Episode 925: The Wolf of Wall Street

“I am concerned with the safety of other people, not what’s right.”

Michael is staring at Maggie Evans.

Maggie is a pretty young woman who used to be a waitress, and now works at Collinwood as David’s private tutor. Michael is a seven-week-old baby monster who came out of a time travelling box, and will someday cleanse the Earth of its human population. Everybody has to be something, I suppose.

Michael’s come over to the house today, unannounced and uninvited, because he wants to play with David and be insolent to grown-ups. Maggie was in the middle of a lesson with David, but now Michael’s here, and she’s not sure what to do.

The problem is that Michael is such an odd little boy. He says things that sound polite — “You wouldn’t do that, would you, Miss Evans?” he says — but he keeps his eyes locked on hers, unblinking, in a way that people generally don’t, unless they’re planning to murder you.

Maggie finally decides that it’s okay — she’ll grade David’s paper, and the boys can play in the drawing room. But as she’s gathering up the papers, she feels Michael’s eyes, still following her. She turns, and sees that he hasn’t moved; he’s just standing there at the door, staring her down.

She tries to collect herself, and says, “Michael, is something wrong?”

He keeps sizing her up. “What could be wrong, Miss Evans?” he asks, with a faint smile.

“You keep staring at me.”

Anxious to break the tension, David cries, “I’ve got it! We can play Wall Street. Do you like Wall Street, Michael?”

“It doesn’t matter what game we play, David,” the boy sneers. “You know that.”

So, yeah, of course they’re going to play Wall Street. This kid is the living embodiment of the Big Short.

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So they’re in the middle of the game, and David gets mad, because Michael is creating a credit default swap market that bets against the collateralized debt obligation bubble.

David:  I saw that, Michael. I saw you take some money from the bank.

Michael:  No, you didn’t, David.

David:  Yes! I saw you take it! Why’d you do it, Michael?

Michael:  Because I have to win.

David:  You have to? Then there’s no point in playing the game.

David gets up from his chair, and turns away. Michael uses his command voice.

Michael:  Sit down, David! You haven’t finished your move.

David:  I’m not going to.

Michael:  LOOK at me, David!

And then Michael just stares at David, until he obeys.

Michael:  You will sit down. And you will finish the game.

David:  And you will win.

Michael:  And I will win.

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So Michael’s figured out the real purpose of board games, which is a relief, because I thought nobody ever would.

The point of the game is not to see who ends up with more imaginary money, and gets their counter to some arbitrary finish line. The point of the game isn’t who follows the rules, or how you roll the dice. The point of the game is to provide a vehicle for intimidating and humiliating David.

It’s like the way that kittens play — jumping on each other, fangs and claws out, tearing at their playmates with an aggression that would be alarming if it wasn’t so adorable. They’re fighting, but it’s play-fighting — just biting hard enough to learn how hard you can bite somebody before it hurts.

Obviously, the object of this exercise isn’t to understand acceptable boundaries. It’s to find out how hard you need to bite somebody, when you really do want it to hurt.

That’s why Michael wants to play — with David, and with Maggie. He wants to know what it feels like to dominate other people — through luck, skill, brute force or insolence. He wants to know how hard he should hit somebody when he wants them to stay down.

But that is not the weirdest thing about this board game.

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The weirdest thing about this board game is look at what the board looks like.

That is not a board game. That is a bleak, eldritch landscape from This Island Earth crossed with Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century. And yet here they are, rolling dice and fussing around with Monopoly money, as if there are rules dictating how you behave when you sit around a table and stare at rejected cover art from Stirring Science Stories. What is going on with this play date?

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Now, back when we started this storyline, it was supposed to be based on H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror, which features a quick-growing hybrid child — half human, half Elder Thing, preparing for his chance to rip the dimensional veil asunder and turn the world over to a blasphemous new regime. But The Dunwich Horror doesn’t provide a lot of details on the childcare; for the most part, Wilbur Whateley’s wonder years pass by in a time-compression training montage.

