Friday, November 2, 2018

Review: Dark Shadows: Bloodlust, Episode 13


SPOILERS AHEAD belong dead!

“Don’t turn from the light. It only burns a little.”

Dark Shadows: Bloodlust comes to a soaring conclusion in Episode 13. After last episode’s brava showcase of Lara Parker and Kathryn Leigh Scott, this episode once again becomes a rousing ensemble piece, gathering our heroes and monsters to stand for the Earth in the face of ultimate evil. An evil that has ensnared the Collins family and threatens to end the world in service of his own sadistic goals. End of the world stakes are a damn sight away from the simple murder mystery that we started with here in these pieces, but it has all lead to this moment and trust me when I say, it doesn’t come anywhere close to disappointing. Let’s get into it ... one last time.

Click HERE to get the episode.
So it has all come down to this. A scattered crew of monsters and humans versus an ageless, immensely powerful sorcerer. Just another day in Collinsport, amirite? Though I appreciate the creative team’s risky move with the last episode, making it essentially a two-person one act play, I am really glad they instantly get us right in the mix again with the whole cast as they plot and strategize just how best to best Pitofi and his thralls. Writers Joseph Lidster, Alan Flanagan and Will Howells have a metric ton of plot they need to get through during this finale, but I am glad to hear that they didn’t lose their handles on the character’s voices and their dynamics, keeping the serial’s streak of stellar character work alive until the bitter end.

This works wonders toward keeping the listener engaged through all the exposition, it also allows the whole cast to really shine through one last time. Andrew Collins’ Barnabas has really, really grown on me since his introduction and Episode 13 has solidified my love for his take on the iconic vampire. He is stodgy, but not without a sense of humor with an underlying ferocity that I really love. Stephanie Ellyne’s Amy also comes full circle, standing up for herself and her family even in the face of possible total annihilation. I have spoken endlessly here about my love of David Selby and Lara Parker and this finale episode is no exception. Both actors, along with their monstrous counterparts, reveal a raw emotion here at the end. The latter even going so far to sacrifice herself in order to save the town and world from destruction. A heroic end for one of Dark Shadows’ most infamous figures.

But all the great performances in the world wouldn’t save this episode had it not stuck the landing, but spoiler alert, it totally does! As the town starts to crumble, our heroes are subjected to illusions and attacks from Pitofi’s minions. It all leads up to a shocking “Drawing Room Scene” in the Collins mine where MIKE DEVEREAUX reveals himself to be the author of Collinsport’s pain. It is a really canny choice from the writer’s and one I truly, honestly did NOT see coming. The staff also give Mike a real Nice Guy like origin, having been spurred by Amy and Carolyn back at Salem College and then devoting his life to Count Pitofi in order to kill the world that cast him aside. Better still, the writers add an extra sense of grounded horror to this reveal by detailing how Mike staged all the monster attacks with some kitchen and garden tools proving the serial’s thesis that even the most unassuming among us can be monsters. It is a real nice gut punch from the story, one that is thankfully eased by the deep well of emotions that the staff draw from in the episode’s closing. Which finds all our characters finding some sense of closure in the walls of the great house of Collinwood, surrounded by their family and friends. Together, once again.

I honestly had no idea what to expect from Bloodlust when I started these. I thought I would have a few laughs and enjoy a few fun scares and then that would be that. But what I found in David Darlington, Ursula Burton, Joseph Lidster, Alan Flanagan, and Will Howells’ work was so, so much more. I found a story about fear and what that fear can do to a town. I found a story of outsiders and those considered the “other” arguing for their very existence. I found a story about the past and how it can hold power over you, even when you are trying your best to move forward. But most of all, I found a story that displays the power and presence this property still has and the kind of sagas it is capable of producing, giving the franchise a life beyond the screen and grave. Bloodlust was and is the best of Dark Shadows, distilled down to it’s very essence, and we are lucky to have it.

And I AM truly lucky to have listened to it and discussed it with your lovely people. I thank you so, so very much for going on this journey with me and making my first proper beat here at the CHS just a joy. I would also like to thank the patient and impossibly kind Wallace McBride for giving me this assignment, everyone from the production team that has offered kind words about the coverage, AND all the amazing listeners and readers who have made me feel so welcome in the fandom and here at the site. I hope you all have had as much fun reading these as I have had writing them. If you have any suggestions of what I should listen to next, please, please, please reach out! Bloodline is just around the corner! But until then…

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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