Friday, December 21, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: DECEMBER 21


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1179/1180

What’s formerly undead, used to subsist on blood, was almost murdered by a key witness, and now is Collinsport’s newest lawyer? Meet Barnabas Collins for the defense! Barnabas: Jonathan Frid. (Repeat; 30 min.)

As Trask and Dawson seem triumphant, and as Quentin roasts without an attorney, Barnabas appears on the scene and takes over the case. He later catches Trask in several logical fallacies regarding his own participation in the occult, and although Trask fakes a coronary, Barnabas has already trapped him. Dawson turns the tables by bringing up Quentin’s relationship with the ghost of Joanna Mills, but this is turned upside down when a woman claiming to be Joanna mills enters the courtroom, asking to testify.

Pure joy. For a Dark Shadows fan with sensibilities like mine, that’s what this is. Victory at last!

They might as well have just allowed Jonathan Frid to come bursting in through the window, swinging on a rope attached to nothing but well-earned self-satisfaction. Would anyone have objected? He’s already wearing a cape. I have no objections to Lara Parker also dressed as Batgirl, although now that I think about it, this puts Grayson Hall in a Robin uniform. Yeah. Picture it. Merry Christmas. Not everyone can fill Dick Grayson’s tights like Thayer David, but Stokes isn’t in this episode.

It’s never been easy to get particularly excited about the Joanna Mills storyline, however the punchline of this episode can make even that an exciting moment. It’s one more victory for the heroes, perhaps, and yet another defeat for Trask and Dawson. Barnabas, by the way, makes a decent lawyer. This is another case for the classical education. Unfortunately, by the 20th century, specifically the 60s, I’m not sure there is much call for that. But this is still an era where your distant cousin might need an impromptu advocate, and the man doesn’t flinch. I have heard some people criticize this moment in the show as being one of the wackier non sequiturs in the latter part of the series. To me, it’s one of the most logical. It’s not like he’s a member of a vampire union that restricts its members. And if he work, I think Angelique cured him of his membership.

Barnabas isn’t allowed to have many moments like these because he’s too busy suffering; I’ll admit, the man is good at it. Maybe that’s why these vacations are so satisfying. Or maybe they’re just satisfying because, you know, they’re satisfying. Bad people are getting their keisters served up with bright, red apples in their… okay. Bad example. Or the perfect example? You tell me. In either case, the moment he enters the courtroom and the visit to Trask’s mortuary stand right alongside his revenge on Laura and the final moments of Nicholas Blair, part the first. He’s in the revenge business, not just for things like walling him up, but for all of it, from Josette leaping off the hill to Willie cracking his buttons while ironing. The whole magilla. Life is stingy with him.

Of course, much of the heavy lifting is brought to us by Jerry Lacy, who helplessly stammers as well as he excoriates. Lacy understands fear. It’s what motivates both his fright and fury. We cheer Barnabas as he vows a slow  revenge on Trask. Impatiently, we also just want him to get on with it, and if you’ve seen the show before, you know that Barnabas’ victory simply sets him up for final defeat worse than any he’s experienced. Of course, the slow burn of a revenge is what the DSU has taught him is appropriate, and we begin to buy it, too. But there’s revenge and there’s cruelty. By turning one into the other, you make yourself vulnerable to even greater suffering. That’s a lesson usually reserved for villains, but in this case, it’s for a hero.

But that day hasn’t come yet. The sun shines on Barnabas and Quentin with a  rare iridescence. Let’s enjoy it. This episode is a very pure pleasure, and Dark Shadows delivers a lot of things, but moments like the ones in this episode are some of the most fleeting.

This episode was broadcast Dec. 31, 1970.

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