“Surely, you must have realized that neither of us has any chance for a normal life.”
There’s a spooky spellcasting music cue on the turntable, and newly-minted vampire Barnabas Collins stands on the terrace outside the great estate of Collinwood, speaking to people without moving his lips.
“I’m waiting for you, Maggie!” he vents. “You must respond! You must come to me! Now!”
And then she does; she just walks right out onto the terrace and starts responding. This is why Barnabas doesn’t need a phone.
Now, I was under the impression that Barnabas could only pull stunts like this because he’s psychically connected to his blood-slaves. But Maggie isn’t under Barnabas’ sway these days, so I don’t know how he gets this direct line to her nighttime terrace decisions. Maybe everybody’s had Bluetooth this whole time, and they just didn’t mention it.
But Barnabas and Maggie have a special bond, because, as everyone knows, Baggie is one of the longstanding romantic supercouples of the show, in the sense that he tried to kill her once, and then they didn’t talk to each other for a couple years.
Actually, this is a fairly recent development, emerging out of essentially nowhere just as Barnabas was shaking off the influence of his demonic Leviathan paymasters. Several months ago, Barnabas was suddenly scooped up, hollowed out and filled with Lovecraft sauce, and then they put him in charge of the local Elder Things franchise, responsible for bringing about the End of All Things as specified by their crackpot death cult guidelines. It turned out to be mostly inventory management, just organizing who has the Book and who has the Box, and making sure everyone gets a secret decoder Naga ring.
After a while, the audience got bored, and Barnabas did too. It’s funny how things work out like that sometimes. So he pivoted, and became the secret leader of the Leviathan resistance. Now he gets to hang out with his friends, aka the most popular characters on the show, like Julia and Quentin. It’s funny how that works out, too; we’re racking up coincidences all over the place.
This is actually how serialized narrative works, when you’re doing it right. You come up with a really detailed and intricate mythology that gets slowly revealed over the course of five seasons — and then somewhere around episode 5, you figure out that your show kind of sucks, and people don’t like it.
So you start shifting things around — building up the role of the secondary character that people are really responding to, and de-emphasizing pretty much everything that was part of your five-season roadmap. Episode 5 is when you realize that you’re not going to execute on your long-term plan if you get cancelled before Christmas, so you get over yourself and start making a television show.
And here we are, making some welcome adjustments that put the focus on characters that the audience actually likes. Paul’s dead now, Philip’s locked up and forgotten, Megan’s moping in the shadows, Davenport’s a zombie, and Bruno’s struggling to make any impression at all. Instead of those losers, we’re now spending time in the company of the characters that we like. The bench is pretty thin on the Leviathan side, but Barnabas is gathering up the all-stars — Julia, Quentin, Maggie, Angelique and Willie. At some point, they might even remember that Roger exists.
So, look how powerful we are! If you’ve been grumbling your way through some of the more difficult passages in the Leviathan story: the show has heard you. For all of its numerous tragic flaws, Dark Shadows always did one thing right — they listened to their audience, as specifically embodied by the kids hanging around the stage door after school.
But this applies to you, watching on some streaming service in the far-off space year of 2017, as much as it did to the housewives and teenagers in 1970. No, we’re not personally waiting outside ABC Studio 16 with a camera and a handful of teen magazines, but those kids are representing our interests, and they say:
Barnabas and Maggie should be in love!
And then Barnabas should try to bite Maggie, and Quentin should come in at the last second and stop him!
And then Quentin and Angelique should kiss!
And then Angelique should cast a spell, and make Quentin and Maggie kiss!
And look at this, you lucky children, they’re doing everything you asked for. Today’s episode is a slap-happy mix of unlikely fanservice, served hot, cheap and in a hurry.
So yeah, fangs — Barnabas’ mouth is now in play, as regards plot development — but Quentin arrives, interrupting the party. When Maggie goes inside, the two boys talk things over.
Quentin: I don’t have to ask what would have happened if I hadn’t arrived when I did.
Barnabas: No, you don’t.
Quentin: Now, Barnabas, you’ve got to stay away from Maggie! In your present state, you can only hurt her. You know that.
Barnabas: I know that! But I can’t help myself.
Quentin: All right, we don’t have time to talk about it right now.
There you have it, end of discussion. Glad we cleared that up.
But they do have some business to take care of — Julia is having a hard time locating Willie, so Quentin is going to stay in the Old House today, to make sure nobody comes in and messes around with Barnabas’ coffin while he’s sleeping. I guess that was originally part of Willie’s job, and when he’s not around, they need to arrange for child care.
Once Barnabas is down for the day, Quentin does what babysitters always do — he talks on the phone, snoops through the medicine cabinet and eats whatever he finds in the kitchen, and then his girlfriend comes over.
There’s a knock at the door, and Quentin finds Angelique on the doorstep, with a fantastic leopard-print coat and a broad smile. “Well, don’t just stand there, Quentin,” she beams. “Kiss me!”
