“There will not be time to make you understand!”
Angelique is outside in the garden at night, wearing a cloak with the hood pulled up over her head.
“I have not been able to hear you,” she cries, apparently to her own portrait. “I must find you, and get to you!”
It’s not super clear why Angelique thinks that she should be able to hear an oil painting that’s several miles away. I mean, I don’t think that she’d be able to hear an oil painting anyway, even if it was two feet in front of her, but the distance can’t be helping. But there’s a lot I don’t know about fine art.
“Oh, try and speak to me,” she begs. “Try! TRY!”
This doesn’t seem to be a super effective communication strategy, but Angelique has suddenly aged to about seventy years old, so we should cut her some slack. Maybe she needs her grandchildren to come over and show her how to use her smartphone.
So here she is, our beautiful young witch/soap vixen, magically transformed into a wrinkled old lady.
During the spring of 1968, the Dark Shadows team realized that they’ve got a growing audience of teenage viewers, and while this episode was filming, Jonathan Frid was out on a week-long promotional tour, holding press conferences with the editors of high school newspapers.
And if you want to shock a nation of teenagers, you serve up the thing that they fear most — getting old.
Angelique has been living at Collinwood for a month now, in the guise of Roger’s new wife, Cassandra. She’s supposed to be renewing Barnabas’ expired vampire curse, but she doesn’t seem to be in much of a hurry about it. Back in 1795, Angelique was a full-service plot accelerator, managing multiple hexes at any given time. In 1968, she’s mostly been hanging around the house.
So Barnabas has had plenty of time to figure out how to fight back, and he’s hit on a way to use her own weird black magic against her.
He’s given her portrait to an artist, Sam Evans, and asked him to make the woman in the painting appear older. He’s supposed to do this in stages, aging her gradually as if she was actually getting older.
Obviously, this is a ludicrous thing to ask someone to do, but apparently Sam will do just about anything for five hundred dollars.
The aged-up portrait is absolutely gorgeous. I don’t know who painted any of the portraits on the show; that seems to be one of the best-kept secrets of Dark Shadows. Even the most obsessive and therefore best DS book, The Dark Shadows Almanac, doesn’t say a thing about who did the art. There are a couple of people listed in the credits as Scenic Design over the years, but there’s no Art Director, and they probably used a contractor anyway.
If anyone knows who painted these, I would love to know, because I think they’re fantastic.
And the craziest thing is that she changes again mid-episode. In the first act, we get this version of old Angelique, and then she gets even older for the final act.
So that’s two special make-up jobs, and two bespoke portraits, and they only get used for about five minutes each. This is an insane amount of extra work to put into a single episode, and it’s not even Friday.
In act 3, there’s a long Carolyn/Tony breakup sequence — a classic soap opera scene that gives Carolyn all kinds of hurt feelings to express. It’s a great scene, and under ordinary circumstances, I’d linger on this for a bit. But who has time for humans on a day like this?
Because it turns out that they didn’t have that scene because we’re supposed to be deeply invested in Carolyn and Tony’s relationship. They just needed somebody to stand in front of the camera while Angelique gets her second extreme makeover of the day.
Now we’re back at Sam’s house, where he’s still working on the portrait. There’s a crash of thunder and lightning, so apparently this is one of those freak weather conditions like they have in Collinsport all the time, where there’s a raging thunderstorm with exactly zero visible signs of rain.
And here’s portrait #2, with Angelique aged up to somewhere around a hundred and seventy.
And it’s stunning, isn’t it? Look at that. It’s like a Famous Monsters of Filmland cover. I honestly can’t believe that they did all this work for a single scene.
But here comes Angelique, hot on the traiil of her missing portrait. She bangs on Sam’s door, and says that she needs to talk to him. He tells her that he’s busy, but old people never listen. They just pretend the battery on their hearing aid is running down.
She walks over to the portrait and pulls off her hood for the big reveal — and here she is, Miss America 1795.
So, you know, plot logic and everything. Yes, we know that there’s a connection between Angelique and her portrait, because it showed up in Collinwood and started hypnotizing people a couple weeks before she arrived.
But nothing we’ve seen so far would indicate that making the portrait look older would also affect Angelique. They didn’t do a black magic ritual, and Barnabas doesn’t have any oil-painting-related powers that we know of. They just went ahead and told us that this was a thing they were going to do, and now they’ve done it.
But this can’t be judged as anything other than spectacle, the show’s most effective mode.
There are only three questions that matter on Dark Shadows: Does the metaphor work?, Does it make sense for the character?, and Have we ever seen anything like this on television before?
If the answers are yes, yes and no — and they are, in this crazy scene — then that’s what Dark Shadows is for.
And this is a great moment for Angelique, in a period where the great moments are few and far between. Since her dramatic reappearance a month ago, she’s been basically untouchable. Barnabas yells at her and threatens her, and she just walks away. Admittedly, she hasn’t really achieved much, except hypnotize a couple people and inspire some nightmares, but whatever she’s done, she’s gotten away with it.
Now, we’re finally seeing a weak spot. Barnabas has found a place where she’s vulnerable, and Angelique needs that for her character to work.
As the only person on the show with official magic powers, Angelique can easily become Diabla ex machina if you let her. She just pulls a new spell out of the box, and gets what she wants. But a complacent and happy Angelique is not what we want. She thrives on passion.
So we end the day with another twist. Sam hustles Angelique out the door, and then returns to the painting to finish the job.
Everything starts to swim before his eyes, and we get some nice shots where he’s just looking straight into the camera and making funny faces.
This is the perfect ending for the episode, because everything today has been about the visuals. They went all-out to give us fun new things to look at, and this is the price that Sam pays — losing his vision, thanks to some mysterious off-camera Angelique insta-spell.
As Sam stumbles around, Angelique sneaks back in to snatch the portrait away. She probably has an artist of her own on standby, ready to paint her back to her twenties again.
And now Sam can’t see, which is probably going to put a dent in his art career. On the bright side, in a couple years it’s going to be the 1970s, and there’s going to be a lot of stuff that he probably wouldn’t want to look at anyway.
Tomorrow: Really Big Brother.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In act 2, just after Cassandra runs away from the gazebo, there’s an audio break in Carolyn’s line, “Tony — don’t go after her.”
Tomorrow: Really Big Brother.
— Danny Horn