Episode 609: Nobody Understands Dark Shadows But Me

“Why do I remember that sometimes the trees have no leaves at all, and at other times, the leaves are green?”

So Adam the enormous Frankenteen is standing around in the drawing room, when his mate Eve opens the door and gives him a look.

This is what she does all day, apparently, just walks around the house giving people looks. Turns out that’s a job.

609 dark shadows adam eve understand

She goes to the window, and sighs, “I remember this kind of day so well.”

That puzzles Adam, because Eve was invented in a mad science lab only three weeks ago, and she hasn’t had the chance to accumulate a lot of meteorological experience.

609 dark shadows eve weather

She says, “It is fall,” and he asks, “How do you know that?”

She takes a moment to consider. “How do I know that if I go out, the air will be sharp and clear?” she asks. “Why do I remember that sometimes the trees have no leaves at all, and at other times, the leaves are green?”

It’s really getting to her. She shrugs, and says, “I don’t even remember how I know the word ‘fall’. Is it really the right phrase, for this time of year?”

“I’ve heard it before, yes,” Adam says, “and it confused me too. Strange they just named the season for the fact that the leaves fall from the trees. That doesn’t seem possible. They certainly would have chosen a more complicated name than that.”

That’s what they’re broadcasting this afternoon on ABC — a remedial faculty meeting at the Monster Institute of Technology.

609 dark shadows adam eve wish

So this is going to be one of those posts under the general heading of Nobody Understands Dark Shadows But Me, because apparently there are still people living on the Earth who are under the impression that Eve should have some kind of comprehensible character arc.

I mean, if we expect Eve to follow any logic at all, then this scene is a piping hot mess. Just to remind you, she’s a dead body who was brought to life using the spirit of a French Revolution psychopath named Danielle Roget — and as of last week, she remembered her past life just fine. She even recognized the spirit of her old boyfriend, Philippe, just by listening to the chandelier tinkle. Now she’s struggling with seasons.

Then Adam mentions Professor Stokes, and Eve continues to muse, improbably. “This Professor Stokes,” she says, “I’m not sure I would like him.”

Which is interesting, because she met Professor Stokes on the night that she was brought to life. He is one of the five people that she’s spoken to in her current incarnation, and he’s not an easy guy to forget.

609 dark shadows eve carolyn shake

So the thing that people get wrong about Dark Shadows, especially here at the end of 1968, is that they think it’s supposed to make “sense” — that there’s some underlying logical system that lets you predict what a character is going to do or say, based on what we know about them and what they’ve done before. This is not the case.

Eve is not a character. Do not concern yourself with the question of whether she makes sense as a character. She does not.

So when Adam brings Eve to Collinwood to meet Carolyn, and Eve rolls her eyes as she reluctantly accepts Carolyn’s handshake, it doesn’t mean anything in particular. This isn’t a storyline about two women from different worlds who eventually become allies, and then close friends, as they realize that they both care about Adam’s happiness. It’s just not that kind of enterprise.

Eve is a kaiju, like Godzilla, or Heather Locklear on Melrose Place. She’s a self-absorbed, fire-breathing weapon of mass destruction. Expecting her to be anything else is like watching the Weather Channel and complaining that Hurricane Katrina doesn’t have a compelling character arc. Yes, that’s true. That’s the medium that you’re interacting with.

609 dark shadows eve carolyn conflict

Eve just struts in, and effortlessly takes over the scene. “Adam has told me how kind you’ve been to him,” she says. “Is this where you kept him?”

Carolyn stammers, “He — he stayed here, yes.” And then Eve just stands there and stares at her, as Tokyo burns.

609 dark shadows carolyn adam eve tokyo

She sneers around the room, giving the place a disapproving once-over.

“There are many books here, Eve,” Adam explains. “I used to read every night. And Carolyn would bring my food. We’d play cards.”

“How exciting,” Eve says.

So she’s fantastic. She’s a loose cannon firing at will, and she brightens this place up in a way that it desperately needs.

609 dark shadows carolyn adam eve window

It’s important that she does this routine in Adam’s old hiding place, because this is a ritual cleansing. Adam was cooling his heels on this shabby set for two months, and just seeing it again makes me uneasy. The demon of this dull storyline must be exorcised, and Eve is the one to do it.

609 dark shadows eve window

There’s only one rule on television, and it’s Don’t touch that dial. Dark Shadows is a particularly good example of that rule in action, because each episode is assembled at the last minute by squabbling lunatics.