But as a daily dose of afternoon television, Dark Shadows has to slow down and give us a sense of how this pint-sized destroyer of worlds slouches towards Bethlehem to be born. It turns out that it’s a lot like Anthony, from that Twilight Zone episode about the little kid who can wish you into the cornfield.

The episode’s called “It’s a Good Life,” from 1961, and it’s pretty much the how-to parenting guide for Megan and Philip, and anybody else raising an all-powerful demon child.

In the story, Anthony Fremont is a six-year-old boy from Peaksville, Ohio, who — for no particular reason — has been born with godlike powers. He’s cut the town off from the rest of the world, closing the roads and cutting off the phone lines. He doesn’t like singing, or electricity, or barking dogs, so he’s made all of those things disappear. He hates being scolded, and he only wants to be told that he’s good, and that everything he does is good. And he can read people’s thoughts, when he wants to, so everybody has to make sure that they’re always thinking good thoughts.

If they don’t — if somebody displeases Anthony in any way — then he’ll wish them into the cornfield, which means… well, nobody’s quite sure what that means. But whatever it is, it’s a one-way trip.

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By the time we see them, the surviving townspeople have settled into a grim, terrified death march. Everybody knows their time will come, and there’s no hope of escape; the only thing they can do is try to put off the inevitable for as long as they can. So they swallow their fear and horror, and tell him that he’s a good boy, even as he creates and destroys twisted forms of animal life in front of them, and they wonder what fresh form of torment he’ll think of as he gets older.

Anthony’s life is basically Michael’s dream. This is what Michael is trying to achieve — unquestioning dominance over all life and matter.

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When Maggie comes back to talk to David about his illegible essay, it’s a fresh opportunity for Michael to express himself.

“David,” she says, “if Michael will excuse you for a few minutes, I’d like to talk to you about your theme.”

“Michael won’t,” the boy mutters. Her eyes flash and her lips tighten, because Kathryn Leigh Scott learned a lot about emoting when she was playing Kitty Hampshire a few months ago.

Michael:  You really should let us finish, Miss Evans.

Maggie:  Please don’t tell me what to do, Michael.

Michael:  David’s little lecture can wait, can’t it? Besides, I don’t know what’s so important about handwriting. I’ve never seen a grown-up’s I can read. So why don’t you just go back to your room?

Maggie:  Apparently you didn’t understand what I said earlier. You do not give me orders. David is in my charge, not yours.

Michael:  (offering a pacifying look) I don’t know what you’re getting so upset about. We said we’d come to you as soon as we’d finished.

And this works, because Michael has learned a secret that every teenage god-monster learns — if you can kick the adult off balance, then you can switch your tone and make them tumble into a pit they’ve dug themselves.

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Of course, as soon as Maggie leaves the room, he’s got some new activities planned. “I hate her!” he declares. “She’ll be sorry!” David says he won’t hurt Maggie, but the monster assures him, “Who said anything about hurting her? As soon as it gets dark, we’ve just got a nice new game to play, that’s all.”

He’s getting off message, a problem that his handlers will have to deal with very soon. They’ve got plans to dominate a much larger area than just the Collinwood drawing room, and picking a fight with Maggie doesn’t help Michael’s cause. He’s just doing it because he can’t help himself — he has a pathological need to win every encounter.

“We’re going to win so much,” he says. “We’re going to win on every level. We’re going to win so much, you may even get tired of winning! And you’ll say please, please, it’s too much winning! We can’t take it anymore! Mr. President, it’s too much! And I’ll say, no, it isn’t! We have to keep winning! We have to win more!”

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The next morning — apparently still hip-deep in this grueling, two-day marathon board game — David’s father manages to rub Michael the wrong way, and now Michael wants to punish Roger too.

And that’s the moment when David becomes Anthony’s parents, when he realizes that this creature that he’s encouraged will never stop punishing everybody else for the crime of having a will of their own. The violence and terror and bullying will never stop.

