“You killed Paul, you killed the sheriff, and now this!”
But enough with the fancy writing tricks. Who feels like watching Dark Shadows today?
There’s a lot going on right now — so much that I need to do an old-fashioned stream of consciousness post today, making observations as I go. You’ll have to take care of the thematic coherence on your end.
Because today is Friday, and it’s the kind of Friday that we haven’t seen in a while, where big things happen to loud people. Now, it’s not actually Friday for me, and there’s only a one out of seven chance that it’s Friday for you, but this is Friday for the folks at home in February 1970, and they’re the ones who count.
So this is how Thursday’s episode ended: Quentin told Carolyn that her father was killed by her new boyfriend, Jeb Hawkes. Confused and angry, she demanded to know what evidence Quentin had, and he declared, “All right. I’ll tell you everything!” But before he could say any more, the door opened, and Jeb ran in, announcing that Inspector Guthrie’s been murdered. They have the murderer in custody now, and it’s the same man who killed her father — Philip Todd, who’s just confessed.
By my count, that’s four different Friday-grade cliffhangers, all in a row. They could have stopped at any one of those points, and gone straight into the weekend — but they piled all four on top of each other and ran it on a Thursday, because they have even more bonkers plot points to unleash today. On several occasions during the Leviathan storyline, I’ve had cause for complaint about the story’s leisurely pace, but so far this week we’ve had werewolf attacks, gunshots, multiple double-cross betrayals, graveyard rituals, a seance, a tearful farewell, a dead policeman and now a murder confession, and we haven’t even cracked the seal on Friday yet.
So now we have a scheming outer space octopus in the Collinwood drawing room, executing on a plan that he apparently came up with all on his own. This is a real turn for the character — ever since he grew up into his adult body, he’s just been stomping through town, sneering at Barnabas’ complex schemes. He thinks that he can just take what he wants; screw the rules and the master plans.
But interacting with Carolyn over the last couple weeks has helped him to understand that he can’t just order the world to be the way he wants to. Sometimes he has to be sneaky, and tell lies. This makes him even more dangerous.
And then Quentin starts shouting, a promising development.
Quentin: Paul Stoddard died as a result of something he had seen — something so horrid that his heart gave out. I don’t think that something was Philip Todd!
Jeb: (no answer)
Quentin: The clothing in the two murders was disintegrated by a substance that no one could identify. Is that true this time, Jeb?
Quentin: What’s the substance?
Jeb: (no answer)
Quentin: Did this man die of a heart attack too? Now, I wonder why, what’s the reason? And just how did Philip Todd murder these two men?
They’ve had a lot of trouble lately figuring out Quentin’s place in this storyline, because he doesn’t have a natural connection to anything in particular. He’s just time-walked himself through the better part of the 20th century, and now he’s pretending to be his own long-lost descendant, like Barnabas. Quentin currently has no job, he lives nowhere, he’s related to no one, and he has no organic opportunities for story development.
So the writers have considered this problem, and decided that they couldn’t care less. They’re just going to stick Quentin into the middle of a scene and have him act like an important member of the family, whether it makes sense or not. It’s working out pretty well, actually.
Meanwhile, Jeb’s lack of impulse control is interfering with his own sneaky plans. He really didn’t need to kill Inspector Guthrie yesterday; he just did it because he felt like it. Now he’s got a third body that’s covered in substances, which is hard to handwave.
Carolyn leaves the room to call the police, leaving our two beautiful alpha males to square off against each other.
Jeb narrows his eyes. “I think we’ve met before Collinsport. Where, Mr. Collins? When?”
“Well,” says Quentin, “the only place we could have met is the one place I’ve ever been, Jeb — Hell.”
Oh, and he delivers it so well, with a twinkle in his eye, and a blend of sarcasm and steel. All of a sudden, we have Quentin back on the show.
But Jeb’s got a new trick too. He tosses out a light threat, and Quentin deflects, saying, “I’ve learned to take care of myself.”
“For quite a long time, I imagine,” says Jeb, and how does he know that? He didn’t really know who Quentin was, as far as I can figure. But he’s a supervillain, and they always know everything about everybody.
Jeb pours himself a passive-aggressive cocktail, just to antagonize Quentin.
Jeb: You don’t believe the sad story of Philip Todd, do you?
Jeb: Why don’t you try and clear him?
Quentin: I’m going to.
Jeb: You won’t make him change his confession.
Quentin: Do you want to make a bet on that, Mr. Hawkes?
Oh, it’s delicious. The boys are all hopped up on brandy and testosterone.
