“She was here for a while, but now she’s gone forever.”
Hey, is anybody sick of Maggie just floating around the Old House, telling everyone that she’s Josette Collins?
Well, guess what: so is Maggie. That ends right now.
Maggie’s looking in the mirror and making acting faces, and you know what that means — she’s using thinks!
Maggie (thinks): “Maggie. Yes, Maggie! That’s your name! That’s my name! I must remember that.”
Just as she’s starting to get a grip on that, her hand knocks against the music box — and it starts to work its hypnotic magic. Cue more thinks, where she’s trying to remember if she’s Josette or Maggie.
Then she reaches out and snaps the lid of the music box shut. “It’s Maggie! Maggie Evans! Remember that! No matter what!”
So this is the episode where it all blows up.
Full disclosure: I love this episode. If I was the kind of nerdy fanboy who kept a list of his favorite vampire soap opera episodes in a notebook somewhere, which obviously I am not, then this would be the earliest ep to get on that all-time chart.
This episode was written by Joe Caldwell, who’s the first good writer to start working on the series. He’s a playwright and novelist who needed some help with his rent sometimes, so he’d come and write some Dark Shadows episodes for a month or two and then go back to his real job.
You can tell that a grown-up playwright wrote this episode, because there are only three characters today, but lots of things happen, and there’s not a single wasted moment. Everybody has something to do. There are no talk-tos, no recaps, just good honest character-driven story.
Which means I’m probably going to end up just quoting big chunks of dialogue in this entry, because I love it to pieces. It might be easier for you to just go and watch the episode on Hulu; it’s streaming for free.
Okay, let’s get into it. The thing that I love about this episode is that everybody gets to be smart. That’s a rare thing on television, and especially on soap operas, because smart characters tend to figure things out and make decisions, and that can burn through the story pretty fast.
But Maggie’s coming out of the music-box daze, and she understands the unbelievable nightmare that her life has become. She knows that pounding on the walls and calling for her father isn’t going to help, so she does the only sensible thing, which is to go downstairs and pretend that she’s a dead rich girl.
Barnabas greets her as Josette, and she plays right along. She tells him, “I’ve been enjoying the music box you gave me. The music is so soothing. It seems to erase all unhappy memories in my mind.”
Barnabas is thrilled. He tells Willie, “I believe you have some special work to do. I want it completed as quickly as possible. I’m almost sure the time has come.”
Willie leaves the room, and Maggie is in very deep trouble.
Barnabas tells her that soon they’ll be joined for all time, and he gives her a wedding present — a fantastic diamond necklace.
He assures her, “Soon the sun will rise… but soon the sun will set again. And I will send for you. And you will come — wearing this.”
She’s heading back to her room, when Barnabas suddenly calls, “Maggie?”
She freezes, caught for a moment. She takes a breath, regains her composure, and turns back.
Maggie: What did you say?
Barnabas: I was calling Maggie.
Maggie: That sounds like a servant’s name. But I don’t remember one named Maggie.
And how cool is that! Smart character for the win.
Barnabas: Forgive me. I forgot. She was here for a while… but now she’s gone, forever.
Maggie: … Who was she?
Barnabas: No one of any importance. Her name will never be mentioned again.
Maggie goes back up to Josette’s room, and she hears Willie hammering downstairs. She has a rare moment of second-hand thinks, where she makes faces while she remembers what Barnabas was saying to Willie in the last scene.
She doesn’t know what the “special work” is that Willie’s supposed to do, but she’s going to find out.
And this is what a rock star Maggie has suddenly become: She sneaks down to the cellar and spies on the vampire.
This is actually a nice moment where you can see how the monster movie / soap opera mashup messes with the narrative traditions. According to the rules of late 60s monster movies, Maggie should be cowering somewhere, and praying that her father, her boyfriend and/or the sheriff would find her in time.
But that’s not how things work on soap operas, where the female characters run the show. Daytime TV is primarily aimed at women — specifically, housewives and mothers, especially in the 60s — and it’s usually the female characters who make the big narrative decisions.
So here’s where we see the first true heroine of the show stepping out into the spotlight: Maggie, the Vampire Slayer.
Maggie looks around the corner to see what Willie’s been working on. It’s a coffin, for her to sleep in after she becomes the vampire’s bride.
