Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 4


Taped on this day in 1970: Episode 1012

Barnabas Collins turns Parallel Time upside down when he masquerades as the fiery fruit of his own loins… Latin Love style! Parallel Ghost of Joshua Collins: Louis Edmonds. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Barnabas turns the tables on Will and enslaves him. After meeting the PT Quentin with the Latin American version of his “English Branch” story, he visits Collinwood to help investigate the portal room to his own time band. There, he and Quentin see Dr. Julia Hoffman.

This show crackles with more energy than it has had since Vicki returned from 1795. House of Dark Shadows finally finished, the cast reunites with a satisfying symmetry that makes us realize exactly what we’ve been missing. Not only that but at long last, we learn the real secret of Barnabas Collins.

Captains Log: Barnabas is back in every sense. Vampire. Heroic protagonist. Confident and cruel towards those who earned it. He begins by savoring the power he has over his former captor, Will Loomis. The vampire’s new target could easily wind up in the coffin, himself, and would last for considerably less time. It’s the first time we’ve seen him with such bravado since before the Leviathan sequence. Perhaps he just takes to travel. He’s happier to use his powers when away “from home,” because this is all a rental, anyway. Not that he’s reckless. He runs crosswise to Lee’s Law of “with great power comes great responsibility.”  Barnabas is the embodiment of the Collins Corrolary, “With great power comes great skepticism.” Most people view a certain gentility as fey cowardice. Perhaps it’s just plain ol’ wisdom. The more extreme the action taken, the more information you’re obligated to have before taking it.

Run through the series once or twice, and the story seems to be “about” forgiveness. But let’s wind that backward one step. What are we forgiving? Taking action before all of the facts are in. Not looking before we leap off Widow’s Hill. Did Barnabas countenance that he might actually be in love with Angelique before teasing her with a tryst? Did Barnabas, an admittedly bad shot, consider that he might not kill Angelique when he fired his flintlock at her? How she might retaliate? What about trying to propel himself into parallel time with only a passing knowledge of that brave, newish world? Or there’s the whole kidnapping of Maggie thing. That one left a mark.

Not that it’s always a weakness. His willingness to take risks while terrified is also his great strength. I Ching trances. Smashing the equipment in the lab and sending Nicholas back Hell. Willing himself through time to 1796 despite Julia’s nagging. These are things he has to do, but he’s learning to know when those times are. Whether he’s rife with the exercise of 1790’s, aristocratic privilege, or the savage capacity for the vampire to capture, control, and consume, the Barnabas we know is rarely as powerless as he seems. He’s often caught between regretting drastic actions while fretting the mundane.

What’s changed? Nothing except for weeks of encapsulated captivity at the hands of Will Loomis. For the second time in his life, he’s thrust back into a necrotic womb. When he emerges in 1967, it’s with the madness that comes from facing the inescapable darkness alone. In Parallel Time, he’s not alone. He has Will’s incessant inquiries to give him purpose… and a reason to plan revenge. And he has the nature of Will’s questions. For the first time, he has the involuntary and blood-starved peace and quiet to examine the life he’s led. Will gives him no choice. He also gives Barnabas a sounding board that roots him in the real world whereas before, his coffin-time sent his mind funhousing inward. If anything, this is the final climb outward. Upon his escape from Will’s capture, his transformation is complete. Will asks if he thought of transforming Josette, and it’s as if that one question focuses the world for Barnabas Collins for the last time.

Barnabas secures Loomis in a cage of intimidation, shakes Quentin’s hand, stares down Parallel Angelique, and teams up with the head of the household to solve the mystery of the portal room, all within fifteen minutes. No wonder the show felt so jarringly fast from this point until it would leave the airwaves; it finally had a main character who could not only act but who knew when to do so.

Jonathan Frid’s return is desperately welcomed. Not just because we miss him, but because the ensemble feels right, at long last. Quentin does so little in the primary time present. Seeing him alongside Frid, flanked by Lara Parker and Grayson Hall, with Will Loomis just a set away, is what Dark Shadows is all about. The arguable failure of House of Dark Shadows becomes clear, here. Parker and Selby are phantom limbs we sense with a subconscious panic when they are missing. Without them, Barnabas must be his own foil and his film’s own villain. It was written precisely so that someone could mind the store while the rest filmed the movie. In that time, something was missing in the alchemy of both Shadows, whether on tv or in widescreen. It was the chemistry of the show -- not what was there when it started, but what they found from that point of departure.

They are reunited with a new Barnabas for the first time all over again. The show, at long last, will never be what it was. Revisiting established plot elements is not just an interesting option; it’s the only option. It’s the test. And it’s one that Barnabas Collins may actually finally pass.

This episode hit the airwaves on May 12, 1970.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...