“Shall I tell him the real meaning of the little games you’ve taught him, how you seek evil in the darkness for your heartless schemes?”
“You’re trying to kill me,” she whispers, and he just smiles.
Laura Collins is some kind of an Egyptian fire demon, and her brother-in-law Quentin has found the urn containing the eternal flame that keeps her alive. He doused the fire, and the life is slowly draining out of her. Now he’s come to her room to watch, and smirk, and gloat about it.
“I’ll make you pay for this, Quentin,” she hisses.
He shoots her a crocodile smile. “I doubt it. I don’t think you have that much time left.”
Trying to rally, she shouts, “Get out of here!”
“Oh, no, we mustn’t exert ourselves, my dear. You don’t have energy to spare, do you?” He chuckles. “Now, don’t look at me that way. It almost compels me to feel sorry for you.”
Strutting around the room, he says, “I recall an incident, at the cottage the other evening. We both thought that I was dying. I asked you to help me, and you refused. You left me there to die. Now, I do believe that one bad turn does deserve another.”
And then, bending down and holding her chin in place, he kisses her on the lips. So there’s that.
So the question — for this week, and for the next several months — is, how do you get a character from here to pinup heart-throb?
Cause this scene feels like pre-Comics Code EC horror comic level sadism. This is one of those stories where a man poisons his shrewish wife and then stands around and makes ironic wordplay while he watches her die.
It’s the kind of thing that gets you dragged before the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency and accused of corrupting the morals of American youth. At least, that’s what happens if it’s 1954. If it’s 1969, you can apparently broadcast it on television at four in the afternoon, and then sell trading cards with pictures of the sadistic psychopath and a stick of chewing gum. That’s how things work now.
But there are a few redeeming features to be considered, which take some of the sting out of the situation — not legally, or morally, but in the court of public opinion as presided over by the housewives and teenagers watching the show.
For one thing, Quentin is great and Laura sucks. David Selby is gorgeous and funny and always surprising. He’s constantly auditioning for the role of everybody’s favorite, and he takes that competition seriously. Meanwhile, Diana Millay feels stiff, and disconnected from the other actors. That’s because she’s a competent actress in a show that has left competence behind, and become something bigger and more dangerous.
That’s not the most logical way to judge a person’s character, but a television audience is not logical. If we were, we’d do something more productive with our time, like work on our science fair projects. We are creatures of emotion and instinct, and our gut feeling is that a scene with Quentin is more interesting than a scene without him.
But if we have to resort to actually paying attention to the script, then there’s also the fact that Laura is a terrifying monster. She’s not just a shrewish woman that Quentin wants to get rid of because he feels like it. She is an enemy combatant, and his reminder of what happened in the cottage is a fair point.
And then there’s his nephew Jamison, the one person that Quentin truly loves. This relationship is crucial for the audience’s developing affection for Quentin, because his interactions with Jamison show a side of him that is entirely sincere. He always has time for Jamison, and their scenes have a familial warmth that you don’t see on Dark Shadows very often anymore, not in these cynical times.
While Laura is expiring upstairs, Charity Trask brings Jamison back from school, explaining that the boy had a bad dream, and woke up screaming.
Quentin: Hey, what’s the matter with you? You’re shaking like a leaf!
Jamison: I’m so frightened!
Quentin: Now, now, there’s no need to be. Nothing can harm you here, with me.
Jamison: I’ve got to go to her!
Quentin: To who?
Jamison: My mother!
Quentin: Oh! Wait a minute. You — you can’t go to your mother.
Jamison: Why not?
Quentin: Well… because.
Oh, right. Yeah. That’s a tough one. The correct answer is “Because she’ll tell you that I’m killing her,” which is a tricky thing to explain.
And you can tell, right here — with a flicker of doubt and pain crossing his face — that it really didn’t occur to him that the woman he’s so eager to kill is also the mother of the nephew that he loves.
All he saw was the monster, the enemy combatant. In his mind, there’s a sharp line between the kaiju world and the domestic world, which he’s allowed to cross but thinks that nobody else is able to see. In this moment, Jamison is reminding him that those worlds are not separable, that his kaiju wrestling matches have consequences in the here and now.
And then things get worse. Laura pulls through, thanks to the Great Sun God Ra and associated McGuffins, which means that she gets to tell her son some inconvenient truths.
Laura: Jamison, Quentin is the person who’s trying to hurt me!
Jamison: (chuckles) I can’t believe that.
Laura: I know you don’t want to believe it, darling, but you must, or he’ll hurt me again! Oh, Jamison, you don’t want that, do you?
