“I am unaccustomed to explaining things, sir!”
Ben Stokes has an axe to grind. I mean, literally — he’s standing in the woods near the Old House, sharpening his axe with a grindstone.
“She’s a witch, that Angelique,” he thinks. “A man like me can’t fight a witch. But I’ve got to. Mr. Barnabas… he’s the only friend I got. She says she’s doin’ everything cause she loves him. If only I could figure out some way I could help him, without her knowin’ it.”
Ladies and gentlemen, there he stands, the unwilling henchman — forced to follow the deranged monster’s commands, but openly struggling the whole way. This is such a common theme on Dark Shadows that it must be coded deep down in the show’s DNA.
So far, everyone that we’ve seen under the vampire’s spell — Willie, Maggie, Julia and Carolyn — have all had the guts to stand up and question what he’s making them do. And not just once, but over and over, even at the risk of their lives and immortal souls. There are no sell-outs or collaborators on Dark Shadows — only underground resistance fighters who haven’t figured out which way is underground yet.
Now we’ve got Ben, the spell-charmed slave of a sinister soap vixen, and he’s desperate to spare his friend. But then a huge Chromakey witch head appears, and starts giving him orders. Looks like recess is over.
“I don’t know who she was. But your love was wrong, terribly wrong.”
You know, people talk about breaking new ground in the arts, but then you go and make an episode of afternoon television that ends with a woman holding the bloody stump of another woman’s demon-possessed arm, and all of a sudden everyone gets all weird about it.
They say, Where’s the romance? because apparently people think that soap operas should be about characters falling in love with each other. Personally, I don’t see what the big deal is. If you’ve got voodoo dolls, time travel, tarot cards and marionette bats, then who has time for all that sappy girl stuff?
But fine, whatever. Today — just for you — Dark Shadows is all about the love.
“The tarot cards give us access to knowledge of the occult which cannot be transmitted either orally or in writing.”
On Friday, a vengeful Angelique cast a spell on Josette and Jeremiah, sending them like sleepwalkers to a forbidden tryst, outside in the moonlight. Josette was followed by her aunt, the Countess Natalie, who was an eyewitness as the spellbound couple embraced, and pledged their love.
Now it’s the next morning, and Natalie does the only sensible thing she can do — she brings Josette’s father, Andre, out to the spot where the lovers met, and tells him that they’re being menaced by an evil force.
That doesn’t necessarily sound like the logical next move, but soap operas are approximately 90% information management. If somebody does something, then the next day, everybody has to stand around and talk about it. And if it’s a secret, then there’s all kinds of extra information management activity, including eavesdropping, speculating and making up excuses. Frankly, we’re lucky anything ever happens at all.
Oh, and we’re still in the past, by the way. Remember how we were in the past? Well, we’re still there.
“In the tropics, decisions melt like ice.”
When you get down to it, magic is just metaphor. It’s taking a symbol — like a toy soldier — and saying, this toy soldier represents Barnabas. Then you wrap a handkerchief around the soldier’s neck, pull it tight, and see what happens.
Anybody can do that, really, minus the magic part. Your boyfriend is far away, but every night you kiss a picture of him before you go to bed. You get an email from an annoying co-worker, and you roll your eyes and snarl at it, the way you’d like to treat the person if you could get away with it. When someone that you love dies, you light a candle, and leave flowers on the grave — and even if you don’t believe in ghosts or heaven, it comforts you.
But the people who know magic can take that a step further. Angelique isn’t just smacking a toy soldier around. She tricks the universe into believing that the soldier is Barnabas, and when she throttles the toy, Barnabas chokes.
That’s what magic is — you connect the symbol to the real thing that the symbol represents. Then you wish so hard that you punch a hole through reality, grab something on the other side, and pull.
“Anyone who would do a thing like that is capable of anything.”
Today’s episode opens with — guess who? — Angelique, the villainous lady’s maid, who has basically just walked up and pulled the show out from under everyone else. This storyline was supposed to be about Victoria Winters, girl governess, and her uncertain and frightening journey into the past. But Vicki is off screen today, quietly governessing somewhere, and Angelique takes center stage again.
And, naturally, Angelique is — guess what? — talking about herself, and how great her plans are. She’s recently acquired an unwilling sidekick, the heavily indentured Ben Stokes, and his primary duty appears to be standing by as Angelique delivers a spontaneous TED talk on the subject of how awesome she is.
“If I ever leave this place, it will be in my own carriage.”
The first day at a new job is always a trying experience, even if it’s 1795 and you don’t have to switch to a new email address. Ben Stokes just met Angelique earlier in the day, and now she’s cast a spell on him, and made him her slave. So now he probably has to fill out a W-4 form, and give her a cancelled check to set up the direct deposit.
But Angelique has no time for onboarding; she’s got some ambitious first-quarter deliverables. We’d better get started.
“Joshua Collins can think up a whole lot of ways to be cruel to a man.”
Vicki has mysteriously traveled back in time, from 1967 to 1795, and now she has to fit in, because she doesn’t know how to get home. She’s actually doing remarkably well, under the circumstances. Personally, I’m not sure what I’d do if I suddenly found myself in the wrong century; I don’t really have a backup plan for that. I’ve just tried to stay in the century that I’m in, and so far, it’s worked out okay. So Vicki does earn some respect, just for getting up in the morning and dealing with whatever year she happens to find herself in.
That being said, it’s Vicki, and she’s an idiot. So, obviously, when she meets a Collins family servant who looks like the guy who kidnapped and tried to kill her with an axe last year, she doesn’t say, “Aha, here’s another person from 1795 who coincidentally looks like someone that I used to know; I should play it cool and introduce myself.” Nope. She backs up against the wall and shouts, “Stay away from me!” and then she screams and screams and screams and screams and screams.
“I do not understand any more than you do.”
Okay, here’s a health tip: If you ever have an overnight layover in Martinique, don’t make out with the crazy girl.
Seriously. The girl is out of her mind. At the moment, she’s got a handkerchief wrapped around the neck of Barnabas’ wooden toy soldier, and she’s choking the life out of it. This is apparently going to teach Barnabas a lesson about treating people with respect. It might also partly be about leaving a tip for the maid when you check out of a hotel. It’s kind of an abstract lesson.
Now, this was an unusual Friday cliffhanger, because we know that Barnabas became a vampire, so he couldn’t have died from action-figure-based asphyxiation. Or maybe he could have. There’s a serious question raised today, which is: How does time travel work?
Dark Shadows Every Day is being featured on tonight’s episode of the soap podcast “Tune in Tomorrow”! The show is hosted by my awesome new friend Richard Simms, executive editor of Soaps In Depth magazine. It’s a whole hour of Dark Shadows talk, including the Dream Curse, humane recap techniques, the casual non-science of Parallel Time, and why every soap opera has elves.
The show airs tonight starting at 7pm Eastern, and then archived for eternity. And check out the other episodes — it’s a really fun and thoughtful discussion of soap operas, and the strange culture that we’ve built around these everlasting stories.
“You, and one handkerchief, are all I need to make him regret what he’s done to me.”
Vicki has traveled in time — she’s trapped in 1795, and so are we, for the foreseeable future. We’re here to learn the secret history of how Barnabas became a vampire, and how he lost Josette, the woman that he loved.
In the last episode, we met Angelique, a beautiful young maid who works for Josette’s family. She had a love affair with Barnabas in Martinique, before he knew that the wealthy Josette returned his affections. Josette is traveling to Collinsport for her wedding to Barnabas… but Angelique isn’t done with him yet.