“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.
They’re in Josette’s room, and Angelique is helping herself to the toiletries.
Ben: You shouldn’t use the mistress’ perfume.
Angelique: Why not? I’ve worn her clothes, stolen her suitors.
Ben: I don’t like to hear ya talk like that.
Angelique: Oh, Ben, you are a child. You still like to think that everyone is good, don’t you? It’s not true. Why, in Martinique, things that are natural and right seem wrong here. Your trouble is, you’ve lived by their rules too long. And look at you, a convict working out his time.
She chuckles, as she pulls a vial out of her pocket and spikes the perfume with a concoction of her own.
Angelique: Their rules. I make my own.
This really is her favorite subject, and happily, it’s mine too. Angelique is essentially developing a party platform for all of the interesting characters to come.
Dark Shadows used to be a show where there were official Good People and Bad People. The Bad People were blackmailers, grave robbers and leather-clad beatniks; the Good People mostly stood around in small groups and worried about the Bad People.
But Vicki’s been picked up by a passing tornado, and deposited in this Technicolor wonderland where all of a sudden people are a lot more complicated.
For example, let’s check in with the Good People for a minute. Barnabas has been laid up in bed since his unexplained illness the other day, and now he wants to hang out with Josette in the drawing room and open wedding presents. But Jeremiah snaps at them, reminding Barnabas that the doctor wants him to rest.
Jeremiah leaves, and now Josette’s upset.
Josette: He makes me feel very selfish, as if I shouldn’t have asked you to come down. He’s very protective of you, isn’t he?
Barnabas: I suppose he is.
Josette: He orders everyone around.
Barnabas: Oh, that’s just his manner. Actually, he’s very, very nice, and very sensitive. You like him, don’t you?
Josette: Yes. I suppose so.
This is not the correct answer. She would know that, if she bothered to pay attention.
Barnabas: Well, you must, you know. He’s my closest friend; he has been all my life. I could always talk to Jeremiah about anything.
And look at her, she’s not even listening. It’s not like Barnabas has a huge social circle; there’s only seven people in the whole family. She should know that he and Jeremiah are close.
And then this happens.
Barnabas: Why are you frowning? What do you really think about him?
Josette: Well, I’ve really never thought about him.
Barnabas: Who do you think about?
Which is really just another way of saying that she thinks about herself, pretty much non-stop.
So I hope the emotional core of this storyline isn’t based entirely on these two, because at the moment, they’re acting like the kind of smug, self-satisfied couple that makes you wish somebody would send them a skull wearing a wig as a wedding present.
So they open up a box, and guess what? It looks like they’re registered at Bed, Bath and Bewitched.
Now, that kind of thing is fairly upsetting, and they spend some time wondering who could possibly hate them enough to send this present. Unfortunately, they don’t consider the most productive line of inquiry, which is: Let’s figure out whose head this used to be, and work backwards from there.
Barnabas asks Ben to help protect Josette from whoever it is that wishes them ill — and he promises that when he and Josette are married, Ben can serve out the rest of his time with them, rather than with Joshua at the new house.
Ben is overwhelmed with gratitude, and there’s something he has to get off his chest.
Ben: There’s somethin’ I gotta tell ya. I swore I wouldn’t, but… you been better to me than anyone. I don’t know nothin’ about that package, that’s the truth. But there are other things that —
That’s as far as he gets. At that point, he starts to choke — can’t talk, can’t breathe — and he rushes out of the room.
It’s Angelique, of course, because everything is Angelique now.
This isn’t the first time that a disruptive new character has come in to change the direction of the show — there was Barnabas in April, and then Julia over the summer — but their impact wasn’t this immediate, and all-consuming. It took months for their influence to grow to this level; she’s only been on the show for six days, and she’s the driving force behind everything that’s happening.
Angelique has become the author of this story — or at least a very determined and ruthless editor. We’ve traveled back to an earlier chapter in the Collins family history book, and there’s Angelique with a black magic marker, scratching out the old story and writing in something new.
This isn’t the story of Good People fighting Bad People anymore. If you’re still asking questions like “Is Angelique sympathetic” or “Are we supposed to be rooting for Barnabas and Josette”, then you’re not paying attention to the fundamental narrative shift that’s happening here.
Yes, Angelique is Bad. Ten points to everyone who’s figured that out. But Josette is selfish, and Joshua is a tyrant, and Abigail is a fanatic, and Barnabas is a horny kid who can’t stay away from the beautiful temptress.
1795 is a crucible, and Angelique is the flame. The Good People and the Bad People will all be tested, and in the end, everyone fails.
No, Angelique is not sympathetic, and no, you’re not supposed to like her. Nobody likes the tsunami when it’s heading for your coastline. Don’t waste time trying to figure out how you feel about her. Get to high ground.
Tomorrow: Dangerous Liaisons.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Josette’s portrait is hanging upstairs in her room, just as it is when Barnabas renovates the house in 1967. But it’s too early for the portrait to be here — there’ll be an episode later on, when we see it arrive.
When Angelique is talking to the speechless Ben, there’s an offstage crash.
When Jeremiah puts the skull back in the box, it doesn’t quite fit.
This isn’t really a blooper, but… where did the skull come from? At one point, Barnabas confronts Angelique about it, and she says, “Where would I get it? You know I haven’t been out of this house since the day I arrived!” Even if she had been out of the house — where would you pick up a loose skull?
Behind the Scenes
A note from resident prop-spotter Prisoner of the Night: The Petofi box appears on the top shelf in Jeremiah’s room today. It’ll move to the new house in episode 421.
Tomorrow: Dangerous Liaisons.
— Danny Horn