Monday, December 17, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: DECEMBER 17


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 652/653

When Maggie gets an invitation to move on up to the deluxe mansion on the hill, will she take her turn with a bat or strike out? Joe Haskell: Joel Crothers. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Liz is recovering, but still senses danger and refuses to sleep. Worried for the children, she instructs Barnabas to hire Maggie as tutor. Amy has a premonition of Joe as the werewolf’s next victim. At the Evans cottage, that’s exactly what happens.

I’m sure someone has a solution out there, but why isn’t Joe a werewolf? Or Tom? If Joe is a cousin, that means that he shares a grandparent with Chris, Tom, and Amy. This would be Quentin’s daughter, Lenore. In researching it, I was reminded that the first born is the only one to carry the curse, so it was nice for Fetus Tom to hold the door for Fetus Chris. Well, there goes that Daybook column topic. Either way, it’s fallout from the future and past. 1897 so beautifully colors the present that it’s sometimes a shame to see the show in broadcast, rather than chronological, order. If you’ve never done it, take advantage of streaming, etc, and give it a try. The first time through, it’s a mystery program. Not just whodunnit, but a whydunnit. After that, the show is yours, and don’t forget it. Some complain about the number of episodes. I say it’s a blessing. Even with the constant meddling in the timeline, a chronological reading beautifully colors the present, telling the story from the family-outward rather than the tale of a curious governess, gazing inward.

To do that is a madman’s campaign, so here is an incomplete and inaccurate list to help you. The show jumps around a lot, and this will violate the warranty, but try it anyway.

1140, 1144 (1690)
365-460 (1795)
623 (1795)
662-666 (1795)
885-887 (1795)
938 (1795)
1110-1198 (1840)
701-885 (1897)
900 (1949)
1-365, 461-701,  (1966)
888-980 (1969-1970)
1071-1109 (1970)
1061-1070 (1995)

The closest I came to attempting this was when I wrote the Collins Chronicles in 2014 and began the series with the 1795 flashback, jumped to Barnabas being released in 1966, and then, when Vicki went through time, I jumped ahead to her return. This put everything from Barnabas’ point of view. Hard to think of it any other way, after.

This episode finds us focusing on Maggie, Joe, and unseen characters, like David and Vicki. All are knit up in the changing of the tutorial guard. Maggie is finally in the house as governess, despite any given qualifications other than availability and already being on contract at ABC. My assumption is that Maggie has a really weird degree from a semi-unaccredited college run by one of Sam’s beatnik friends, which admirably prepared her for a career in diner operations. (I’m sure David and Amy hear the word hegemony a lot.) Do you know why Vicki is a j-e-r-k? Because she took her job. It had to be the hottest gig in Collinsport, despite and because of having to live at Collinwood. I’m sure Roger dropped hints about it every time the check arrived at the table. Free coffee and pie for years, folks. And THAT’S how the rich stay rich.

Ultimately, it’s been a long time coming. The show has almost always been confused about its primary female protagonist. (My vote is for Liz, actually.) Yes, yes, ostensibly Vicki, but the minute the Josette portrait was “cast,” the focus shifted off of her. Even after Kathryn Leigh Scott played the part for months in a flashback, they unsuccessfully tried to shoehorn Vicki in as having the spirit of Josette. Whatever that means. Ultimately, not as much as they’d hoped. Looking at the early episodes, it’s curious to think of a time when Josette was the only supernatural presence. Or at least, the only one with a distinct personality. It’s only after 1795 that we realize how many competing specters are potentially haunting the joint. Bathia Mapes, Abigail, Naomi… yeah, Naomi! Where’s her ghost? The First Lady of Collinwood died on site! Not even on/off Widow’s Hill. The more the producers try to retro-bond Vicki and Josette, the more diffuse the character becomes. Meanwhile, Maggie says “Pop” a lot, drinks Cuba Libres at the Blue Whale, and waits for her promotion. When it happens, you can immediately feel that there’s a slightly more hip and aware vibe in the offing.

When Barnabas gives her the news, the show employs one of its cleverest editing tricks. For a program with a very deliberate, realistic, predictable editing style, this feels like something out of A Hard Day’s Night. About ten minutes in, Barnabas is on the phone in the drawing room, telling Maggie and Joe about Vicki’s disappearance. Barnabas gives the news, and it quickly fades to a shot of the couch, where Joe (with Maggie) is reacting, as if in the same thread of conversation. This is one of the show’s fastest transitions in time and a sophisticated piece of storytelling for the program.

Lela Swift and the gang have a lot of fun here other places, including the werewolf depicted in a human bed, sleeping peacefully until awaking profoundly confused. Stunt coordinator Alex Stevens has the most expressive eyes on the program. If I were a werewolf, awakening tucked in on a bed, I’d have the same reaction.

After awakening like this, he has little choice but to attack Joe Haskell. All shtick aside, it’s a brutal attack, and Joe seems even more vulnerable because of the business suit that gives him an extra veneer of sophistication. Joel Crothers beautifully delivers a mix of compassion and a strange impatience, and it looks like art mirroring life. We’ve been sensing the fraying of Joe Haskell for some time as he disintegrates mentally and as a voice of human reason. Both Crothers and Haskell have two more episodes after this. Like a tremor, Joe will go the way of madness, just as Maggie will a bit under two years from now. Casualties to mixing it up with immortals. It’s the price for being little people at Collinwood. Vicki paid it by murder and marriage in another century. Joe and Maggie will pay it at Windcliff. This episode was Joe’s breaking point. It was also Maggie’s. It will just take her and her optimism far longer to pay the price. That’s the cost of admission to a new world of gods and monsters. 

Joe is neither. He is, in fact, us.

This episode was broadcast Dec. 24, 1968.

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