Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Dark Shadows: Bloodline, Episodes 9-10


Careful, Ghost Rider! Spoilers Ahead!

“Where on earth is Marina Lane?”

Welcome back, my ever patient ghouls, to The Collinsport Historical Society’s coverage of Bloodline! The current massive serial from Big Finish that is currently emotionally and physically taxing us around here. We are all just so damn worried about Cody Hill, it’s getting to be a problem around the office. But we are going to get through it together, you and I! By picking apart every aspect of it like the proper nerds we are. Expressing our joy for new Dark Shadows in the only way we know now! Written analysis and criticism! Isn’t life in Collinsport just grand?! Let’s get to it, shall we?

First up, we have episode number 9 of 13! From the consistently great combo of Rob Morris and David Darlington, who also provides this series it’s brand new and gorgeously arranged new theme tune. This is something I don’t really get into often on these, mainly because I worry it might be a bit too “inside baseball”, but if you are a huge dork like me, you have noticed that most of these big arcs are written by a “writer’s room” as such. A collection of writers all working from what I assume would be like a “show bible” in which they have tracked everyone’s arc and broken it down into the episodes. I really, really love this kind of stuff and I really appreciate the way Big Finish has melded that work model onto Dark Shadows. It makes me excited for the incoming serials and proves that they are committed to structure.

Again, this might just be woolgathering on my part, but it reminds me a lot of seeing some of my favorite TV writers names pop up throughout a season. I love a good credit. But where was I? Oh, yeah, everyone is being thrown through time.

Episode 9 has the unfortunate burden of being the series’ first “table setting episode”. Meaning that they have to check in on a very large amount of plots and tweak them juuuuust so but nothing ever really happens. As it has “set the table” for stuff to happen further down the series. We should come up with a Dark Shadows equivalent term. The show was king at this kinda junk. Maybe “Lettuce Washing”? “Snoopin’ Round the Basement”? I dunno, but it is a crap job, for sure, but still not an un-entertaining one! Writer Rob Morris clearly cares about everyone as much as we do so that really helps things matters nicely. As such, he gives us a fairly decent amount of “screen time” for Cody, and Rosier, Julia, and everyone else at Collinwood who has survived the initial time quakes. As well as everyone in the past! Providing hard dates for everyone, cleverly centered around Tom’s tape recorder. Which is now functioning as a sort of weather vein through time for the scattered family.

A lot of these plots never really give up anything substantial (aside from maybe the implication that David could now be Quentin’s father?! Which if I think about too much my nose starts to bleed). But they do provide us a nice terra firma after the chaos of the volume openers. And it gets everyone else around the house pretty active in the story as they continue to search for clues about the missing people, with the reluctant help of Rosier, entirely speaking through Cody, allowing Walles Hamonde room for a creepy twist on Cody’s normal speaking voice.

But therein lies this episode’s cruel trick. While this episode largely sets up stuff, it adds a sharp new set of stakes to the time paradox, by revealing that it is ongoing and the fabled Marina Lane isn’t a place, but a person! A new character who is...erm...was set to take over the Collinsport Star (RIP Kate. we will miss you forever). Called to the mansion by a mysterious phone call, it is her ghost haunting the mansion which means she died in the past! And that is exactly what this episode portents! It is a cruel double-edge sword, time travel. I pray our heroes make out the other side in one piece.

Episode 10 doubles down on the set up of the tape recorder, calling to mind the sonic creepiness of Beyond the Grave. Taking up the story baton is Alan Flanagan, who smartly re-checks in with Lela and Tom, both of whom are stuck the furthest in the past in the 1700’s. As well as Jackie and Marina Lane, who was time-tossed last episode, settled into the 1800’s along with David who is toward the tail end of the century. And now...Harry has joined the lost somehow too. And he won’t let go the tape recorder. Even when faced with one incredibly young Dr. Richard Hill! And that’s just the opening, y’all!

One thing that Flanagan does clear the decks with right away is the implication that David may be responsible for his own birth. Thankfully this opening, while it is checking in with characters, reveals that Anna Collins (play sweetly by Stephanie Ellyne) is already pregnant with Quentin (at least by David’s surmation) by the time he starts pulling the “cousin from England” routine, which is a fantastic highlight of this whole arc. It doesn’t make the odd “awkward romance comedy” between them any better, but I very much appreciate that clarification.

But what of the newly taken? As the entries continue, the voice of Cyrus Longworth-Jennings comes across the tape. Dating his tossing to 1899. Another piece of the board, as Tom guessed. Christopher Pennock had already made his appearance in the past as Anna Collins’ domineering husband, but it was nice to get his affable and laid back Cyrus back into the mix and safe for now. Or is he?!

Sabrina has also been taken! Plunked down in the 1940s at the Blue Whale. But even better, it seems that the people taken start to remember the ones taken before they were! And complicating matters, they are starting to butt up against established Dark Shadows canon! Complete with archival sound clips! A time travel no-no, right?! I had bitten my fingernails down the quik before typing all this up precisely because of this. Mainly because of Vivian Bell trying to worm her way into the affections of Jaminson Collins!

And there is goes until the end, little snapshots of those lost in time trying to live carefully through Collinsport’s history on TV and not step on any butterflies. I can see people having problems with the episode’s disjointed format and the criticism is valid! I don’t exactly love that we don’t get a more substantial episode after the “Lettuce Washing” of 9. But I DO love the continued audacity of this serial, completely breaking format so WILDLY this deep into the run, just to up the stakes and to pep up the season overall. I am very, very into it (though I can see why some people might not be).

Until next time, be seeing you. I will be more prompt this time, I promise.

(Editor's note: Episodes 9 and 10 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 Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.

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