“Instead of showing your own death, it may be showing you mine.”
And then something about Woodstock, I guess, although honestly I don’t have a lot of energy for it right now. There’s so much happening in the summer of 1969 — the moon landing, and the Manson Family, and the Haunted Mansion, and the MGM deal, and here it is August and I haven’t even talked about the green gum cards yet.
And then this weekend, there’s this super critical three-day Aquarian Exposition of Peace and Music, which is obviously integral to the entire 1960s, and I just don’t feel like doing the research. So maybe I’ll be like the other one hundred percent of kids in August ’69, who stayed home and watched Dark Shadows.
So it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for? A strange kind of peace has broken out at the great estate of Collinwood, as Quentin Collins finds his interests aligning with the mad god Count Petofi’s, for reasons that he can’t quite explain.
Petofi’s mostly been skulking in his supervillain lair lately, but tonight he’s decided to come over to Collinwood and skulk remotely. Quentin’s not super thrilled to see him, on account of Petofi’s been enchanting and imprisoning a lot of people that Quentin likes. Besides, you should never trust anyone over 130.
“I like you,” says the mad Count, which is a weirdly disarming gambit. Noting that Quentin’s melancholy theme song is playing on the Victrola, he assumes his usual pose at the front of the stage, and says, “Perhaps you were brooding about the fact that your cousin Barnabas can no longer be of help to you.” Then he turns, apparently pleading. “Why? I can — and I will, at the proper time. I swear it.”
Quentin grumbles, “What gods do you swear on?” and the maniac announces, “I have but one, and his name is Petofi!” This is not necessarily the tone that he was hoping to strike, but sometimes when a villain has a killer line, he just can’t help but use it. Some people are never really off the clock.
But he’s got his own reasons for wanting to protect Quentin, which he explains while looking directly out of the television set, as if he’s caught a glimpse of your living room decor and he can’t quite figure out what to do about it.
Petofi: Because there is no longer any question in my mind. You are a part of the future! The ghost of David Collins knows you well. Something impossible has happened. Perhaps together… we will find out why.
And that’s it, I think we’ve reached one of those points where it is no longer possible for me to catch people up on what the hell is happening. The conceptual puzzle ensnared in the line “the ghost of David Collins knows you well” is so complex and illogical that it can only be approached by trained experts. All I can say is that the brown acid that’s circulating around us is not specifically too good, and it’s suggested that you stay away from it.
The point, really, is that Petofi has figured out that Quentin is now the main character of this television show. Quentin is a part of the future, because he’s adorable and tormented and magnificent, and no matter what time period the show decides that it’s set in, Quentin is sticking around.
So Petofi is the first character to make the specific choice to play Stand Next to Quentin, the game that gives you more airtime if you can manage to connect your storyline to his. The current title-holder in Stand Next to Quentin is Beth, who is only a character on the show because she was literally standing next to Quentin when they were introduced as ghosts. As we’ve discussed, Beth doesn’t really make sense as a character and she’s a hopelessly stilted actor, but she was first on the scene and it’s going to take some doing to shake her off.
Anyway, the reason Count Petofi came over today is to deal with Charity Trask, who knows that Quentin’s a werewolf and is starting to spread that information around. He silences her just by looking at her closely, and starting a conversation. Within seconds, she’s lost her ability to speak, and things are about to go south for her in general.
And look at Quentin, in the background there. That face! He’s had to adjust himself to a lot of lifestyle changes lately, and you’d think he’d be used to it by now, but being friends with Count Petofi is a super stressful experience.
Quentin: What did you do to her?
Petofi: Do you really care, Mr. Collins?
Quentin: My only concern is she be kept quiet.
So yeah, I guess they really are bros now. At this point, every character on the show is a villain, so it’s hard to stake a claim on any moral high ground. Petofi asks Quentin to leave them alone, and Quentin does, because who even cares what happens to other people.
So I guess a Woodstock post is just not going to happen, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Woodstock is supposed to be about peace and music and rain and rebellion and hope, and right now, Dark Shadows is basically the opposite of that. The show has embraced the insane asylum as a long-term way of life, to the point where a large chunk of the cast is currently confined to their bedroom, attic, basement or padded cell, as applicable.
Last fall, they literally had scenes taking place in Hell, and even that was not as dark as what’s going on right now. We’ve set the crazed god-king loose in the drawing room, to work his will on any innocent straggler who still thinks it’s possible to live at Collinwood without being touched by madness. We are not, apparently, in any mood to turn on our love light.
What we’re doing instead is facing the magic Chromakey nightmare window, to see a vision of Charity’s death. This is Petofi’s new favorite party game, waving his legendary hand and bringing on a vision of future calamity. I’m not sure why he’s so into that as a concept — it certainly doesn’t seem to have anything to do with his plans for Charity — but it just tickles him, somehow. This is his hobby.
