“I had Philip look all over the house, for a monster of some kind.”
Now, granted, I don’t have any kids myself, but I think if you’re going to care for a telepathic space baby that came out of a box, you’re probably better off doing it within the confines of a private residence.
That’s what the Whateleys did, in the H.P. Lovecraft story The Dunwich Horror, which is what this cockamamie Leviathan storyline is based on. They had a whole farmhouse and a barn all to themselves, where they could raise their hideous blasphemies in relative peace.
But Megan and Philip have been chosen by the Leviathan people to house a monstrous god-creature at their antique shop, a site which has two obvious drawbacks as a storage area for unseen horrors: employees, and customers.
It probably would have been easier if they’d just closed down the shop for a while, until this all blew over. Then they wouldn’t have to worry about people examining their forbidden space artifacts, or asking impertinent questions, like why is your child mostly packaging material.
So today’s episode is another excerpt from Child Rearing for the Criminally Insane, by Dr. Spock, Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Phibes. Megan is currently in the Chosen Room with baby Joseph, doing whatever you do with chosen babies. Carolyn comes upstairs to give Megan a phone message, and then she stops outside the nursery door. There’s a terrible sound coming from the baby’s room — loud, rough breathing, like somebody’s taking deep breaths into an offstage microphone.
Megan emerges from the room, and gives Carolyn the stink eye. The breathing noise stops, and Megan explains that it’s just the radiator. Apparently, the antique shop has a haunted heating system, which is just typical for this town. You should hear the plumbing on overcast days. Besides, lots of people breathe. It’s not really that big of a deal.
As they go downstairs, Megan apologizes for being abrupt. “You know how hard the baby is to put to sleep.”
“I’ve never even heard the baby cry,” Carolyn says. “He’s a good baby.”
But is he? It seems to me like he’s a terrible baby, as in: he is terrible at the job of being a baby. He doesn’t cry, he doesn’t eat, he had a week-long fever after somebody shoplifted a book, and you have to invent new theories of thermal energy to explain how he sounds when he sleeps. This is possibly the worst impersonation of a baby in the history of pediatrics.
Then Carolyn catches sight of a man in a trenchcoat, just outside the shop window. Concerned, she hisses, “Someone is out there!”
Megan smiles and says, “I’m sure he’s just passing by,” but Carolyn is unnerved.
“No, Megan, he’s still standing there — watching us!”
So Megan says, yeah, he’s a customer. This is a store. That’s why we have a big plate glass window facing the street, so people can see inside. Has everybody completely lost track of what’s happening?
The man hurries away, and then we have a little sequence where all the lights in the shop go out, one by one, for no particular reason. Carolyn and Megan just stand there, looking at each light in turn, as four different lamps burn out sequentially.
So that moment raises a couple of questions, like for example: Why? How? And so on.
Megan stands still and makes an inscrutable facial expression, and I don’t blame her; the script is giving her precisely zero clues about how any of these events are related. Is this dramatic power outage related to the man outside, or the baby, or the radiator? Is it supposed to scare Carolyn, and if so, why? Is the wiring haunted too?
It seems like the writers are having some trouble figuring out what kind of monster they’ve got on their hands, and what it can do. It possesses people, kind of, and it makes a noise, and it shuts the lights off. On Dark Shadows, these kinds of effects are usually associated with ghosts. But it hasn’t blown out any candles yet, or opened any doors, so it’s hard to be sure.
When you have a monster that nobody’s allowed to see, what do you do with it? Lovecraft’s answer was to push over barns, but who has a spare barn these days?
Cross fade to David’s room, where his magical book of ancient prophecies slowly opens, all by itself. Apparently it’s on a timer. This whole storyline is being run by a Nest Learning Thermostat.
David picks up the book, and reads, “And the day shall come, when the child shall be dressed in glorious garments.” The book is full of weird little instructions like that. Presumably, there’s also an entry for “And the day shall come when all the lights go out in the antique shop,” and “And the day shall come when Megan explains about the radiator.”
Liz stops by to see how David’s getting along with his homework, so he hides the book and pretends like he’s not ushering in the end times. She starts asking difficult questions, but then stops all of a sudden and shudders.
