“All our dead have turned into skeletons!”
And so, as teen dream tentacle god Jeb Hawkes swings the scepter and destroys the Leviathan box, the Leviathan altar and the whole goddamn Leviathan storyline, we have to ask ourselves: What have we learned?
Well, don’t bet on Nicholas Blair, for one thing. He showed up late and tried to take credit for this whole ordeal, which he is welcome to, as far as the other characters are concerned. “This was my idea!” Nicholas proclaimed. Dude is clearly a failure demon. You don’t see those around very often, because they’re usually tangled up in a clothesline or promising to repeal Obamacare.
For the last four months of my life, Dark Shadows has been taken over by the Leviathans, an ill-defined squad of radicals and assassins and small business owners who believe that life would be a whole lot better if we all turned into giant slime monsters and made blood sacrifices to people named Azathoth and Y’golonac. I’m not saying they’re wrong; it’s their tactics that I take issue with.
The Leviathans have taken over the minds of some antiques dealers, Angelique’s husband and half the Collins family, plus a couple random contractors. They’ve murdered people, who became either helpless slaves or howling vengeance demons, depending on the day. They killed Carolyn’s father, and tried to flirt with her during the funeral. They cheated at board games and obstructed justice and distributed Naga schwag. And what do they have to show for it? A pile of rubble and a declining audience share. I’m pretty sure this isn’t what Great Cthulhu had in mind.
And it’s all because Jeb got cold feet, or pseudopods, or whatever he has when he changes into The Thing That Must Not Be Shown on Camera. He was standing at the altar next to his hypnotized bride, listening as Nicholas beseeched all the dark creatures of nature to summon the Prince of Darkness.
Nicholas handed over the horned scepter, as is customary at weddings, and suddenly Jeb yelled, “NOW, Barnabas!” which was a cue to grab the girl and run away, totally messing up the reception seating chart. Then Jeb used the scepter to demolish the Naga box, which made the altar explode and put the kibosh on the entire world domination scheme. It is ashes, it is memory, it is a dream that never came true. Now the Leviathans are going to spend the next two months whining about a recount.
But Nicholas knows defeat when he sees it. He ought to, he practically invented it. All he has left is yelling, and schadenfreude.
“You never have to change into your Leviathan form, because it no longer exists!” he hollers at Jeb. “And what is there left?”
“Me!” Jeb cries.
“NO, Jeb! There is NOTHING anymore! All that remains is a shell, a manifestation! This body you inhabit is not yours!”
So what I gather is that Jeb’s human body is a rented tuxedo, which he’s supposed to return after the wedding. The only reason we still have a Jeb is that he’s keeping himself together through sheer force of will, plus we have three more weeks to kill before Parallel Time starts.
Meanwhile, Bruno’s chilling at the Carriage House with his zombie friends; apparently none of them were invited to the wedding. Bruno hears a fire crackling somewhere, and when he looks into the Chosen Room, it’s ablaze.
The whole storyline is going up in flames, really. They’ve lost the Book and the Box and the Altar and the Room. Bruno needs to update his LinkedIn profile, pronto.
Instead, he yells at a zombie to get the hose…
And the zombie melts away, leaving a skeleton behind. Now Bruno has to take it to the recycling center.
So the Leviathan dream is over, and the show begins the process of reconstruction. Before we move on, there are seven Leviathan-specific characters who need to be taken care of: Jeb, Nicholas, Bruno, Megan, Philip, Sky, and the mysterious ghost who’s been haunting them.
The next three weeks is basically all of these villains stranded on a desert island, sabotaging each other, with final cleanup duties supervised by Barnabas and Angelique. A werewolf, a stake, a shadow, a gun, an exorcism and a couple of cliff dives, taking the baddies out one by one, and then the Leviathan story is consigned to the dustbin of history.
This isn’t how soap operas work, by the way. You don’t introduce a whole bunch of characters just for one storyline, and then kill them all before you move on to the next one. Daily soap operas are supposed to be continuous, with multiple storylines that overlap each other, so if you wrap up one story thread, there’s a couple others that are going strong. A definitive ending is a jumping-off point for viewers, and that’s the exact thing that soap operas are designed to avoid.
Except for Dark Shadows, of course, which uses time travel trips to cut the show up into four-month chunks, giving people the opportunity to tune out, if they don’t feel like learning a bunch of new character names. And so we go from here to Parallel Time, to 1995, to 1970, to 1840, to 1841PT, and then to April Third and the end of all things.
