“Your involvement with this man-beast has placed you completely at my mercy!”
So let’s say you walk into a guy’s bedroom, and you find your brother-in-law manacled to the wall, while his gypsy girlfriend is pointing a gun at him, which is loaded with silver bullets. The gun is loaded, I mean, not the girlfriend or the brother-in-law. Well, they probably are too.
Naturally, you’re going to jump to several conclusions, all of them entirely justified, but the question is: What are you going to do about it? Saying “Pardon me” and quietly leaving the room is not really an option. This is a situation that requires a response.
Basically, you can either a) make for the exit and try to put as much distance as you can between you and whatever the hell is going on right now, or b) grab the gun, tell the gypsy to beat it, accuse your brother-in-law of being a werewolf, pistol-whip him into submission, drag him down several flights of stairs by the collar, throw him into the jail cell which is built into the basement of your house for no earthly reason, lock him up, and then summon the police to your little homemade slice of Abu Ghraib, so they can congratulate you on your heroism and community spirit. Those are the only two possibilities. P.S. The smart money is on option a.
That’s how things work in the world of the Reverend Gregory Trask, because he is a stone cold crazy person. Apparently, a ghost told him that there was a werewolf in the house, although he never actually saw the ghost, so honestly, it could’ve been a wrong number. Who even knows with Trask.
But he walks into the room and finds this absolutely absurd situation, and he just lights up like it’s twelve Christmases. This is his favorite thing in the world.
And it’s mine too, really. Long-term serialized narrative is natural selection for stories, and by this point in the 1897 storyline, they’ve burned all the way through every normal thing that could possibly happen. What we’re seeing now are the last remaining survivors of this chaotic plot-point environment, stomping on skyscrapers and shooting fire at each other.
There are five characters in today’s episode, and every single one of them is a villain. Everyone on the show today has committed at least one murder. This is what it smells like when Tokyo burns.
So yeah, screw it, let’s put Quentin in a make-believe jail cell that we made out of scenery flats and fourth walls and stage lighting and hope. I don’t know where this weird little lockup is supposed to be. The sets are almost entirely conceptual at this point anyway. They’re suggesting that this is the basement of Collinwood, but even at Collinwood they’d have more sense than this.
I mean, sure, grumpy old Joshua Collins was involved in the Revolutionary War somehow, so naturally he built secret passages all over his house so that you could slink around in the crawlspaces and then pop out and shoot at redcoats or servants or whatever. I mean, that’s just basic architecture. But building an Olympic-size holding pen for humans like this, in your own basement? That’s a signal that maybe living with other people is not for you. You need some time by yourself, to really think things over.
And look how gorgeous Quentin is right now, all beaten up and put-upon; he’s rebel-without-a-causing all over the place. This specific shot might be the single most romantic moment that Quentin ever gets. Dark Shadows is daring you not to swoon. It can’t be done. I’ve checked.
I mean, this is what Quentin looks like when he’s being questioned at gunpoint. This is what we’re dealing with right now.
Trask: Where is that confession?
Quentin: Don’t ask such a stupid question.
Trask: Where is it, Quentin? I want it!
Quentin: You want it? Go and look for it.
Trask: Tell me where it is — or I’ll kill you, HERE and NOW!
Quentin: Oh, no you won’t.
That’s what he says. “Oh, no you won’t.” He is currently looking down the barrel of a gun two inches from his face.
Quentin: If I die now, the curse is ended! And the transformation won’t take place.
Trask: I don’t believe that.
Quentin: Shoot me, and find out!
I’m not going to bother recapping what that conversation is about, because it doesn’t matter. If you don’t happen to know what confession they’re talking about, or what curse, or what “the transformation” means, it makes absolutely no difference. You could show this scene to any human being with no explanation, and they would instantly fall in love with Quentin Collins. It is a biological imperative. That is how sexy behaves.
Naturally, the rest of the house is also in an uproar; this level of crazy is not a localized phenomenon. Seductive witch-vixen Angelique walks in the front door, cause she lives here, and she’s greeted by Magda the gypsy. This is the dialogue.
Magda: Oh, Angelique, come quick!
Angelique: What is it? What’s happened?
