19 February 2015

Dark Shadows: Bloodlust ix

Despite the gripping nature of earlier episodes, Will Howells has saved some of the most interesting material of the series so far for his last episode. The tension is certainly building, and the tangled knot of plot threads is becoming even more so. One thing I am convinced of, especially due to the cliffhanger, is that this has more to do with the mine - and so the Collinses - than I'd thought so far.

Indeed, the most powerful family in Collinsport are given more prominence in this episode as we edge closer to learning the identity of the killer. Angelique manages to break through to Collinwood, only to be mentally expelled by Carolyn Stoddard, a character who first popped up at the town meeting a few episodes back, and another who I have absolutely no idea about. It was a dramatic reappearance, but we've heard nothing from her since. I'm sure that will change over the final four episodes. 

Kate and Frankie are pushed into the limelight here too, affording both Asta Parry and Roger Carvalho ample opportunity to earn their keep. The former ends up getting the latter fired from his job at the mine after going up their snooping for information, which Frankie naturally doesn't react well to. This pair seem to connect deep down, but their personalities clash so often it's a wonder they're ever together for as long as they are. In any case, it now seems pretty certain they won't be getting back together any time soon...

In true dramatic tradition, Maggie Evans has the first day from hell as Collinsport's sheriff. The day doesn't start well, with the news of Trask's shooting spreading fast, but goes from bad to worse as dusk approaches. She finds old enemy Barnabus lying in the town, following an encounter with an unknown person. Oddly enough, he can't remember who it was, but knows it was to do with Maggie's safety. Is the bell tolling for her too? The relationship between Maggie and Barnabus is tangible and a wealth of history floods their conversations, thanks to Howells, Andrew Collins and Kathryn Leigh Scott's understanding of the characters.

I know I keep saying it, but Bloodlust is now getting to a point where the excitement just keeps mounting. The scale of the series is getting bigger as the cast dwindles. Thinking about it, Howells has been given the majority of the significant deaths of the series, and it's not hard to see why. The way he juggles storylines whilst maintaining mystery and jolting the audience with shock twists just as you think you know where it's going is to be admired. With characters dropping at the rate of one an episode, the list of suspects is shortening fast, but I'm certain that there will be many more murders before close of play. The three most likely victims in my book are Ed (Angelique's revenge for what he did to Trask; Susan's reason for coming back), Frankie (he's just been too innocent so far, he must have some secret left) and Rhonda (she's definitely not guilty, and possibly getting too close to the truth...).

The music accompanying this series has been consistently excellent, and here is no different. David Darlington's sometimes clanging, often ethereal soundtrack complements Bloodlust perfectly, and completes its vibe. The direction has also been first rate, and I think one of the things that has made this such a success in my eyes is the commitment made by the entire cast and crew, to make this a spooky, otherworldly, but overall refreshing serialised drama. It would be easy to ham it up, but the fact it's played completely straight makes this all the scarier. Several scenes are really freaky and unnerving, especially the very last of this episode. Where the genre falls down for me is magic. I'm prepared to accept that Angelique, Amy, whoever, can cast spells and so on, but the way the incantation in Part Nine was realised just made me cringe a little. It's not a fault on the part of the writer, it's just the natural point of this type of tale that I find it hard to suspend my disbelief beyond.

This is another quality instalment, and even in its latter stages it seems Bloodlust can do no real wrong. I'm not familiar with any of Will Howells' work outside of Bloodlust (and DWM's Time Team) but his four episodes have certainly made me more willing to search out some of his previous (and future) credits. Captivating stuff.

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