Michael has to win at Wall Street, even if it means openly cheating and stealing other people’s money. He has to push women around, to show that he’s boss. And if you hit him, he will hit back, ten times as hard.

And David, as the speaker of this particular house, is stuck — like the Fremonts, like the Todds — supporting a dangerous monster with silence, and obedience.

Monday: The Shark, and How to Jump It.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

One of the cameras has a fault; there are a few places where the picture blinks out for a second, and there’s a purple line across the screen in Philip’s scene at the beginning of act 3.

When Maggie tells David to finish his theme and sits down, we can hear Michael clearing his throat in the foyer, about thirty seconds before his entrance.

When Roger enters the drawing room in act 2, there’s a boom mic overhead.

Philip says that he’s come to pick up Michael, and Roger says, “Oh, yes, come in. He’s in the drawing room.” As Philip walks past him, Roger adds, “With David.”

Monday: The Shark, and How to Jump It.

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Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

27 thoughts on “Episode 925: The Wolf of Wall Street

  1. Here’s another example of the Leviathan mythology being inconsistently rewritten. Barnabas is asked to do something he doesn’t want to do (kill Julia), and it triggers his disconnect from under the Leviathans’ thrall. David doesn’t want to hurt Maggie or Roger, but he stays loyal to the Leviathans. Where’s the evil little boy who ordered Elizabeth to kill Julia a week ago? Where’s the explanation that Elizabeth’s failure to do so signaled that she and David were no longer human but “true” Leviathans?

    If the writers could have only stood firm about the control the cult had over its minions, this story would have been chilling. Then it would have been up to Julia, Maggie, Roger and Quentin to fight for the safety of the world AND for the souls of those they loved. Then securing Angelique’s help would have been even more vital. But they got all wishy-washy, as if they didn’t want the Collins family to seem “too” bad to the audience of children who didn’t know any better about how to tell a horror story.

    Imagine this scene, instead: Michael terrifies Maggie while David stands there, eyes glazed in adoration at this monster! This would be Maggie’s signal that something was terribly wrong at Collinwood; Michael’s “game” would have unleashed another kaiju warrior in the battle against the Leviathans. His arrogance would truly have foreshadowed the cult’s downfall.

    I would also have inserted Carolyn here much more frequently in order to show the interaction between the Big Bad and the one person who can trigger Michael/Jeb’s evolution into human-ness. But that’s just me, trying to “fix” a 45-year old plot line.

    1. I am doing a reboot of the DS storyline from day 1. I am now fixing the Leviathan mess.

      I start with Barnabas and Julia baffled by what is going on in Collinsport since they remember the sequesncee of the haunting of Quentin, and are plunged into a Collinsport where that never happened, but other things did. They try to figure out, but end up with false leads.

      The point person of the Leviathans is Liz, who is promised to regain the power she lost at Collinwood after it came out that she tried to kill Paul Stoddard.

      The parents of the Leviathan child are Joe and Maggie, who fall under his power.

      There is a Megan Todd, a snake-human hybrid, whose bite injects a venom that makes its victims pliable to her commands.

      There is no Angelique, Bruno, Nicholas, nor Quentin (except at the end). The Leviathans are defeated by Julia, Willie, Vicky, David, Chris, and Burke (David supplies the explosives). Barnabas has been infected by Megan Todd and has to locked into his coffin

      And the end of the Leviathans involves a lot of explosions.

  2. Michael is Eddie Haskell by way of Satan. Some people apparently dislike the actor, but I think they’re transferring their reactions to the character onto him. He’s perfectly awful, DS’ answer to Joffrey 40 years before George R. R. Martin conceived.him.

    And I like this actor waaaaaayyyyy better than the shouty portrayer of Jeb.

    1. Michael is certainly more subtly evil than Jeb, who is an obvious Manson parody. He’s also more dated or at least “of the period,” where Michael is timeless “devil tot.” (Sebastian Shaw has the same problem, which is why I prefer Cyrus and Gabriel as examples of Pennock’s work).

