“All we know is, she was hanged. But whether she died or not is something everyone in Collinsport is still wondering about.”
Gosh. So much to cover, and I can’t explain any of it. The Great 1968 Wrap-Up is in full swing, and I don’t have the energy to take care of bystanders today. If you aren’t completely up to date on the ins and outs of the spine-tingling nonsense they’re passing off as a storyline these days, then there is honestly very little that I can say that would help.
If you’re super brand new to the blog, then you might be better off reading yesterday’s post. Wait, sorry — yesterday’s was even goofier than today’s. I don’t know, there’s a lot of posts to read. Pick a number between 210 and 623. Okay, now put it back in the deck. Was it 497? Damn it! I suck at card tricks.
So there’s this, for one thing. Somebody’s been tampering in God’s domain, creating a Bride of Frankenstein in a mad science lab, using the spirit of a dead lunatic as the animating life force. Her name is Eve, and she has never had a boring scene.
While Eve was out making trouble one night, she caught sight of a man who she recognized as her 18th-century lover, Peter Bradford. Not content to stalk him in the present day, she’s now being sent back in time by sorcerous soap vixen Angelique, so that she can —
Hang on. Didn’t I just say I wasn’t going to do this? This storyline can not be explained.
Anyway, she’s magically traveling back to the past, and when they really want to express themselves on Dark Shadows, they say it with Chromakey. They’ve been getting a lot better with their brand new blue-screen technology, except for today, when they get a lot worse again.
And here we are in the past! Angelique apparently has the power to send people tumbling backward through time just by thinking about it for a while, because she is a witch and a vampire, plus she pulled the secret magic number of the universe out of Barnabas’ cell phone when he wasn’t looking.
So now, with very little warning, we’ve jumped back to 1795. It’s a few weeks after girl governess Victoria Winters was hanged as a witch, and catapulted back to her own century.
Now Vicki’s defense attorney boyfriend, Peter, has his own execution scheduled for dawn. That’s how you can tell how guilty she was; even her lawyer gets the death penalty. You have to break some serious laws to rate that level of scorched-earth jurisprudence.
And here are the stars of today’s show — Tom Gorman and James Shannon. We might as well get to know them, because we’re going to be spending a lot of time with them today.
Tom Gorman has been on Dark Shadows for two years now, mostly as a non-speaking extra. He first appeared as a Blue Whale customer in November 1966, and since then he’s been a jailer, a bartender, a judge at Vicki’s witch trial, and a ghost.
Tom has been acting on TV and on the Broadway stage since 1939, which is probably long enough. This episode is actually his last television appearance. Watch closely, and see if you can figure out why.
The other guy is James Shannon, a personal favorite. You remember James — he was the hottie Deputy from a few months ago, the one that Angelique tried to seduce and vampire-bite. He doesn’t have any lines today, but he makes up for it by being cute.
So they’re standing around chatting about Peter’s upcoming execution, when a great wind roars through the room — the chandelier sways, the candle goes out, and a mug drops off the desk.
Tom is alarmed, and stammers, “What the devil is happening here?” James goes for the tankard, because obviously the most important thing to do in a supernatural emergency is to secure the tableware. James works in Collinsport law enforcement.
And here’s Eve! Back in time, and twice as crazy. She’s grinning like a mad thing, dressed up in clothes that I don’t know what century she thinks she’s dressed for, but whatever. She doesn’t look the way that she did back then — this is her new body, stitched together from 1960s dead people — but, again, whatever. If Eve doesn’t care, I don’t care.
Oh, this is what Tom looks like, by the way. Get used to this. It’s not makeup or special effects; this is just what his face does. You point a camera at it, and it happens all by itself.
And look how cute James is. I know he’s not, like, super pretty or whatever, but I actually have kind of a weird thing for dudes who look like monkeys. I’m serious, I would hit that in a hot second. I know you don’t care. I’m just saying.
Eve announces that she’s here to see Peter.
Tom: Are you related to the prisoner?
Eve: At one time, we were going to be married, but I’ve been away for six months.
Tom: Married… that is most interesting. A few short weeks ago, it appeared that he might marry another young lady. Unfortunately, she was found guilty of practicing witchcraft, and was hanged.
Eve: She was someone who lived here, in Collinsport?
Tom: Her name was Gloria Winters!
Which is fantastic. The episode’s only been on for a minute and a half, and already I have a favorite part.
Eve says, “Victoria Winters died here?” and Tom has a very Dark Shadows-y answer.
“All we know is, she was hanged,” he says. “But whether she died or not is something everyone in Collinsport is still wondering about.”
James indicates his neck, because he wants to contribute.
Eve turns toward the camera, and says, “So — she came back here, and fell in love with him!”
Tom leans forward, and asks, “What did you say?”