Laura: Darling, you didn’t have a dream tonight. You had a vision! You saw me dying — because Quentin wanted me to die.
And with that, Laura has just fired a weapon aimed directly at Quentin’s heart, and she didn’t have to break a sweat. He loaded the crossbow; all she has to do was pull the trigger.
And here’s Jamison, delivering the bad news.
Jamison: Do you know what I want you to do?
Quentin: What? You tell me what it is, and I’ll do it.
Jamison: I want you to get out of my sight, and STAY out of my sight!
Quentin: What? Why?
Jamison: I’ll tell you why. Because I HATE you!
Quentin is shocked. It takes a lot to shock Quentin Collins, but this qualifies.
Quentin: Jamison… don’t be silly.
Jamison: Don’t you call me silly.
Quentin: You couldn’t hate me. You couldn’t hate Quentin.
Jamison: Oh, yes I could!
Quentin: But — at least tell me why!
Jamison: Because you hurt my mother!
Quentin: I hurt — she told you that.
Quentin: But — it just isn’t true, Jamison. I wouldn’t hurt your mother.
And bless David Selby and his expressive eyebrows, because he’s making it clear, in a sincerely heart-tugging way, that he means it. “I wouldn’t hurt your mother,” he says, with stress on “your”, because he wasn’t thinking about Laura that way.
Jamison is part of the real world, the everyday Collinwood that his family lives in. Coming at it from that direction, Quentin is telling the truth. If he thought of Laura as Jamison’s mother — if they were all normal people, and she was just the sister-in-law that he doesn’t like anymore, then he wouldn’t have tried to kill her. Smirk at her, sure, threaten her, blackmail her, try to drive her out of the house somehow. But he wouldn’t try to kill Jamison’s mother. He was trying to kill a monster.
I think it was Nietzche, or possibly Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who said, “Beware that, fighting monsters, you do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” And here comes Laura to drive that point home.
Laura: I told him you hurt me, and that you’d hurt me again. Is that a lie? Oh, no — that’s the truth!
Quentin: Then what about the rest of the truth, huh? About us being together, you and I?
Laura: And shall I tell him the real meaning of the little games you’ve taught him, how you seek evil in the darkness for your heartless schemes?
Quentin doesn’t have an answer for that one, because she’s right. This isn’t the first time that Quentin’s carried Jamison over that line that he thinks separates the real world from his black magic kaiju world. He’s performed dark rituals with Jamison, used the boy’s innocence as bait to hook something that Quentin needs for a monster fight.
Jamison can’t remember those ceremonies very well after they’re over, so Quentin can still tell himself that it doesn’t matter, that the boy isn’t harmed, that he can still be the playful favorite uncle.
But it turns out that those aren’t two worlds after all, just two rooms, with the same people passing between them. If this is a game, then it’s a game Quentin can lose.
So how does this help us explain Quentin’s transition from psychopath to beloved teen idol? I have no idea. Are we sure that even happens?
Tomorrow: Another Weird Afternoon.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
The blocking for the teaser is entirely different from the way they ended yesterday’s show. Like, standing up instead of being unconscious on the carpet kind of different.
When Quentin is talking to Jamison in the foyer in act 3, there’s a nice long shot of Quentin and the boom mic together. The camera switches to Jamison for a moment, and then back to Quentin and the mic.
When Dirk tells Barnabas that he’ll find a room for Charity, he turns around and bumps into a light fixture.
Tomorrow: Another Weird Afternoon.
— Danny Horn
16 thoughts on “Episode 738: The Little Games”
The series stops writing Quentin as a villain after the zombie storyline. He will always maintain an anti-hero edge, though. In film noir terms, he’s Sam Spade or Mickey Hammer.
He’s roguish but no longer diabolical. For instance, I could easily buy early Quentin working with Evan to summon a ghost to drive Judith crazy so she could be committed and he could gain control of the estate. That is more Trask territory now.
Well, he still has to strangle Jenny – that’s a pretty dark stain on his record. For me, he sheds his villain role completely once the curse takes effect and he begins to feel remorse for his actions – all of them. Plus once he finds out about his children’s existence and genuinely feels guilt.
Isn’t Jenny’s death presented as an attempt to save Beth?
Jenny is definitely on the offensive but the way it’s presented (if I remember) Quentin could have incapacitated her another way – Jenny did attack Beth but was then after Quentin when he started to strangle her (I think she had let go of the knife at this point, but I could be wrong). Beth was actually trying to stop him and get him off Jenny but he kept choking her, visibly angry.
