Tuesday, April 2, 2024

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 2


Aired on this day in 1971: Episode 1245


When Brutus makes the mistake of chuckling, Bramwell and Catherine find salvation in a convenient rooster. Bramwell: Jonathan Frid. (Repeat; 23 min)

Bramwell and Catherine navigate their last hours in the cursed room. Brutus almost wins Catherine over, but common sense rules the day. Later, Morgan attacks and falls to his death. 

Oh, my darling.

I feel guilty when you call me that.

But you are my darling.

Yes, yes.

You always will be.


We will leave here within the week. We will forget everything that ever happened here.

No, I can never forget. I’ll remember now that I must follow my heart, not my head. I will never make that mistake again.

Never forget that you will always have my love.

That I will remember.

              Sam Hall, DARK SHADOWS 1245

Even though the final episode of Dark Shadows has minutes to go, these lines basically end it.  Spiritually. The rest is just a matter of tipping the padre on the way out and being the first to hit the oneg before those damned kids make off with far more hamantaschen than they’ve any right to. 

I’ve left off the character names. This is Bramwell and Catherine, yes. That means it’s Jonathan Frid and Lara Parker. And when we see them, we really see Barnabas and Angelique. And when we hear them speak of the past, it could mean any point on the spectrum of time that radiates from them. Words like these, or similar, could have been spoken by either character at a number of points. Most notably, points in 1840. 

It’s good to be home. For all of us. Just in time to say goodbye, unfortunately.

The final episode of the series coincides with the anniversary of the Daybook, and I am compelled to revisit it because, in a story with no map, it is nonetheless our destination. Kind of. By the very nature of text, it is the ending, and thus, the point. What is Dark Shadows but Xeno’s Cliffhanger? Our hands have slipped 1223 times, and to our thankful dismay, a tiny outcropping of plot presented itself just as many times to keep us from plunging over for permanent. We may root for Catherine and Bramwell (and Melanie and Kendrick, too) in this episode, but we are all Morgan Collins, plunging away from a Collinwood without end. 

There is so much emotion and background noise of series significance going on in this final episode that it’s easy for a guy like me to get distracted. I’m so busy with the sizzle that I don’t even notice the steak. This episode is doing several opposite things at once, and manages to pull off the destiny of Dark Shadows while it’s at it. It speaks to love and loneliness. It speaks to limits and forgiveness. 

How? Well, what’s going on with Brutus at this hour of the morning? I’m seeing a bad husband catching his wife in the arms of someone who actually cares about her. Brutus’s response? The picture of Relationship Privilege: he ignores the lovestruck sap and simply tells his wife to knock it off and come to bed. At first, anyway. 

No, no, Catherine isn’t Amanda. We get it. But stop the presses, Olsen, because Catherine’s not Catherine, either. Symbolically, she’s Angelique with hipper hair. This is a metaphorical afterword and epilogue and coda and Columbovian “one more thing.” So, just… go with it. 

Note that Brutus isn’t even wrathful with the fool who’s wasting his time being in love with his wife. Brutus just chuckles at him, which is what I imagine most husbands do regarding the rest of us… just because they knew about the marital job fair that we single guys slept through. Day ain’t over yet, my friends. Remember when I said it spoke to loneliness? Yes, by implication.   

So, Brutus is chuckling like a Rembrandt cover of the Monopoly Man, telling Catherine, “Come to me! Come to me!” She’s considering it. 

Amidst this laughter, Bramwell points out to Catherine that going with the evil ghost papi isn’t the best life plan. I mean, does Brutus say “Come to me” to every blonde who’s cheating on one of his descendants with another one of his descendants? 

Your golf ball?  Your car? Does everything belong to you?

Not so fast, Brutus! She’s not Amanda and everyone admits that you’ve had too many victims. (Which begs the question of, “How many victims can you have as a Collins patriarch and still be considered a decent marriage prospect?”)

But these Husbandoids are clever.  Watch Brutus swallow his pride and falsify contrition as he asks Catherine, a woman he’s never met, to forgive him. And it works. Once again, Dark Shadows is the most realistic show on TV. The abusive (symbolic) husband proclaims he still loves her, despite the body count, and Catherine seems perfectly enthused by it. What do these guys have? These abusive, privileged schmucks act like they own the world because the women in their lives treat them like they… well… own the world. Everybody: knock it off. It’s the 21st century and you’re all part of the problem now. I mean, seriously. 

This is important. This isn’t just my standard Single Lament. This is Dark Shadows’s last appeal to their key demographic. 

Anyway, Bramwell tries to restrain her. Brutus force-chokes him. And the only way that Brutus loses is by gloating so much that Catherine comes to her senses. That, and he looks pretty silly in that collar. A rooster crows, Brutus’s time is up. Catherine will stick with the guy who actually loves her.

And I privately hope that maybe life’s solitude can end like that for all of us. 

Yeah, I know. It’s asking a lot. 

The story of Dark Shadows begins with a woman trapped at home because she lacked the option of divorce. So she thought. Yes, okay, there’s an attempted murder in there. But we look over that because the show does.

It ends very differently. 

Better choices are possible with enough time. With enough of a pause, the rooster crows. The worst of us goes back into the coffin. The best of us wait to use a fireplace poker that only parts Dennis Patrick’s hair.  

Impetuousness is the enemy here. Yes, Catherine, you say that life’s villain is the practice of the heart following the head, rather than the other way around. Incorrect. Neither heart nor head are unimportant if you simply take the time for them to catch up with each other. Dark Shadows is about patience. 

In this sense, it speaks to viewers as well, forcing them to be patient, 1244 times in a row. In a show about rituals, it is the greatest ritual of all.

Clocks dominate. Time is a prison. As Dark Shadows leaves the air, we are given one last gift: choosing which side of the bars we’ll occupy. 

This series left the world of the living on April 2, 1971.

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