That’s especially true in fall 1968, because the ratings are still climbing, while the writers are engaged in a hostile standoff over the direction of several interlocking storylines that aren’t going anywhere in particular.

At this point in the show, all sense of logic has evaporated. Characters do and say things because those are the most interesting things that Dan and the writers can agree on. Eve is basically a special effect; she’s just here because Bil Baird is too busy to bring over the marionette bat.

So if you’re struggling to figure out an in-universe explanation for Nicholas’ plans, or what Professor Stokes is thinking, or Carolyn’s emotional journey — there isn’t a lot of enjoyment to be gained from that exercise. In late ’68, it’s just not that kind of a show. If you stress out about whether the show makes sense, then you aren’t watching Dark Shadows right.

You can do that if you like — you’re well within your rights as a citizen to misunderstand Dark Shadows, and stubbornly refuse to enjoy it. But there is so much to enjoy, just standing there in heels and demanding our attention.

Tomorrow: Inexplicable You.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Last Thursday, Adam locked Eve in the basement to hide her from Barnabas, and she had a panic attack. Then we didn’t see her for a week, and today she’s just scowling around the house like usual. We’ve seen this kind of thing a lot lately — yesterday’s episode also ended with a dramatic cliffhanger that they’ll ignore for a whole week.

Eve says, “This Professor Stokes, I’m not sure I would like him.” Adam says, “I did,” and then realizes that’s not his line. He amends it to, “No, you wouldn’t.”

After Adam says, “Eve, I want us to talk,” there’s the long sound of a squeaky door swinging open, and then closed again.

When Harry is talking to Carolyn on the terrace, they cut to the wrong camera as it swings around the fountain to pick up a shot. As it settles, you can see a studio light reflected in one of the windows.

The scene where Adam tells Eve that they’re going to Collinwood ends too soon — the camera fades to a shot of the moon while Adam is still talking.

Jeff tells David, “Well, we don’t know if we aren’t going to be here.”

There’s another squeaky door sound as Eve walks into Adam’s old room, and he tells her about the books.

Tomorrow: Inexplicable You.

609 dark shadows eve adam laugh

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

14 thoughts on “Episode 609: Nobody Understands Dark Shadows But Me

  1. Marie Wallace is fantastic. In a show with either ingenues (or SYTs) and mature women who are not supposed to be attractive due to their age(Julia and Elizabeth) she is no ingénue and she is gorgeous. In prime time we had to wait until “The Rockford Files” brought Beth Davenport who was both hightly competent and gorgeous at the same time.

    This is why I never forgave the writers for killing off her last character (Megan Todd) because that was the last we saw of her. I was so upset that I based my entire Collinsport Chronicles on the premise that she did not die, and that she came back to kick some sense into the other characters (teaching to Barnabas that vampirism is no excuse for stupidity)

  2. Well, Mr Dan, this really takes the cake. A big yummy chocolate cake, with 15 layers of deliciousness. You have successfully explained Dark Shadows.

    The paragraphs from “So the thing that people get wrong about Dark Shadows…” to “That’s the medium that you’re interacting with.” and from “There’s only one rule on television…” to “If you stress out about having the show make sense, then you aren’t really watching Dark Shadows right.” should be required reading for anyone who is contemplating an addiction to Dark Shadows, and who wants to really understand it. This post should be marked, somehow, so that future generations can come here and understand it, as well.

    As Dan Curtis once said “Logics? We ain’t got no logics. We don’t need no logics. I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ logics!” or something to that effect.

    I have nothing against logic, I even took a few classes in college and occasionally use it in daily life, but Dark Shadows existed before home VCR’s, before scrutiny, before fault-finding became the popular pastime that it is, now. This was before 1981, when MTV’s rapid-fire editing speeded up everything. Before 1990, when Twin Peaks single-handedly forced TV to stop looking like TV, and start looking like cinema. In short, it was before….

    I especially like this part about Eve: “Expecting her to be anything else is like watching the Weather Channel and complaining that Hurricane Katrina doesn’t have a compelling character arc.” That pretty much sums it up.

    And once again, Dark Shadows is merely reflecting the times in which it was made, a time when the whole world seemed to lose its mind and burst into flames, just for a little while.

  3. I’m not up to this as yet. I am only up to where Prof. Stokes is teaching Adam to talk. I just hope the dream curse ends soon !

  4. Eve’s speech at the beginning of this episode reminds me so much of the Stephen Sondheim TV movie, “Evening Primrose.” This show is not well known, but I suspect this blog might be the place where people have heard of it.