Eve smiles, and says, “Nothing,” and then she changes the subject.
So I think that’s a first on Dark Shadows — an actor who just goes ahead and does a pantomine villain aside to the audience. It’s an innovation that I think underscores the actual time travel that’s happening here. Eve is acting like a Dark Shadows character from November 1968, and the others are acting like Dark Shadows characters from April 1968, which is when the original 1795 story wrapped up.
This level of furious camp acting just didn’t happen seven months ago — they were playing it a lot straighter back then. Seeing Eve in this context accentuates how far the show has drifted from normal afternoon television.
If you’re not a regular here, you may be wondering why the acting style would change so dramatically over the course of a year. The short answer is that it’s been a pretty weird year. The long answer involves Addison Powell, and requires a tremendous amount of patience.
Eve says that she needs to see the prisoner, so Tom just shrugs and lets her right on into the cell. He says, “Well, there are no rules against it,” which seems amazingly casual considering they’re half an hour away from an execution. The guys in charge of Death Row might want to invest in some rules.
And now we get another welcome departure from the April ’68 style — Peter’s wearing a loose shirt wth the top unbuttoned, revealing a tantalizing slice of a hairy chest.
I know, we’re not supposed to be into Peter because he’s so scowly and weird, but it’s exciting, because it demonstrates how far we’ve come in the three weeks since Julia cut Joe’s turtleneck in half, symbolically breaking the crushing tyranny of the Dark Shadows ties-or-turtlenecks mandate. Death to turtlenecks!
And then the rest of the scene is just Eve going crazy.
Eve: They think they’re going to hang you, but they’re wrong.
Peter: Yeah, why?
Eve: We can go away… leave Collinsport together, and change the course of history! She said if I stayed more than six hours…
Peter: Look, I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Yeah, we don’t either. Angelique told Eve that she only had six hours, not that she’d be stuck here if she stayed longer than six hours. But this is a universe where crazy ladies make the rules, so who knows. She’s probably right, she’s crazier than I am.
And then, just when you least expect it — Joshua and Ben. I told you there was a lot today, this is why I’m rushing through it.
These two are the survivors of the 1795 storyline — practically the only characters who made it out of the furnace alive and sane. And here they are, as if they just kept on living their lives after the cameras followed Vicki home.
And look how close they’re standing to each other! They started out as bitter enemies — Joshua was the cruel master, and Ben was the oppressed indentured servant. But they went through the war together, and they both lost so much, and now they’re here, talking about their problems like they’re a family. This is one of the most legitimately touching moments in the whole series.
Joshua knows that Peter’s going to be hanged today — one last sacrifice on the dark altar of Angelique’s witchery — and there’s nothing he can do to stop it. The world turned out to be much darker and stranger than he was prepared for.
And he’s still got this impossible book, a Collins Family History that Vicki brought back with her from the 1960s, filled with predictions that didn’t quite come true.
The book frightens him, and appalls him — but he doesn’t want the world to know about the shameful disaster that almost exterminated the family, and the lies printed in the book are so tempting…
“I have gone over it very carefully,” he explains. “Strangely enough, there are certain statements which are not true. However, I plan to make them part of the family history in any case.”
Ben says, “I don’t understand,” and Joshua raises his voice.
“Do you think I want the world to know the evils that have been perpetrated here?” he shouts. “No! I certainly do not. They will never know the vile and pitiful thing that Barnabas became.”
Astonished, Ben says, “You’re not going to — rewrite your own history?”
The answer is yes. It’s what this family does. Apparently, there’s an instinct deep in the Collins DNA that makes you look at a history book, and immediately grab a pen.
“I’m going to take it from these printed pages!” he declares. “And set it down in my own hand.”
Obviously, that’s going to create some kind of history-cracking paradox fissures, but he doesn’t care. Look at his expression. He really hates this fucking book.
Okay, still a lot left. Joshua tells Ben to take the devil book outside and burn it, which is the first sensible thing anybody’s said all day. But nothing comes easy for Ben.
Ben: What are you doin’ here? You weren’t ever supposed to come back!
Eve: I had to come back when I heard that Peter was in trouble!
This is another example of this brand-new old-time retroactive history that makes this crackpot storyline so unbelievably difficult to describe. She wasn’t part of the actual 1795 storyline, but they’re pretending that she happened to leave town right before we came in.
That’s totally fair, and absolutely standard practice in long-running serialized narrative, although it makes you wonder what Ben’s life must be like. First, this crazy lady bossed him around, and just when he finally thought his life might get back to normal, Angelique showed up and did the same thing.
Eve is planning a jailbreak for Peter, and she wants Ben to find a getaway horse, and keep the motor running outside the lock-up. He says that he’s busy, what with the book burning, but she just grabs the book out of his hands and tells him to get a move on.
