“There can be no happiness for anyone at Collinwood!”
I think Quentin Collins must be running for president, that’s the only way to explain it. When we met him five months ago, he was a heartless scoundrel working his way through a list of every pretty woman in Collinsport, including the married ones, and especially including the married ones who were married to his brother. He’s also currently threatening a young woman’s life, saying that he will murder her if she tells anyone that he’s a monster who murders young women, and by “currently” I mean literally two scenes ago.
And yet here he is, worried sick about the health of his infant daughter, who he didn’t even know existed until he murdered her mother, and who he’s expressed precisely zero interest in ever seeing. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: Father of the Year.
There’s a knock at the door, and in scuttles Mrs. Fillmore, the woman who’s been taking care of Quentin and Jenny’s twins since they were born, because Jenny was a mad woman who might have hurt them, and Quentin was a mad werewolf who absolutely would have hurt them. As a matter of fact, he’s hurting them right now, without even trying.
The boy has already died of a terrible and mysterious fever, which was either brought on by Magda’s curse on Quentin, or by Julianka’s curse on Magda, or possibly both. Now the girl is suffering from the same fever, because — well, I don’t really know, actually. That’s what I’m trying to figure out.
Anyway, here comes tiny little house-elf Mrs. Fillmore, who’s rushed over to Collinwood to tell Quentin all about baby Lenore’s health problems. He recognizes her immediately, although as far as I know they’ve never met, and frankly it’s amazing that he can even see her from his altitude. The camera keeps moving around, struggling to keep them in the same shot.
“You must come at once,” she says, instead of Hello, because this is no time for pleasantries. “It’s Lenore! This morning, she was fine, then all of a sudden, she developed a high fever. Now she’s in a coma!”
“All right,” says Quentin. “You go on back; I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“What are you going to do?” she yelps.
He frowns. “I’m going to find somebody who may be able to help. Now, please hurry.”
I’m not sure why he tells her to please hurry, because it’s not like she’s carrying medicine or a defibrillator or anything. But that’s the kind of thing that you say when the situation is urgent, which I guess it is, but like I said, I’m not really sure why.
I mean, story-wise, I thought this was already settled. We need a living Lenore, because she’s Chris and Amy’s grandmother, and when we get back to 1969, we’re going to expect a full set of Jenningses. But that’s all we need her for, and I thought we’d all agreed that she’d just be alive in the background somewhere. All of a sudden, Lenore is a factor again.
This isn’t an in-universe question. I understand that this is part of Julianka’s curse, or whatever, and now Lenore is dying and we have to care. What I want to know is why the writers decided to take this little bridge to Terabithea on our dime. What’s the point of broadcasting this particular set of scenes, when it means completely changing everything we thought we knew about Quentin?
I’m not being cute about this; I sincerely don’t know why they’re bringing this up right now.
The only explanation I can think of is that being concerned about his daughter makes Quentin more “sympathetic”, which is a word that people use when they haven’t read enough of my blog.
People are always going on about how the characterization of Barnabas changed at some point — that there’s a period when he stopped being a villain, and became the hero of the show. Describing that process usually involves the words sympathetic, reluctant and/or redeemed. This theory is entirely false.
Because Barnabas didn’t stop being a villain, and he didn’t become the hero of the show. As far as I can figure, there is no hero of this show, because Dark Shadows is a five-year research project to determine if the concepts of “hero” and “villain” are even necessary to tell an engaging story. It turns out they’re not.
Barnabas’ defining characteristic is that he will do absolutely anything he wants to do, if it advances his own interests. He will murder you, hypnotize you, drink your blood, lock you up in a cell, wipe your memory, and help the monster who killed you escape justice. This is true in every period of the show.
The only important thing that really changes in Barnabas’ character over time is that at a certain point, he decides to give a shit whether David Collins lives or dies. As far as I can tell, that is the definition of whether Barnabas is a villain or a hero. But now that he’s crossed that line, he’s doing exactly the same things. He’s still murdering people; he just doesn’t try to murder David Collins. It’s not that big of a difference.
So Barnabas isn’t a hero. He’s a main character, which is even better. Heroes have to be nice all the time; main characters just need to be interesting. Literally the only important quality that a main character needs is that any given scene is more interesting when that character is present. Beyond that, they can do whatever they like.
And Quentin has followed exactly the same path. If Charity is threatening to expose his secret — which would inevitably result in him being imprisoned or killed — then we don’t want that to happen, because he’s an interesting character, and we like looking at him. So if his response is to threaten to murder Charity — or, honestly, even if he goes ahead and murders Charity — then it’s pretty much okay with us.
I mean, unless Charity is about to suddenly get a lot more interesting in the very near future, but that kind of proves my point, doesn’t it?
So turning Quentin into a concerned dad is not only unnecessary, it’s downright bizarre — especially the way this sequence turns out. He gets Magda to try to summon the spirit of Julianka, and see if they can talk her into sparing Lenore’s life. Magda tries, but she overshoots, and instead she summons Jenny, Quentin’s lunatic wife.
They try to talk sense to Jenny, but she just goes to the cradle, picks up the child and starts singing to it, which is pretty much where we started with this broad.
Jenny tells the child, “When you wake, you will be well — healthy and well! And you will stay well. I will see to it.” This is apparently a thing that ghosts can do, just show up and overrule each other’s curses. I’m not sure how Jenny qualified for that particular bonus club card, but there you are.
Quentin sidles up behind her, and says, “Thank you, Jenny,” and then he says, “Jenny, I’m sorry for the way things happened between us… the way things were. If I could do it all again… it would be different. All different.”
Now, if this is supposed to be Quentin being “sympathetic”, then it doesn’t quite hit the mark. He cheated on her, and then he abandoned her, and then he killed her. “I’m sorry for the way things happened between us” is a lot like “I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings.” It’s not a thing that mature people say.
And then it turns out that Quentin is supposed to “let Lenore go”, and leave her with Mrs. Fillmore forever, so she doesn’t get mixed up in all the Collinwood craziness. But that’s what he was doing already, so why did they even bother? What use could we have for a domesticated Quentin Collins?
Tomorrow: While You Were Out.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
When Jenny puts Lenore back in her cradle, the boom mic follows her. When Quentin says, “How? What do you mean?” he’s not quite on mic.
When Jenny is about to vanish thanks to the magic of Chromakey, the camera moves slightly. She says, “There is a way,” and then she suddenly moves a step to the right.
Tomorrow: While You Were Out.
— Danny Horn