      1. I greatly prefer Cyrus and Gabriel over Jeb, as well. Jeb wasn’t written for Chris Pennock, it’s just a part that he got. It’s more likely that Cyrus and Gabriel were written for Chris. He really seemed to jell with those characters. He was also more experienced, by then. It’s nice to see Cyrus get attention, and not be overshadowed by Yaeger.

    2. i agree with you, Mark. i think he’s got bein’ the beastie down. of course, the shouty portrayer is like a visual aid for a Leo male, but it strikes me that little Michael has Jeb’s attitudinal walk predestined to a tee.

  3. This episode has some of my favorite Bob Cobert music cues of the period, particularly number 248A (Time piece – builds – breaks at :55, with percussion), when Michael, unannounced and uninvited, opens the drawing room door in act I and, especially, 251C (Flute & vibes – no drums), as Angelique enters the Little Windward Island drawing room just before her confrontation with Julia, also in act I.

    As I recall, these music cues also made it into the Kolchak movies, The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler:

    There’s always lots of discussion about the writing and the relationships between characters, but never enough about Bob Cobert’s unforgettable Dark Shadows soundtrack. What would the show have been like without it? The music cues are the glue that holds the whole mess together.

    1. Yeah, I wish it was easier to write about the music. It’s hard to describe the impact in prose, and most people don’t have the Complete Soundtrack on hand to know what music cues we’re talking about. I think the last time it came up was the snakey woodwind cue that I associate strongly with the beginning of the Leviathan story.

      1. True enough. I suppose it’s all the more pointless since the only Dark Shadows music on YouTube is from the original soundtrack album and the 30th anniversary album. Music cues 72 to 75, the original Blue Whale jukebox guitar instrumentals, are a favorite on my iPod, all the more so because the Blue Whale tracks on the better known soundtrack albums are not the same as heard on the show.

        I actually have a YouTube account (created just so I could be in the comments section of an Australian soap that’s up on YouTube), but I never figured out how to upload music. I should learn how, so I could upload these music cues and post them here. The best I can do at the moment is point out exactly where in the show these cues can be heard. But I think we can agree how Dark Shadows would never have had the same effect without Cobert’s musical input. It would just be lots of talking and pauses and background noises from the crew — and the hokey church organ riffs so typical of the ordinary soaps of the day.

        1. Cobert’s work is amazing and adds a cinematic quality to DS — not even many prime time series had soundtracks this good.

    2. I still remember 50 years ago, the first thing about Dark Shadows that “got’ me was the music. I think it cast a spell immediately. There was something about the music that made me think “this is where I want to be”.

      Robert Cobert’s music is spine-tingling and original. Cobert is a master of mysterious music. He’s very good at playing “small”, sometimes just a flute, and a shaker, or something that sounds like a wind chime made of bones.
      Cobert knows how to orchestrate lurking horrors that hide, or at times, more in-your-face mayhem. He really knows how to work the tympani, too. The score is very rhythmic, often with layered swirling patterns, coming in and out, like flickering spirits.

      Then, there’s his Blue Whale music, which I love just as much. Occasionally, it rocks out, but for the most part, it’s dreamy and drunk, sad and romantic, and always very beautiful. I’m always up for a trip to the Blue Whale.

      1. The Blue Whale jukebox numbers are a playlist on my iPod, great for stepping round the corner for errands at the store and/or post office and, of course, for a stroll down the road to the liquor store and back.

  4. Okay. I hate the character of Michael. But Maitland could have been fake charming or have charismatic delivery. He chose not. So I don’t like him.

    Should have been tutored by Humbert.

    1. Apply the “character rules”:

      1) Make a joke (none I recall he’s made).
      2) Make a friend (ditto).
      3) Make a plot point happen (double ditto – unless ordering the hit on Julia counts, as it made Barnabas rethink his loyalty).

