Random Musings -- Black Sheep

Random Musings About Black Sheep:

Black Sheep, one of six episodes by the Phil Bedard and Larry Lalonde writing team, is deeply satisfying and very well-balanced, despite Lucard's small role in the overall story. The episode's opening scene is intense and emotional, effectively introducing us to the human anguish Klaus's thoughtless killing has caused, while at the same time showing us that Klaus is clearly unbalanced himself. Paul Yeager, a retired army officer whose wife Amelia Klaus has seduced and killed, places wild rose branches on Amelia's grave, only to be surprised and tormented by Klaus, who informs him that Amelia isn't in her grave. Yeager is close to tears as he apologises to his dead wife for allowing her death (it is not stated explicitly, but Yeager blames himself for his wife's death because he did not accompany her when she went to the theatre, where she met Klaus). He promises her that she won't be able to come to Klaus as long as the wild rose branches are on her grave; yet, even as he speaks, Klaus materializes and informs him that Amelia is already a vampire. Klaus's behaviour is manic right from the start, as he alternatively shouts and giggles insanely, then disappears into a cloud of fog and sneers, in bat form, at Yeager's vow to kill him, "You and, as they say, whose army?" It's odd that Klaus is able to talk while in bat form (he does so in Decline of the Romanian Vampire, too). We also get to see, for a few moments, through vampire/bat vision, as we did in the beginning of Children of the Night. It's blurry, unstable, and accompanied by weird music.

The next scene establishes what will be a very tightly interwoven sub-plot in this episode. Max, playing cat's cradle with himself, is bored. Even though he loves Europe, he'd give a dollar to see a Phillies game. And so, Gustav gives him his old short-wave radio to repair. The interaction between Max and Gustav in this scene is very understated and natural; it just seems extremely real. The affection between the two characters is sparkling clear and makes their next scene together a blow to the viewer as well as to Max.

Gustav's desk calendar is hand-marked "Full Moon" with red on St. George's day. Interestingly, the calendar reads "Lundi, 23 Avril." It's April?? That doesn't make any sense, as it's supposed to be summer-time, when the kids aren't at school, and I don't know of any school that lets out that early. I guess the writers vied for accuracy over plausibility in the date St. George's eve. It's a small point, anyway, as the date is never mentioned out loud. The initial scene between Gustav and Paul Yeager is very effective in establishing Yeager's determination and further enforcing his emotional stake (er...) in staking Klaus. I found it intriguing that the first thing he says to Gustav is, "I've been told that you might be able to help me." Apparently Gustav has a reputation as a vampire-hunter; how, and from whom, I wonder, did Yeager hear about him? We also learn that it's possible for a vampire to drink from his victim over a number of weeks or months, as Yeager says of Amelia, "From the first night she mentioned him, she began to change--to grow sick. Later I saw the bite marks on her neck. She was getting so weak." This method of feeding certainly would conserve victims, but it seems as if it would also make it much more likely for the vampire to get caught--as, indeed, Klaus has been.

The emotional intensity, anxiety and tension crackles as distorted overhead closeups of Yeager and Gustav are forced upon us. Yeager's directive to Gustav, "I want you to hunt this creature down and kill him" is chilling, especially to a viewer already aware that Klaus is Gustav's son. Yeager offers to pay Gustav to kill Klaus, telling him that he can obtain any weapon he needs, but Gustav answers, "I'm not a hit man, Mr. Yeager. My answer is no." For a first-time viewer, who does not yet know Klaus's relationship to Gustav, the answer is shocking. Yeager's angry response, "I have been told that you help people. I'm sorry to be mistaken," seems altogether justified.

Like Kimberly B., I, love the confrontation between Klaus and Lucard. Geordie Johnson makes the most of each of his brief appearances in this episode (well, and so does GWD of his appearances, I suppose!). I especially like the opening of the scene: Klaus's slight nervousness as he walks through Lucard's automatic doors, straightening his absolutely hideous tie (I think Klaus inherited his taste in ties from his father). When the first thing Lucard says to him is, "Klaus, you're late," Klaus turns right around again and walks back out, shaking his head like a child annoyed with the unreasonable demands of his petty parent. Without a beat, Lucard appears on the other side of the doors before Klaus can even active them to open again. Klaus's small smiles and flinches are consummate here, as, of course, are Lucard's. It's interesting to note that, when Lucard first confronts Klaus, his protégé is taller than he is; yet when they both vamp out and come to blows they appear to be of equal height. The juxtapositioning of Lucard's "pretty-boy" looks with Klaus's more solidly built body is disconcerting as they face off; to all appearances, they are equals in age and Klaus is physically capable of overpowering Lucard easily. Of course, appearances can be deceiving.

