“You don’t understand the world, or anything around you. Today, more than anything, has convinced me of that.”
It’s the old story, one of the oldest there is: The young couple wants to dance, and hold hands in the rain, and run away, and fall in love. They don’t care about money or tradition or whatever uptight hang-ups their uptight parents are hung up on. They just want to be free.
And this is early spring 1968, back when being young and free really meant something. I’m not totally sure if that spirit also applies to 1796, but Millicent is going to give it a whirl, and see how far she can get.
Millicent has decided to marry the handsome scoundrel Lt. Nathan Forbes, forgiving him for deceiving her, because she believes that he truly loves her. And then here comes the older generation, who’s a touch more skeptical.
“You’re more gullible than I thought,” grumbles Joshua. “Don’t you realize that Lieutenant Forbes is interested in only one thing — your money?”
This is why you should never trust anyone over 30 — all they think about is money. They don’t understand love at all.
And Millicent steps up, which is a nice surprise. She’s spent her entire life trying to be proper and ladylike. She’s never really asserted herself, because she’s never had reason to. She’s just kind of drifted through her life, chattering away and never really making any decisions.
But she stands up to the authority figure, and declares that she and Nathan are in love, and she’s old enough to decide what to do with her life.
Joshua is determined to be completely L7 about this.
Joshua: Millicent! Don’t force me to take steps.
Joshua: I’ll have you declared insane.
Naomi: Joshua! What are you saying?
Joshua: I am saying that she’s not responsible for the decisions she’s been making, and possibly a rest would do her good.
Millicent: I’m not insane!
Joshua: Then why did you try to kill Lieutenant Forbes? The man you now say you’re going to marry.
Okay, that’s actually kind of a good point. She did try to stab Nathan with a letter opener a few weeks ago, which was not particularly groovy.
Millicent tries to keep it together.
Millicent: I was angry with him. I thought he had deceived me. I did not understand him.
Joshua: You don’t understand him now. You don’t understand the world, or anything around you. Today, more than anything else, has convinced me of that.
So this sounds familiar, to the young audience of 1968. By this point in the show’s history, Dark Shadows was very popular among teenagers, partly because the wild, boundary-breaking fantasy of the show was an escape from the stern glare of the grown-ups around them.
To be fair, the older generation had reason to be nervous about what was happening to their children in 1968. Free love, LSD, anti-war protests, long hair, dropping out of school, and what the hell was with the sitar music all of a sudden? Young people were turning into something unrecognizable.
There was a widening gulf opening between the generations. Young people saw themselves as the leaders of a revolution based on Love and Peace and their feelings, which would transform the world into something new and beautiful. The older generation saw chaos and anarchy.
So how could the Class of ’68 see the conflict in today’s episode as anything but a tyrannical father who projects his own greed and spite onto everything he sees?
But this is Dark Shadows, a television series that is devoted to upending all narrative expectations.
Joshua is exactly one hundred percent correct. Nathan doesn’t love Millicent, and he is after her money. Millicent is gullible, and borderline insane, and incapable of making her own decisions. There’s not a single thing that Joshua says in the entire episode that’s wrong.
He’s not being prejudiced or unreasonable here. He has wisdom and experience that the young people don’t have, and he sees things more clearly than anyone else.
Nathan invites Joshua into the study for a talk, and essentially dares him to stop the wedding. Joshua is gruff and uptight as usual, refusing to listen to anything Nathan has to say.
But he’s not really prepared for what happens next.
Nathan says, “I know the truth about Barnabas,” and everything changes.
This is a subplot that’s been building up quietly in the background, for about six weeks — little bits of evidence that Nathan’s collected about Barnabas’ night-time activities.
Millicent saw Barnabas in the woods, after he was supposed to have “gone to England.” Suki was killed, and in her dying breath, she said Barnabas’ name. Maude was attacked at the docks, and Nathan found Barnabas’ cane at the scene. And just a couple nights ago, Nathan followed Ben from the cemetery to the Old House, and he saw Barnabas through the window.
Now, according to the youth counterculture perspective, this should be a moment when the blind, corrupt authority figure closes his ears to the truth. According to 1968 rules, Joshua — the aging tyrant — should be denying this to the end.
Joshua should bellow at Nathan, saying that he’s just as insane as Millicent is, and chase him off the property with one of the many loaded pistols hidden around the house.
But that’s not what happens.
He tries to fit into that formula. “That is impossible,” he moans. “It can’t be!” But when Nathan shows him the cane, you can see all of Joshua’s certainty just shattering to pieces and falling on the floor, because he can recognize the truth when it’s in front of him.
So this is the point where the audience realizes that Dark Shadows isn’t following the generation-gap script. Joshua isn’t just a stubborn old man. He’s honest, with a strong moral center, and all of the young people around him are foolish and selfish.
Just look at how Peace and Love has worked out for everyone else in this storyline. Josette and Jeremiah tuned in and dropped out, running away from their families and responsibilities. Yes, they were under a spell, but in that moment, they were the young rebels, swept up in a passionate embrace — doing what they felt was right. It was an utter disaster.
Barnabas tried grabbing some Free Love too, making out with Angelique when he was engaged to Josette. But they ended up with nothing but destructive hang-ups.
Now Millicent thinks she’s found true love, and it’s another catastrophic delusion.
And Joshua is the one who sees through it all.
And so he does all of the things that the young people around him can’t do. He admits that he’s been wrong. He takes responsibility for what’s happening. He faces his fears.
Maybe it turns out that Joshua’s been the hero of the show this whole time. Let’s meet back here on Monday and find out.
Monday: The Son Also Rises.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
At the start of act 3, when Nathan walks over to the drawing room windows, there’s a quick flash of something passing in front of the camera, possibly a member of the crew.
Monday: The Son Also Rises.
— Danny Horn