“You don’t know what you’re saying! The horror of that hand!”
In yesterday’s episode, vampire-about-town Barnabas Collins was down at the docks, looking for a bite to eat. He was just about to feed on streetwalker Maude Browning, but she screamed and fought him off, and it attracted attention. He scrambled away, leaving behind his signature silver wolf’s head cane.
So Barnabas needs to learn one of the fundamental rules of crime: If you’re going to go out and attack people, leave your identifiable accessories at home. This is no time for expressing your individuality; you need to be able to blend. This is why hipsters can’t be criminals.
So it’s time for another gloomy staff meeting at the Old House. Barnabas tells his servant, Ben, that he needs to go out and find the cane, before someone identifies it and follows the trail here. This is just the kind of thing that Ben has been warning Barnabas about for weeks, so you can feel the “I told you so” hovering in the air.
But, as usual, there’s no time to reflect on past mistakes and make better decisions. This is another self-sabotage crisis, and they’ve got to act fast. Barnabas sends Ben out to find the cane — either on the docks, or in the room where Maudie is staying.
Ben: You stayin’ here?
Barnabas: Yes. I’m going to help you, Ben. I’m going to make sure that Reverend Trask is occupied. You know how the Devil makes work for idle hands. Well, he will be busy.
Ben doesn’t respond to that, because what can you possibly say. I don’t know why Barnabas thinks that Reverend Trask will get in the way of Ben finding the cane. They have nothing to do with each other.
Really, Barnabas has two completely different crimes going at the moment. He’s multitasking his atrocities.
But there’s never a dull moment at the Old House — at least, not these days. As soon as Ben’s out the door, Barnabas casts a spell over a candle, which is apparently a thing he can do now. He even makes a little speech about Trask persecuting innocent people, which he delivers without any sense of irony.
Barnabas: There will be nothing but darkness for you. Wherever you go, the light shall leave you.
And he blows out the candle, completing the spell.
And then they do the cutest thing. Trask is reading a book in his room in town, when the candle blows out, kind of. It takes a couple of tries.
He gets another candle to relight it, and that blows out too, after about four attempts. It’s like watching somebody trying to blow out those trick candles on his birthday cake. He looks confused, and no wonder.
Then Nathan arrives — apparently, Trask made an appointment for the handsome Lieutenant to come to his room. Nathan is curious why Trask invited him over in the middle of the night, and I don’t blame him. I know why I’d invite him over, and it wouldn’t be to talk about witchcraft.
I mean, look at Nathan’s pose here. At least one of them is clear on what this Craigslist casual encounter is supposed to be about.
But Trask just wants to talk about the vision he had last night, when he was visited by an evil spirit.
Trask: Wait until that hand appears to you! That hand, alone — floating in the air! Growing larger, larger, until all one sees is the ring!
Nathan: The ring?
Trask: Yes — a ring fit for Satan himself! A solid black stone.
Nathan: In a gold setting?
That’s right — once again, Barnabas has been tormenting people while wearing his easily identifiable jewelry. He might as well be wearing an “I AM BARNABAS COLLINS” T-shirt. He’s just not good at stealth.
Nathan’s been putting things together — Millicent’s claim that she’s seen Barnabas, Maude’s description of her attacker, the cane he found on the docks — and he’s realized that maybe Barnabas didn’t go away to England after all.
For some reason, the idea that his friend is skulking around town and attacking young women seems to make Nathan happy. I’m not sure why, but I guess there’s no accounting for tastes.
But honestly, I don’t care what these two talk about; they’re both so much fun. Nathan is adorable, and Trask makes everything sound urgent and thrilling.
Nathan: Draw that ring you saw for me.
Trask: I cannot draw!
Nathan: You can try.
Trask: I would not put pencil to paper to trace the Devil’s handiwork! Take care, or you will have the vision, and see the ring for yourself!
Nathan: I should like to.
Trask: You don’t know what you’re saying! The horror of that hand!
Oh, they’re lovely. I wish we could have a spinoff with these two, just traveling around in a van and solving crimes.
And then Trask looks over Nathan’s shoulder and sees the hand floating in the air — apparently just hanging around, waiting for somebody to notice it.
Trask cries out, but obviously the vision is gone by the time Nathan turns around to look. Trask starts hearing voices, too, which Nathan can’t hear.
This is basically a bonkers version of “The Tell-Tale Heart”, an 1843 Edgar Allen Poe story about a murderer who gives himself up to the police when he has the unshakeable feeling that his victim’s heart is still beating, just under the floorboards. This episode’s writer, Sam Hall, loves setting up these narrative collisions, where he chucks another story into the mix to see what happens.
So we end up with a scene that really is unlike anything else on television, with Trask arguing with Barnabas’ spectral voice.
Trask: You’re right, it is my imagination… I’m afraid the trial has been — what word did you use? A strain, yes. Being aware of what I have been fighting… perhaps I’ve given in a bit.
YOU’LL GIVE IN MUCH MORE…
Trask: But, I, uh… I’ve learned that, uh…
THAT YOU WON’T WIN! THAT’S WHAT YOU’VE LEARNED…
Trask: No! I’ve learned that whoever fights the Devil has a multitude of warriors fighting with him!
HA HA HA HA…
Trask: After all, I have faith on my side. And faith — faith can be as bread to the starving!
HA HA HA…
Trask: It stops thoughts, which otherwise might tempt you to doubt!
By this point, Trask is stalking around the room, shrieking at the air.
Trask: But that never happens, NEVER! I have no room for doubt! NONE, do you hear, NONE!
Trask: Where? Where are you? Show yourself! Come to this room! I WILL FIGHT YOU!
It’s phenomenal, just pure theater. This really doesn’t feel like television at all.
Admittedly, I haven’t watched any of the other shows on the 1968 daytime schedule, but I’m pretty sure this is the only soap opera where they cut loose like this. As the World Turns and The Secret Storm didn’t have characters charging around the room and screaming at the top of their lungs, locked in battle with a voice that no one else can hear. This is a Dark Shadows specialty.
And it really feels like theater. It’s very easy to picture this room as a stage set, with Trask playing to the balcony.
Soap opera scenes are usually intimate — the audience is encouraged to feel close to the characters, because we’re watching people in their private moments, and sharing in their secrets. This scene is exactly the opposite.
Trask: Did you hear it?
Trask: Then I am alone.
Trask: No, but I am not alone! I have the legion of believers, I have the word! I have the knowledge! I AM NOT ALONE, DO YOU HEAR, I AM NOT ALONE!
So today is another reason to love Dark Shadows. This is a show that can go big, when it wants to. It can transcend the boundaries of television and taste and good sense, to become something much louder and more interesting.
I think people who have never watched Dark Shadows don’t actually realize what television can do. I feel kind of sorry for them. Do you know what I mean?
Monday: Weekend at Maudie’s.
Behind the Scenes:
Resident prop-spotter Prisoner of the Night says that Maude’s room is a redressed version of the set used as Angelique’s room at the Old House, and Peter’s lodgings: “The sloping walls on either side of the window are the same. However, the design of the fireplace has been modified, and the green door is at stage right, rather than at the left side. It has the same brass-colored handle as in Peter’s and Angelique’s rooms.”
Monday: Weekend at Maudie’s.
— Danny Horn