Monday, October 8, 2018

Review: Dark Shadows: Bloodlust- Episode 2


Warning! Spoilers Ahead!

“Where is she taking us?” “To the bottom of Widow’s Hill.” “The fact that you can’t hear how threatening that sounds tells me a lot about this town…”

Welcome back to our coverage of Dark Shadows: Bloodlust, creeps. Poor Melody Devereaux is yet another innocent lost on the streets of Collinsport, but Sheriff Rhonda Tate is on the case as writers Will Howells, Alan Flanagan, and Joseph Lidster double down on their stocked cast with even MORE wonderful actors, mingling them well with the already established cast. Because you see, Amy Jennings has come back to Collinsport, but she isn’t alone. And it just gets better from there, y’all. Let’s get into it.

Click HERE to get the episode.
Though the murder of Melody has shaken the town, life moves forward and that is precisely what Amy Jennings, now Cunningham, wants to do. With her new husband Andrew (played with a snooty glee by Adric himself Matthew Waterhouse), his son from a previous marriage Harry (Scott Haran, making a moody teen somehow not grating), and toddler in tow, Amy is looking for a fresh start in Collinsport. We should all take bets on how that turns out. BUT, my snark aside, Stephanie Ellyne’s Amy is a wonderful new addition to the cast and continues the series’ commitment to giving characters a new EU like life in the Big Finishverse (is that a thing? It should be a thing.). 

Better still, this episode also does a fantastic job of folding the new additions into our established company. This episode is essentially trisected into three narratives, given vibrant sonic life by directors Ursula Burton and David Darlington (whose new theme tune I just love to bloody pieces), all branching out from the opening scene of Amy and her family coming across the crime scene of Melody’s murder. From there the writers get everyone interacting and then fan out from there, Amy having catching up with Kate and Maggie Evans (who thankfully gets a ton more spotlight this episode), all of the teenage characters engaging in some fun and creepy hijinks down Widow’s Hill, and Andrew quite literally mixing it up down at the Blue Whale. With none other than Isiah Trask!

One thing that has really struck me as I start to dig into these audio adventures; their economy in storytelling. Meaning that they really know now to make great use of the limited runtime of each episode. I might be thinking too much into it, but if I was to look at this episode’s story on a macro level, it wouldn’t look like much. Really it's just another introduction to another section of the cast and they all just meet the previous people introduced…minus, ya know the dead ones like Victor. BUT the production and performances of the episode really make it immensely listenable and engaging.

I have a couple of theories as to why these stories work so well. One is that the creative team really knows how to use its cast and returning characters in a smart way. Nobody has been stagnant since their last television appearance or in canon audio feature. Maggie has started what Kate calls “a vigilante group” for Dagon’s sake! Amy got married to Adric! Isiah Trask is a rummy! It is seriously all so fun and starts off this serial in a really interesting way that isn’t just rehashing certain other plots or directions. Another is the gravitas the cast brings to the proceedings. It would be one thing to tackle this big of a story with a whole new group of actors. But it quite another to bring the likes of Jerry Lacy and Kathryn Leigh Scott into the fold. It adds an air of legitimacy to the proceedings. My final one, for now, is just that these are damn good stories, well told, with a bunch of characters I legitimately love hanging out with now. Collinsport has its own Riverdale Gang now with Henry, Jackie, and the supremely adorable Cody, I mean Eagle, are hanging out and pestering a ghost that sounds an AWFUL lot like the one who Victor Frost heard before he bit it. How could I resist, honestly?

My boorish Millennial ravings aside, episode two of Bloodlust  really capitalizes on the promise of the debut episode by introducing a whole new gaggle of characters, bouncing them off of everyone else established and dishing out some more juicy details about the latest creepiness to whammy the creepiest town in New England. Again! That bloody wonderful story economy! While each plot branches out, they all start to flower really beautifully on their own heading into the episode’s cliffhanger. A couple of big things come from these story flowers, if I am committing to this metaphor.

First off is the revelation that Amy and the grieving Michael Devereaux know each other! This is the beat that sends the episode off so clearly the creative team are letting us know it is important. It comes at the end of a really dishy drunken gossip session between the powerful coven of Amy, Maggie, and Kate which really allows the older women of the cast shine and flesh out their characters (Amy is decidedly anti-monster and it's a fun bit of character work). But for my money, the most interesting ones are the ones happening with the Tate ladies and creepy ass cave at the base of Widow’s Hill. Recruiting the newly moved in Henry to an exploration, Jackie (a increasingly charming Alexandra Donnachie) and Walles Hamonde’s Cody- who I THINK may be the first in canon gay man in Dark Shadows? I will have to check that with the head office - take him to the beach where Cody swears he has heard whispering. The very same whispering we heard back in Snowflake.

But that isn’t all! Melody’s autopsy has come back. And she has been completely drained of blood! Who doesn’t love and Ghost/Vampire double feature! This reveal is interwoven with Andrew’s story climax which is his fight with Trask, who says something ultra creepy about a “Mistress”. HMMMMMMM. Kind of small potatoes when it comes to the episode’s other turns, but I still had fun with it. And I can’t lie and tell you all that I didn’t get excited once the episode confirmed my suspicions about Trask lurking around this story. I am only human, of flesh and blood I’m made like the Human League said.

In closing, another fantastic episode of Bloodlust, one that brings back all the supernatural charm and high dramatics of the property in an economically constructed, fun, and, best of all, accessible package. It is still early days in this story, but episode two really builds on the solid foundation of the debut episode and prequel, setting the stage for major turns and all sorts of other twists in the wings.

NEXT TIME! Episode 3! Who drained Melody? What are the whispers in the cave? And perhaps the most pressing question of all, when the fresh hell does Alec “Bae of the Bene Gesserit” Newman show up?! 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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