Monday, October 8, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: October 8


Taped on this day in 1969: Episode 868

It’s Barnabas versus Barnabas when Edward and Petofi encounter the twin of the dead vampire… but what will the coffin reveal? Barnabas: Jonathan Frid. (Repeat; 30 min.)

A delirious Barnabas, human, startles Aristede and winds up in an infirmary. Petofi (as Quentin) and Edward rush to the scene, convinced he is still the vampire. This Barnabas, surviving the sunrise, claims to have been duped and duplicated by the creature who menaced Collinsport in the past months. They take him to the coffin where the vampiric Barnabas is found staked and re-dead within. The “new” Barnabas faints at the sight.

It’s one of the most metaphysical moments in the series, and Barnabas needs to enjoy it while it lasts. As much, if not more, than any character in popular literature, Barnabas Collins has been granted the cursed opportunity to experience, explore, confront, and simply be with his own potentials for good and evil. In 868, the dance becomes wonderfully, horrifically, and strangely literal on a level that can only be matched with the logic of a dream. Imagine the terrible liberation of seeing the worst of yourself as dead and staked, knowing that you now have the second (or maybe third) chance to to be the best. Angelique’s brilliant cure is more than just a method to throw his enemies off the scent. She doesn’t only cure his vampirism -- she perhaps cures the moral decay that accompanied Barnabas as a result of the curses. He is now, in a very real sense, a new man. It is an opportunity as bountiful as the initial curse was detrimental. He’s already been a newer form of the beast upon emerging from his coffin in the 1890’s. Before leaving for 1897, Barnabas had been cured for some time. Nonetheless, he had to live with the guilt of his vampiric life as well as constant fear of exposure and concomitant retribution. As moments of humanity go, his first was profoundly lacking in the Zen department. In 1897, he gains a second chance at both the evil and good dimensions of his life. First, can he once again be his worst as the vampire he was and would be... and yet do the best? Yes. Unlike his previous immersions into vampirism (1795 and 1967), he controls and channels his dark energies for a larger mission, often employing his abilities to gain the advantage. He doesn’t even indulge in endless kvetching about a cure. His dark nature has become his last, best hope. He has realized that inner mastery. Now, the remaining mystery asks if he can retain that courage and will to act if he’s transformed once more by the blue eyed fairy of Angelique from a wooden puppet of the occult and into a real little boy, once more. In 1795, the human Barnabas was a naive, proud, impulsive of perpetual victimhood. The powers of the Nosferatu changed that. Becoming the worst in yourself is a helluva way to grow up, but how can you really be your better self until you have harnessed and tamed the monster within?

These are normally issues of simple metaphor, but what is art’s task if not to alchemize the metaphorical into the real so that we can actually see it rise, fall, and still talk about it the next day? Similarly, Barnabas has lived a metaphor twice, with an intermission of humanity in between. Just as we see it in the story, he experiences it in his life. And of course, Josette should show up again. The One who started it all. How will he respond? How will she? It looks like the final exam, and the cruelty of DARK SHADOWS is that it shreds the blue book before he even gets to see the grade. Because it’s not really the exam. This taste is all he’s given before the Leviathans will attempt to rend his humanity again, Parallel Time will give him a reason to seize it, and Judah Zachary will force him to cling to it under the worst circumstances. Yes, Barnabas faints at this glimpse of himself in the coffin, but he now has no greater lesson in why he fights.

It’s a vital moment in the arc of the man and the story, and it goes by in a blink. It’s yet another way that DARK SHADOWS is the most poetically realistic program on television. Humans ponder the worst for days, weeks, months, and years only to be confronted by profound epiphanies that flash by before you can appreciate them. Barnabas is all of us in that sense, but luckily for us, he lives in the realm of art. Ultimately, it’s not his job to appreciate those moments; it’s ours.

This episode was broadcast Oct. 22, 1969.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.