“Our lives are one long continuous crisis!”
Oh, man. I know that look. It’s July, and somebody needs a vacation.
Joan Bennett used to be a movie star, and it’s kind of a big deal to have her on the show, so every summer her character has some kind of nervous breakdown that can only be treated by sending her off-screen somewhere for several weeks. Last summer, Elizabeth got so obsessed with being buried alive that they finally just gave up and buried her alive, and now Judith is staring off into space, beach-dazzled.
Judith just married the odious Reverend Trask, who loves her so much that he had his first wife killed in order to clear some space on his ring finger. You’d think that would be the happily ever after, but it turns out there’s a hitch. The former Mrs. Trask is taking exception to Judith swiping her husband just minutes after her murder; apparently she wasn’t done with him yet. So she’s been expressing herself by stabbing books with letter openers, and tacking up weird crayon drawings that apparently only Judith can see.
Now, if Minerva is determined to haunt someone, then Judith isn’t the most rational choice for hauntee. Trask, Evan and Tim are the responsible parties in the murder; the only thing Judith is guilty of is bad taste in bridegrooms. But try explaining that to Minerva. People get super weird after they’ve been murdered, there’s no reasoning with them.
So Minerva releases a disturbing dream in Judith’s direction, where she shouts, “Danger! The Queen of Spades! Danger! The Queen of Spades!” This is a reference to the Manchurian Candidate post-hypnotic trigger that made Tim poison Minerva’s tea, but Judith doesn’t know that, so once again, this is an unnecessarily cryptic warning that helps nobody. I don’t really understand why ghosts insist on issuing these little pub trivia questions, instead of just saying what’s on their minds. She could have said “Gregory murdered me” or “don’t drink the tea”. But no, she’s a ghost, so she can only communicate through the medium of card tricks. It’s pathetic.
Then she makes a solitaire game appear on a table in the drawing room, which again is not going to help the forensics team one iota. Judith picks up a card, and it’s the Queen of Spades, which inspires her to walk all the way out to the cemetery and get woozy in front of Minerva’s grave.
So, before you know it, Judith is possessed by the spirit of Minerva Trask, but in a super unhelpful way. She marches home to Collinwood, takes one look at the gypsy in the foyer, and says, “Who is this woman? What is she doing here?”
Magda thinks she’s joking, but Judith stands firm. “I do not make jokes, madam,” she announces. “We run a very proper school here.”
Naturally, Edward and Magda are baffled. Magda asks if Judith is feeling all right, and she shouts, “I’m feeling fine. And if you came in answer to that ad we placed in the paper, you’re wasting your time! I do not like the way you dress. This jewelry is hideous. Send her away!”
So that’s a bit odd. I mean, it’s always fun to have a character issue a worst-dressed list at the top of her lungs, but how does this help the unresting spirit of Minerva Trask? I think if I was going to go to all the trouble of possessing somebody, then I’d want them to know that they’re possessed. Minerva apparently took hold of Judith’s body and then instantly forgot that she’d done it. The only thing this accomplishes is to confuse people and make them suspicious.
But this is 1897, a storyline where nobody can manage to keep control of their own behavior for five minutes at a time. The show’s been on a hypnotism kick for a while — last fall, Nicholas Blair was messing around in people’s heads pretty much full-time — but the last four months have been particularly possession-heavy. Let’s do a quick rundown.
For starters, obviously, Barnabas got up out of the coffin and assembled a staff, starting with Sandor and then moving on to Charity and Beth. Charity helped him get earth for his new coffin, and Beth has been extremely helpful, filling him in on the entire Quentin’s babies scenario. Barnabas actually knows more about it than Quentin does, thanks to Beth’s blood-slave synopses.
Barnabas has also hypnotized Nora twice — first, to condition her to reject Laura, and again last week to forget that she saw him biting Charity.
Angelique was summoned from the fire, and the first thing she did was choke Rachel and make her say “Widow’s Hill,” just to freak Barnabas out. She also raised Quentin from the dead and walked his zombie around the estate for a while.
While Quentin was dead, his spirit possessed Jamison for about an episode and a half, pulling the same “why do you keep calling me your nephew, I’m your brother” shenanigans like Judith is doing right now.
Laura managed to get Dirk possessed with the spirit of Ra the Sun God, and she also occasionally controlled her children, although they kept breaking free at random moments and had to be repossessed. Barnabas also did a ritual that forced Laura to appear in front of him in a different incarnation.
When Dirk was a vampire, he tagged Tim, Judith and Rachel, and he made Judith shoot Rachel while Tim stood by and did exactly nothing.
Tim also fell under the influence of Evan, who trained him as a deep-cover assassin.
As a werewolf, Quentin is basically out of his mind, killing Dorcas and menacing other people without being consciously aware of it.
And then yesterday, Barnabas hypnotized a policeman, and now there’s Judith and Minerva. Plus, when Quentin changes back from a werewolf today, he’s all disfigured and confused, and he talks about nine gypsies in the woods like he thinks he’s Count Petofi. I don’t know what the average rate of identity theft was on soap operas of the period, but I’d expect Dark Shadows was a thought leader in this area.
So basically everybody on the show is a deep-cover operative, one way or another. It’s a world of Jason Bournes, where everyone has advanced combat skills and secret Swiss bank accounts.
Now, I could get into a whole thing about Cold War paranoia and fears of infiltration, but the fact is, if you need a particular story point in a hurry, then giving characters the ability to control each other is incredibly convenient. It would have taken forever to get Barnabas up to speed on Quentin’s storyline, but if he hypno-bites Beth, then he can catch up during a commercial break.
Plus, information management is a breeze, because dead people are magically granted all the knowledge that they didn’t have when they were alive. Pansy Faye didn’t know a thing about vampires until Dirk killed her, but when she stuck a nightmare into Carl’s head, he learned that Barnabas was a vampire too. And all Minerva knew was that Tim poisoned her, but now that she’s got hold of Judith, she knows that Evan was the real criminal. Taking hold of somebody else’s identity is your ticket to an accelerated storyline.
So when Kathryn Leigh Scott is going to Africa, you just hypnotize somebody into shooting her, and when Joan Bennett is vacation-bound, you put her under the influence of a dead lady who wasn’t very nice but I don’t think she would have come after Evan with a letter opener. I mean, the lady made damson plum preserves. But who knows, maybe she was in black ops. It’s always the quiet ones, isn’t it?
Tomorrow: My Wife and My Dead Wife.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
“Think it over,” Edward says to Magda. “I’ll be at Collinrood the west of the day.” Seriously.
During the end of Quentin and Magda’s conversation at the jail, running footsteps can be heard from the studio.
When Edward approaches Judith at the cemetery, he brushes past a pair of wobbly trees.
As Edward tries to talk sense to Judith in the cemetery, the camera bumps into a tree, and gets stuck behind it for the rest of the shot. This one is amazing; it’s really worth checking out.
In the cemetery, Edward and Judith talk over each other:
Judith: Go away, Edward. You’re not wanted here.
Edward: Will you stop —
Judith: I’m the one that’s wanted.
Edward: — talking nonsense!
Judith: I’m the one.
Edward puts stress on the wrong word when he’s talking to Evan about Judith: “She’s convinced that she is the first Mrs. Trask!” rather than “She’s convinced that she is the first Mrs. Trask.”
When Evan opens the doors and enters the drawing room, the camera and teleprompter can be seen in the foyer.
For the second day in a row, Louis Edmonds is credited as Roger Collins, instead of Edward.
Tomorrow: My Wife and My Dead Wife.
— Danny Horn