“It’s been my experience that death causes as much ill-feeling as life.”
Time-tossed vampire Barnabas Collins is stuck in the year 1897, lost behind enemy lines on a ghost-hunting recon mission. For all he knows, he’s here to stay, so he’s trying to make friends with the locals.
At the moment, he’s in the Collinwood study with Edward, the putative head of the household, in front of an open casket containing Edward’s grandmother. The old lady spent the last several decades telling everyone that she had a family secret that she would pass on just before her death, but it turns out that’s a tricky deadline to plan around. Now Barnabas is the only one who knows the secret, which was: Don’t let Barnabas get out of his coffin and hang around Collinwood. So that worked out great.
Grasping at straws, Edward harangues Barnabas for a while, begging him to tell the secret, but Barnabas just stonewalls and that’s pretty much all they can do.
Frustrated, Edward grouses that Edith even kept the location of her will a secret. She left instructions with Judith in a sealed envelope, and now they have to find it.
And that’s the last time anybody mentions the secret. From this moment on, the story is all about finding the will. It’s the most blatant MacGuffin relay race handoff you’ll ever see.
Okay, so cue the next shady, cynical character. It’s another Sam Hall script today, and that is what Sam likes — hypocrites, grifters and liars. He’s currently doing a mix between Bleak House and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on a daytime soap opera with only three sets, because why even get up in the morning if you’re not going to have a good time.
The new boy is Evan Hanley, a lawyer who’s come to read Edith’s will. But he’s not one of those stuffed shirt attorneys that they used to have on Dark Shadows in 1966, who only showed up to explain whether a particular plot point was legal or not. Evan is a lawyer with terrible secrets of his own.
That would be obvious even without Quentin standing there making vague references to “meetings”and Evan’s “private life,” because Evan is played by Nicholas Blair, the evil warlock who dominated so much of the show last summer. The last time we saw him, he was crackling in hellfire, but here he is again, embroiled in things.
Now, technically, this is supposed to be a different character — Evan Hanley, not Nicholas Blair — but everybody knows that’s not true. The whole point of giving 1897 roles to 1969 cast members is that it’s fun to see the people we know dressed up in Victorian drag.
Everyone at home is supposed to be nudging each other, saying, “That’s Nicholas!” which creates thrilling little sparks. And it’s good to have Nicholas back — it’s been just enough time for me to miss him.
So it’s satisfying when the new villain enlists the old villain for a villainous scheme. Quentin wants Evan to delay reading Edith’s will, long enough for Quentin to find someone who can forge a more generous document.
Quentin offers a share of the inheritance, purring, “You need money. Or has that changed?” Evan is silent. Quentin smirks, “You shouldn’t have married such an extravagant wife.”
This makes Evan yet another example of an unfortunate marriage in a storyline that’s already chock full of them. We know that Edward’s wife has run off, Edith had an unhappy marriage, and now Evan — and there are more examples of unhappy marriages coming up.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a soap opera that is so relentlessly unenthusiastic about the concept of marriage. Literally the only happily married couple that we ever see in the entire run of Dark Shadows is Magda and Sandor, and even their best days are behind them.
For instance, here she is being strangled by Quentin. This is a very physical show all of a sudden; it was only the other day that Quentin was strangling Edith.
Later on in this scene, Quentin also threatens to throw a knife at her, and then Barnabas comes along and tells her, “You are accumulating things that you will pay for, madam.” Everyone just keeps beating on Magda today.
But Barnabas has reason to be grouchy, because his current mission isn’t going well at all. He’s supposed to be stopping Quentin’s ghost from killing David, but that doesn’t happen for another seventy-two years, so it’s not clear what else can be done from this direction.
In the 20th century, Quentin is apparently trying to turn David into his nephew Jamison, so Barnabas figures he ought to learn more about their relationship. It goes spectacularly badly.
Jamison: Have you seen her?
Jamison: I’ve never seen a dead person before. I’m going to go in with Quentin. I’m not scared, when I’m with him. Have you seen him around anywhere?
Barnabas: No, I’m afraid I haven’t. You’re very fond of Quentin, aren’t you?
Jamison: Yes, of course I am. What a silly question. You don’t like him, do you? You’re just like the rest of them! Well, I don’t like YOU either, so THERE!
And then Jamison stomps off to another room. Barnabas is just not good at going undercover.
That’s especially true when it comes to his primary target, who he seems to be going out of his way to antagonize. The will goes missing, and everyone starts hunting around for it — except for Barnabas, who zeroes in on Quentin.
Quentin: So, the merry chase begins!
Barnabas: There’s one way to stop it.
Quentin: Is there?
Barnabas: Yes. And you can do it.
Quentin: How? Tell me, cousin.
Barnabas gives Quentin a significant look.
Barnabas: YOU have the will, Quentin!
The clock strikes.
Barnabas: I will leave you now. There’s only one thing that you have to decide in the next hour — how to give it back. Because if you don’t — I will have to do something about it. Something… drastic!
And then he gives Quentin an even more significant look, and struts out of the house. So that’ll teach that kid how to make a dramatic exit. Nobody walks out on Barnabas Collins, do you hear me? Nobody!
Tomorrow: Forget You.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Edward tells Barnabas, “For over a hundred years, the eldest son in our family has all known — always known what that secret is!”
A moment later, Edward says, “I keep feeling that she’s written it somewhere, though she was.” Then he takes a three-second break from saying dialogue, finishing up with, “Oh, she was such a secretive woman!”
When Jamison talks to Barnabas from the landing, you can see the boom mic in the top left of the screen.
At the end of act 2, the closing music cue plays too early, and they have to play it twice.
Behind the Scenes:
Edith’s body in the coffin is played by Natalie Norwick, an occasional stand-in who we last saw in January as Josette’s ghost. She also appears in tomorrow’s episode, and then we see her for the final time in October as a stand-in for Judith.
Tomorrow: Forget You.
— Danny Horn