The Dark Shadows Diaries Volume 3
Starring: Joan Bennett, Mitchell Ryan, Louis Edmonds, Alexandra Isles, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Nancy Barrett, Joel Crothers, Frank Schofield, David Henesy, David Ford, and Thayer David
Written by: Art Wallace
Directed by: Lela Swift and John Sedwick
Fashions Provided by: Orhbach’s
HAPPY HALLOWEEN, Y’ALL and welcome back to The Dark Shadows Diaries! A perilously entertaining deep dive into the pop culture phenomenon that is Dark Shadows, the gothest show to ever grace CBS.
A quick note before we get into this installment: I am watching all of these on Amazon. For some insane reason, the episodes in the “Beginning” collections have disappeared from the service, both on my Fire Stick and Fire Tablet. It is kinda bizarre especially since we are right into the early days of October, but eh, what can you do? I am hoping the issue will be resolved soon. There isn’t any major interruption in my episode coverage. If there is, I will find SOMETHING to write about for these things, don’t you worry. They are too damn fun not to. Let’s get to the spooky shit, shall we?
So quick recap, Roger Collins crashed his car, and remarkably, it wasn’t because of drunk driving. Though he was hot to pin it on a returning Burke Devlin, seeing as how he and fellow local drunk Sam Evans (now played completely different actor, David Ford) jammed him up for murder not ten years prior. But sike! It was actually his psycho kid David, who wanted to murder him in order not to be sent away to boarding school! This is probably because Roger is constantly yelling in his face that he is gonna send him away to boarding school. Kids, ya know? Also, there is a new governess Victoria Winters, who is more housecat than human, matriarch Elizabeth Collins-Stoddard who hasn’t left the house in decades, and her daughter Carolyn, who, if she were alive today, would have a killer fucking Instagram.
With the show’s first major plot finished, writer Art Wallace turns toward another one and fundamentally changes the whole track of the show. Most of this block of episodes is centered around Roger really sweating Sam taking a painting commission from Burke (trust me, it’s even sillier than it sounds, more on that in a second). The REAL amazing thing about these are that the show EXPLICITLY STATES THAT COLLINWOOD IS HELLA HAUNTED. Though coyly hinted at by Carolyn in a convo with Vicky, Miss Winters finally gets a full-on paranormal experience in the infamous basement. We kinnnda got one before with the weird apparition from the last volume. For my money, this one is much more effective and will ultimately (maybe? I really think I’m right tho) tie heavily into the series’ lore.
Hearing a mournful sobbing in the aftermath of one of David’s fits, Vicky ventures into the basement. The sobs are vibrating through the only locked door on the set. The sound of the sobs echo through a sort of ring modular to give them an extra creepy vibrancy as she looms closer to the door. But as she gets close enough to touch it, the sobs stop and she is left only in silence in the basement. That is until another regenerated character, Matthew Morgan the caretaker, now played by Thayer David, startles her from her fright.
It is a really fantastic sequence for the show, executed with precise timing from director Lela Swift and one that seriously puts this show on a whole other level. I often think about how I would lose my shit if I was a viewer in the ’60s and got hooked on this show only to then have GODDAMN GHOSTS show up. It is so fun. I love it to pieces.
What’s even better about this reveal is the new dynamic that it reveals in the relationship between Carolyn and Victoria. Carolyn goes to some kinda batty places this crop of episodes, mainly centered around her trying to get the attention of Burke. First, she basically strong-arms her way into his room. Then, purposefully leaves her ring there so he will have an excuse to see her. When a LITERAL day passes, he doesn’t come calling. She then takes it upon herself to harass him during another insane breakfast order to ask where he is going. SHE THEN FREAKING FOLLOWS HIM. All the way to goddamn Bangor just to be like, “NOTICE ME!”. Like, gurl, you are too pretty to be this thirsty. Especially over that smug so-and-so Burke.
But back to my point, the supernatural really brings the best out in Vicky and her budding relationship. Carolyn now has an honest to god confidant in Collinwood. While her mother means well, Vicky is her own age and is roughly comparable in her own experiences as well. Though she jokingly talked about the house’s ghosts in previous episodes, she shows genuine fear and desire to commiserate upon that fear with Vicky. Which in turn, makes Vicky really open up to her. It is a really nice development of the characters. One I really look forward to the show exploring in future episodes.
This batch of episode’s other plot, what I’m calling High Stakes Portrait Painting, doesn’t quite live up to the high bar set by the in canon existence of the supernatural in this universe. I will be damned if it isn’t just silly enough to really work. Now that the investigation into Roger’s car crash is wrapped up, Roger now turns his port-stained brain to the problem of Sam Evans agreeing to paint a lavish portrait of Burke. One that will look suspiciously like the one Josiah Collins had done back when he made his fortune and built Collinwood. In Roger’s head, this means that Burke is out to dispose of the Collins family of their grand house and will use the painting sessions to pump a soused Sam for information on how to do it.
This leads to a lot of hand-wringing from Roger. Alot of “I was just in the neighborhood” bullshit from Roger and Collins Cannery fixer Bill Malloy, who looks like if Doctor Strange was the middle-aged star of a Stephen King novella. Bill is a fairly new character in the scheme of the show thus far. He’s a real codger. The actor who plays him has a really odd, pinched way of speaking. It makes his scenes really strange to watch and I can’t imagine how strange it was to act alongside.
The new Sam Evans is also an odd duck. He seems to have based his whole physicality and space work choices on how quickly he can start drinking in a scene. We have gotten hints about Sam’s alcoholism from Maggie. She is WOEFULLY absent during these episodes, but seeing it in full swing and tackled with some kind of glee from this new actor makes it a touch cartoonish. It goes from funny to sad and back to funny throughout these entries.
Burke and Vicky draw the short straw when it comes to plot this time around. There is a bit of business about Burke and his mysterious New York Lawyer. The most we get out of that is that he has been looking into the bank statements and public finance records of the Collins Cannery and other properties. Poor Vicky The Cat gets even less development. She opens up to Elizabeth about the cryptic letter she was found with. She attempts to press her on just why she asked for her specifically when she called the home she resided in. But, unfortunately, Elizabeth tells her to heave-ho. She has more important things to do. Like defend David’s budding homicidal tendencies and remind everyone that she’s worked with Dario Argento. It’s like, we geeeeettt it, you know?
And so, this Volume closes by being kind of silly but also hugely spooky. That is precisely what I want from an October, don’t you? I would say watch these episodes, but as of my filing this piece, this run still hasn’t been restored to the server, and I really don’t get it. In the meantime, I will scour my archives for a new bit of lore or movie to explore in the next entry. Lara Parker’s The Salem Branch eyeing me from my chamber’s shelves, which is a post-show EU novel, so that seems fun. And if you get truly desperate for Dark Shadows coverage, I have recently been given an internship at the Collinsport Historical Society, founded by the great @CousinBarnabas. There I shall be combing through the vast archives of Big Finish and reviewing their audio plays. Come have a look and don’t mind all the blood.
NEXT TIME! The (Possible) Coming of Josette Collins! Maybe a book report! WE WILL PLAY IT BY EAR! Be seeing you.