“What you saw consumed in flames was an exact replica of me.”
“Get me a mirror,” Angelique says, out of the blue. “A full-length mirror.” This is her idea of a security system.
This week, the Dark Shadows A-Team has united against Laura Collins, a phoenix firestarter who’s returned to Collinwood to turn her children into fire demons. Barnabas, Quentin, Angelique and Magda are on the case, each of them distracting Laura from her mission just long enough for another one to plan a new attack.
This is a new team that’s just emerged this week, and Angelique has stepped into the role of tactical expert. It’s a surprisingly natural fit, considering her dismal track record — remember, this is the woman who cursed the man she loves with a spell that kills everyone who loves him.
But in this context, it makes sense for Angelique to step up. Barnabas is terrible at making plans, Quentin is impulsive and reckless, and Magda is the loosest possible cannon. So when the woman says “get me a mirror,” the appropriate response is: one mirror, coming right up.
But like I said, Quentin is reckless, so he asks why the mirror.
“Because I want to look at myself,” she grins. “That’s right, somehow I’ve forgotten what I look like.” He’s still hesitating, so she urges, “Don’t worry, you can leave as soon as you bring the mirror. I have my secrets, even from you.”
And then the scene shifts to Laura in the cottage, and we never get to actually see the mirror.
This is from Wednesday’s episode, by the way. I’m going to talk about both the Wednesday and Thursday cliffhangers today, so I need to establish some Wednesday material.
So that’s it, as far as the mirror is concerned. Quentin walks from the Old House to Collinwood, and then Angelique joins him after a while, stepping into the drawing room just before Laura reveals the terrible secret she knows about Barnabas.
And then we have one of the great moments in Dark Shadows metaphors, as Quentin tries his luck with the sexy sorceress.
He moves in close and acts like he’s about to kiss her, which is typical for a Quentin scene. This is his role on the A-Team, he’s the explosives expert.
“You’re very gifted, you know,” he says, licking his lips. “Besides being beautiful, dangerous, all the things I like. Why do you want Barnabas Collins, and not me?”
She just looks him in the eye, and tells the truth. “Because I love Barnabas. And not you.”
And there’s Barnabas’ portrait, peering over her shoulder, a direct manifestation of Angelique’s priorities. They don’t set up visual metaphors very often on the show, so I like to take a moment to appreciate it when one comes along.
Quentin moves in for a kiss anyway, see also: impulsive and reckless, but she turns away. “Now, listen to me carefully,’ she says. “Laura will be at the cottage already, plotting her revenge. We have no time, even for nice compliments.”
Then she gives him some new instructions. “Go to the Old House. Don’t stop anywhere along the way, and wait for me there. I will join you, after I’ve finished with one thing.”
Quentin asks, “When are you going to tell me what’s going on?” The answer, for Quentin and for the audience, is never, but we might as well ask. “I bring you a mirror, and you say leave. I walk in here, and you say go there.”
She says, “Shall I simply make you do it, Quentin?” And that’s the end of that little negotiation.
Quentin hurries over to the Old House, and finds Angelique, sitting quietly and playing solitaire.
He doesn’t understand how she could be here, when he left her at Collinwood — but he just shakes his head, and gives up. And then she bursts into flame.
Seriously, that’s what happens next. Laura implores the Great God Ra to let the fires come, and they do.
So we see Angelique — the funny, crazy team leader who we’ve been following around all day, obeying her every word — as she shrieks in agony, consumed in flames.
And that is what we call a Wednesday cliffhanger.
So Thursday is kind of a runaround, with Quentin, Magda and Barnabas trying to keep up with Laura and her henchman Dirk.
Quentin tells Magda about Angelique, and then Magda tells Barnabas about Angelique, and then Barnabas has to stop Dirk from delivering Laura’s poison-pen letter, and they basically spend the whole day trying to figure out what to do now that their leader’s been flame-broiled.
In the end, the three remaining heroes aren’t up to the task of keeping Laura away from her endangered children. Laura sneaks into Jamison’s room in the dead of night, so she can grab her son and drag him to hell.
