“The mark has something to do with the way we feel!”
Well, the first thing that you need to know about the way we feel is that we can’t help it. We absolutely can not help it. I have tried, and failed, to help it. It is unhelpable. That is the most important thing about the way we feel.
.Today’s episode opens with Quentin Collins and Maggie Evans in the Collinwood drawing room, actively swiping right. They’ve come to the simultaneous conclusion that they’re young and pretty, and making out in public spaces would improve the world.
Also, they each have a pitchfork mark on their hand — her right and his left, because that’s where the camera is — and that mark appears to be the on-switch for out-making.
Coming up for air, Maggie voices a concern. “How did we get this mark?” she asks. “It must be some kind of punishment!” He gently grips her arms and tries to redirect, because every second that they spend on conversation is a waste of good kissing time.
“Why did it appear on both our hands?” she continues, and he asks, “What does it matter what it means?” which as far as I can tell expresses the writing team’s attitude about almost everything.
“Look at me,” he says, and she does.
“This is wrong,” she says. “You must go.”
“I could never do that, and leave you here alone,” he counters. “You don’t want me to go, I know it.” She doesn’t.
To be honest, they don’t really need an explanation for why Maggie suddenly has feelings for Quentin. We all have feelings for Quentin; we spent the better part of 1969 exploring them. But, as it happens, there is an outside force responsible for this close-order display of affection.
Maggie and Quentin are under the influence of the witch Angelique, who’s cast a spell on them from outside the window, because she needs something interesting to do for a few minutes. She renounced her powers a while ago, but now she’s picked them up again, and this is practically the first thing she thinks of doing. Spell #1 was “stop my husband from killing me,” and then this was next on the list.
Now, Angelique has spent the last several weeks trying to convince us, her friends, and most of all herself, that she was madly in love with Sky Rumson, an attractive publishing magnate with secret Cthulhu mob ties. Sky just broke up with Angelique, thrusting a burning torch in her direction to make his point, and obviously, she was devastated and heartbroken. This lasted for five and a half minutes, not counting the commercial break, and then she came to the conclusion that she really belongs with Barnabas, a revelation that she experiences every six months, whether she needs to or not.
So imagine her displeasure when she returns to the Collinsport area and discovers that Barnabas is in love with a Kathryn Leigh Scott character, for the fourth time in a row.
Over the last few weeks, Barnabas and Maggie have been gently drifting into an understanding, which may turn into a passionate love affair if they can muster up the energy for it.
Offended, Angelique casts a nefarious spell, pairing up Quentin and Maggie without their consent. This is an intriguing story development that makes next to no difference to anything over the next five weeks.
The current clinch will end, as clinches do, and the lovers will part, and then we won’t hear anything else about it for a couple weeks. Two Fridays from now, they’ll use this love connection to resolve a cliffhanger, and Quentin and Maggie will kiss again. A couple weeks after that, they’ll get another moment together, which keeps Quentin out of the way of a minor plot point, and that pretty much wraps it up for these two.
For her part, Angelique appears three more times between now and the end of the current storyline. In two of those episodes, Barnabas, Quentin and Maggie don’t appear; it’s just Angelique vs the Leviathans. In the third episode, she has a scene with Barnabas and Quentin, but they don’t talk about Maggie, because they have other things on their minds.
So this is a fleeting bit of visual spectacle, a chance for Quentin to remind everybody how seductive and romantic he is, before we move on to another storyline, featuring a different Quentin.
The first time that Angelique pulled this stunt — making two acquaintances fall madly in love, with matching devil marks on their hands — it was a lot more consequential. In fact, it was a key factor in the destruction of the 1795 Collins family, permanently altering the direction of the show.
In 1795, Josette hooking up with Barnabas’ beloved uncle Jeremiah was the most explosive thing that could possibly happen. The storyline hinged on the tangled love triangle between Barnabas, Josette and Angelique, and for a while, that was all anybody on the show talked about.
But Angelique’s love spell sent Josette into Jeremiah’s arms, crushing Barnabas and Josette’s wedding plans. Anguished and confused, Barnabas killed Jeremiah in a duel, and then married Angelique. Then, when it looked like he was turning back towards Josette, Angelique killed him and turned him into a vampire, and then she chased Josette off a cliff, to a messy death on the rocks below. That is the beginning of the story that we call Dark Shadows.
This one simple trick shattered Barnabas’ life, and profoundly altered the future destiny of the Collins family. Losing Barnabas and Jeremiah wiped out the male lineage of their branch of the family, and they had to import another Collins from New York just to keep the name going, because they’d already called this enormous mansion Collinwood, and they couldn’t afford to change all the letterhead.
But reprising the story point now with Quentin and Maggie has absolutely no impact on any storyline, including their own. Conceptually, a mixed-doubles triangle between Maggie, Barnabas, Quentin and Angelique could impact their struggle against the Leviathans — for example, eroding Barnabas’ trust in Quentin at a critical moment, or sending Angelique spinning into a partnership with Nicholas — except it doesn’t, because nobody really cares about Barnabas and Maggie’s relationship. This is an action-adventure storyline, a war between rival factions, and we’re barreling towards a climax. Everyone’s attention is focused on the oncoming storm.
In fact, right here in the middle of this Quentin/Maggie love scene, he actually goes out of his way to announce that this tangent won’t affect anything. “We can still help Barnabas,” he says, “and we’ll still fight with him against Jeb. The way we feel won’t interfere with that.”
