Monday, September 16, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: September 16


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1105

When Barnabas realizes that Maggie is bonded to another vampire, it’s time for Willie to raise the stakes before she’s gone for good. Willie: John Karlen. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Julia and Barnabas are again unable to protect Maggie from the other vampire, and thanks to Carolyn’s mocking help, Willie finally finds her in the mausoleum, attacked again. They later track down the vampire’s daytime resting place, and he and Julia are shocked at what they find.

Unthinkable and existential crimes and affronts to Collinwood!

If it existed. But does it? A Collinwood without Louis Edmonds or Joan Bennett is not exactly Collinwood, but has anyone noticed? It just kind of happens. The series lulls us into a presumptuous nonchalance, and when we finally call roll, it’s far too late.

1105 brings us into the last five episodes of the prime and contemporary universe in which the series began. It was and is “home,” and excluding a brief glimpse in 1198, this represents the beginning of our last and most apocalyptic visit. There is no sweet to the bitter, and if you’re looking for sentiment or nostalgia look elsewhere. It’s not a home, it’s a house. Roger and Liz are gone, and we are a far cry from Roger’s declaration to an earlier ghost that, “We’ll be back!” Quentin comes and goes, primarily to betray everyone for a fellow, former phantom-out-of-time. Barnabas is compromised to strictly nocturnal operations. All three “residents” -- Carolyn, David, and Hallie -- are on the road to demonic corruption, with David and Hallie missing. What does that leave? Maggie? At last, even she lacks the wherewithal to defy the vampire’s summons, if death doesn’t claim her before undeath can. A surrogate guardian for the home, she’s unable to guard even herself. I haven’t seen Mrs. Johnson conscious lately. Willie, of course, is Willie. Stokes is busy fulfilling a prophecy that said he’d be nowhere near the joint when the chips were due. That leaves Julia as the last and only guardian of the house and what remains of the family. How did she get this assignment? And why should she be stuck with KP when there is not a single, sane, uncorrupted person in the house? When she escapes to 1840, it’s not just to save her own life. It’s an escape to life. Any life.

It’s such a strange and terminal predicament for the ensemble of both actors and characters that makes Gerard’s curse feel real. He’s been destroying the house for months. It’s only now, stepping back, that we actually notice how successful he’s been. His work is done. The zombies are merely a flourish.

This is a tough, sad, obstinate storyline, and it defies efforts to love it. Gothic literature knits a strange glamor into its sense of decay, but the Ragnarok sequence doesn’t. It’s a very real death, and it doesn’t even feel reversible with the mechanics the show has established. It’s just quietly malignant, and it mirthleslly mocks our heroes. Barnabas loses Maggie to vampirism, which is bad enough, but it’s not even HIS vampirism. He can’t find nor summon the other vampire nor even guess its gender. Willie is equally incapable of protecting Maggie, finding her near where he initially found Barnabas, years before. Quentin? Seduced by one ghost and about to be assassinated by another, taunted as a villain he never was from a timeline he never knew. But we did. As Willie is charged with killing the vampire at the end, we realize how unlikely this is… and that it’s just a salve. Like Iraq after 9/11, it’s not even the primary problem. When the vampire slowly murdering Maggie Evans is a mere distraction from the real crisis facing Collinwood, you are dealing with a helluva crisis. But what’s the real crisis? “Because Gerard” is the easiest answer, and that elusiveness is both the sequence’s strength and vulnerability.

This episode hit the airwaves Sept. 18, 1970.

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