Then Barnabas arrives on the scene, and now he has to hear the news, too. And look at this shot! These are the only four characters on the show today, and here they all are, acting away.
I love a good four-shot like this, where everybody has a different attitude about what’s going on. This isn’t soap opera herd behavior, like we used to get back in ’67, when Sam and Joe and Burke and Dr. Woodard would all stand around and agree with each other. These four are bristling with energy.
Carolyn goes upstairs to tell her mother about Philip — this is what you do on soap operas, you go and update people — and she leaves the guys downstairs for another blockbuster conversation.
Barnabas: You killed Paul, you killed the sheriff, and now this!
Jeb: You just love listing my crimes, don’t you? Why don’t I list one of yours — a very serious one. Treason!
(Barnabas’ face falls.)
Jeb: Yeah, Barnabas — you and I know our true selves. For you are a traitor!
Barnabas: To a cause I’ve never believed in!
Jeb: You should’ve believed in it from the beginning!
Barnabas: Don’t try to threaten me!
Jeb: We don’t threaten. We act!
Barnabas: No one will ever stop me from fighting you!
This is another dynamite conversation, with a huge plot development that reverses course on the last three months of storyline. All of a sudden, the masks are off, and Barnabas has openly declared war on the Leviathans. And this is still the middle of act two!
Then Carolyn comes back, and here’s another gorgeous four-shot. David Selby has made the choice to just glare at Jeb nonstop, no matter what else is happening in the scene. Check out every picture so far; he can’t keep his eyes off the guy.
Carolyn tells the boys that she wants to see Megan. Barnabas urges her to take it easy, but she insists. He keeps pushing, and she puts the kibosh on that.
She says, “You’re not in charge of my life, Barnabas,” which is a soap opera heroine power move, and then she asks Jeb to drive her into town.
Jeb flashes Barnabas and Quentin a triumphant smile on his way out the door. You wouldn’t think you could get this much drama, just by standing around in the drawing room for ten minutes.
Quentin waits for the door to shut behind them, and then muses, “I’m going to have to kill that man.” Then he starts yelling at Barnabas, for entertainment purposes.
“And what are we going to do?” he shouts, at the top of his lungs. “Wait until Carolyn comes back, and tell her everything then?”
Barnabas says they need to get their hands on the Leviathan box. “If we have that,” he screams, “at least they cannot take over others!”
“You’ll never be able to get it!” Quentin roars.
“It’s in Jeb’s room!” Barnabas exclaims. “It has to be there!”
Quentin howls, “Philip was caught, Barnabas!” and Barnabas bellows, “I WON’T BE!”
There is seriously no reason for them to be hollering their secret plans at top volume like this, except to make the situation even more urgent and thrilling. I am entirely in favor of using Quentin Collins for this purpose.
And then there’s flappy bat! He’s bouncing around in his wire cage in the Chosen Room, squeaking and knocking himself against the bars while Jeb looks on adoringly. It’s hard to beat flappy bat for pure spectacle; basically, there’s werewolf jumping through a plate glass window, there’s Quentin post-werewolf when he’s all dirty and disheveled with his shirt ripped open, there’s the bug-eyed skeleton waving its arms around, there’s Julia’s mad science apparatus, and there’s flappy bat, and nothing else even comes close.
Then the camera pulls in for a close-up of Jeb’s face, as he opens the cage and lifts the bat up with his hands. This has to happen out of camera view, because physically it makes no sense at all. He gently carries the bat across the room, chuckling, “Not even frightened of me, are you?” This also makes no sense. And then he deposits the bat inside the little wooden Naga box and closes the lid, which continues to make no sense.
They add some rustling sound effects to indicate that, yes, the bat is actually inside this dimensionally transcendental container. Do not be concerned about how this works; it is none of your business. And then Jeb hides the cage in the wardrobe, because that’s what you do with bat cages when you’re done with them.
Then we go straight to Carolyn, downstairs in the antiques shop, while Jeb hurries over from the Chosen Room set. You can tell it’s a bit of a hike, because he’s out of breath when he gets there; it takes a few lines for him to get back to baseline. That’s what happens in these four-person episodes; the actors need to do some track and field work.
Any other show that films live-to-tape like this would take it easy on a four-person day, and not do fast-paced Friday plot point spectaculars on five different sets, using fire and fistfights and puppets, but on Dark Shadows, it never occurs to them to do the easy version.
