Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Dark Shadows: Bloodline, Episodes 11-13 (Mega Finale Column)


He who controls the SPOILERS AHEAD controls the universe! 

“If you can do anything, why not do good?”

What else can I say but, wow? Big Finish’s massive new serial comes to a thunderous conclusion in it’s final three episodes. Bringing home a whole mass of plot lines, writers Aaron Lamont, Will Howells, Rob Morris and Alan Flanagan absolutely nail the landing. Both by bringing this huge, truly epic story to a great conclusion and by setting things up nicely for the next epic. But enough lead up, we have a lot to get to. So let’s get.

First up we have episode 11 by Aaron Lamont. Our return back to regular episodic format after the wonderfully gimmicky episode 10. That isn’t to say that is the last we see of Tom’s magic recorder. Far from it! But episode 11 does a fantastic job of getting the whole story back on the rails.

Even better, Lamont starts to slowly but surely establish the ever expanding scope of the time-warping. As he reveals that it is starting to affect the whole town, quaking ripples through time itself that are changing Collinsport as we know it

Now Time Travel Stories aren’t exactly groundbreaking for Dark Shadows but episode 11 really delves into the consequences of time travel in a very real and slightly disturbing way as we start to see the changes as audience members. With the added melancholy of the characters themselves not remembering their lost loved ones, but still KNOWING they don’t remember while seeing their town change around them. It is pretty harrowing stuff going into what is essentially a “season finale”. Brutally and wonderfully acted by the cast throughout.

Will Howells and Rob Morris’ episode 12 then doubles down on these time consequences. All centered around dangerous team-ups with Rosier and our principle cast. As all our time tossed cast attempts to survive their respective eras, Amy Jennings hatches a pragmatic plan with Rosier. One that finds her using his whole “heart’s one desire” schtick to her advantage, by turning it toward bringing back everyone they have lost. Their obvious “heart’s one desire.” It is a wickedly clever turn from the script. Not only that, but it is wickedly in character for Amy. And for third, Stephanie Ellyne acts the absolute hell out of it.

There is also the question of the missing Barnabas, last seen breaking his chains and feeding from poor Cody Hill. There are a ton of plates spinning going into this episode. Both in the past and the present. But Howells and Morris keep them all spinning well, giving us a briskly paced episode jolting from character to character as they all move to points of no return. There is a keen edge to the check ins too as our travelers are all placed in precarious situations in time. Situations in which they can change things. For good or for ill. 

Throughout they show a true reverence, both for the established TV canon and their own meticulously crafted Big Finishverse (this is going to catch on even if it kills me). Mainly by revealing that most of the time tossings are situated alongside major events both on TV and in the audios. Supported by even more well mixed uses of clips from the original series.

The thread of Barnabas’ simmering bloodlust also comes to a terrifying head. With the brutal murder of Jamie Forbes and Bonnie Sands, the teenybopper couple that has been skirting around the edges of this story. I hadn’t really talked about them much as they just kind of seemed like Collinsport yokel flavoring, but sakes alive is their end brutal. Doubly so thanks to the staging and acting of the scene, led by a positively feral Andrew Collins.Often we hear about the monster Barnabas Collins is, but rarely ever “see” it. Well, episode 12 shows us it in all it’s gory glory and it is a doozy to listen to.

And it is Barnabas’ monstrosity that brings us to the Alan Flanagan written finale; episode 13.

Amid all the vampirism and time travel stuff, the cliffhanger of episode 12 reveals that the mastermind behind the whole morass was ... DR. JULIA HOFFMAN! Kinda. It was actually a Dark Lord powered new antagonist called Lilith, who has been riding shotgun with Julia ever since her “regeneration”. You see, she engineered the whole body switch in order to infiltrate Collinwood. And torture Barnabas Collins by stealing his family and placing them through time, with the temptation to change their timelines. Thus ruining them for eternity!

Though I can see some listeners being slightly turned off by the culprit not being revealed as someone major. A “name” if you will. I can also see them similarly being perturbed at Rosier’s sudden departure from the story in the episode before. Call it a slight “villain problem.” But Flanagan brings it all home very nicely, cutting to the heart of Lillth’s quest for vengeance and pairing it neatly with the ongoing plot of Barnabas’ “am I man or monster?” C-story.

It also comes with a bit of bittersweetness. After appealing to Lillth’s better nature and rescuing the Collins family, both Julia and Barnabas are “restored” to their original bodies. And then set off into the sunset together after the dust settles around Collinwood. As a listener, I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to lose Julia and Barnabas again. Especially after hearing Julie Newmar and Andrew Collins exquisite playing of them. But on some level I get it. This new range is more about the newer generation of Collinses and their makeshift family so I can bear it for now. I am glad, however, that Andrew Collins isn’t going anywhere, having been absconded to the “new and improved” Windcliff, now known as Bramwell Collins. Now doubt we will be seeing him again once that serial spins up.

But to bring this now 900 word screed to a close, Bloodline’s final episode are a resounding success. Ones that redefine this cast and this range. Setting them up for larger, more enriching stories as they live, love, and try to survive the spookiest town in fiction. I also personally want to thank you all for reading along with me and commenting on our facebook or reaching out on twitter about the coverage. It means a lot to me, both as a writer and fan to know that you are just as exciting and obsessed with this show and range as I am. I have to sleep now, as I am an old man and get tired but keep listening, keep reading, and I’ll be seeing you. 

(Editor's note: Episodes 11-13 of Bloodline are available HERE.)

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 justin@betweenthepanels.com Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.

1 comment:

Brightmyer said...

Starting out with a DUNE quote - awesome! These final 3 episodes were a rush! Your review was excellent, as always - thank you. I can't wait to see what you review next - I'm still pulling for KINGDOM OF THE DEAD! Until next time ...

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