      One out of three.
      The consensus seems to be that yeh, he’s creepy and evil, but no, don’t like him on the show. Another piece of why the Leviathan story is not working for so many.

  5. I think George Harrison, of The Beatles, said it best in his song Piggies, from The White Album: “What they need’s a damn good whacking!”.

    I’m sure he wasn’t talking about Michael, but Michael could still use a damn good whacking, not that it would do any good. It would just make him mad.

    You know how “It” likes to sneak up behind Carolyn and put its hands over her eyes and say “Guess who?”, every time it changes form?
    This is the REAL reason the Leviathans failed, they were all deeply addicted to playing Guess Who? with each other, sometimes for hours on end. They would lose track of time (not to mention “space”, and “dimension”), going around in circles, under a spell, staying up all night.
    Befuddled non-Leviathans would watch this weird spectacle, until they became bored, and went to bed at a reasonable hour and got plenty of sleep.
    These scenes were filmed, but never shown, as they were quickly deemed “Incoherent!” or “Boring!” or “What am I watching?!”

  6. Taking over the world is not a compelling motive unless you’re cartoon mice.

    We know the world will remain much like it is, so the more intriguing stakes are personal. This storyline lacks this key element.

    Jeb is arguably an improvement because he overtly wants something and is in a position to get it (Michael pursuing Carolyn can’t work for obvious reasons).

    1. Oh, now I have the theme from “Pinky & The Brain” stuck in my head! I’ll try and knock it out with Buster Poindexter’s “Hot Hot Hot”… 😀

  7. That isn’t actually what the game board looks like, it’s just what they’ve covered it with — something similar to that pencil sketch of Collinwood first seen in Sam Evans’ cottage and then again later at Collinwood which David had drawn. That was in the summer of 1966. Whoever drew that Collinwood sketch must have done this one to cover the commercial brand game board.

    They’re certainly using Monopoly money and most likely a Monopoly board, but with the rules of advertising and brand promotion far more clear cut in those days, it would have been a conflict of interest for the network to allow them to use brand name products on the show.

    After Roger has left the drawing room and Michael gets into a huff when he finds out that Roger hated Alexander, you can see one half of the back of the game board as Michael angrily folds it up to fling it from the table — red, white, and black pointed stripes on either side, with the Hasbro name in the box along the middle.

    Soon after, when Roger comes back to the drawing room and David is by the phone putting the game board away, look at what he uses — a generic white gift box with a gold cover, like he was getting ready to take a sweater back to the department store for a refund.

    1. I think what we see on the other side is a backgammon board. It’s one of those sets with checkers on one side, and backgammon on the other. They just covered the checkers side with whatever they had lying around, which happened to be a dark vision of an alien future.

      1. Yes, the backgammon board was my first guess. Did Hasbro make those combination boards back then? It’s difficult to see the lettering actually. The pause button for the DVD player on my computer has a split-second slowing mechanism, creating a blurring effect for the paused image.

        It’s certainly not anything that would have been noticed at the time, though they were still careful not to display brand names on the show. In episode 893 when Paul Stoddard and Carolyn are seated at a table in the Blue Whale, even the brand name of the jukebox seen in the background was covered by two strips of yellow masking tape. Though they have working taps at the Blue Whale bar, the brands on the taps themselves are blocked by two strips of black tape in the shape of an “X”. Just last night I was looking at one of the 1966 black and whites; in the Evans cottage there was a close-up of Sam pouring himself a drink and you can clearly see the label of the bottle, but all the product information was crossed out with thick strips of black ink.

        Curiously, there eventually was a board game in the mid-1980s with the name “Wall Street” in it (The Wall Street Game, 1986), and the board design had a vague resemblance to that of Monopoly, though it uses the middle portion as well:

        https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/15342/wall-street-game

  8. The real problem is that they changed Maggie’s hair to a much more schoolmarmish style. And it only gets worse in the coming days. She’s a young woman who owns the most colorful quilted maxi skirt in the universe, for heaven’s sake!

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