“I want to stay here, and watch them be destroyed one by one.”
So the lesson, I suppose, is don’t murder your wife, because it could turn out that she’s secretly a gypsy, and her siblings will trick you into drinking a magic potion. I mean, there are probably other reasons not to murder your wife, but that’s the one that comes to mind at the moment.
Just ask Quentin Collins, who recently killed his wife Jenny during an argument about whether she should stab him in the face or not. Jenny’s sister Magda, who’s been living on the estate as kind of an all-purpose comedy menial, has risen up in protest, determined to prove that gypsy lives matter. The curse has come upon him, as Quentin will discover when the sun goes down.
There’s something very satisfying about a fable like this, where the powerless turn the tables on their oppressors. Everybody thought they could boss the gypsies around, or buy their silence. Quentin offered them ten thousand dollars to call off the curse and leave town, thinking that the family wealth could insulate him once again from facing the consequences of his actions.
But Magda threw the money back in his face and told him to go to hell, because she has an innate understanding shared by all great soap opera characters that you should always do the most dramatically interesting thing.
So let’s talk for a second about the source of Magda’s power. The idea here is that the dark-skinned people are closer to the earth than the rich white people are, which gives them a special connection to the ancient truths. It’s like all the stories about Native Americans who can whisper into the wind to contact the spirit of the buffalo or whatever, or the Haitians’ voodoo spells that can tap into the fundamental secrets of life and death. Ethnic equals primitive, and primitive equals ancient, and old things are smarter than young things for some reason.
That’s always kind of confused me, by the way — the whole idea of lost civilizations having knowledge that the modern world has forgotten. How would that even work? Yes, empires fall and civilizations crumble, but in real life, the good ideas survive. A language might fall into disuse, the oral stories and culture might be lost, but the useful skills like writing and agriculture and how to ride horses get passed down to the next generation. When a people is conquered, the conquerors don’t say, huh, stirrups, who needs them? and then forget about it.
Besides, the idea that an ancient people is just sitting on their secret power and not using it is kind of bizarre, when you stop and think about it.
The only reason that concept even works is because humans are designed to think that wisdom comes from far away. Respect for the wisdom of your elders is a good survival skill for young people, if you don’t want to have to invent glassblowing all over again every three decades. But then we go and apply that idea not just to old people, but to old civilizations. The ancient Celts built stone circles to amplify the ley lines and communicate with aliens, the ancient Tibetans knew how to meditate and declutter their minds, the ancient Japanese could do whatever the hell reiki is supposed to do.
But like I said, it’s fun to see the powerless win sometimes, and if they need to invent some ancient Chinese secrets to do it, then I say go for it. This episode sets up the increasingly desperate white people as they squabble over money and influence, and then once an act a gypsy walks in the door and laughs at them.
At one point, Quentin gets Sandor on his own, and offers the ten thousand dollars just to him, if he can remove the curse.
“Being a gypsy,” Quentin says, “you know as much about the curse as Magda does. Am I right?” This is basically the equivalent of saying that Black people are all great at basketball, but Sandor goes along with it for a second. He says that he wouldn’t know how to undo the curse, but Quentin presses him: “Sandor, we are talking about Ten Thousand Dollars in Cash. It will all be yours.”
And then Sandor delivers the gypsy pride smackdown.
Sandor: How miserably you fail to understand us, Quentin!
Quentin: Now, you can stop preaching to me, if you don’t mind! You would cut your best friend’s throat for a tenth of what I’m offering you, and you know it!
Sandor: Of course, you are right! It hurts me to see ten thousand dollars slip through my fingers. But it would hurt me even more to lose Magda. That is why I can’t betray her.
So there you go — our people may be greedy and duplicitous, but we care about each other, and we use every part of the deer, and if you throw a soda can out your car window then it makes an Indian cry. Take that, white people, you big jerks.
And so, for a moment at least, the noble savages have the upper hand, and we can dream of a world where the wealthy and heartless get the justice that they deserve.
“When the curse begins to work,” Sandor says, “our lives will be in danger.”
Magda smiles. “No, Sandor. I know of something that will protect you and me. But the Collins family — they will be in danger. Each of them could be a victim of Quentin’s curse. I don’t want to leave Collinwood. I want to stay here, and watch them be destroyed one by one.”
And now that she mentions it, that does sound like fun. Okay, I’m in. Let’s do this.
Monday: Day of the Dorcas.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Judith tells Beth, “It means that your infatuation to my brother has not gone unnoticed.”
The end credits are crooked, and there’s a gray line on the credits roll next to Gordon Russell’s name.
Monday: Day of the Dorcas.
— Danny Horn