It's taking me forever to write this, because this episode just has too many good scenes--I want to comment on everything. Every scene is used to its best advantage and is marvellous on multiple levels--the delivery of the dialogue, the non-verbal communication, and even little touches like the adorable carved wooden warthog on Gustav's desk, are perfect.

The second scene between Gustav and Yeager, during which Max tries to tell Gustav that his repaired radio picked up a cellular phone conversation between Lucard and Klaus (revealing that Klaus is planning a rendezvous in the market district on the old bridge), only to be ordered back up stairs, is equally as powerful as the first. Assuming that we don't yet know Klaus is Gustav's son, Helsing's behaviour is jaw-dropping. I really feel sorry for Max, who is trying to help, only to be yelled at in the most inexplicable way. Yeager's producing a mean-looking crossbow with which he plans to stake Klaus is also a scary moment (in particular, knowing what thinking of that thing being used on Klaus must be doing to Gustav). Yeager's comment, "Perhaps if your wife had been taken by [a vampire], you'd have the will to take the risk," is terribly suggestive. Maybe Gustav's wife was taken by a vampire. We don't really know, but it's a distinct possibility. Gustav is careful not to react to anything Yeager says, so it's impossible to tell from his expressions. He responds only by insisting, "It's not a question of will!" The most emotionally affective scene for me is the one that follows Yeager's departure. Max comes back down the stairs and asks his uncle, "I heard him say he's gonna to get a vampire. Shouldn't we help?" Gustav's response, a firm and unhesitating, "No," after which he turns his back and covers his face with his hands, must really frighten Max. He is clearly perplexed and worried, with no idea why his uncle is behaving in such an uncharacteristic way, but he doesn't question him any further. Max is a very well-behaved kid.

Klaus's and Gustav's secret meeting is another spectacular little scene, full of nuances and more amazing non-verbal communication by Geraint Wyn Davies as Klaus. I love seeing Klaus wearing his sunglasses at night (now I really am being tortured by that song, darn you, Sarah!). We, the completely-in-the-dark-viewer, become more shocked by the moment as Gustav proceeds to warn this vampire that he's in danger from Yeager. He finishes with, "If you go [to the rendezvous], you'll be destroyed, and I won't be able to help you." Klaus simply nods scoffingly, as if Gustav is wasting his time, and walks away. His saying nothing at all is much more powerful than any scathing comment he might have made.

Of course, I adore the brief scene in which Lucard, having discovered the leak, sends the kids on a wild goose chase to "the General" by feeding them misinformation over his cellular phone. He's in his office being worked on by two tailors as he conducts his business over the phone (Lucard's always so efficient, isn't he?) and really looks smashing in his partially finished jacket. We actually get to see his shirt sleeves again!

Gustav's comment to Yeager that "a vampire would be foolish to strike in a predictable pattern, and I've never yet heard of a foolish vampire," is wonderfully ironic. Klaus's foolishness grows by the moment and is important to bring some comic relief to this otherwise very serious, dark episode with astonishingly little humour. Kimberly B. describes the ending of this episode very well in her musing below, so I won't repeat what she's already said. It is indeed sad, and exciting as well. Klaus gets a bit too over the top for me to truly sympathize with him; like Lucard, I find Gustav's manner of dealing with his "undisciplined child" to be a welcome relief. Klaus's continually deteriorating mental state is past the point beyond with Lucard (or I) can put up with him any more. The little touches in the Helsing family crypt are nice--the memorial plaque reading "Dr. A. Van Helsing, 1838-1912," in particular. I do wonder where all those lit candles came from, though. In two parallel scenes, we finally learn the dual significance of it being a full moon on St. George's Eve. As the kids remember at "the General" (General George Patton park) a vampire's buried treasure gives off a blue flame on St. George's Eve, and, as Gustav is highly aware, when there is a full moon on that night, a vampire must return to where he was first buried, to sleep. Gustav has been waiting for 13 years for this chance to seal Klaus in his tomb until he can find a cure. Being a Lucard devotee, the moment I like best here is Lucard's appearance out of nothingness just in time save Gustav by catching the stake shot from Yeager's crossbow. It's, well, just so cool. But actually, the ending of this episode always leaves me feeling a bit depressed. Meeting up with the kids, who haven't found even one gold coin at "the General," Gustav pretends he completely forgot it was St. George's eve. It's nice to be rid of Klaus for a while (he can get to be too much), but Gustav's imprisoning his goofy child is the most painful thing he has ever had to do, and the only other person who knows about it is Lucard. Thanks to Bernard Behrens's sensitive portrayal of Gustav, it is sad. And we never get to find out exactly where Lucard had to "go home, for a night" to, either. (Transylvania, presumably.)

