Episode 7: Revenge and Retribution

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For Dark Shadows fans who view the series beginning with episode 210, Sam Evans is likely perceived as a sympathetic character. At the very least, he seems innocuous, and for the most part you feel for him because his daughter Maggie, a character who is universally well liked, is soon to be kidnapped and you understand the tortured anguish of a loving father who only wants for his daughter to be returned home safely. Even Roger Collins at one point manages to almost express a measure of sympathy for Sam’s plight – almost, that is.

 

But taking the series from the beginning, it’s a different story – and not just because the first actor who plays him, Mark Allen, doesn’t seem to find as much favor with Dark Shadows fans the way his successor to the role does, David Ford. Perhaps it’s the company he keeps.

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Episode 5: Hope Fades with the Light of Day

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On Vicki’s first morning in Collinwood, Carolyn knocks on her door to offer some coffee, but is dismayed to find that a suitcase is in the process of being packed.

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Episode 4: Avoiding the Pain

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A door slams in the night, and newly arrived governess Victoria Winters, sitting up in bed reading a book, is understandably alarmed as she turns her head with wide-eyed concern to place the sound. She has journeyed hundreds of miles up the coast from the orphanage where she was raised, having accepted a job that she hoped might lead her to find out about herself, the true identity of her origins. But instead all she has found in the three hours or so since her arrival are the strange and unpredictable turns in temperament that come from those who hold within themselves hidden fears, deep despair, or desperation. Not to mention closed doors that seem to open by themselves.

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Episode 3: Information

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One of the charms of these early episodes of Dark Shadows is something I call “scene connectors.” Someone will close out a scene with a phrase or word, like when Joe Haskell asks Burke Devlin what he wants in exchange for what Devlin has offered him, and Devlin answers, “Information.” Then they cut away to the next scene, which begins by someone else taking up that key phrase or word but in a completely different context: “But I can’t give you any information,” Maggie Evans tells Roger Collins. “Pop’s a free soul, you know that. He wanders.” Just minutes ago, Roger, who is not such a free soul, wandered into the coffee shop just before closing time under the pretext of seeing if there’s “any coffee left in the hopper.” But what he really wants to know is where Sam Evans is. You’ll recall that in the previous episode Roger exploded when he realized that Burke Devlin is back in town – and what he needs this late hour is to pin down the whereabouts of a local artist who paints seascapes and sunsets. At this point Roger has something the viewer lacks: information.

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Episode 2: A Friend of the Family

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“They said this joint starts jumpin’ when the kids get here,” private detective Wilbur Strake notes approvingly to his client Burke Devlin as they sit at the bar in the Blue Whale observing the action on the dance floor. “They sure were right!”

There’s a party going on, and Carolyn Stoddard, daughter of Collinwood matriarch Elizabeth Stoddard, is at the center of it, frugging her way all around the room as surf-style guitar instrumental music is blaring from the jukebox.

In his story outline, Shadows on the Wall, Art Wallace describes Carolyn, seventeen, as “an attractive, vivacious young girl who enjoys every moment of life” and also as one who plays the field. Her introduction in the second episode of Dark Shadows certainly lives up to this description, because she is dancing with every available young man on the floor – everyone, that is, but her date, Joe Haskell, who sits at their table with a beer before him, looking sullen and forlorn while Carolyn, not bothering to notice, treats him more like a chaperone than a date.

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Episode 1: “Next Stop, Collinsport!”

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From the beginning, Dark Shadows lives up to its name. Full of mysterious characters with secrets to be kept, the debut episode, and the three that follow, is set during the nighttime, when a sense of foreboding pervades the deepest, when the ghosts of yesterday seem the most threatening, piercing the looming shades of darkness like the light of an oncoming train.

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