    “Evening Primrose” aired on ABC in 1966 and starred Anthony Perkins as a young man who comes to live in a department store where people choose to live totally removed from society and only come out at night. To live in a department store. It’s a weird choice, obviously.

    There is a song, “I Remember”, where a young woman who has lived in the store almost her whole life tries to remember what life outside the department store was like, and uses similes taken from the store to describe the real world. “Dark Shadows” doesn’t have the time (or perhaps ability) to put that level of craft to work, like Sondheim. But that dialogue is at heart just as surreal and even a bit sad.

    Writing this also makes me realize ABC seemed to be uniquely open to letting the inmates run the asylum, creatively speaking.

    1. As a long-time Sondheim fan, I’ve always meant to find a copy of “Evening Primrose”. Thanks to the era of YouTube (and your reminder in the above comment, Neil), I was finally able to see it. I recognized “I Remember” and “Take Me to the World” from a Sondheim tribute record that was issued right after “A Little Night Music” became a big hit in the early 70s. Although I hadn’t heard that record in decades, those haunting melodies (especially “I Remember”) had really stuck with me. It was nice to hear the songs in context. But what a weird piece overall is “Evening Primrose”. It is reminiscent of the “Twilight Zone” episode where the store mannequins come alive for a period of time, but have to report back so another mannequin can have its turn. The “Twilight Zone” treatment was far creepier, but also more consistent in its premise than “Evening Primrose”. Nevertheless, thumbs up for some great songs!

  5. Fine analysis of the lady Eve and of DS in general, Danny.

    Regarding Adam, one characteristic of his I’m enjoying is that against all odds, he seems to think Eve would have the slightest interest in anything he has to say. As a result, he contninues to set himself up just so she can knock him down. It’s thrilling.

    1. I agree that Dark Shadows isn’t logical in the way that waking life is logical. The references above to Sondheim’s “Evening Primrose” brings up musical comedy, which I think is a helpful point of comparison. Watching a musical we accept characters breaking out in song, dancing intricately choreographed numbers, and doing all sorts of other outlandish things for the same reason we accept outlandish things in dreams. It seems to us as theatre-goers, as it seems to us as dreamers, that events belong together whether or not they would belong together in waking life, because there is some resemblance between them that appeals to our imaginations. It’s this dream logic that makes Dark Shadows work.

      As for Adam and Eve, their names, and Nicholas’ vague plan of using them as the progenitors of a new race of beings, prompt us to look at their relationship as the prototype of what heterosexual pairings will be like in among that new race. Since they are characters on Dark Shadows, it makes sense that the model they embody is very much like the marriages we’ve seen so far on the show, every one of which has been disastrous. Adam is to Eve as Roger was to Laura and to Cassandra, as Barnabas was to Angelique, as Carolyn was to Burke, a pawn in an evil scheme meant primarily to hurt someone else.

  6. “If you stress out about whether the show makes sense, then you aren’t watching Dark Shadows right.”

    This is true. Unfortunately, as someone who is addicted to logic, I have to be reminded of this truth approximately every two days. The expectation that logic should and will apply just keeps growing back in my head between episodes. I come to this blog to get that problem taken care of. Kind of like getting a touch-up haircut every few days. On the inside.

  7. And remember kids, even though Uncle Jeff/Peter yells at you and shakes you until your bones rattle, he’s really your buddy so don’t report him to your Dad, much less the police.

  8. This post was particularly poignant as I watched this episode on my lunch with my brother (he stayed home from work – we share a house. P.s. don’t ever buy a house with a sibling). He couldn’t say enough how horrible this show is. He just doesn’t get it. So I appreciated the following words very much:

    “…you’re well within your rights as a citizen to misunderstand Dark Shadows, and stubbornly refuse to enjoy it. But there is so much to enjoy, just standing there in heels and demanding our attention.”

    Eve is on fire and a much needed infusion to the cast, especially considering we still have to put up with Horrible Harry Johnson.

    It was thrilling that Eve called Jeff “Peter Bradford” right after Jeff had just shook it into David that if anyone said he was anyone other than Jeff, to not believe them. I can’t wait to watch the next episode! I usually watch about two episodes a day on my lunch break.

    The same night this episode aired ABC aired Bewitched episode #145: “It’s So Nice to Have a Spouse Around the House” where Darrin unknowingly takes Serena on a second honeymoon to rekindle his romance with Samantha, who is away on Witches Council business. So risqué!

  9. Another blooper, at the start of the Jeff/Carolyn garden scene the fountain is shown on the foreground and is switched on after the scene had started.

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