Some thoughts from Kimberly B.:

I really enjoyed Klaus being back... loved the fight that Lucard & Klaus had in the beginning of show! It was kind of a sad ending when Gustav closed the crypt door and sealing his son in there because he hopes for a cure. You can see the sadness etched across Gustav's face (I felt so bad for him) and you can hear the anguished cries of his son begging to be let out (he will be later...)... begging such as, "please, Father, don't!" You could tell it broke Gustav's heart to do that but it was the only thing he could do for the moment.

One scene that was really good also was when Gustav and Klaus were talking in the crypt and Klaus said that Lucard was the only person who could *release* him. Gustav shook his said and said no and that he was the only person who could release him. One touching part of that scene was when they were arguing about why Lucard turned Klaus into a vampire [and] Gustav said the only reason Lucard took him was because Klaus was his son: Lucard took Klaus only for revenge against Gustav. A rare moment of realization came over Klaus's face when Gustav said the word "son". It affected him in a big way. He seemed to be like the old Klaus but that didn't last long...because the temporary moment was over as Klaus went back being his old self. But it was sad to see the look on Klaus's face when he heard the truth of Gustav's words. When I first saw this episode when it aired on Channel 62 I was hoping that somehow Klaus could come back and leave the crypt a vampire or a human... I saw the episode later when Max accidentally brought him back.

Musings of K'lin k.:

This episode would have so much more meaning to those who had seen the other Klaus episodes than just this one. Klaus' first appearance shows him as a very ruthless, and loyal assistant to Lucard. Maximilian stated in "The Vampire Solution," "You don't scare me Lucard.... now this guy scares me..." Klaus is very silent, as if he doesn't not need to say anything to make a formidable impression. He shoves Gustav's old student into the car without a word. The only word he says to Gustav's accusation in the office is "Hello," followed by a nice neck chop (but surprisingly not a chomp?).

His unsuitability begins to show at the very beginning of Black Sheep. His laughter is not like Lucard's smug or even menacing laughter -- more sort of maniacal. For a moment we see him more stable as Gustav warns him of danger. Klaus dressed in his cool looking "night shades." Makes you think of that song lyric "the future's so bright... I've gotta wear shades..."

The few-bite method is explained here describing Yeager's wife's steady decline with her associating with Klaus. It makes me wonder if it depends on the vampire's mood as to whether to make a zombie, make a vampire after one night or a few nights, or just killing the victim. DTS seems to switch back and forth on this aspect of vampire creation.

Maximilian's loyalty/trust/love? to his uncle is shown in this episode. He showed his worry, but he was willing to accept his Uncle's refusal to help because of that trust.

I do wonder in this episode if Lucard was actually showing concern for his young assistant with an almost fatherly start: "I know what it is like to be young and enthusiastic, Klaus." This method seems to sour significantly with the full vampiric rage shown when they fight only a few minutes later. When Lucard states later, "Who better to deal with an undisciplined child... than his own father?" Didn't Lucard steal Klaus from Gustav, thus becoming Klaus' surrogate father so to speak, then to cast him back to Gustav ridding himself of the problem, allowing Helsing a bitter-sweet victory, and putting Klaus in his place?

As for the musing about Lucard taking Gustav's son as a revenge "an eye-for-an-eye" maneuver makes me wonder if Gustav's wife did not share her husband's hatred for Lucard and perhaps Lucard was fond of her as he is with a few relations he keeps hidden. Maybe Gustav "freed" his wife from "Lucard's evil" and thus robbed Lucard of a companion (which he seems to muse over loneliness every so often). Maybe Lucard decided to take revenge by taking Gustav's only son (Something Gustav loved) instead. I could be reaching on this one, but since they never mention Gustav's wife (I mean... he had to have one right? To have Klaus?) it is easy to speculate. :) The line "Perhaps if your wife was taken by a vampire..." Yeager throws at Gustav brings up a clue.

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