Saturday, October 13, 2018

Review: Dark Shadows: Bloodlust, Episode 5


These are the SPOILERS. They are AHEAD. Drink full and descend.

“I forgot what normal was like a long time ago…”

Remember last column when I was moaning about how nothing happened during that episode and I kinda didn’t love it? Well, serve up the holiest of crows, fellow creeps, because holy smokes, does Episode 5 really come back with a vengeance. While everyone was poised juuuuust on the cusp of stories last time, THIS time writers Joseph Lidster, Alan Flanagan, and Will Howells fling every character off the narrative Widows’ Hill they have positioned them on, much to the show’s benefit and my immense enjoyment. Every plot thread hanging at this point is drawn taut, some are even broken, as the serial starts to kick into a higher gear and delves into the in canon pasts of some of our leading ladies. But enough of my preamble-ing, let’s get into it.

Click HERE to get the episode.
So fresh off the truly bugnuts crazy cliffhanger of Amy’s infant son Tommy, who has skirted around the fringes of this story because...ya know...he’s a baby, being dramatically aged up by Angelique, Episode 5 drops us right in the thick of the craziness. Amy Jennings, played with a brand new steel and resolve by Stephanie Ellyne, really takes center stage this episode and it is a delight to behold. After a long incoming confrontation with the philandering Andrew, who seems to have a PHD in gaslighting, she then takes it upon herself to clean up the mess he made down Widows’ Hill. By confronting the immensely powerful woman that wove this magick.

This scene between Lara Parker and Ellyne is the highest point of an episode that is pretty much all high points. The writers give both women a very clear position as Amy appeals to the immortal witch simply as a woman while Angelique is baiting the hook for Amy’s return to witchcraft, dangling the spell to turn Tommy back into a baby in front of her, but only explaining it should Amy agree to perform it herself. It is a classic Dark Shadows stalemate and the production staff and the actresses themselves really get the most they can out of it. Hearing Parker and Ellyne palaver just as women and, more than that, women who have undergone immense trauma and come out the other side is a really powerful turn for the serial. This also builds on the natural rapport with Maggie Evans that Amy has been forming. Kathryn Leigh Scott is still kind of a utility player in this saga as of now, but her warm, resolute energy is a real boon for the story and a testament to the power of Scott’s presence on the show that she basically just be nice to everyone and barely do anything and I still love her.

Hearing Andrew also get his just desserts is also particularly satisfying to hear. The writer’s use this fight to drop a bit of exposition about Amy’s origins before this story as well. As a newcomer to the Big Finishverse, I really appreciate the deft handling of this info dump. It never really drags the scene down, which is great because all the actors involved (Ellyne, Matthew Waterhouse, and Scott Haran) are really giving it their all. Better still, it gives listeners like me a nice slice of context that doesn’t clutter the flow and intensity of the scene. The writers even double down on this move in regards to Kate Ripperton. Speaking of which…

Kate really shines in this episode, which is great because I feared she was starting to move more toward the background of the story in previous episodes. While I have been enjoying her and Frankie (a charming, but kind of bland Roger Carvalho) basically being the romantic leads of the story, I was wondering when they would really get some time in the spotlight and Episode 5 more than delivered on my wish.

Lidster, Flanagan, and Howells give both characters a meaty section of the episode as Kate starts reveal her darker side to Frankie, basically revealing that she lives for all the murder and mayhem that has followed her since seeing her friend possessed on live television. That is why she moved back to Collinsport, not to get answers like she said, but to immerse herself in the darkness that is Collinsport. Asta Perry really kills it during this sequence, dropping Kate’s boozy, flirtatious walls to show a vulnerable hunger for understanding and addict-like attraction to monsters and the supernatural. She ALSO discovered that her boyfriend has been enchanted to never explicitly talk about what is happening at the Collins mine which FINALLY makes some headway in the Mystery of the Mine, which was my second favorite Hardy Boys book. The first, obviously, being The Witchmaster’s Key.

Meanwhile, back at the Blue Whale, Ed is telling every damn body who will listen about his dead wife, much to the terror of his mother, Jessica. This section of the episode is kind of the weakest bits but I am glad to to see that the writer’s aren’t going to drag out the plot for too terribly long. I really like the dynamic between actors Marie Wallace and Jamison Selby (who I have been informed is the son of the famed David! Which is kind of mind-blowing to a newbie like me). They actually feel like mother and son, which makes Jessica’s apparent death this episode all the tougher to process. Yes, the killer stalking Collinsport strike again this episode, claiming her life and it sounds like the life of Andrew as well, though his ganking isn’t any real loss.

But no moment of the episode made my heart soar as much as the cliffhanger did. A cliffhanger that finds one Quentin Collins, DAVID EFFING SELBY HIMSELF, returning to Collinsport. He only gets one line, but I will be damned if it isn’t a great one. And all the sudden I am back in in a big, big way. I will admit that last episode left me pretty cold, but cheese and rice, guys, this one really picked my spirits up. And to think, all it took was some genuine conflict, a gaggle of intensely talented women, and the appearance of yet another Dark Shadows heavy hitter. Things are only going to get better from here and the wise and powerful Wallace McBride has personally promised me that my mind will be blown. I sincerely cannot wait.

NEXT TIME! Episode 6! Who cares what happens?! DAVID SELBY! I even knew it was happening and it was still a delight. Like, I audibly yelped in glee. I named my son after this character, how could I not?! Anyways, 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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