But she turns around, and there’s Angelique! Ta-DAH!
So that’s the Thursday cliffhanger — Angelique’s alive after all, and she saves the day. Hooray!
Obviously, first thing Friday, we need an explanation for what just happened. This is it.
Laura: I created the fire that destroyed you!
Angelique: You created the fire, but you didn’t destroy me.
Laura: I saw you consumed in flames!
Angelique: You should never underestimate the power of an enemy. What you saw consumed in flames was an exact replica of me.
Angelique: I knew you’d make some attempt to destroy me, so I created a doppleganger — a double, my dear — and it was she you destroyed.
And that’s all we get. Angelique created a doppleganger, because she is clever and ruthless and she knows how to make good cliffhangers.
So that’s fun, but it also raises an interesting question, namely: What about the mirror?
This isn’t an in-universe question — I know that the mirror was used to create the doppleganger, because they use this trick again later, and they show us the mirror that time.
My question is about the audience, watching this sequence for the first time, one episode a day. How are they supposed to understand about the mirror?
Because our memory is not as good for speech as we think it is. When you finish watching a movie, you might be able to recall a short catchphrase, or a joke that was especially funny — but even then, you’re probably going to get the words slightly wrong.
If you really want to remember some dialogue, you have to watch the movie again, this time anticipating the lines and marking them in your head as “important, keep in long-term memory.” Then you probably have to repeat them a couple times if you want them to stick.
That’s why we live in a world of misquotes. Humphrey Bogart never said “Play it again, Sam,” and Clint Eastwood didn’t say “Are you feeling lucky, punk?”
Beam me up, Scotty. Houston, we have a problem. Why don’t you come up and see me some time? Top of the world, Ma! Luke, I am your father. Practically every famous movie quote is wrong, because people are bad at remembering words.
So how is anyone supposed to remember “Get me a mirror?”
You catch it the second time, of course. If you already know that Angelique’s going to make a doppleganger, then you see how clever the “get me a mirror” moment really is. She’s talking about protecting herself from Laura, and she suddenly comes up with the mirror plan. It’s a delightful tease.
But two days later, after a couple shock cliffhangers? I don’t think most people would remember the mirror at all. The only way to get something like that to stick in our heads is to show us the mirror. We’re bad at dialogue, but we’re good at remembering visuals, especially if it’s mysterious and exciting.
If they’d shown us Angelique looking in the mirror on Wednesday — which they do, the next time they use this trick — then everybody watching on Friday would have said, “Of course! That’s why she wanted the mirror two episodes ago!” Without the visual? No way.
Although there is a way they could have jogged our memory — a scene where Angelique says to Quentin, “Remember when I asked you for a mirror the other day?” But Quentin isn’t in Friday’s episode, and by the time we see her with Barnabas, there’s a crisis, and nobody really wants them to explain the doppleganger trick twice in the same episode.
Now, I know that I’m overthinking this, way out of proportion. Every scene that I’ve described today is a great scene, and if people don’t remember the mirror thing, then it doesn’t matter; we can just move on with the story.
The thing that I find interesting is that the mirror turns out to be an Easter egg for an audience that’s watching these episodes for a second time. Watching it now, I can admire the clever way Angelique teases Quentin with a trick that she never explains. This is a perfect joke for reruns, and home video, and binge-watching.
Except the writers didn’t know — couldn’t possibly know, really — that in the future, people would be able to watch these episodes twice. As far as everyone involved was concerned, this is disposable afternoon television — shown once, and then put away, probably forever. Even the idea of reruns was far-fetched for a 1969 soap opera.
So it feels like Sam Hall wrote that scene just for us, the audience of the future. And they couldn’t possibly have known we were coming… could they?
Tomorrow: Light Fuse and Get Away.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
When Magda walks into the Old House to find Quentin, we hear the door-opening sound — and then she stands in front of the door, clearly waiting for her cue to walk into the drawing room.
Then the same thing happens in the next scene — the camera fades to a shot of Dirk, who glances up at the camera to get his cue to start the scene.
Tomorrow: Light Fuse and Get Away.
— Danny Horn