Friday, October 12, 2018

Review: Dark Shadows: Bloodlust, Episode 4


Click HERE to get the episode.
Abandon All Hope of Avoiding SPOILERS Ye Who Enter Here.

Welcome back, ghoulies! Reporting live from my cramped vestibule of an office here at the CHS, I bring you yet another report on Bloodlust, Big Finish’s first major ongoing serial with the property after numerous “expanded universe” one-off stories and anthologies. Today we are going to talk Episode 4, the story’s first table setting episode and arguably the first low point for the story (at least it was for me, as a listener). Now before you gather your pitchforks and make like Transylvanians (though DID a mob ever come for Dracula? I will have to look in the archives later), that is NOT to say that this episode is outright bad. It totally isn’t! The production staff still make great use of the moody atmosphere they have cultivated so far, they give the cast plenty to do at least laterally, and deliver a truly stunningly weird cliffhanger to send us into the next episode. But all that still doesn’t make this installment’s arrangement of elements and characters any less than just that; arrangements. Again, not bad per se, but just not to the dizzyingly entertaining heights that the previous installments have reached. Let’s talk about it.

Okay, so, yeah, I didn’t love Episode 4. But that doesn’t mean I am phoning this thing in! I don’t even really have a phone. Well, I do, but every time I try to dial out, I hear was can only be described as a “yawning void of white noise” so I mainly just send a lot of memos around here. BUT my Lovecraftian tech support issues aside, there is still a lot of good to be found in this episode.

Mainly Lara Goddamn Parker. This episode gives us another ill-fated meeting between Andrew Cunningham (Matthew Waterhouse, who is really dialing up the sleeze of his character) and the witch Angelique and Parker finds a whole new gear for the character. In the last episode she is bombastic and showy, telegraphing her presence and power through her booming vocal turn and eerie effects backing from directors David Darlington and Ursula Burton. But in this episode, the pair start to talk specifics of their “deal” and Parker really plays it intimately, lowering her voice to a menacing coo, still backed by the ambient noise of the ocean outside of her cave and the ever present whispers of the widows. It really works wonders for the scene and displays Parker’s fantastic range. While it was neat to hear her go “full witch” in the previous episode, I feel like Episode 4 gets some better, creepier things out of Angelique.

There is also the matter of The Collinsport Teens, a group of characters that I find myself increasingly loving. After brushing up against the supernatural side of Collinsport, young Harry has to find someone to confide in. Does he go to the cops? Of course not, because what can the cops do? Does he go to his parents? Piss up a rope with that because what teen wants to talk to their parents? NO, he goes to his friends! The plucky Jackie and the rakish Cody! They don’t really do too terribly much during this episode, save for hear him out and believe him (them being born and raised in God’s Own Spooky Country and all), but I really like this turn from the serial. It gives it a real jolt of youthful energy and really nails the generational make up of the property’s past casts, which gives it all the more “fandom cred”.

Other minor, but nicely deployed reveals are centered around Amy Cunningham and the regulars over at the Blue Whale. You see while Andrew is tom catting around town and meddling in stuff he shouldn’t, Amy is finally looking into his reasons for moving them to Collinsport and what she finds is that, in the immortal words of Phil Collins, it’s all been’a pack’a LIES. The script confirms a suspicion that I had last time, that Andrew has looked into Amy’s packed away magick materials and learned about the hidden face of Collinsport. But it ALSO reveals that he has basically lied the whole way there, uprooting his family in order to track down ill gotten fortune and power, using his “recommendation” to the Star as a cover. Classic soapy stuff and one that will hopefully lead to Andrew getting some kind of bloody comeuppance, either at the hands of Amy or Angelique. I vote keelhauling.

This episode also takes a much more Stephen King-ian turn back the Blue Whale between Frankie and Ed. Ed, who has been slowly cracking thanks to Sheriff Tate’s questioning and his interactions with his ghostly wife, finally decides to give up the ghost (I am so sorry) and tell someone about his returned wife. This thread doesn’t really go beyond that, but it is a really nice way to finally get Frankie in on the action of the narrative, aside from just him providing an alibi for everyone that discovered Melody’s body. It is also a nice bit of grounded creepiness for the serial, supporting all the witchy action happening back at the base of Widows’ Hill.

I think a lot of this episode is really hung up on trying to get certain characters to certain places in order to really start to move forward, but the rub is, they don’t REALLY follow through on it. That’s where my use of the phrase “table setting episode” comes from. I once read a book that said act breaks should be marked by the characters making a decision that they can’t come back from. By that metric, this episode gets the characters riiiiiight up until the moment they will decide to do something but then stops cold. I know that that is kind of the nature of serialized storytelling and it was only a matter of time before Bloodlust took a bit of a dip, but if this is their version of a dip in quality, then we are still in pretty good shape.

NEXT TIME! Episode 5! The youngest Cunningham is now big, thanks to Angelique, but what does that mean for the Cunninghams? Will Andrew gaslight Amy some more? And seriously, WHAT THE HELL IS IN THAT MINE?! All these answers and more (hopefully) next time.   

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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