Monday, September 30, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: September 30


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1118

Will Gerard’s plans for dominion over Collinwood change when he meets its long-sleeping guardian? Barnabas: Jonathan Frid. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Barnabas establishes a relationship with Daniel as he challenges the story of Quentin’s drowning. Meanwhile, Judah Zachery attacks Ben Stokes.

It’s like the past two years or so never happened, and that’s a surprisingly good thing. It’s good because, for all of the expanded mythos and wonder brought by Nicholas, Quentin, and Count Petofi, we’ve spent the past couple of years expanding the mythos without always connecting it. It’s tough to realize until you see Daniel Collins and Ben Stokes ruminating about the doomed nature of the family as a primal force of nature, Mr. Beale. Even though Daniel is a different actor (and he really isn’t, in a cosmic sense) and Ben’s face is an unrecognizable topography of the malignant, we know we’re home. Beyond Liz and Roger seething over brandy and Things Unsaid, this is home. And when we hear them -- these heralds and descendants of Elder Gods like Joshua and Naomi -- speak of the Bedford Murders, we take it seriously. It’s akin to hearing parents talk about some heretofore-unmentioned childhood disease that almost got us before we could understand what it meant to be sick.

1840 is just close enough to home, and by that, I think we all know I mean 1795, that its tarnish hurts more than the strangeness of 1897. When Louis Edmonds’ Daniel shows lucidity, our hearts soar as profoundly as they crash when he descends into babble. In this episode, his embrace of Barnabas and his insistence that he take the Old House, both save time and ring with a rightness that make him one with the viewers. It’s about effin time, and it’s what we would do, too. After all, who is Daniel but the first of the first generation of kids to grow up watching Dark Shadows? That strange energy resonates through the character and right at the viewers. At last, Baranbas is not a stranger. Is Daniel crazed enough to see him as safe or sane enough not to listen to his inner child whispering murmurs of danger? Who cares? Barnabas is back in business with considerably less situational gunao to wade through.

Early in the episode, Ben correctly notes that Barnabas isn’t the same man that he was just scant moments before. The transformation from beleaguered baddie to decisive hero is a tribute, naturally, to Jonathan Frid and the writers. But it’s also a reason to reflect on the uniqueness and relative longevity of the show. These are vastly different characters and completely, understandably the same man. (Just like Daniel.)

Barnabas has ascended twice, now. If his seizure of the heroic mantle didn’t grab us the first time, in the choices he makes regarding Eric Lang and Nicholas Blair, then we cannot help but cheer him on now as he fully rebounds from his fall with the Leviathans and failures in Ragnarok. 1897 was a not a fluke, nor was it fantasy roleplay. You can be your Lindens that it was Barnabas’ training ground, and it was proof to him that just as no time is truly his, all times are truly his, as well. His comfort with command and decisive problem solving speak to the best that he will be -- all of who he was in 1897 with the mellowed knowledge of how rare and precious that status is.

Like Freder in Metropolis, Barnabas is a protagonist somewhere between the hands and the mind. Whenever either is the solution, he and we are quietly pleased, because we didn’t know he had it in him. He’s smart, but he’s no Nicholas Blair. And he’s strong, but few (save fireplace poker-bending Eliot Stokes) are stronger than Adam. It’s fitting that the Last Son of Collinwood appears in the same episode with his match, Judah Zachery, a being of -- literally -- pure mind. It’s a tribute to the alien intensity of actor Michael McGuire that Zachery is a character of such credible opposites. There’s blazing eyed malevolence mixed with a strange, fearful sense of being lost that I would imagine accompanies being a nearly omnipotent, disembodied head in a glass box. All kidding aside, after the foes Barnabas has bested, it’s appropriate that he stare down, not just one from the past, but of all pasts. All irony aside, he is the embodiment of the abstract. Defeating him will require not just Barnabas’ wit and physical prowess, but the exploration of the inhuman heart. He cannot solve Judah Zachery while being the kind of binary thinker that created Judah Zachery. Barnabas has reformed morally. 1840 will require him to go further. The first order of business is to force him to do so without Ben Stokes.

You can’t go home again. Home always changes. Yet it might be a place that forces you to change with it.

This episode was broadcast Oct. 7, 1970.

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