“I can make you older. I can make you die. But I cannot assemble a human being and have him live.”
You know, the great thing about having an evil magician as the lead villain of your television show is that conjurers tend to be showmen. Yes, even the evil ones. You don’t devote your life to the study of pulling demon rabbits out of sinister hats without developing a certain panache.
At the moment, the Great Nicholas is punishing his lovely assistant, Angelique, for disobeying his direct instructions. He’s taken her powers away and made her mortal again, and now she’s crumbling to dust while we watch.
Angelique staggers upstairs to find her portrait, which has helped her overcome setbacks in the past. But when she gets to Vicki’s room, she finds that the portrait is cracked and peeling, suffering the same fate.
And then Nicholas steps out of the shadows and turns on a lamp, as if to say, is THIS your card?
“You have lost your powers,” Nicholas says, pulling an endless chain of paper flowers from his coat pocket. “The picture can not help you any more, dear sister.”
As always in an adventure story like this, the villain can’t just sit back and do nasty things. He’s got to be out there at center stage, openly enjoying the damage that he’s causing.
Nicholas pulls a coin from her ear, and says, “You have no value anymore. We’re not interested in Barnabas Collins becoming a vampire. We don’t want Barnabas to die.”
Angelique begs for her life, broken and ashamed. She’s been walking the Earth for centuries, fueled entirely by her desire to take revenge on the man who jilted her. But Nicholas has a bigger agenda, and he couldn’t care less about Angelique’s personal problems.
So now we’re watching him saw a lady in half, as he discusses his plans. Barnabas has to live because he created Adam, the enormous Frankenstein who’s currently hiding in an abandoned wing of the house. Reanimating the dead is the ultimate magic trick, and Nicholas needs to know how it’s done.
“I can make you older,” he says. “I can make you die. But I cannot assemble a human being and make him live.”
So they’ve finally found something that’s actually evil for Nicholas to do, which is helpful; he’s been coasting on a mustache and a sneer for far too long. But now he’s got a goal, and an opportunity to twirl that mustache.
But the important thing right now is that he’s having a good time, enjoying the suffering that he’s creating. It’s not enough for him to just kill Angelique and move on with his evening. He has to play with her, too.
Angelique: Nicholas… don’t let me die like this!
Nicholas: What a new emotion fear must be for you. I planned it that way. I thought you ought to know how poor Barnabas has felt, so often. I’m trying to help you understand him better, “Cassandra”. Don’t you feel a little sorry for him? Imagine living with fear, constantly.
Angelique: Yes… I do feel sorry for him.
Nicholas: You should go and beg his forgiveness.
And that kind of strikes him as funny. In fact, he’s so amused that he offers her a chance to live, if she can get Barnabas to forgive her. And then he sends her out into the night, for a final discussion with the man that she’s been tormenting for centuries.
So the crone nut uses the last of her strength to hobble over to the Old House, and abase herself before her ex-husband. It gets pretty raw.
She pleads with him to sit down, and then she sinks to her knees before him.
Angelique: Do you feel any pity for me now?
Barnabas: Does it matter what I feel?
Angelique: Because if you do pity me, I have a chance.
Barnabas: To do what? To torture me more?
Angelique: To make you forgive me. Yes… forgive me for the injustices I have done — for the wickedness, and the cruelty — for the pain I’ve caused you, and your friends and your family!
And now we’re watching a desperately old woman breathing her last, in pain and terror, asking one of your less merciful people for another chance.
So here’s a question: Why is this fun for us?
We can tell that Angelique’s on her way out, partly because they’ve been making such a big deal about her disobedience for the last few weeks, building up to this moment.
There’s also an obvious next step of the story that’s ready to go, with Nicholas taking over as the new Big Bad. It’s another example of the audience’s televisual literacy helping us to follow what’s happening and predict what’s coming up next, based on our innate understanding of narrative structure. Angelique’s humiliation is a way to close this chapter, and start a new one.
There’s something sadistic about this, which is a little unsettling when you think about it. Angelique has done terrible things. She’s treated people as if they were insignificant, destroying their lives just to prove a point. She should be punished, and she should be sorry. But then you see an old woman crawling across the floor, shaking and sobbing.
Angelique, Barnabas and Nicholas are grotesque and soulless creatures, it’s true. But when the show invites us to revel in their suffering, as it so often does… what does that make us?
Tomorrow: Take What You Want.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
This isn’t a blooper per se, just an odd thing that I noticed: When was it established that there’s a difference between witches and “mortals”? Two episodes ago, Nicholas took away Angelique’s powers, and then said, “You are mortal now.” I think that might be the first time there’s a mention of a witch/mortal divide; there wasn’t any suggestion in 1795 that Angelique or Bathia Mapes were immortal. I believe this might be a little conceptual bleed-through from Bewitched, where they talk about witches and mortals pretty much non-stop.
In the teaser, there’s a boom mic poking into the shot over Julia as Roger and Barnabas leave the drawing room.
At the start of act 1, there’s an ugly tape edit in the middle of Julia’s first line.
Nicholas and Angelique talk over each other:
Angelique: Why do you want Barnabas —
Nicholas: Because he knows —
Angelique: — alive?
Nicholas: He knows something I don’t.
A little later, Angelique gets her lines mixed up, and corrects herself halfway through:
Angelique: Will you let me live — do you want me to go to Barnabas?
Nicholas: It’s an amusing idea.
Angelique: Will you let me live if he forgives me?
The front door of the Old House squeaks as Barnabas pushes it shut.
Barnabas runs out steam halfway through a line: “If peace were mine to give, I would not… have to… be honest.”
When Barnabas checks Angelique’s wrist for a pulse, the camera pulls back, revealing a boom mic at the top right of the screen.
In the fourth act, when Barnabas walks into the Collinwood foyer, the camera wobbles and sways alarmingly as the operator struggles to keep the actors in focus.
And another thing: Where the hell is Vicki? In yesterday’s episode, she woke up in the middle of the night, saw the portrait glowing, and showed it to Julia and Roger. This is the same night, and at the end of the episode, Roger makes an acid comment about Barnabas coming to Collinwood at such a late hour. But Vicki apparently never goes back to bed — Nicholas and Angelique have a scene in her bedroom in this episode, and Barnabas and Julia have a scene there in the first act tomorrow. I suppose living in Collinwood makes you something of a light sleeper.
Tomorrow: Take What You Want.
— Danny Horn