“So how does this help us explain Quentin’s transition from psychopath to beloved teen idol? I have no idea. Are we sure that even happens?”
No, it doesn’t happen because it doesn’t need to. Quentin became a teen idol before he ever said a word. His rehabilitation allowed him to stay a teen idol. We started off attracted, intrigued, and willing to overlook pretty much anything he did. We probably wouldn’t have stayed that way, so Quentin had to stop killing people on purpose.
(Killing people as a werewolf and threatening to kill them, those stayed on the table. We didn’t want him to be good, we just wanted his badness to be manageable and excusable. We wanted what we always want from bad boys: we wanted a guy we could fix.)
So I guess this burning isn’t an eternal flame.
If Quentin’s involved, it’s probably just the clap.
I think the proven point with both Barnabas and Quentin is that they are appealing in they’re villainy-
Not because they are nice or good- but because they are very interesting. They get to play out emotions, and levels completely absent from straight laced “good guy” characters- take for example Jeff Clark or Anthony George Burke – they could both be replaced with cardboard cutouts. It seems to be a trope particularly prevalent in horror that the hero is utterly uninteresting- not because they are good- but because they aren’t aloud to have any flaws, traits, or peculiarities. They aren’t aloud to be scared or vulnerable- and they are only granted a stuffy righteous and controlled helping of anger.
The monster gets to be flawed and also tend to have more believable motives- and so whether or not we are meant to- we favor the monster.
A prime example is the creature from the black lagoon. Anyone remember the hero? Nope but I think everyone remembers the graceful, curious and frustrated monster.
David Selby was hands down one of the most gorgeous men ever seen on TV- that’s why he was a teen idol and that’s why every bad boy thing he did on DS just made him that much more appealing – he could smile that smile and ALL was forgiven. Pile on the fact that he was funny, charming, adorable – us teenagers and housewives in 1969 were besotted with him. We even forgave him for those silly muttonchops.
Yes, David Selby absolutely radiates charm and humor. Even in his interview a few DVDs back, a couple of times after a cut, they came back to a genuinely laughing, cheerful man. He was devastatingly handsome in his youth, enough for a small child who was too young to really watch the show and only allowed to watch the door so the parents wouldn’t catch the siblings watching has remembered him so distinctly. And he has remained a charming and good looking man as he’s aged.
I’ve ordered his book on your recommendation, Danny, and am looking forward to reading it.
I was hoping for a screencap of that crazy expression on Davis’s face when he’s crouching by the fire and you didn’t disappoint. Christ only knows what he was thinking…it probably involved shaking some actress like a rag doll.
The return of Nancy Barrett is always something to be applauded. I was afraid she’d been exiled to that dark, dark place where Jenny, Beth, Sandor, and Evan are currently residing.
Also to be applauded is the reappearance of psycho David/Jamison. Nobody says “I hate you!” quite as effectively as that kid.
I was confident Charity Trask would come back sooner or later- they do keep bringing up the Trasks, and they can hardly drop the fact that Barnabas has an agent in the heart of the family. Glad it wasn’t any later. I am starting to miss both Sandor and Crazy Jenny, though it’s OK if Evan stays away for a while. And Beth is at her best as a character who is occasionally mentioned but never seen. That’s a situation that makes the best of Terry Crawford’s gifts as an actress.
I was tempted to take that screencap myself when I saw it but I figured I’d come here first and see if Danny had already saved me the trouble, and lo and behold! a perfect still. My head is swimming with potential memes
That end screen cap tho LOL
It hurt my heart when Jamison told Quentin he hated him. I am close to my nephews and nieces and would seriously die of a broken heart if they told me that. Of course, I’m not trying to kill their mother…
As Danny mentioned a few posts back, we like to believe that bad boys can be redeemed by love. And all the teenaged girls were convinced that they were the one to do it. And there you have it– his villainy is the attraction, he needs us to save him.
In the 18th century Samuel Richardson wrote a cautionary novel about this trope to persuade young women that rakes were bad news and can’t be redeemed by virtuous women. Unfortunately (for Richardson) his rake, Mr. Lovelace, is one of the more fascinating and complex characters in English literature. He consistently pulls focus from the heroine, Clarissa. He’s does horrible things and we can’t take our eyes off him.
I’m astonished at how thoroughly, resolutely unsexy the teaser scene manages to be. The last episode’s version at least had a flicker of passion, but this is just… some sort of random stuff happening. Did the network censors have a word and say they couldn’t embrace on the bed?…
I think I’ve figured out the whole Diana Millay / Laura thing. She’s basically the prototype for Joan Collins / Alexis.