And the weird thing is that he’s not actually very good at it. This is the third time Petofi’s tried to show people a vision of their own deaths — first with Barnabas, then Beth, and now Charity — and it only worked properly once. Beth saw herself murdered by Barnabas and then rising as a vampire, but Barnabas saw Julia tending to David, and now Charity sees Aristede murdered by a dude in a black robe. Charity does appear in this strange little interlude, but she’s in the next room while the murder happens.
Petofi realizes that something’s gone wrong once again with his choose-your-own-death content initiative, but he doubles down on it, forcing Charity to endure another vision. This time, Petofi himself is the central figure, manacled to a chair in his underground fortress by the black-robed gypsy, who uses a scimitar to remove the Count’s magical hand.
So it’s been a weird week, is what I’m saying. We’re being inundated with possible futures, to the point where I suspect the writers are using these visions to explore potential upcoming plot points. None of these actually come true, but that doesn’t matter much. There’s no particular reason why we’d particularly want to see a preview of Charity’s death anyway, so sure, go nuts.
What we end up with, once Petofi’s done with us, is the announcement that this is now a free concert, with Charity Trask as the headline attraction. Once again, she’s taken on the role of the cracked Cockney music hall sensation, The Pansy Faye Experience.
Quentin: Charity! Where are you?
Charity: Right ‘ere, luv! And at yer service, as always. Just name yer pleasure, and it’s yours! A favorite song… a bit of dancin’… or some other demonstration of my unique talents! What are you waitin’ for? Speak up, pet!
Quentin: Do you know who I am?
Charity: (laughing) Of course I do!
Quentin: Do you know what I am?
Charity: Oh, you’re a bit of all right, you are!
And there you have it, probably the best possible answer to the question of how to silence a soap opera character. This is a medium that depends on everyone talking as much and as often as they possibly can, so getting someone to stop talking about an interesting plot point is generally considered bad for business. But Petofi’s managed to find a new angle that nobody else ever thought of: Hypnotize the character into becoming somebody even louder and crazier, then set them loose on an unsuspecting public and see what happens. It’s devastatingly effective; he can do this as often as he likes.
So here’s where we are, as I understand it. The main character of the show is currently chained up in a box, which puts the kibosh on any meaningful story progression for the foreseeable. As much as we love this 19th century nuthatch, at some point we have to head back to 1969, and Barnabas is the only one who can move us in that direction.
Count Petofi knows that, and I think Quentin does too. Petofi says that he wants to help Quentin, but really they’re engaged in a covert struggle over who’s going to ride shotgun on the trip back to the sixties.
That’s why Petofi keeps trying to show everybody their own death — because all of these characters have to go, one way or another, and he wants to peek ahead to make sure he’s still standing as everyone else falls.
But these visions are all going wrong, spiralling out of his control — because the truth is, nobody knows what the future holds, for any of these characters. This is a show where the brown acid is just another special effect, and you really can just think really hard and make the rain go away. When a show can do basically anything, how do you narrow down the possible futures, and actually pick somewhere to go?
Monday: The Hand Shakedown.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
When Charity and Petofi stand in front of the Chromakey window, there’s a blue outline around Charity where her shadow falls on the blue screen.
When the Chromakey vision starts, and the camera pulls in on the shot of the setting sun, you can very clearly see very clearly the edges of the cardboard frame that holds the photograph.
As Magda is pacing around the Old House drawing room, there’s a cough and a bang from the studio.
When Magda turns over Aristede’s dead body, his eyes move.
When Charity tells Quentin that Petofi left, she steps onto a part of the set that isn’t lit properly. They spend a couple lines standing in the darkness, and then she moves back into the light. Quentin walks out of the drawing room, and when Charity runs after him, you can see blocking tape visible on the floor. They could have used those marks a moment ago, to remind them to stay in the light.
A couple scenes later, when Charity is dancing alone in the drawing room, you can see a lot more blocking tape. Apparently they blocked the hell out of these scenes.
During Charity’s song, there’s an enormous offscreen crash, and then various bangs and door-opening noises. There’s a moment where it looks like Nancy Barrett is laughing about the chaos happening in front of her, and she turns that smile into a part of Charity’s exhiliration.
When Aristede opens the coffin, someone in the studio coughs.
The closing theme comes in a couple seconds too late.
Behind the Scenes:
The scimitar-wielding killer in Charity’s vision is played by Jim Hale, in his first appearance as a Dark Shadows extra. He comes back in September for another couple episodes with the same scimitar.
Monday: The Hand Shakedown.
— Danny Horn