“Something kept you from disobeying the book!”
So we’re killing Julia again, apparently, that’s still a thing that people on Dark Shadows say they’re going to do.
David and Elizabeth are going over their secret evil world domination plans, and they’re doing it in a hallway, for some reason. “Barnabas asked me to remind you,” David says, “that Julia Hoffman is your responsibility.” David is thirteen years old.
She tenses up. David asks, “What are you going to do about her?” and Liz takes a moment to think. Then she says, “KILL her!”
That’s the right answer, so she gets a big closeup and a dramatic sting, followed by the opening titles. That’s how you know that your staff meeting is a success.
Now, why anybody thinks of Elizabeth Collins Stoddard as a skilled operative who can be trusted with domestic assassination assignments is beyond me. She already tried to kill somebody once — her husband Paul, with a fireplace poker — and it was a disaster. Paul survived, which is bad enough, and now he’s come back to Collinwood two decades later, just to rub it in. Liz is not A team material.
Besides, I thought we’d all agreed that killing Julia was a non-starter; we had a whole episode a few days ago about Barnabas categorically refusing to kill her. I know that episode was a last-minute “emergency” course correction, written and filmed two weeks after this one. It still looks like sloppy organization. The Leviathans need to start investing in a ground game.
Besides, you can’t go and murder a houseguest just like that, even if she’s sitting in the drawing room, demolishing the morning newspaper. I mean, admittedly, a situation like this does call for some kind of firm response; if you allow this kind of thing to go on, then within a week, you’ll be picking fragments of the op-ed page out of the carpet with a pair of tweezers.
But you don’t solve this kind of problem with military force. You simply clear your throat, ask if she’s finished with the sports section, and then say that if she prefers it, you could instruct Mrs. Johnson to puree the newspaper with her electric mixer each morning, so that Julia doesn’t have to bother doing it manually.
But here’s Sure-Shot Stoddard, entering the room with a loaded pistol in her gold lamé purse, waiting for Julia to turn her back for a minute. This is the plan. This is how people solve problems on television.
Unfortunately, Liz chickens out at the last minute, and can’t go through with it, so we never find out what step two would have been in this master plan. I mean, obviously, once you’re done with the revolver, you place it in the basket, so that a servant can reload it and place it in one of the mansion’s many murder weapon junk drawers; that’s standard Collinwood practice. But what do you do with the body? You can’t just leave it on the floor, where it could impede access to the drinks cabinet. I suppose we’ll never know.
Leaving the scene of the crime, Elizabeth finds her nephew standing in the foyer, glowering at her. Honestly, it’s this kind of passive-aggressive micro-management that keeps employees from reaching their full productive potential. I know it’s a terrible thing to say, but these people need a ropes course. It’s the only answer.
“I kept remembering things she’d said,” Liz quavers, “things she’d done for us! All of us — I just couldn’t go through with it!”
“I see,” David says, and just keeps looking at her, mentally scanning through the org chart, trying to figure out where he could transfer her. She’s not going to be in this department for long, I can tell you that much.
So they go and look for answers in the Leviathan conspiracy’s ancient leather-bound Junior Woodchuck guidebook, which David consults sporadically. You never know quite what you’re going to get from this book — a poem, a policy, a shopping list — so David has a special technique, which is to close his eyes, open to a page, and read whatever he lands on. He really does close his eyes in this scene; that’s not a joke. That is the thing that he actually does, to prepare for the wisdom.
David: For the people of Leviathan, all others are enemies. But the enemies of Leviathan must not die by the hand of Leviathan. Only their own kind, themselves, can end their existence on the earth that they have stolen from the people of Leviathan! In that way, their spirits shall not return to war against us.
Liz: What does that mean?
David: It means that you are a true Leviathan! Something inside of you kept you from killing Julia! Something kept you from disobeying the book!
Liz: That’s not true. I wasn’t thinking of the book, or Leviathan. I was thinking of her, of our friendship.
David: No, it wasn’t that at all!
That’s my favorite moment in this episode, David’s petulant insistence that he knows more about Liz’s motivation than she does. The executive child is now running the campaign’s Twitter feed, feverishly retconning missteps into triumphs.
You’ll notice that Julia didn’t even have to lift a finger on this one; she ignores the Leviathan storyline completely today, so that she can spend the entire episode talking to the hottest guys on the show. This includes Quentin, who’s now doing to menswear what Julia does to the news media. By this point, the kaiju of Dark Shadows go through their lives shredding everything they come across, and their co-stars have to look in a book to figure out what to do about it.
And this is how powerful Julia has become, at this point in the show. There are three storylines right now — Quentin and Amanda, the Leviathans, and the werewolf story — and Julia is the only character who’s involved in all three. That’s why they keep workshopping new rules about who they’re allowed to kill. This is the third episode this week where the Leviathans try to get rid of Julia, and it simply can’t be done.
Monday: The New Neighbors.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Quentin asks Chris, “Are you sure you haven’t been dipting into the whiskey supply?”
At the end of the episode, audio-animatronic Tate trips over a couple of lines. First: “Yes, old in years! Old in years, but there are ways of remaining young.” Then: “You see, I call you Quentin. I call you Quentin, because you are merely another example of the genius of Charles Delaware Tate.”
Behind the Scenes:
At the start of Quentin and Julia’s scene, he reaches for a bottle on the floor marked “Old Overcoat Dry Whiskey”. This is a pun on the whiskey brand Old Overholt. I can’t explain why they bother to put a fake label on it.
Monday: The New Neighbors.
— Danny Horn