17 February 2015

Dark Shadows: Bloodlust vii

Oh Bloodlust, let me count the ways I love thee. Given we're halfway through this series now, it would be easy for it to rest on its laurels to a certain extent. However, this innovative new range remains sticks to the precedent established in the first six episodes and does the exact opposite of what you might expect.

This seventh instalment, from Alan Flanagan, is composed mostly of a single scene, and what a scene! Rhonda (the Sheriff of Collinsport) organises a town meeting in an attempt to stamp out the violence sweeping the town. Little does she know that it will be the undoing of her. It all begins with some muddled hostilities but before long, as these things do, it becomes an Us versus Them type situation of those who still have faith in the local authorities (namely Rhonda) and those who don't.

Allowing this to play out in real time was absolutely the correct decision; the sense of drama as tensions heighten tangibly is one of the strongest things about this. You can actually feel the mounting pressure as the meeting gets out of control, even under the calming leadership of Frankie. Of course, before long it turns to a public vote and the matter to be decided boils down to whether Maggie Evans or Rhonda Tate should be Sheriff. I've only been acquainted with Maggie for around three hours and the notion of her leading these people seems bizarre even to me. It shows what a state of disrepair the town is in that they'd elect this impulsive, irrational old lady. There may well be truth in what she says, but she's no leader.

This isn't an explicit examination of human nature but Flanagan writes the language of revolution fluently. There is a clearly traceable path of dissent amongst the ranks, and the mob mentality as rage against the appointed authority is present for all to hear. This investment in characters and throwing them together to see what comes out, is a real skill of Flanagan's I can see in retrospect across his three episodes, and is right at home in a series like Dark Shadows, which is based around such extraordinary personalities. Part Seven is thus one of the most interesting episodes yet, and bodes well for the second half of the series.

The event that stood out to me the most though occurred when the power went. It's a harsh reminder that no-one in this series is safe. Unlike the Doctor Who releases, which usually come between existing stories and so have to keep a certain continuity (ie the main characters can't die!), anyone could be for it next. With a fascinating revelation about Amy that surely implicates her in her husband's death (though I'm almost certainly it'll turn out she was framed), I just can't tell where this is going to go next. With another six episodes to go, that's an encouraging sign.

I'm very glad I took a chance on Bloodlust. With no prior knowledge of Dark Shadows and only Joe Lidster's promises to go on, I handed over my readies, expecting something a bit weird that probably wouldn't be for me. To a degree I was correct. This is extraordinary in every sense, and a gripping series. It's not the kind of thing I'd usually choose but I am really enjoying this. That's thanks not only to the writers, but to the entire cast and crew who together produce such a polished, quality product it's shocking that I almost missed out on this. I've no idea where this will go next. All I know is it's gonna be one hell of a ride!

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