This is what life is like for Ben Stokes, just an endless series of high-strung dames, demanding his participation in another lunatic scheme. He probably never gets a moment to himself.
As she marches back to the Collinsport Gaol, Eve takes the opportunity to browse through the book for a while.
Eve (thinks): I’ve learned more than I ever thought I would. Victoria Winters actually came back in time, and brought this book with her. This could be very valuable to me — very valuable!
So, here’s a pop quiz: What the hell is she talking about? Her plan, as far as I can tell, is to break Peter out of stir, jump into whatever mode of transportation Ben’s managed to string together at short notice, and make for the border. When exactly will knowing the names of unborn Collins family members come in handy?
But who even knows with this broad? She’s a force of pure chaos, a hurricane in a hat. Her prime directive in every single conversation is to unsettle and perplex everyone she comes across, up to and including me.
She makes writing this blog an absolute waking nightmare, because every time I think I’ve got a handle on her crazy plan, it shifts again, pivoting inexplicably and sprinting off in a whole new direction. I shouldn’t even be calling her Eve, because her 1795 name was Danielle Rogét, which is a whole other thing that I just can’t explain.
She’s going to do it. Eve is going to break Dark Shadows, and she’s going to break me, and I love her so much that I can hardly even express it in words.
And then she does the following:
Tom: He says he needs another minute; then he’ll see you.
Eve: I don’t mind waiting.
Tom: You can sit down, if you like.
Eve: No, thank you. I’ll stand.
Tom sits down, and starts to read. Eve sashays over to his chair.
Eve: I suppose you won’t want me around, when it happens.
Tom: A hanging’s a gruesome thing, not a sight for a lady.
Eve: What about… after the hanging?
Tom: After? You — you want to come and see the body?
Eve: No. That’s not what I had in mind.
Tom: What did you have in mind?
Eve: Meeting you.
Eve: I’m sorry. I’ve shocked you, haven’t I?
Tom: Well, uh… no.
He gets up again, and she follows.
Eve: Well, it’s just that I believe in speaking my mind. Do you know what I mean?
Tom: Listen, I — I guess he’s ready for you now.
Tom: Mr. Bradford.
Eve: You don’t seem to understand. I’m not ready for him.
It’s unbelievable. This isn’t even part of her plan. She’s just doing this. She’s trolling the 18th century.
So I have to say, I feel sorry for people who don’t watch Dark Shadows. I really do. I wonder what they think television is for.
Tomorrow: Lost and Foundling.
(More) Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Louis Edmonds trips slightly at the beginning of the opening voiceover: “This is — Collinwood in the year 1968.”
Mr. Prescott tells Eve, “A few short weeks ago, it appeared that he might marry another young lady. Unfortunately, she was found guilty of practicing witchcraft, and was hanged.” Peter actually didn’t meet Vicki until she was already accused. It doesn’t seem super likely that people would have thought of as engaged, under the circumstances.
In the cell, Eve tells Peter, “Just be ready when I come to get you. I’ll arrange everything else.” Peter is still waiting for his cue, so after a moment, she looks at the teleprompter. She continues, “I have the chance to give you your freedom, on the condition that you’ll go away with me.” Peter still doesn’t respond for about three seconds, and then he mutters, “I don’t know.” Eve looks at the teleprompter for help again.
Joshua trips twice in two lines: “Because she was herself condemned to hang. And did hang. They thought that she was simply protecting — trying to protect Bradford.”
A couple inconsistencies: Joshua refers to Millicent as his niece, but in the 1795 storyline, he referred to her as a cousin. Also, Joshua says that he never thought that Vicki was a witch. He did, but then realized he was wrong.
Peter repeats a line with Mr. Prescott:
Peter: Look — I’m a condemned man. I’m entitled to a last request. Now, there’s something I need.
Prescott: Something you need?
Peter: Yes. Please. I am a condemned man. Give me a chance.
Peter pretends to write a note using a quill, but it’s obvious that there’s no ink in the inkwell. When he’s done, he throws the supposedly inky feather down onto the blanket, rather than using blotting-paper. I mean, he’s about to be hanged, so he doesn’t really care about the laundry bills, but still.
At the end of act 3, Mr. Prescott steps on Eve’s line:
Eve: We will be together —
Prescott: Listen —
Eve: — in another time!
Prescott: I don’t think you’ve been feeling well.
Behind the Scenes:
So that’s the last we’ll see of Tom Gorman, sadly. After this, he appeared on Broadway in a 1969 production of Hadrian VII, which maybe it was one of the great lost classics of our time, but I wouldn’t put money on it.
We’ll see James Shannon and his monkey face again in two months, when we return yet again to the Collinsport Gaol.
Tomorrow: Lost and Foundling.
— Danny Horn