Then there’s some more discussion about the way we feel, touching on the following points: it makes Maggie feel disloyal, it makes Quentin feel protective, and we couldn’t fight it, even if we wanted to. That is the latest update on the way we feel.
This is actually a serious problem, at this point in the series, and I want to flag it as a factor in the ongoing investigation into Who Killed Dark Shadows.
The 1897 storyline, which concluded a few months ago, was mostly driven by romantic relationships. There was a grand total of six women who had a romantic connection with Quentin — Beth, Jenny, Laura, Angelique, Pansy and Amanda — and each of those relationships moved the story forward.
But coming back to 1970, it feels like somebody turned down the “love story” dial. There’s the relationship between Carolyn and Jeb, of course, which is pivotal, but everything else is just background filler, including this tepid Barnabas/Maggie/Angelique triangle that blows over almost as soon as it starts.
Instead of telling love stories and building couples that the audience cares about, the show is putting that energy into a detailed analysis of all the conspiracy-related relationships. When will Jeb discover that Barnabas is a traitor? Is Philip’s faith in the Leviathans weakening? Does Megan’s devotion to the cause make her restless? Does Elizabeth feel left out of the inner circle? Is Bruno loyal to Jeb, or Nicholas?
In fact, by the end of the week, they’re going to do a series of scenes examining how Bruno feels about Jeb, and the Leviathans in general. They construct a compelling arc for Bruno — a character who we do not care about — but they don’t have time to give us a clear reason why Maggie is suddenly a romantic option for Barnabas.
Also, a few episodes from now, they shove Chris and Sabrina back together, which just makes me despair.
I might as well talk about it now, because I don’t really want to discuss it later, so here’s the deal: Sabrina is the lady in the wheelchair. A couple years ago, she saw her boyfriend Chris turn into a werewolf, which was such a shock that her hair turned gray and stringy, and she lost both the power of speech and her gross motor skills.
But they’ve decided, now that Carolyn is with Jeb, leaving Chris at a loose end, that they might as well drag Sabrina out of the chair, and take over Carolyn’s role in the werewolf story. So all of a sudden, Carolyn is transporting Sabrina to the beauty parlor for a makeover, and they come back with Sabrina’s gray crone hair transformed into an actual brunette hairstyle. This means that her trauma is over, and Chris and Sabrina are in love again.
Now, I don’t have any particular feelings about Sabrina, crone or regular style. I’m sure she’s fine. But the only interesting thing about her was that she had hideous hair and she didn’t speak. I wasn’t crazy about her, but I understood why she was on my television show; she was a threat to Chris, who I mostly liked because he was dating Carolyn. (Also, he kept taking his shirt off, but they haven’t done that for over a year, which is a whole other problem.)
Carolyn was the person who made the werewolf story matter; that was Chris’ real connection with Collinwood. When Chris turned into a werewolf, it was upsetting for everyone, including his sister Amy, but the main point of the story was that Carolyn was in danger. Now that Carolyn isn’t involved with Chris anymore, there’s no reason for Chris and Sabrina to stage this reunion in the Collinwood drawing room, and this whole storyline peninsula could break off and separate from the mainland completely.
In fact, as of this week, it’s possible for them to say “Chris, Sabrina and Amy decided to leave town while you weren’t looking, now they’re gone and they didn’t say goodbye, and you’ll never know how it all works out.” And that’s what happens, eventually.
While we’ve been discussing all this, the magic potion has worn off, leaving Quentin and Maggie stranded in the middle of a party they didn’t want to attend.
“It’s strange,” he says, and she says, “What is?” And he says, “Nothing,” so she says, “You must have meant something,” and he shouts, “But I said nothing!” This is how people talk when they’re not in love with each other.
“It’s over, isn’t it?” she observes. “So quickly. You don’t feel the way you did a few minutes ago, do you?” He doesn’t.
This is the existential emptiness of random soap opera matchmaking, where they pair people up who have nothing in common — like Eve and Peter, for instance, or Nicholas and Maggie, or Barnabas and Maggie — and insist that they have feelings for each other. If I didn’t know better, I would suspect that Sam Hall is using this story point as a satirical meta-joke, poking fun at the cursory amount of effort they’ve been putting into setting up couples in the present-day storylines.
So Maggie says, “Let’s not talk about it anymore,” and he agrees.
“We don’t really have anything to say to each other,” he says, “I won’t remind you of it again.”
She stiffens, and says, “Please don’t.”
He says good night, and walks out the door, leaving Maggie to ask herself: Is there anything I could have done differently?
Tomorrow: The Sad Song of Sue Agatha.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In the reprise, Quentin and Maggie are lit by firelight, as they were at the end of the last episode. Then there’s the opening theme, and when we come back from the titles, the drawing room is lit normally, and there’s no fire.
Liz brings Amy in the house and appears to close the doors, but when we cut to the foyer, one of the doors is still open.
In the very last shot, as the camera pulls back from Willie and Maggie, you can see the boom mic overhead.
Behind the Scenes:
The Petofi box will not be ignored. It’s in the hallway when Willie sneaks in through the window, and looks for Maggie’s room.
Act 3 opens with a tight close-up on my favorite prop, the Ralston-Purina lamp. This is the second Ralston-Purina close-up in a week, the last one was in episode 953. Apparently, I’m not the only person who thinks highly of this lamp.
Tomorrow: The Sad Song of Sue Agatha.
— Danny Horn