Because Magda has now fully matured into Chico Marx. The gypsy shuts the doors, and hisses, “Trask! He knows all about Quentin!” Angelique gasps, and Magda continues, “You got to do something quick, before he takes him to the police! He’s in Quentin’s room, right now! And he’s got the gun, with the silver bullets in it!”
Struggling, Angelique says, “Magda, you must try to keep calm,” and Magda shouts, “But I can’t! It’s gonna be dark soon!”
She gestures at the window, indicating that it’s gonna be dark soon, and then she just stands there and pants, staring out the window like oh my god it’s dark already!
Angelique literally walked into the house thirty seconds ago, and now she’s trapped in a room with a turbulent gypsy in the final stages of emotional meltdown.
So Angelique does the only logical thing, which is to use her magical Chromakey amulet to show her exactly what Quentin and Trask are doing right now. This is obviously a complete waste of a pageload, because she’s currently in the same house as them, and she has functional ears. People six towns over are sticking their heads out the window and wondering what all the racket’s about. She must have an unlimited data plan.
Then she kneels down by the fireplace and waves a pair of Reverend Trask’s reading glasses over the amulet, giving her instant access to his onboard navigation system.
“Mr. Trask, you wil hear my voice,” she says, “but only in your mind, for I am going to enter your mind, and you will not be able to resist me.” It works, too. That’s apparently how you do this.
You know, I wonder what all the sane people are watching right now. Probably sports; it’s usually sports, or something about the stock market. I’m sure they’ll let us know how it all works out.
I’m not going to walk you through the entire experience, because I value your time, but this is where we end up — with Reverend Trask puppeteered all the way into the drawing room, with a gun at his temple and a finger on the trigger.
And I want to stop here for a second and reflect, because this is an unbelievably vicious thing to do, even for Dark Shadows.
I mean, is this allowed? This isn’t a clever plan with multiple steps and its own sound effect. He hasn’t been driven to madness by guilt or fear. He isn’t sorry for what he’s done, he hasn’t learned his lesson, it’s not a catharsis and it’s not a metaphor for anything. This is just straight-up, cold-blooded, I’ve decided to end you. Angelique has read/write access to the cast list, and that’s all there is to it.
I’ve been writing about Dark Shadows episodes for more than two years now, and we’ve seen a lot of crazy shit. I think the only thing that compares to this for sheer brutality is the day we watched Minerva die slowly of arsenic poisoning, and we had to work up to that with a whole week of practice poisonings. Today, we go straight from walking in the door to decorating the drawing room with the inside of somebody else’s head.
He’s standing about two feet away from the drinks cabinet, too. That’s going to be a mess. I don’t know what you do with all that sherry once it’s been showered in blood spatter and skull fragments. They’ll probably have to take it out and have it destroyed.
So it’s actually a relief when the door opens, and in walks the wickedest warlock of all time, a mad god who just last week described himself as “pure evil.” Count Petofi gives the scenario a once-over, and basically says, holy crap, you people are out of your mind. A hundred years ago, I killed the last fucking unicorn, and even I think this is messed up.
What does he do about it? you ask. Well, he goes out into the hall and strangles Magda until she tells him where Angelique is. Then he goes to Angelique, snatches the amulet away from her, and crushes it with one hand.
Recovering his senses, Reverend Trask finds himself standing in the drawing room, pointing a loaded gun at his own head. And I swear to god, he just goes right back downstairs and yells at Quentin some more.
Tomorrow: The Triangle Factory.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
At the start of act 1, there’s an exchange that I can’t imagine was scripted:
Trask: I intend to deal with you, right after I attend to him.
Magda: What are you gonna do to him?
Trask: To him, or to you?
During Trask and Quentin’s conversation about the confession, the director has a hard time getting the shots lined up. They keep cutting to a camera that isn’t quite focused yet, or it’s moving from a close-up to a two-shot.
When he locks Quentin up, Trask explains, “I may not have time now before the moon rises to get you into Collinwood!” He means Collinsport.
Magda asks Angelique if she knows where Quentin is. Angelique says, “They have him — Trask has him — in the basement cell.”
When Petofi is showing Angelique the portrait, there’s an obvious stage wait until Petofi checks for the cue to start the scene.
Tomorrow: The Triangle Factory.
— Danny Horn