was hungry…”

In so few words? Holy shit. Episode 10 of Bloodlust really aims for the throat. Literally. It has taken a while to get to this point in the narrative, but writers Joseph Lidster, Alan Flanagan, and Will Howells really go for the gusto in the series’ first double-digit episode. They and directors Ursula Burton and David Darlington deliver nothing but action this time around, sending certain characters spiraling toward doom and placing others in wildly precarious situations, ratcheting up the tension to an unbearable degree. I know I have been a bit hyperbolic in these reviews, but Episode 10 had me yelping in fear and delight throughout. And, yes, I mean yelping because that is the only accurate way I can describe the noises I was making.

Click HERE to get the episode.
So, okay. So much happens in this episode it is kind of hard to know where to start. Let’s start at the most interesting aspects, shall we? Aspects that concern my beloved Kate Ripperton. When we last saw her, she was on the receiving end of Barnabas’ fangs and her fate was unclear. But, thankfully, Episode 10 gives up that ghost early by opening the episode with Kate narrating. We then get a quick look at her trying to recover from her “hangover” which, of course, isn’t a hangover at all. Barnabas turned her and now she hungers for the sweet taste of blood!

This episode kind of takes it’s time really getting to this reveal, but whooooo, boy, once it finally comes out with it, it is a real bloodbath and adds another roving murder machine to the already panicked Collinsport. More on that in a bit. But before that, Burton and Darlington do a fantastic job telegraphing the reveal somewhat with eerie sound design based around the steady sound of a heartbeat. A sound that has established itself as an entertaining recurring motif throughout the serial. 

I have somewhat avoided discussing the pair’s directing at length in these reviews. Mainly because I don’t know the first thing about sound design. I was a theatre major and you all know what we are like. BUT Episode 10 is a wonderful showcase of the pair’s direction and design from the jump, even to a layman like me. There are several sequences, like the episode’s opening dream sequence centered around Tommy and the extra creepy reveal of just what kind of magick is happening in the walls of Collinwood, that really shine thanks to their effects and transitions.

But, back to the vampirism. All throughout this episode, the script keeps giving us minor check ins with Kate, who sleeps through most of the day and then awakes with a starling hunger. She then heads down to the Blue Whale in order to grab a meal and then try to talk with Frankie. And she grabs a meal alright. Two in fact, as she openly attacks Deputy Hanley AND Frankie, killing them both in full view of the patrons. Asta Parry really impresses again here in this episode. While before she was all snark and unexpected vulnerability, here she goes fully feral, showing only touches of her former humanity as Frankie tries to reason with her. It is a rollercoaster ride of a scene but Parry really sells the terror and confusion along with her newfound bloodlust (I said the thing!). RIP Frankie and Deputy Hanley. Y’all were...certainly characters.

The episodes other major set piece is a taut investigation in and around that great house up on the hill. Having gone through his first transformation, Tommy comes clean to his mother which prompts Quentin to finally spill his heritage beans to Amy. The trio then hook up with Angelique, who tells them of her discovery of Carolyn’s casting up in Collinwood. So, naturally they all want to go poke the mystery with a stick and see what happens. You can already assume that it doesn’t go great, but this grouping is really fun to listen to, thanks to David Selby’s impassioned performance and Stephanie Ellyne’s reluctant, but curious new emotional state. It also doesn’t hurt that Alec Newman’s David gets some more facetime in the story, reconnecting with Amy and providing a nice slice of backstory for us newbies to the Big Finishverse. His turn toward villany isn’t exactly shocking, but the way the episode’s script and Newman’s performance lulls listeners into a false sense of security, only to drop the magickal hammer on us is really, really fun.

The episode is rounded out with some movement on Maggie’s plot, but it is still kinda awful, just on an optics level. She goes forward this episode with her plan to blood test the town’s residents, which, of course, is a whole bowl of yikes. It only gets worse still when the script reveals that they already have people in custody for “anomalies”, one of which is merely a child. Though I expected a certain level of monster action in this story, I did not expect the uncomfortably timely and heart wrenching turn this plot took. Maggie Evans, the closest thing Collinsport has to a saint, is now a child detaining fascist and it kind of rules? I never in a million strange aeons would have thought that MAGGIE EVANS would be a villain, but Bloodlust Episode 10 really makes her a damn good one, even in the face of actual monsters committing murder and the town on the edge of destruction (which is one of my favorite Classic Doctor Who episodes).

Like I said, holy shit, right? And we still have three more of these bastards to go! My heart might not survive it.  But at the very least I will die having been thoroughly impressed and entertained by Episode 10 and the bloody, witchy, and goth as all hell climaxes this installment delivered. We are in the endgame now, fellow ghouls, and for the first time since I started these, I am genuinely nervous for our cast and the fracturing town. I cannot wait to see how this thing turns out.

NEXT TIME! Episode 11! It probably won’t have Matt Smith in it, but it will have some werewolves, a deliciously evil Alec Newman, and an alive(ish) Kate Ripperton. I am but a simple man with simple, monstrous tastes. Be seeing you.

Justin Partridge has always loved monsters and he thinks that explains a lot about him. When he isn’t over analyzing comics at Newsarama or ranting about Tom Clancy over at Rogues Portal, he is building Call of Cthulhu games, spreading the good word of Anti-Life, or rewatching Garth Marenghi's Darkplace for the dozenth time. He can be reached at the gasping Lovecraftian void that is Twitter @j_partridgeIII or via e-mail at Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.  

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