“Unless they are hiding him. They hide people here, you know.”
Daniel comes in through the window. That’s the thing I don’t understand.
Victoria Winters, time-displaced girl governess, is currently on the run after shooting herself in the shoulder, breaking out of prison and killing a guy, in that order. Fleeing the scene of her latest felony, she’s teamed up with ten-year-old Daniel Collins, who’s brought her back to Collinwood to hide.
Daniel enters the house by climbing in through the drawing room window. He looks around in the foyer, makes sure that nobody’s there, and then he opens the front door and motions for Vicki to come in.
Now, there are lots of reasons why this sequence has baffled the finest minds of our generation. For one thing, hiding Vicki in Collinwood is a ridiculous plan. The one person that they’re all afraid of right now is Lt. Nathan Forbes, who lives there. On top of that, Daniel stows Vicki in the study, which is a place that Nathan knows where it is. They have an enormous mansion full of rooms to choose from, and Daniel stashes Vicki behind one of the four doors that you can see from the foyer.
But the thing that gets me is: why doesn’t Daniel just walk in through the front door? All he’s doing is checking that the coast is clear. The only thing that climbing in the window accomplishes is taking the risk that someone will ask him why he’s climbing in the window.
So that’s where we are, as we begin our final week in 1795. We’ve moved beyond characters being stupid, into a whole new realm of nonsensical behavior. There’s got to be an illogical explanation for all of this.
Let’s start with the fact that just about every character on the show right now is irreparably insane. The most obvious example is Millicent, who’s been betrayed, disappointed, gaslighted and vampire-bitten-on, and by now she’s a complete wreck of a woman.
And she used to be so much fun — the silly comedy-relief little sister, who was playing out Jane Austen B-stories while everyone else was doing Macbeth. Look at her now.
Millicent: If you will not tell me who you talked to this late, I shall find out.
Daniel: I — I was talking to myself.
Millicent: Oh, dear. And I’ve told Nathan you were quite perfect. Now I shall have to admit that is not true —
Daniel: Don’t tell him anything!
Millicent: I will! I will tell him everything! If he were ever at home.
Stung by this, she takes a breath and lashes out in a different direction.
Millicent: I would not treat anyone the way you all treat me! Even you. You are not the little boy I brought here. You are too big. Something has happened to the little boy I brought here.
The really devastating thing in this scene is that there are two moments when Daniel tries to reach out and touch his obviously distressed sister, and both times she flinches, instinctively pulling away from any affection or comfort he mght offer.
It’s a subtle bit of physical character-building that’s enormously effective — go check it out, if you’ve got the episode handy. Dark Shadows does a good line in crazy lady, and this is their first sustained effort in that direction.
Then Naomi enters, sweeping downstairs in her enormous red velvet cape, which looks amazing by the way, especially in contrast to the all-black crazy-lady couture that Millicent has taken to. The conversation doesn’t get a lot easier.
Naomi: Daniel! You’re back; you’re safe! Are you all right? Where did you go?
Millicent: Go? He went somewhere? And I didn’t know about it!
Naomi: Millicent, dear, we didn’t want to worry you.
Millicent: Nathan says you always say that when you want your own way.
Naomi: If Nathan said that, he’s wrong.
Millicent’s eyes flash.
Millicent: I don’t believe you, cousin! You do lie to me. It is a well-known fact. You are constantly telling me that Barnabas is not back.
Naomi: Because he isn’t back, Millicent.
Millicent: Nathan says you are trying to drive me mad. And he’s right. I will not listen to you — ever!
She stomps off to the drawing room, and slams the doors. Naomi is about to go after her, but Daniel stops her.
He tells Naomi not to go after Millicent, because there’s another breaking news story — Vicki is hiding in the study. So Naomi and Daniel run off to attend to Vicki, and nobody tries to help Millicent.
So that’s where things stand in this family. Millicent was funny and sweet, filling in as comic relief during the storyline’s darkest days. Now she is irretrievably damaged, and the show is zero percent invested in helping her out. Nobody says, “We have to help Millicent break away from her emotionally abusive husband, and find her way back to sanity and peace.” Joshua and Naomi talk about Millicent twice this week, and both times, Joshua simply says that Millicent is mad, as if that’s an immutable fact, and it’s a waste of time to even be kind to her.
