Monday, April 1, 2019

Dark Shadows, The Road to Bloodline: ...And Red All Over


“Devlin...The name’s Devlin!”

Welcome, ghoulies, to a special Weekend Edition of the Road to Bloodline! Since the incoming serial is looming, I thought I would put in some more time here in my office/closet and bring this particularly fun column home, just in time for David and Amy’s wedding. A wedding I may have to work as a bar back at just to score an invite. It really is the hot ticket in town. Everyone here the CHS is talking about it. And they seem to have a seating assignment. I’m not bitter about it. No, sir. Not me. Let’s change the subject. Why did you even bring it up? That seems super rude, y’all. Maybe I have plans that night anyway! You don’t know.

Anyway, I’m putting in the extra hours here to talk about a pretty damn fun stop on the Road to Bloodline, ...And Red All Over! The return of Mitchell Ryan to the franchise AND the 50th Big Finishverse release! Delivered to audiences in October of 2015, this Cody Schell scripted tale finds Maggie Evans...sorry Maggie HASKELL absconded from her honeymoon and trapped in a remote cabin, in the middle of a blizzard no less. Complicating matters is the owner of the cabin, a man who looks exactly like one Burke Devlin! Oh, and there are also some weird men stalking them through the woods. Men that don’t have faces, only shifting ink blots where their faces should be; something ripped right out of Dave Gibbons’ nightmares. It is all very Silent Hill.

Before we get into the actual content of the episode, I think the conversation about the placement of this audio is one worth having. Here the range had been around for a bit, and had just recently wrapped up a pretty successful “event” series in Bloodlust. They had released fifty episodes! That’s not nothing to sneeze at! As a comic person I can always appreciate milestones like this. And just to double down on it, we have the added prestige of having it bloody star two MAJOR Dark Shadows staples!

I am going to do a whole separate “finale” of this current column all about the Anniversary episode that follows this audio, but I really enjoyed this one leaning into it being a “very special” episode for the Big Finishverse, centered around the return of Mitchell Ryan. Though there is a bit of a wonky fake out that the script takes around a “cousin” of Burke’s during the start of the episode, it is like Ryan never left as he settles back into the character with aplomb. Even better, pairing him exclusively with Kathryn Leigh Scott’s Maggie Haskell brings back the sparkling dynamic between the two actors, supporting the super weird and supernatural drama of the script.

And when I say this one is super weird, I gotta stress it, y’all, this one is super weird. Especially for a “50th Episode” which ideally should be pretty user friendly for the rubes that sometimes buy stuff just for the release number. Something I tooooootally haven’t done at all, no sir, not me. Why did you bring that up? It’s my business what I buy from the Collinsport flea market! Don’t you judge me! My obsessive comic buying patterns aside, Schell’s script starts odd and only gets odder, opening with a pretty much contextless fan fiction set up with Maggie being magically kidnapped from her honeymoon and trapped in a snowstorm with a dude who looks exactly like someone she used to crush on. From there, it kind of takes a few too many left turns, tying in Burke’s illicit past with money and positing that he made a deal with a sort of daemonic banking cabal called The Ink along the way. Their icon being, you guessed it, a super fancy pen. Burke just can’t ever get away from pens can he?

Exhibit A.
The Ink themselves are a really fun idea. Sweening their villainous pot is the extra creepy and atmospheric sound design David Darlington mixes into their presence in the script. I can see some listeners being slightly frustrated with the turn this story takes that mayyyybe all of the episode’s event didn’t happen, due to some sort of drugging both Maggie and Burke undergo during the tale, but to me, that added another fun layer of uncertainty to the story. Would I have loved for it to have been established fully that Maggie and Burke fought some bankers from Hell? Sure, but like Wallace tells me in the break room here at the CHS during Donut Day, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset or you are fired.” I think he made up that last part.

So, all in all, a fun story, a weird lead in to an anniversary special, and a wonderful reunion for two major Dark Shadows stars. ...And Red All Over contains multitudes! I thought it was a pretty fun weekend listen. Plus Mitchell Ryan has still got it, y’all. This one all but proves it. Sure, the uncertainty of the supernatural elements are a little frustrating, but Dark Shadows can be frustrating at times. That’s what makes it so fun.

NEXT TIME! The Final Column where we discuss the Scribe Award Winning BLOOD AND FIRE! It’s super long! I’ve gotta make more coffee! 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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