Carolyn’s upset, naturally, because she just found out that her schizophrenic boss murdered her father, and Jeb comforts her for about thirty seconds before they transition into a super-tight close-up makeout session.
Then he holds her and kind of mushes her hair around, and sighs, “I don’t want you to be sad, ever.” Releasing her, he looks in her eyes and says, “You do like me a little — don’t you?”
She’s the one who’s out of breath, this time. “I don’t understand you sometimes,” she says, and then she smiles, “Oh, I like you, Jeb.”
Now, I hate to throw cold water on a rare Dark Shadows osculation scene, but I don’t actually understand this relationship. For a soap opera, Dark Shadows spends a shockingly small percentage of screen time on people falling in love with one another, because they’d rather focus on mad science and witch trials, so you have to take the romances more or less on faith.
But even by that standard, I’m not sure about this one. What does Carolyn like about Jeb, exactly? He started out pushy and demanding, and then on their first and possibly only date, he talked her into throwing antiques on the floor, which was interesting but hard to process as seduction. Does she just like tall dudes?
Fortunately, Jeb and Carolyn falling in love is super story-productive, so it works for me anyway, but I’m just going to flag that as potentially problematic and move on.
There’s a couple brief scenes of Jeb bringing Carolyn back to Collinwood, and Barnabas and Quentin arriving at the antiques shop, and then we’re dropped into a surprise dream sequence. Carolyn heads into the drawing room and falls asleep on a chair, and what she gets is mostly a repeat of the dream she had last week, where Jeb tells her that she also knew him as Michael, Alexander and the baby.
“Why do you keep telling me these things?” Carolyn asks. “You’ve told me this before; I didn’t understand it then, and I don’t understand it now.” This is a welcome token of self-awareness on the show’s part; they recognize that they’re spending a minute on reprise material, and they’re going to make sure it’s worth our time.
Because this time, the dream goes further, as Carolyn opening a door and finds Inspector Guthrie’s mutilated corpse. Three minutes ago, Carolyn and Jeb were kissing; now she’s doing dream forensics.
“Jeb, you’ve killed someone!” she cries, and he grabs her and shuts the door. But there’s blood on his hands, and blood gushing out from under the door, and it’s just blood everywhere, and she runs away, and that is how you finish date night on Dark Shadows.
Okay, what else? Well, Barnabas breaks into the antiques shop and steals the Naga box, and then he gives Quentin the following set of extraordinary instructions.
Barnabas: You stay around here.
Quentin: Where are you going?
Barnabas: The only place where I can destroy this.
Quentin: I’m coming with you!
Barnabas: No! Once that I’ve destroyed this, I don’t know what will happen. Something may happen, even to — even to Jeb. Stay here and see. When I’ve finished, I’ll go back to the Old House. If he returns here, and then starts to leave here again, it’s because he will know the box is missing. He will start looking for me. He will know where to come.
Then Barnabas walks away, leaving Quentin to stand guard outside the shop for what reason, exactly?
Barnabas goes to the Leviathan cairn in the woods, where he puts the box down, and then just stands there yelling at it for a while.
“Spirits!” he announces. “If you are listening, know that I no longer need you! Know that my days will be spent ridding my world of the Leviathans!”
So that’s over with. Now he’s going to smash the box with his cane, and then move on with the rest of his busy evening schedule.
So here’s the windup…
And the mystery box opens, as mystery boxes so often do…
And guess who’s inside!
So, Leviathan story: all is forgiven, as far as I’m concerned, except for the amnesia parts and the antiques shop and locking up Maggie and a lot of the first six weeks when people just talked about the book the whole time. But this is rock solid. You have earned my respect.
Monday: Into Darkness.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
When Quentin and Jeb come out of the drawing room to speak to Barnabas, there’s a boom mic overhead.
Jeb tells Barnabas that he was in trouble, but he’s not anymore: “You and your friend should realize that.” Then he looks at the teleprompter and says, “You must, uh — realize that you shouldn’t have sent Philip for the box.”
When Carolyn and Jeb leave the drawing room, you can briefly spot a camera on the left.
In the drawing room, Barnabas tells Quentin, “He’ll be — have to bring her back here.”
The clock in the antique shop struck 9:00 in yesterday’s episode, so it must be working — but when we see it in today’s episode, it’s still 9:00.
During a lightning flash as Barnabas is exiting the antique shop, you can clearly see that there’s just a gray flat next to the shop, no real scenery.
In the last shot, when flappy bat is attacking Barnabas, you can very clearly see the wires that make the wings flap.
Monday: Into Darkness.
— Danny Horn