“In a moment, your flames will be nothing but harmless smoke.”
Here’s Cassandra Angelique Bouchard Blair Collins Collins, a poor girl from the mean streets of Martinique. She worked her way up from a menial servant position to become the lady of the manor — twice, in two different centuries — thanks to her charm, her intelligence, her boundless capacity for ruthlessness, and her contract position with the Lord of the Flies.
She’s currently living with rich Collins husband #2, and scheming to turn husband #1 back into a vampire. But you can’t just sit around and scheme all day. Here’s what she’s doing with her free time.
Last week, Cassandra was kissing lawyer Tony Peterson in the garden, apparently because she couldn’t think of any other way to end the conversation. It’s just something that soap vixens do when they’re finished blackmailing somebody; it’s like a reflex.
Unfortunately, Cassandra’s sister-in-law was looking out of the window at the time, and she threatened to tell Roger about his new wife’s indiscretion. So Cassandra — the maddest soap vixen of them all — cast a spell on Elizabeth so that she would think constantly about death.
Today, she’s upping the ante, making Liz believe that she’s Naomi Collins, an 18th-century ancestor who committed suicide after learning that her son had become a vampire. This consists mostly of sipping sherry and worrying, which Liz was actually pretty good at anyway.
Now, I’m a big fan of lunatic plot contrivances, but this one doesn’t work for me. For one thing, it doesn’t really make logical sense. Cassandra clearly has the power to make Liz simply forget what she saw; she did exactly that with David a month ago. So it’s not clear why she would go to all the trouble of creating a two-pronged curse that apparently requires some preparation and maintenance, just to keep Liz quiet. It seems like a waste of energy.
But making logical sense is hardly the point; if that was a requirement, we’d have given up on this show ages ago. The real problem is that this doesn’t make metaphorical sense.
There’s no emotional resonance in making Liz think that she’s Naomi. The two characters have nothing to do with each other, except that they were both played by the same actress. There’s no sense in which Liz is Naomi, or ought to be Naomi. So the plot point just kind of sits there, and fills up time.
In fact, the only thing that really works about this plotline is that it gives Joan Bennett the opportunity to teach a master class in how to make bewildered acting faces. It’s often the case that even in the most dire circumstances, somebody on Dark Shadows is making a special effort to keep the audience entertained.
Cassandra takes Liz all the way out to the mausoleum at the Eagle Hill cemetery, just to taunt her some more, and tell her the same thing she said back at Collinwood — she’s Naomi, and she’s going to die.
It’s a pretty one-note conversation, which makes me wonder what the drive out to the cemetery was like. In the Missing Adventures fan fiction in my head, they just made small talk the whole way — oh, isn’t that house getting run down, it looks worse every time I see it, but isn’t it a lovely clear night, I thought it would never stop raining, and so on.
Then Cassandra pulls the car into a parking space, and takes the keys out of the ignition. “Well,” she says, “here we are.” And then she leads Liz over to the mausoleum entrance, and starts talking about death again.
Liz finally decides she’s had enough, and she runs out of the mausoleum. Cassandra laughs and laughs, just completely delighted at achieving something which is frankly pretty pointless. But then it turns out that this was all a set-up — a way to get Cassandra alone in a spooky setting, so they can release the Trask.
And, oh, what a relief that is. I don’t think there’s a single boring Reverend Trask scene in the entire canon of Western literature. If you can’t be good, then you should at least be loud, that’s Trask’s philosophy.
Trask: You are the witch I have been seeking! And you must be DESTROYED!
Cassandra: Go! Return to your grave!
Trask: Not until I have DESTROYED you — the only way you can BE destroyed! By FIRE!
Look at those eyes, and that smile. He’s an absolute dream. Pure dynamite.
Cassandra: No, I command you to return to your grave!
Trask: You have no POWER over me! I shall return to my grave only after you have been destroyed. And your DESTRUCTION is at hand! BURN, WITCH! BURN!
He thrusts his spectral torch in her direction, and then this happens.
Oh, it’s gorgeous. It’s exactly what you want to happen to people when they’ve been boring you for ten minutes.
It doesn’t work, of course; Cassandra has more death nagging to do.
Cassandra: Your flames will not work, Reverend Trask! My power is stronger than yours, and I will summon all the power at my command to put them out!
So that works, for some reason, probably because it’s not Friday yet. She puts the flames out, and lives for another day. We’re gonna need a rematch between these two.
Tomorrow: In Memoriam.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In Sam’s hospital room, he’s got an array of helpful fluids on the IV stand next to his bed, but he’s not connected to any of them. Also, he’s wearing his sunglasses even when he’s in a coma.
When Cassandra visits Sam, she says, “I just had to seen — I just had to come and see if there was something I could do.”
Tomorrow: In Memoriam.
— Danny Horn