“I’m the sole judge of who deserves what!”
Time is running out for Maggie Evans, who’s still being held prisoner in the Old House basement. Her only hope is that the mysterious little girl who she saw on Monday will come back, bringing parents, the police and a crossbow.
Maggie’s just on the verge of giving up when Sarah suddenly appears in the cell, still playing with a ball and singing “London Bridge”. This is a new milestone for the show. On Monday, it was possible that this was just a really weird kid who’s been hiding in the basement since the late 18th century. But today, the girl straight-up apparates through a brick wall, leaving no room for doubt.
This is the first example on Dark Shadows of what you might call the casual ghost — also known as a Casper, according to the supernatural-television-commentary jargon that I just made up ten seconds ago.
A Casper is the kind of ghost that you can have a whole conversation with, and not realize that the person you’re talking to is dead. This requires the kind of reality-astigmatism that makes Peppermint Patty think that Snoopy is a funny-looking kid with a big nose.
They’ve done ghost stories on Dark Shadows before, going all the way back to October 1966, when Vicki is awakened by the spirit of a recently-murdered cannery employee, who gives her a vague warning that she completely disregards. But that could have been a nightmare, or a hallucination. (Except that on the floor where he stood, she finds — dun-dun-DUNNNN!!! — a patch of wet seaweed. Seriously.)
So according to the Dark Shadows playbook up to this point, we should expect maybe two or three weeks of cryptic is-she-or-isn’t-she malarkey, with people thinking that it was just a dream, or saying things like, “Could it be one of those things you think you saw?”
But not this time. They took “maybe it’s Maggie’s imagination” off the table halfway through Sarah’s first episode — first showing her outside Maggie’s cell, and then introducing her to David.
They’re not messing around anymore. The audience needs to understand that this is a ghost right away, because there’s a big plot twist coming up on Friday, and it’s ghost-dependent. That’s pretty much the opposite of the way that Dark Shadows operated in its first nine months, when “plot twists” happened in slow motion, and involved seaweed.
So Sarah appears in Maggie’s cell, and she is super casual about everything.
Maggie: Did anyone see you come in here?
Sarah: No. No one ever sees me.
Maggie: But this door — it’s locked!
Sarah: I guess so.
See what I mean? So chill! Caspers are like the hipsters of the ghost community.
Maggie: Tell me — how did you get in here?
Sarah: Oh, I have a way. What’s that?
Maggie: That’s a music box.
Sarah: Can I hear it?
Yeah, I guess. But it doesn’t play “London Bridge”, so that might be kind of a downer.
Maggie: Little girl, please, tell me — how did you get in here? Show me how you got in!
Sarah: I like that music, don’t you?
At this point, Maggie starts to develop that sick headache that you get whenever you try to engage a hipster in conversation.
They end up playing catch and singing “London Bridge”, which is apparently the only thing that Sarah is ever interested in doing. At this point, we don’t know how this nine-year-old girl died, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that whoever killed her was probably not a huge “London Bridge” fan.
Maggie tries to bring the conversation back around to “let’s get the hell out of here before the vampire kills me”, but she looks away for a moment, and when she turns back, Sarah is gone.
So it hasn’t been a great day for Maggie, mental health-wise. By the time Barnabas comes to visit her, she’s staring off into space, singing “London Bridge”.
He’s come by to give her one more sales pitch for becoming Josette, but she’s not interested. There’s only one thing she wants to talk about.
Maggie: I have a friend! A secret friend! And that’s the best kind to have!
Barnabas: Of course.
Maggie: But she’s a special secret friend. And she comes to play with me.
Barnabas: … Plays with you?
Maggie: Yes! We play catch, and we have fun together!
Barnabas: I see.
And man, when Barnabas thinks you’re crazy? You’re pretty far gone. The dude dresses people up like his dead girlfriend. You really have to go out of your way to compete.
Barnabas goes upstairs, and tells Willie that he’s given up on Maggie. He’ll have to dispose of her.
Willie is horrified, and pleads for her life: “Please, Barnabas, don’t do this. She hasn’t done anything to you. She doesn’t deserve this. If you have any mercy –”
Barnabas says, “Mercy?”
Then he walks upstage, and looks off into the distance.
“There was a time when I needed it,” he says. “A time that I begged for it, from those could have so easily given it. From those who could have understood, and helped. But they chose not to. And now I choose not to.”
It’s one of those nice theatrical moments that Jonathan Frid can pull off really well, especially if he’s facing the teleprompter.
Willie protests that Maggie doesn’t deserve this, but Barnabas grabs him by the throat and snarls, “I’m the sole judge of who deserves what!” Which is difficult to argue with.
All right, back downstairs for the big finish. Willie tells Maggie that he doesn’t believe in her secret friend, which shakes her confidence for a moment. But then Willie leaves, and Maggie sees something on the floor — a patch of wet seaweed!
Okay, it’s not really seaweed; it’s actually a little doll. But it’s the same basic idea.
Tomorrow: Cell Blocked.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
When Barnabas leaves Maggie’s cell, the camera goes in for a close-up on the door. The camera dolly hits the door and bounces backwards a little.
Tomorrow: Cell Blocked.
— Danny Horn