Barnabas is thrilled with it. He says it’s magnificent, and he knows that “Josette” will like it too:
“When she sees it, my bride will find it quite, quite beautiful. She will recognize it as the object of great longing, and she will weep with joy at having found it at last.”
By the way, quick reminder: This is afternoon television. Kids came home from school and watched this. It’s amazing.
Anyway, it’s the next morning, and Maggie goes downstairs, to find Willie polishing the coffin.
By the way, check out the eclectic assortment of candlesticks strewn around. Apparently somebody’s been sleep-shopping in Pottery Barn.
Willie tells her that she’s not supposed to be down here, but Maggie is still doing her “Josette” act. She says that she’s the mistress of the house, and she can go anywhere she wants.
It doesn’t work, because today everybody gets to be smart. Willie isn’t fooled for a second.
Willie: What do you think, I’m stupid? You want to get away, now what’s gonna happen to me?
Maggie: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Willie: Yes, you do. You think you can fool me, but you can’t.
Maggie: I’m Josette! I swear it! All I want to do is to —
Willie: To escape.
Maggie: (whispers) Yes.
She rests against the coffin.
Maggie: Yes, Willie. Please, help me.
He wants to take her back upstairs, but she’s smart today too, and she’s brought the diamond necklace with her. She opens the box, and displays it for Willie.
Maggie: Look! Jewels, more beautiful than you ever imagined. It’s a fortune. A fortune, more than you ever dreamed. You can tell just by looking at it. Go ahead, Willie. Touch it.
Maggie: See how they sparkle?
Willie: Please, you gotta go upstairs.
Maggie: They’re yours, Willie. After I’m gone.
I did warn you that there were going to be a lot of quotes today. I love these scenes; the show has never been this intense before.
Willie: You can’t go, he’d kill me.
Maggie: No, he wouldn’t. Because you’d be gone, too.
Willie: I can’t go. He won’t let me.
Maggie: You can go! We can both go. Once he’s killed, really killed!
Willie: I can’t do it.
Maggie: I can. Then we’ll both be free.
Wow! And that’s how you make a TV show.
Maggie grabs a huge awl that Willie’s been using in his woodworking, and wields it like a stake. She’s about to open the vampire’s coffin, when Willie hears the pounding heartbeat sound that means Barnabas is asserting control.
He can’t help it. He has to stop her.
By the way, kind of a metafictional note: It hasn’t been specifically established on the show that you kill a vampire by driving a stake through his heart. Maggie just knows that’s the case, probably learning it from the same vampire fiction that we did. Obviously, Dark Shadows takes place in a universe where Dark Shadows isn’t on TV, but does this universe have both vampire fiction and real vampires?
After the commercial break: The sun is setting. Willie comes up to Josette’s room and unlocks the door. Maggie is wearing Josette’s wedding veil.
Willie is dying inside.
Willie: I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can do.
Maggie: So am I.
Willie: You’ll understand after tonight.
Maggie: There’s nothing I can say? Nothing I can do?
Willie: Give in.
Maggie: Give in?
Willie: It’ll be easier.
Maggie: Then Maggie Evans will really be gone.
Willie: Tomorrow, you won’t care. Come on. It’s time.
Willie takes her down to the cellar, to wait for Barnabas to wake up. She has one last second before the sun sets. The stake is still on the floor where she left it.
It’s her last chance. She picks it up…
She opens up the coffin, and she’s about to strike…
And it’s too late. He’s awake.
It was all for nothing.
Monday: Close to Killing You.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Maggie’s “secondary thinks” must be faulty. Barnabas tells Willie, “I believe you have some special work to do. I want it completed as quickly as possible.” When Maggie remembers this later (using a pre-recorded voiceover), he says “some very special work,” and he wants it “as soon as possible”.
This isn’t really a blooper for this episode, more a future continuity error: When Maggie sneaks downstairs, she goes through a door on the right side of the drawing room set. Later, it’ll be very clearly established that the basement stairs are in the foyer, directly across from the front door.
There’s a nice bit of Fridspeak when Barnabas talks to Willie in the basement: “What if she were only pretending? Don’t worry, I haven’t — given up that idea. But after tonight… there will be no longer… any trouble on that.”
Monday: Close to Killing You.
— Danny Horn