16 February 2015

Dark Shadows: Bloodlust vi

The 35 minutes plus running time of this episode really whips past. In possibly one of the busiest and events-heavy episodes of the series so far, the conclusion poses more questions than the lead-up answers. It transpires within the first few seconds that I was wrong in my belief that Jessica Griffin and Andrew Cunningham had been murdered in the closing seconds of the last episode.

Look away now if you're avoiding spoilers (although, for one thing if you're reading this for an answer as to whether you should buy Bloodlust, it's an immediate yes; and secondly if you're even further behind than me, you ought to be ashamed!) but only Cunningham bit the dust.

This raises a lot of inquiring thoughts in this reviewer's ordinarily-vacated skull. Given that Mrs Griffin was only injured (alright, she's 'fighting for her life') it seems that Andrew was the intended victim, leading the audience to think that it was one of his immediate family. It could even be his eighteen-month old, now-adult son. This theory holds even more water when it's later revealed that the Cunninghams (via the Jenningses) are descendants of Quentin Collins, a werewolf, and the dear departed was slaughtered by such a creature. Collins seems to think only Tom would have inherited the condition, but from my limited knowledge of the supernatural, I see no reason why Amy would've been skipped. This places her firmly in the frame, and she certainly seems to have an axe to grind with him come the end of Part Five. Tom is still getting used to his body, so in case it could've been an accident (or not!).

I don't intend to investigate every single possibility here, for there are far more meaty parts of this episode to discuss, and that's saying something. By now, the villagers have had enough of this assault on their numbers. Maggie Evans convenes a meeting at the Blue Whale (where else?) in an attempt to convince the people of Collinsport of the existence of the supernatural, and manages to perhaps a little too well. Ed Griffin leads a revolt initially headed for Collinwood, but steered towards Angelique's cave by Harry. In climactic scenes, Barnabus Collins descends upon the world to complete the trinity of him, Quentin and the witch. I haven't got a clue what that's about, but it sounds damn exciting!

It's telling that even though we're not even halfway through Bloodlust, the scenes of the mob on the beach, out for blood, feel like they've stepped from the epic finale of some top-drawer drama. These are undoubtedly the pinnacle of the series so far, not only for being so gripping, but because of what happens afterwards. There really doesn't seem to be anywhere to go with it, it's got as big as it could, surely? And then there's an earthquake (not the first time the town has been shaken to the core this year). But that's no earthquake...

The cast are all at the top of their game here too. For the first few episodes' reviews, I had to consult my notes to remind myself who was who. But now I have no problem, so strong and distinctive are the performances. My favourite group of characters is still that of Jackie, Cody and Harry (and now Tom) but there's no-one I don't look forward to hearing. I think perhaps the strongest actress in this is Asta Parry as Kate Ripperton. Every line is loaded with emotion of some kind, and hers and Frankie's absence from the mob both worries and intrigues me. Kate's a great character and I wouldn't like to see her bumped off next. Matthew Waterhouse will be missed (I imagine the same was said at the time of Adric's demise) but there's plenty else to fill the gap left by Andrew. I still think we're dealing with more than one murderer, despite Angelique's comments to Harry about Melody Devereux.

The production values of Bloodlust are so high now. I know I mentioned at the start that I couldn't really note much sound design, but that is certainly not the case here. Across six episodes, Darlington has developed a sonic identity for each location so effectively that I can place almost every scene before any dialogue is spoken. Bearing in mind that I knew literally nothing about Dark Shadows prior to Bloodlust, the fact that Collinsport almost seems second nature to me now is quite an achievement on the part of the series' entire creative team. I must say that this is the most exciting series Big Finish have produced in years. With a cast and crew thoroughly invested in quality, but quirky, storytelling, my anticipation for the next episode grows with each instalment.

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