So I would suggest that at this point, the storyline has completely broken any allegiance that it had to the characters’ emotional well-being. After four months of non-stop tragedy, the family is in free fall, just stumbling from one crisis to the next, losing people along the way. Millicent just happens to be the one who’s given up first.
But, sure, let’s go check on Vicki, who is now in her third place of confinement in a week. Ever since she broke out of her cell, she’s been shuffled from one windowless room to another. Later in the episode, Nathan comes into the study, and Daniel and Naomi push Vicki into the closet. They’re going to keep stuffing her into progressively smaller and smaller spaces, until she ends up in a shoebox under the bed.
And hey, check out the addition to the study set — there’s a brand-new wall, which apparently comes with a built-in arsenal. There’s a collection of weapons hanging there, including a crossbow, a couple daggers, some assorted swords, and a flail.
So I know that this family likes to keep several murder weapons in easy reach at all times, but I’m having a hard time getting past the flail. Joshua fought in the Revolutionary War, and he’s understandably proud of his honorable military service, but I’m pretty sure that the United States has managed to keep the flail-related violence to a minimum.
Still, remember Chekhov’s rule of interior decorating — if you’ve got a gun on the wall in the first act, then you need to fire it by act three. Stay tuned to see what kind of Coliseum gladiator battle kicks off by the end of the week.
Finishing up my survey of Collins family insanity, let’s take another look at Lt. Nathan Forbes, who has undergone a sudden and comprehensive personality change in the last couple of weeks.
For most of the 1795 storyline, Nathan was the other half of the comic-relief B-plot, an affable scoundrel whose simple gold-digging schemes were refreshingly innocent, compared to the supernatural skullduggery going on around him. But something very dark has snapped inside Nathan’s head, and for the last couple weeks, we’ve all been trying to figure out what’s going on with him.
Today is an opportune moment to propose an answer to that question, because this is the day that he puts his hands on a child, which is basically the electrified third rail for soap opera audiences. We can put up with a lot of bad behavior, including murder, grave robbing and fantasy-metaphor rape — but nobody hits kids on soap operas. This is your cue to leave.
So here’s my question: Is Nathan Forbes possessed?
Let’s think about Angelique’s curse for a moment. She told Barnabas, “You will never rest, and you will never be able to love anyone… for whoever loves you will die!”
This is a pretty wide-ranging curse, and it’s taken a couple months to get around to everyone who loves Barnabas. This isn’t the kind of spell where everybody just drops at once — they actually have to die through normal, non-supernatural channels. Angelique assisted with some of these, especially Josette’s suicide, but Sarah died because of a chain of circumstances that Angelique had nothing to do with.
We’re now at the point where the curse kicks in for the final target — Barnabas’ mother. And again, her death is set up without any direct intervention from Angelique.
Nathan — resenting Naomi’s interference in his plans for Millicent and Daniel — suggests that she go up to the tower room to see her son, who Nathan’s discovered is the Collinsport Strangler. So she does. It doesn’t go that well.
From outside the narrative, it’s obvious that Nathan’s personality has changed recently because the writers needed to set up this moment — the final, tragic death that fulfills Angelique’s curse. So I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to make that connection within the narrative, too. Nathan’s heart has hardened, turning him into a controlling puppet-master, who takes active pleasure in the heartbreak he’s creating. I wonder where he could have picked that up?
Sending Naomi upstairs to the tower isn’t really Nathan’s style, at least not until recently. That’s an Angelique move. I don’t think that she’s literally inhabiting him, or that he’s consciously aware that he’s playing out a role that doesn’t come naturally to him. But making that connection might make this final week a little bit easier to understand. Strap in; it only gets crazier from here.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In act 1, when Vicki opens the study door to let Naomi and Daniel in, you can see a metal folding chair outside the door.
Act 1 closes on Naomi, as she reacts to Nathan knocking on the door. As the music cue plays and the scene fades, Naomi starts to say, “What do you want, Lieutenant?” That’s actually the first line of act 2; she says it again at the beginning of the next act.
At the end of act 3, Vicki and Naomi both get confused about the kid’s name.
Vicki: I was in the mausoleum. David — Daniel — ran out to get help, and suddenly I heard a scream. I ran out into the graveyard, and there was a man who had his hands around Daniel’s throat. He was strangling him! I knew I had to do something. So I aimed the gun, as Peter had shown me, and pulled the trigger. He fell.
Naomi: You had to do it. What else could you do? Thank you, for saving David — Daniel.
— Danny Horn