Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Review: Dark Shadows: Bloodlust- Episode 3


The SPOILERS are coming from inside the house!

“I am the Witch Angelique Bouchard! I will string pieces of his SOUL across the UNIVERSE!”

Lara Parker and her legendary counterpart make a thunderous debut in episode three of Dark Shadows: Bloodlust. While the impact of the murder of Melody Devereux has started to creep through the town like a Twin Peaks-ian story fog, this episode really takes a hard right turn into the supernatural, amplifying the already pulpy elements of the story’s opening.

Click HERE to get the episode.
But that’s not all the production team gifts us this episode! We are also treated to the proper introduction of David Collins, played with a sly gusto by Alec Newman, star of the criminally underrated SyFy (back when it was proper Sci-Fi Channel) Dune miniseries and Big Finish’s Star Trek: Prometheus. Oh, and like...nine billion other Dark Shadows stories. If you’ll indulge me a bit of geeking out, Newman seriously knocked my socks off as Paul back in high school when I saw that miniseries and was ob-bloody-sessed with the "Dune" books. So it is extra cool as a newcomer to these ranges and seeing that he has basically found a whole second career, all thanks to this weird vampire show. Fandom rules. My thirsty woolgathering aside, Bloodlust Episode 3 is a real treat and gives the serial its first “can’t miss” episode.

A new day has dawned in Collinsport, but still the uneasiness remains. While writers Joseph Lidster, Will Howells, and Alan Flanagan are still introducing new characters into the story, they never lose sight of their core cast. For the Cunninghams, today is the first day of the rest of their lives, but little do we know just how much of the supernatural has crept into their reality. But the script quickly goes there as otherworldly forces start to juice up this story of already unnatural murder and everybody, in one way or another, is tangled up in it. It was only a matter of time, I suppose. Forget it, Jake, it’s Collinsport and it really gives this serial a grand charge in energy.

For Amy it is the paranoia and loss that life on the dark side brought her back at Salem U. That paranoia compels her to basically stalk a grieving Michael Devereux, who finally gets a proper showing of his range as a character thanks to Jeff Harding’s harried, but relatable performance. I am really glad the story doesn’t waste much time on revealing his and Amy’s relationship, introduced by last episode’s cliffhanger. I somewhat expected for them to pick up directly after that reveal this episode (because that’s what the show would have done), but giving the story a day in narrative to breathe and for the characters to meet on a somewhat more even playing field, though Amy kinda taunts Mike for a bit which gets some great stuff out of Stephanie Ellyne, gives their interactions a lot more weight.

But while this story continues to represent the show’s more soapier elements, it also doubles down hard on the eldritch elements of Collinsport lore thanks to the heap of shit Andrew and Harry Cunningham find themselves stepping in. You see while Mike is still maintaining that his and Melody’s honeymoon to Collinsport was by mere chance, the episode reveals that Andrew’s dragging his family here wasn’t and he seeks the power that can sometimes be found in the town. Matthew Waterhouse’s performance of Andrew is really bullish and, what the kids would call “extra”, but it works for the character, especially after the arrogant move he goes and pulls this episode.

Which is invoking the booming, deliciously evil presence of Angelique Bouchard (a commanding return from Lara Parker). This episode really goes for the gusto when it comes to spooky stuff and Angelique is hell’s own avatar for that. Though we still don’t know how Andrew knows about Angelique, the two inevitable start talking deals, which totally won’t get someone horrifically killed. Parker’s return is played like the big moment it is just on the surface level, but better still the script and the oppressively creepy stagey directions from directors David Darlington and Ursula Burton really elevate the scene to a real high point for Bloodlust thus far, both in regards to the plot and as a “Dark Shadows water cooler moment”.

Presumably, Andrew learned of Collinsport’s Head Witch in Charge from Amy’s studies in Salem, but with the way he’s been presented, I feel like it might be a bit more nefarious than that. Approaching her in her cave at the bottom of Widow’s Hill, where her minion Trask keeps watch, Andrew instantly asks for money, which doesn’t get me thinking he is altogether altruistic. The story also presents a super neat and creepy idea that while she is trapped in the cave, she is drawing power from the dozens of women who have met their end at the base of the Hill, which, if you don’t think that’s the dopest shit ever, I don’t know what to tell you.

Lara Parker is clearly relishing going full bore evil with Angelique and it is a joy to listen to. However this episode also starts to plant the seed for a face turn in her chance encounter with young Harry Cunningham. While the adults are busy adulting, Harry and his new friends, Jackie and Eagle (aka Cody), decide to take a little jaunt through the woods. The trio spy Henry’s da coming from the Collins Mine and then Henry takes to trying to track his father down as he goes about his witchy business. This leads to some real growth for Harry’s characterization as well as a chance for Scott Haran’s befuddled, but sincere performance of the teen to really shine. He basically becomes Collinsport’s Peter Parker after he and the Star’s Kate Ripperton get to talking and he shows her his pictures. He ALSO might end up being Angelique’s connection back to humanity after the pair have a chance meeting in her Cave of Whispers and the boy shows her a kindness. I am really loving all the new Collinsport Teens, to be frank. They are all really charming and fun and it is nice to see one of them get such active involvement in the plot against one of the show’s heaviest hitting characters.

I have already talked for SO LONG, GUYS, but I still feel like I have barely scratched the surface of this episode! I haven’t even mentioned the classic alibi shuffle Ed, Kate, and Frankie play once Sheriff Tate comes sniffing around the Blue Whale. Which is further complicated by Ed constantly talking to his dead wife, who is getting more and more bold with her manifestations. Also, David Collins! He’s got a plan for Collinsport and he bringing jobs with him, but what is really going on in that mine? Also how does Alec Newman SOUND handsome? It’s confounding, BUT intriguing. ANNNDDDDD, Melody’s full autopsy came back and she not only has puncture wounds on her neck! But also has older, smaller ones on her ARMS! Kate has a potential pill problem! GAAH! I am still marveling at how these episodes can jam pack so much story and mood into a single listen and I don’t think I will ever grow bored of it. Take a listen for yourself and you will see what I mean.

NEXT TIME! Episode 4! Witchy deals have been struck, now we just have to see who pays once the bill comes due. And fingers crossed for some vampires next go. 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 justin@betweenthepanels.com Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.

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