Now, keep in mind that Angelique’s life was utterly ruined, literally five minutes ago. She discovered that her loving and attentive husband was conspiring with a villainous intelligence from beyond the mind, and he said that he wanted a divorce, through the medium of attempted murder. She escaped from this domestic situation in the usual way, choking him remotely until he dropped to the carpet.
Then she changed her outfit and marched over to her ex-husband’s place, where she flirts merrily with an ex-fiancee. Angelique plays by her own rules.
“Well, kiss me!” she repeats, and he gives her the minimum viable kiss, a tiny peck on the mouth which is still fairly thrilling for me and the other teenagers. I had very little desire for more scenes between Angelique and Sky, but when you put the show’s major kaiju together, it’s sure-fire.
Now Angelique isn’t marooned on the Little Windward Island set anymore, and she gets to make entrances and wear outfits and sass people.
The ensuing conversation is pure fanservice, which they may have invented during this scene. Quentin and Angelique have a moment to reconnect, making references to the last time they saw each other, and what’s happened since. They discuss Barnabas’ condition, and touch base on the Leviathans. Then Angelique indicates that she’s terribly sad about Sky’s betrayal, but not that terribly sad.
Quentin: If I can be of any help —
Angelique: No, that’s all right, Quentin, there’s nothing you can do. The truth is, my interest in you in the past was never more than a device intended to upset Barnabas. I was very good at devices, always have been. Perhaps, in spite of my feelings for Sky… Barnabas has always been my one, true love.
She says that as if it’s a surprise, rather than an obvious reaffirmation of what the audience wants to see. By the time they taped this episode, the audience had had about three weeks for the Sky/Angelique pairing to sink in, and if it felt like it was going anywhere, then they could have made adjustments. But the kids outside the studio must have said that Sky is boring, and they want to see Angelique pursuing Barnabas again. So, here we are.
Barnabas is continuing to build his barmy army of anti-Leviathan fighters, and they all started out as his enemy. I can point to episodes where he’s specifically planned to destroy each of them — telling Willie that he’ll have to dispose of Maggie, sneaking into Julia’s bedroom to strangle her, urging Julia to pull the plug on Willie, plotting with Ben to burn Angelique, and engaging in rituals to neutralize Quentin. That’s how you get the gig as a member of his inner circle; you start out as an adversary, and then work your way in.
After a while, you get dynamite dialogue like the following:
Angelique: I can’t help but think, Barnabas, that it must mean something, for you and for me!
Barnabas: Well, if it does, perhaps it means that we could become closer friends than we were before.
Angelique: Perhaps it means that we can start again, start at the beginning, as we did the first time!
Angelique: Barnabas, we have so much in common; we’re both outcasts! Surely you must have realized it, just as I did, that neither of us has any chance for a normal life!
I swear, Dark Shadows can have as many episodes as they like where Barnabas and Angelique argue about their relationship status. My appetite for this is apparently endless.
And so, scant moments later, Angelique realizes that Barnabas has a romantic interest in Maggie now, which means we’re going to do Jeremiah and Josette all over again. As of yesterday, Angelique was devoted to her loving, boring husband, and look at her now, crouching outside the window and hexing people.
“I am what I was,” she chants, as they turn up the spooky spellcasting music once again, “and what I shall aways be.” She doesn’t actually say “by popular demand,” but that’s what she means. When all else fails, as it usually does, give the people what they want.
“Quentin Collins and Maggie Evans,” she commands, “you will look into the flame as if it were a mirror to the future!” This is not what the word “mirror” means, but you get the idea. “Your future is there,” says the witch. “Your future is love.”
The spellbound pair look into each other’s eyes, and kiss, and they both have pitchfork marks on their hands, just like Josette and Jeremiah did. And yes, we’ve seen this before, but not with these characters, and in this setting, and — oh, never mind. Just shut up and kiss me.
Monday: The Way We Feel.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
After Angelique chokes Sky unconscious, you can hear the fountain on the Collinwood terrace, where the following scene is set.
You can see the pitchfork brand on Quentin’s hand when he’s asleep in a chair at the Old House, before Angelique casts her spell at the end of the episode.
When Quentin opens the door to find Angelique, there’s a burst of noisy activity behind him.
At the beginning of act 2, as Angelique walks into the Old House, she seems hesitant, and keeps checking for her cue.
Angelique tells Quentin, “I’ll sleep in An– I’ll sleep in Josette’s room.” This appears to be intentional, but is the word she almost said “Angelique”? Why would she refer to herself in the third person?
When Angelique goes upstairs, there’s some paper rustling sounds, possibly a script.
After Sky tells Angelique that Nicholas told him the truth about her, they cut to the wrong camera — one that’s currently pulling back from a close-up to a mid-shot.
When Barnabas tells Maggie that Nicholas is in town, there’s a lot of studio noise, and the camera suddenly lurches to the left.
They run the credits over a shot of the fountain on the terrace. Look closely at the start of the credits, and you can see the fountain switch on, just a half second too late.
Monday: The Way We Feel.
— Danny Horn