Friday, October 19, 2018

Review: Dark Shadows: Bloodlust, Episode 7


No, tears. They are a waste of good SPOILERS AHEAD.

“This town doesn’t need the Collins family!”

Volume 2 of Big Finish Productions’ Dark Shadows: Bloodlust opens with some John Grisham-meets-the-Universal Monsters like theatrics with the serial’s seventh installment. A mere day after Quentin Collins, Angelique Bouchard, and a newly summoned Barnabas Collins stood against an angry mob of townsfolk, Sheriff Tate calls a town meeting in the hopes that cooler heads will prevail. What happens is decidedly...not that, but therein lies the super entertaining crux of this volume’s opening story. Centralized and focused on the show’s nerve wracking commitment to raising its own stakes, Bloodlust Episode 7 is a towering opening gambit.

Click HERE to get the episode.
Some big time junk went down last episode. We got the debut of Barnabas, played with a righteously seductive fury by Andrew Collins. He was summoned by his on-again-off-again rival Quentin to back up him and Angelique as the mob swells. A Trinity of monsters stood against the angry hoi polloi of Collinsport. This episode, again, smartly takes a day and allows the cliffhanger to breathe just a bit. I have talked before about how Will Howells, Alan Flanagan, and Joseph Lidster really know how to stage these episodes and their layout across the season and this “taking a beat” approach to some of the larger cliffhangers are really a big part of why they succeed.

This way we get to relish the story as it unfolds instead of being overwhelmed with twists and turns, because, dear readers, this thing has got so goddamn more in store just in THIS episode. After a quick meeting of monstrous minds at the bottom of Widows’ Hill, we then turn to the town as it prepares for a town meeting about the recent killings and their possible connection to the supernatural. First off, can we all just appreciate just how Dark Shadows having a freaking town meeting about monsters is? I am consistently impressed on just how true to the wacky, yet grounded spirit of the original show these audios are and this might be the serial’s greatest example of it.

But my kitchy delight aside, this centralization of the episode’s plot really gets some great stuff from the story. For one it allows for one hell of a scare in the attacking of poor Harry Cunningham, who gets stabbed (we HOPE just stabbed) once the lights are cut during a particularly heated exchanged. For another, the citizens of Collinsport engage in some Arthur Miller-esque courtroom banter, one side standing up for Sheriff Tate and the other with Maggie Evans, who is demanding her acknowledge the existence of the supernatural.

I am of two minds about this. On one hand, Maggie’s group has the right IDEA. They want the local authorities, who have been turning a blind eye to the monsters for years, to finally start taking it seriously and take steps to defend the town. On the other, the way reactionaries like Ed Griffin, who put the boots to old man Trask last time, are framing the argument is that Tate is incompetent and are starting down the slippery slope of fascism in regards to Collinsport’s monster community, given a voice by Quentin. This sequence kind of makes Maggie look like a bully and her group look all the more dangerous, but you can at least see where the fear and anger comes from, thanks to the script’s presentation of the platforms. Plus, the more Kathryn Leigh Scott the better as far as I’m concerned

The town meeting also brings about the return of Nancy Barrett’s Carolyn Stoddard! A development, I must admit, made me a touch misty. And I don’t think it is because of the mold in my “office” here at the CHS. Hearing Carolyn passionately speak toward the town’s hold on people and the things that it is capable of puts real heart into Maggie’s side, when it really needs it. Plus’ Barrett is another one of those presences in the show that I will always hold a soft spot toward, no matter how they are included in the story so hearing her again was a real emotional charge for me just as a fan and listener.

BUT ALL OF THIS leads up to the episode’s two major developments. One being the discovery of a voodoo doll in Amy’s purse and Rhonda Tate being deposed as sheriff and replaced by Maggie Evans, who is pretty much the picture of a Not a Police Officer. The latter of which is the episode’s biggest and closing gambit, but the first one is really interesting. Is Amy fully turning back to witchcraft and did she attack her OWN (step)SON to cover it up? Only time and future episodes will tell, but the idea of Maggie Evans being the Marge Gunderson of Collinsport is just officially Too Good. It could only spell disaster for the town, just from a logistical standpoint, but holy crow, is it the perfect capper to this civically focused installment of Bloodlust. One sure to have major lapping story ripples throughout this back half of episodes.

There is a new Sheriff in town so monsters beware. You know, just when I think I hit a ceiling on the kind of entertaining Bloodlust can be, it goes and brings back Barnabas Collins (played by a truly class actors), large portions of the original TV cast, and then plunges me deep into a story worthy of all those actors and characters. Episode 7 is just another example of how the serial keeps upping the ante on itself. It hooks listeners deeply with a consistently engaging, well produced story that utilizes the best aspects of the property and its talented troupe of actors. Volume 1 of Bloodlust was good, but I’ll be damned if Volume 2 might be even better. I can’t wait to find out.

NEXT TIME! Episode 8! We Need To Talk About Harry. 

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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