A couple of years ago when I was watching the 200th or so episode of Dark Shadows, I noted that there were 26 Collections of the show on DVD and said that I doubted I’d continue watching for as long as that. I did originally intend to drop it after Barnabas Collins first showed up, then after Victoria Winters left, but there was always just enough to keep me interested in going on a little longer.
I’ve now gone as far as Collection 18, approaching 900 episodes, and the question is whether or not I’m going to see this show through to the end.
I’m long past the point where I stopped watching as a little girl and for the most part don’t know what’s going to happen. The actors and other surviving people involved with the show occasionally give upcoming plot points away in their interviews on the DVDs, but I’ve avoided reading episode guides or other information online that will spoil the rest of the show for me.
Barnabas Collins has been abruptly yanked out of 1897, presumably by the ghost of his beloved Josette since he was pulled into her painting.
He finds himself back in 1797 on the night that he was expecting the still-living Josette to sneak out of her bedroom at Collinwood to meet him in the woods so that she could become his vampire bride. But they didn’t meet.
What happened that night was that Angelique, bent on revenge against them both, showed Josette a ghastly image of herself as one of the undead. Josette, horrified, fled from Barnabas instead of running to meet him and went over the cliff to her death. She has haunted Collinwood since.
Barnabas sees that he’s been given the opportunity to change that course of events and save the woman he loves.
He first tries to talk to Angelique and convince her not to show Josette that horrific vision, but this isn’t the Angelique of 1897 that he’s on good terms with. This is the witch who just turned him into a vampire after he scorned her for love of Josette. She hates his guts and is in no mood to be merciful.
He then tries to get Josette’s aunt, the countess, and ditzy cousin Millicent to keep Josette in the house until dawn. History is averted, and Josette does not find her fate at the cliff’s bottom.
Barnabas then speaks to Josette herself; now that she’s safe, he intends for them both to go back (forward?) to 1897 where they can live the rest of their lives happily ever after.
He makes arrangements for Josette to meet him at the old house, and heads out through the woods… but for the first time in his very long existence, he finds the grounds of Collinwood strange and confusing. He loses his way.
Then he runs into two black-cloaked figures who kneel to him as if he were their master, then they seize him and take him to an altar in a clearing–part of an open-air temple that has certainly never been seen on the Collinwood grounds before, with what looks like a Hydra symbol above it.
The two cloaked people place Barnabas on the altar, claiming that “He will know us.” After they perform a short ceremonial rite, he does.
Barnabas seems to have forgotten entirely about Josette and their date. He’s got a new purpose now. His friends give him what they call the “Leviathan box,” which also has the Hydra sign on it, and say that’s all he can take with him.
That’s the last we’ll see of Barnabas for awhile.
In 1969, Dr. Julia Hoffman has been home for a month since her visit to 1897, and she’s been waiting for Barnabas’s return or some news of his fate. She has been staying at the old house while she waits, but on this day goes over to Collinwood to chat with Carolyn. Carolyn has bought her mother a piece of vintage jewelry from a new antique shop in town (a shop we’ll be hearing more about later).
While Julia is there with Carolyn, she hears voices from the past–to be specific, the same two actors’ 1897 characters, Magda and Charity Trask (who still thinks she’s Pansy; this is one plot element that remains unresolved). We just saw these same two actors as their 1790s characters, the Countess and Millicent in the previous episode, which delights me; I like when they do double roles at nearly the same time. Magda and Charity are talking about how Barnabas and Kitty mysteriously disappeared two weeks ago. The general assumption is that the couple has eloped, but since they didn’t take anything with them and were last seen at the old house, it looks very strange.
As Dr. Hoffman returns to the old house herself, that Hydra temple appears in the woods. She doesn’t see it, but she does find a mysterious stranger in a hat and trenchcoat poking around the place as if he’s looking for someone. She tries to question him, but he slips away into the night when Carolyn arrives.
Dr. Hoffman goes into the house to see if Barnabas has returned, and Lurking Trenchcoat starts peeking in the windows, lurking again.
A short while later, Carolyn will run across the Hydra temple in the woods. She’s spent her whole life at Collinwood and knows that this structure isn’t supposed to be there. As she stands and puzzles over it, the mysterious stranger approaches her and speaks to her. He asks her if she’s one of the Collins family and, once she introduces herself, says that she’s very beautiful and he looks forward to seeing her again. Even though he’s old enough to be her father, it doesn’t come off as smarmy or creepy.
Although the show won’t tell us the identity of this stranger for a few more episodes, the end credits of this episode completely give it away. Since his conversation with Carolyn and some other subsequent scenes provide us with hints anyway, I’ll just say it: he’s Paul Stoddard, long-missing husband of Elizabeth Collins-Stoddard and is in fact Carolyn’s father.
After Carolyn and her as-yet unacknowledged dad leave the temple, the altar splits open and Barnabas appears in the cleft. He’s still holding that box his new friends gave him nearly 200 years ago and looks as if he’s just come straight through time from them.
He recites a weird little poem about “the waters washing each grain of sand” and “the flesh that will be restored…”