Thursday, May 30, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 30


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 251

When Barnabas wakes up to a homicidal, stake-wielding Maggie, will he finally swipe left for dear life? Maggie: Kathryn Leigh Scott. (Repeat. 30 min.)

Barnabas awakens to find Maggie hovering over his coffin, ready to stab him. He stops her and leaves to speak with Vicki, who has a clear love for and perhaps connection to the past. When he later shows her a lace handkerchief belonging to Josette, she is smitten with the past. This sparks Barnabas’ interest. Returning to the Old House, Barnabas warns Maggie that she will die if she does not embrace her identity as Josette.

Then there’s that time when the gentle guardian of Sarah… and David and Amy… threatened to kill his kidnap victim, Maggie Evans, because she wasn’t more easily hypnotized into willingly becoming the reincarnation of someone she never met. The only French she speaks has the word ‘fries’ after it. But there she is, anyway.

For defenders of Barnabas, it’s a tough sequence to come back from. It’s easy to see why so many have a taste for the ruthless and manipulative Barnabas and feel detached from the vaguely prissy and avuncular hero he later becomes. But as someone who is vaguely prissy and avuncular, myself, I would tell them that they have to just deal with it. As long as, you know, I were sure they’d still like me. Then I’d apologize somehow. Barnabas, perhaps, spends the rest of the series doing just that.

It’s Jonathan Frid’s third performance in the series, along with Good Barnabas and Bramwell. I’d wager it’s the easiest. The objectives are a clear and wicked joy to play, but there is an ambiguity here that gives the part a challenging texture. It’s clear that if he really wanted to kill Maggie, she’d be dead. Is it her beauty that stops him from doing so, or is it the fact that he knows that, while he may have it in him, it would still be wrong? Both Maggie and Barnabas find themselves cast by fate to roleplays for which they are profoundly unqualified. Maggie has no interest in Josette. Barnabas is not by nature a violent man. But she looks like Josette. And he’s an emotionally ruined and unwilling vampire and completely unintentional, one-way time traveler. He’s gone from a world of fishing and finery to curses, betrayal, threats, and suicide. In theory, nothing should matter and life will be easier if he becomes as bad as the Angeliques, Trasks, and Forbeses who stuck him here. They always win, anyway, and he clearly can’t rely on anyone to stake him, unless it’s at a time inevitably inconvenient for it. He makes a good show of being a Big Meany, but he can’t seal the deal. We know this because his attempts to do so are as self-sabotaged as Roy Hinkley’s attempts to escape from the Island.

Because he can’t mind-control Maggie, setting her free isn’t an option, so he may simply have to kill her for his own good. A lifetime sentence for him is no laughing matter.

His encounter with Vicki in the episode only complicates things. In Vertigo, the story from which this is clearly based (far more than Dracula), the Barnabas character played by Jimmy Stewart never recognizes that his ideal woman is right in front of him -- Midge, played by Barbara Bel Geddes. Dark Shadows complicates this because Barnabas indeed recognizes that Vicki may not be a ringer for Josette, but she gets him. With no coercion. Unfortunately, Barnabas -- through the embarrassing use of force -- has committed to the idea of reviving Josette in Maggie. His ego won’t let him easily withdraw from that. And yes, shame on him and how sad. This chiding ignores the fact that his ego, which is simply the comfort he takes in his own judgment, is all he has left. Sacrificing that means sacrificing everything. Until he has the certainty of hope, that is a lot to ask of anyone. Just because Barnabas is an undead monster doesn’t mean he’s inhuman.

This episode hit the airwaves June 12, 1967.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...