“I have no control over human emotions.”
A year and a half ago, I wrote an entry called “The Last Normal Day“, about the end of the final non-supernatural storyline. Liz and Carolyn talked about how Jason had been blackmailing Liz, and they agreed to never let anything come between them again. And then Jason went off and got killed by a vampire, which pretty much put a period at the end of that sentence, and since then it’s been wall-to-wall crazy.
But here we are again, with Liz and another daughter (kind of), pretending that they’re having a normal soap opera wedding.
It’s the wedding day for Vicki and Jeff, a couple who had one of your less cute “meet cutes”. She was a 20th-century governess midway through an uncertain and frightening journey into the past; he was an 18th-century lawyer trainee who served as the defense counsel in her witchcraft trial, and then as an accomplice in the jailbreak following her inevitable death sentence.
They’ve both been hanged at least once apiece. They’ve been locked up, assaulted, victimized and hypnotized, bitten by vampires and haunted by ghosts. She shot a man dead, and he dug up graves to score body parts, and neither of them know where they come from or who they really are. In other words, it’s a fairly traditional soap opera love story.
So they signpost the impending catastrophe with a nice, quiet mother-daughter wedding dress scene.
Of course, Dark Shadows has its own unique approach to tragic foreshadowing. As Vicki and Liz look in the mirror at the blushing bride in her snow-white gown, there’s a burst of studio noise in the background, with offstage squeaks and clatters and shuffling feet. It’s a blooper, of course, just another artifact of the live-to-tape production process, but in this context it feels like a metaphor — as if the neighbors are packing up their cars and getting out of town, before the tsunami makes landfall.
Liz even says “You look absolutely radiant,” which is a dramatic irony attractor if I ever heard one. If it turns out Vicki’s also three days away from retirement, then we might as well tape a Kick Me sign to her back, and go tell the caterers to make other arrangements.
A little later, Liz asks Vicki what kind of flowers she’s going to carry, which sets up another little foreshadowing moment.
“Oh, I think roses,” Vicki says, “they’re Peter’s favorite –”
And then she stops herself, and remembers that the guy she’s marrying is Jeff Clark, not Peter Bradford. They’re actually the same guy, but try telling him that.
This is a super-traditional soap opera dilemma, but on other soaps, the love triangle would actually involve three different people. Dark Shadows tries to get by on using the same guy twice, which is easier on the budget.
At this point, the dialogue becomes extremely Dark Shadows-y.
Vicki: I wish I could stop remembering what happened to me, but I can’t!
Liz: Vicki… I don’t pretend to understand your experience in the past, but it’s only natural for you to think about it.
Vicki: I don’t want to. It upsets Jeff, and it confuses me. I wish that I could pretend that I’d just made it all up.
Liz: That’s what you should do.
So there’s your challenge: make sense of that. See if you can figure out what these two people actually believe about how the universe works. It can’t be done.
But we take another turn toward the sentimental later in the episode, as Vicki opens up a couple wedding presents.
The first one is from Miss Norris, a nurse at the foundling home where Vicki grew up — it’s a necklace that Vicki remembers Miss Norris used to wear, a little keepsake from the lonely backstory that they haven’t mentioned for a long time. It’s the kind of intimate, sentimental moment that soap operas traditionally thrive on.
And then the second present is the Collins Family History book that Vicki brought back in time to 1795, returned to her by a female Frankenstein monster who’s stalking her fiancee with the help of a vampire witch.
The book comes with a note that’s signed “Peter”, because nothing is simple and sentimental anymore. This is Dark Shadows, and the Last Normal Day was a long, long time ago.
Tomorrow: Cold Feet.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
When Eve returns to Nicholas’ house and finds Adam waiting for her in the hall, the boom mic isn’t picking them up properly — their voices sound far away. On the wall to the right, you can see the shadow of the boom mic operator moving closer to the actors.
Vicki has a hell of a time unwrapping her first wedding present.
Tomorrow: Cold Feet.
— Danny Horn