She asks if he has a window open, and he says no. “Well, you must have,” Liz says. “It’s so cold in here… The chill of death!”
And that’s ghosts again, you’re still doing ghosts! Honestly, this monster needs to figure out a power set. David grins, like this is one of those “and the day shall come” deals, but then it passes.
He finally chases Liz out of the room by asking about her ex-husband, and we never really find out about that chill — whether it was a natural occurrence, or book-related or what. And that’s what this episode is like, just one damn thing after another.
That’s not to say that it’s not enjoyable. Any given scene has its own weird little rhythm, and they’re never doing the same thing twice.
David heads downstairs and has a chatty little scene with Carolyn, where he reads the newspaper and irritates his cousin by asking about her father. Then he rips out a full-page ad for a sale at Brewster’s department store, and explains that he’s making his Christmas list. She finally clears the room, and he grabs his coat and heads out the door, clutching the newspaper page.
As it turns out, there’s no real reason for him to have the newspaper ad — Collinsport isn’t that big, he knows where Brewster’s is — but the rule for this episode is that “as it turns out” doesn’t matter. Tearing the ad out of the paper was a thing for David to do in a scene, which signaled to the audience that he’s interested in going shopping. It doesn’t really matter why he needs the paper, or why that guy was staring in the antique shop window, or why the same guy sneaks into Collinwood for a little aimless trespassing.
Because that’s the thing that we’re doing next, is watching a guy in a trenchcoat enter Collinwood and fuss with the decor. We don’t see his face, because he is a mystery man, who’s probably Quentin but who even knows at this point. There was another mystery man a few weeks ago, pulling this exact same trick — silently entering other people’s houses, and looking at portraits of Barnabas Collins. We thought it was Quentin last time, but that mystery man turned out to be Paul Stoddard, so this one could be anybody, from Burke Devlin to the owner of Brewster’s department store.
The only thing we know about this particular mystery man is that he wears a wristwatch. We see him a few times this week, and they keep making a big deal about the watch, to no particular effect. He just strolls into a room and puts his wrist somewhere, and allows the camera to do the rest.
Carolyn hears somebody shuffling around, so she comes back in, expecting to find David. The mystery man hides behind some drapes in the drawing room, and waits until she’s folded up the newspaper and turned all the lights off and gone upstairs. Then he emerges, and we follow his feet as he crosses the foyer, and then we get another shot of the watch.
Seriously, I have no idea. This is what the show is like now — breathing and chills and lights going out and books opening by themselves and phone calls and boxes and wristwatches and Hitchcock chairs and dreams and department stores and pentagrams and pig weasels and hearing noises and buying portraits and terrible premonitions and glorious garments and scrolls and fathers and betrayal and babies and somehow, at some point, the end of all things.
And the day shall come when Dark Shadows makes sense again, I suppose, although I wouldn’t put money on it.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
At the beginning of act 1, when Megan tells Carolyn that the breathing sound is the radiator, something peeks into the top of the frame. It doesn’t look like a boom mic, but it’s some kind of equipment that shouldn’t be on screen.
At the end of act 2, just before the camera fades out, it looks like Paul is starting to mouth something to Liz.
Behind the Scenes:
Charles Rush is the stand-in for Grant Douglas in today’s episode; this is the first of four appearances on the show. We’ll see him next in March, as a hand reaching out of a grave.
This is our first real look at David’s room since before 1897, and he’s lost some of his stuff. He’s still got the two concert posters, the cars, one robot toy, the globe, the US map, the nutcracker/soldier thing, the green box with white spots, and the two groovy cutout figures with protest signs. But he doesn’t have the toy sailboat, the ship in a bottle, the cat poster, the football player figure or the other two robots. The only new item is a small trinket box on his dresser that we don’t get a good look at. But don’t worry about the football player; we’ll see him by the end of the week. See “The Room” for more on my obsession with David’s stuff.
Also in today’s episode: David says that Brewster’s is open nights until Christmas. Is this the only mention of Christmas in the entire show?
— Danny Horn