“Is this really happening, or am I imagining it?”
We’re not good people, I think is the main thing. Every few years, somebody notices that there are a lot of popular TV shows where the protagonist isn’t a very nice person. The current list includes Don Draper, Walter White, Dexter Morgan, Jax Teller and assorted Bluths. In earlier days, it was Tony Soprano, Amanda Woodward, Bart Simpson, J.R. Ewing and Basil Fawlty, in a fictional rogues’ gallery that stretches all the way back to Falstaff and Tom Jones. (From the Henry Fielding novel, not the guy who sang “What’s New Pussycat”. Well, maybe him too.)
The disturbing thing — or, at least, the thing that disturbs people who are disturbed by things like this — is that after a while, you find yourself rooting for the bad guy. You want them to evade the police, to get away with murder, to swindle and seduce and blackmail and crush the opposition.
So, apparently, we’re not good people, at least as far as our television loyalties go. There’s a very short list of things that a fictional character can do that would make the audience actually turn against them. The only ones that I can think of are hurting a young child, or being cruel to cute and/or endangered animals.
Amazingly, in the female-focused world of the soap opera, a popular protagonist can even bounce back from committing rape, as fans of General Hospital’s Luke Spencer and One Life to Live’s Todd Manning know. That also applies to fantasy-metaphor rape, see also: Angel and Spike and Eric Northman and Damon Salvatore and every other sexy vampire in fiction.
Which brings us to Maggie Evans, who was fantasy-metaphor raped in a fairly comprehensive way, and now we’re rooting for the monsters who are trying to conceal their crimes.
By the way, yes, this episode is black and white, sorry about that. The color episodes started on Friday, but they lost the master videotape for this episode, so we’re watching a black and white kinescope copy. There are eleven color episodes that only exist as kinescopes, most of them in the mid-300s.
So, what’s happening right now is that Maggie’s back in town, and she was just about to explain to Dr. Woodard exactly what happened to her during her vampire abduction when Julia interrupted with her magic memory-erasing medallion.
Julia ushered Dr. Woodard out of the room, and then restored Maggie to factory settings. Now, all Maggie knows is that she wasn’t feeling well, she went to sleep, and now she’s here.
As audience members, I think we’re genuinely torn right now about who to root for. Clearly, Barnabas is a monster and deserves to be stopped, and Julia has allied herself with the dark forces. But if they’re exposed, then that’s the end of the vampire storyline, and all we’d be left with is Vicki and Burke hanging around the Blue Whale, talking about bad dreams.
Ultimately, our only loyalty is to the story. We want the show to be interesting. If exposing the vampire leads to a thrilling twelve-week story arc that burns through town like a forest fire, then sure, let’s do that. But so far, the most consistently interesting characters are the ones with terrible secrets to hide.
Woodard drags Julia out into the hall, and she assumes a series of unbothered facial expressions, as if she’s incredibly relaxed about the whole situation.
Woodard: Julia, I can’t figure any of this out at all.
Julia: In what respect?
Woodard: Look — one minute, Maggie says that she remembers everything. The next, she can’t remember anything. It doesn’t make sense!
Julia: Perhaps what she meant by remembering is just what she said.
It’s amazing. She’s gaslighting him. She might as well bring the medallion out and erase his memory too.
Julia: If so, she repressed it immediately.
And that’s the end of the story, as far as Dr. Julia Hoffman is concerned. Unbothered.
Maggie’s father, Sam, finally shows up, and they have a sweet reunion that’s only marred by the fact that he’s smoking in a hospital.
One nice thing about what Julia’s done is that she let Maggie keep all of her memories up until the point that she was kidnapped. She easily could have regressed Maggie to the childlike state that she was in when she first came to Windcliff, but she didn’t. That’s a weird thing to be grateful for, but it’s a weird storyline.
After that settles down, Julia goes to the Old House to give Barnabas her report. It’s basically the exact same conversation that she had with Woodard, but facing in the other direction.
Barnabas: This hypnosis — how long will it last?
Julia: I’ve made arrangements to visit Maggie regularly as her doctor. I’ll make certain she doesn’t remember anything, as long as you continue to cooperate with me.
Barnabas: And if I don’t?
She fixes him with a look.
Julia: Your safety depends on me.
So here’s an amazing thing to consider: this is Julia’s 13th episode. She’s really only been on the show for about three weeks. We’d hardly even heard of her a month ago, and now she’s managed to position herself smack in the middle of the biggest story on the canvas.
Barnabas is still trying to figure her out.
Barnabas: You seem willing to go to great lengths to continue these inquiries.
Julia: I’ll do whatever I need to do.
Barnabas: That seems to be anything.
Julia: Anything short of sacrificing a human life.
So that’s the first time we’ve heard anything that sounds like a moral code for Julia. They’ll repeat that statement again in future episodes; that’s the line that she refuses to cross.
Barnabas: But this hypnosis — what if it doesn’t last? What if she comes out of it?
Julia: I told you. I’ll make certain she doesn’t.
Barnabas: But what if she comes out of it when you’re not around to stop her?
Julia: It’s highly unlikely that that will happen.
And then she takes out a cigarette, and lights it off one of the candles.
That is so fierce that I can’t even talk about it. There’s nothing to say.
I know, I’m doing it again; I’m just quoting Julia dialogue instead of actually writing a blog entry. But there are only so many times that I can say look how awesome Julia is.
And, anyway: look how awesome Julia is!
Julia: I know what I’m doing, and you must trust me. And no harm must come to Maggie Evans.
Barnabas: And if something should happen to Maggie?
She looks him in the eye.
Julia: I’ll expose you.
He turns away.
Barnabas: I see.
Julia strolls out, completely in command of the situation. Then the Convenient Rooster crows, signalling that it’s dawn.
Barnabas picks up a candle, and has a little soliloquy.
Barnabas: Dawn… you’re safe tonight, Maggie Evans. But I can’t take a chance on your silence. Tomorrow night… you must die.
And then he blows out the candle, because camp is contagious.
Tomorrow: The Honest Truth.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
When Woodard takes Julia out into the hall, someone in the studio coughs.
This one’s a nitpick: Julia tells Maggie that only Sam and Woodard know that she’s a doctor. Joe knows, too.
Barnabas has the black onyx ring on his right hand as he walks downstairs right before the last commercial break. When we come back from commercial, the first shot is the ring, which is now on his left hand.
Tomorrow: The Honest Truth.
— Danny Horn