And so Dark Shadows lunges once again for the History Eraser Button, rolling back whatever it was that just happened, and clearing the stage for whatever it is that comes next.
The process begins with Barnabas bringing a dazed Carolyn home from her exploded nuptials, and putting her to bed. Elizabeth regards her traumatized daughter, and tells Barnabas, “I want you to explain all this to me.”
Barnabas says, “Well, I don’t know how to — how, or when — where to begin!” which pretty much sums it up.
Elizabeth says begin somewhere, and Barnabas says, “Elizabeth… we’ve committed to a cause that is both false and destructive! We’ve all been in danger, including Carolyn!”
And Liz just blinks her eyes, and says, “Barnabas, I haven’t the slightest idea what you’re talking about.” So there.
“Good lord,” Barnabas smiles, “it’s too good to be true! What Jeb did has caused everyone to be released from his spell!”
And that’s it, as far as the main cast is concerned. Barnabas says “I’ll explain everything to you later,” which is Dark Shadows code for “I want to go be in another scene now.”
Elizabeth, Roger, David and Amy just wake up the next morning, a weight lifted from their shoulders, and they go on with their lives as if nothing happened, which I suppose technically nothing did.
But Jeb’s still here — for the moment, anyway — holding his manifestation together through sheer force of will.
He tells Carolyn that he has to go away, and he wants her to come with him. She says that she doesn’t understand what’s so urgent, and he says, “I’m not asking you to understand!” which is fine, if you want to treat your main characters like goldfish taking another lap around the bowl. Expecting them to understand plot points is a waste of time; just tell them that you’ll explain everything later, and wait for something else to come along.
So it’s a happy ending, I guess, in the sense that it’s an ending. Carolyn gets her white wedding after all, in yet another dream sequence, where they act out the big climactic reveal at the heart of this story, which it’s possible they may never actually do in real life.
“Your mother doesn’t approve of the marriage,” says dream Jeb. “She won’t be here.”
“But my father will,” she objects, “and we must wait for him!”
“Carolyn, you know that your father is dead.”
“No, no! I can’t believe that!”
“You must believe it,” dream Jeb insists. “Because it’s true.”
She looks off into space for a second, and Jeb says, “Carolyn, do you understand?” And then a glazed look comes over her face, and she says yes, even though she doesn’t, because we’ve hypnotized Carolyn so often that now she’s doing it to herself, in her own dreams.
And Nicholas is there, of course, presiding over the funeral that we’re still pretending is a wedding.
“Prince of Darkness!” he intones, once again. “I call upon the flames, to summon you. I beseech all the dark creatures of nature to help summon you here to me, for you must be a witness to this ceremony. I summon you in the name of the seven plagues, in the name of the charred and blackened stars that reigned at my beginning!”
“I’ve never heard a marriage ceremony like this,” Carolyn quavers. “I don’t understand what he’s doing!” This episode is sixty percent people saying that they don’t understand things.
And then the lights go out, and the thunder crashes, and the Rolling Stones stop playing their guitars. The Altamont Free Concert has ended in violence and despair, and the Hells Angels running security have fallen to the ground and turned into skeletons.
Another afternoon has passed, and Carolyn still doesn’t know that her fiancee is a monster who killed her father. Perhaps she never will.
If you’re baffled by the Altamont references, see “Episode 901: Sympathy for the Devil“.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In the dream, as Jeb and Carolyn walk into the drawing room, something falls in the studio with a bang.
Once again, Nicholas says, “I summon you in the name of the seven plagues, in the name of the charred and blackened stars that reigned at my beginning!” This is a standard Dark Shadows invocation that both Nicholas and Angelique have recited before. It’s supposed to be “the charred and blackened stars that reigned at your beginning.” I suppose it doesn’t matter much, one way or the other.
When the drawing room doors open to reveal the silhouette of Barnabas, a camera is visible on the right side.
In the final shot, when Carolyn is pushed against the wall, the camera shows the edge of the set, which is clearly labeled: PROPERTY OF ABC-TV. But aren’t we all?
Behind the Scenes:
This is fill-in actor James Shannon’s last episode on the show; he plays the zombie Thomas Findley, who turns into a skeleton in act 1. Shannon appears in 13 episodes, mostly in law enforcement roles: he was a guard, a gaoler and a hangman in 1795 and some 1795 reprises, and he was a policeman and a deputy in 1968. Most of these were non-speaking parts; his big moment was in August 1968, when he played the deputy who was seduced and almost bitten by vampire Angelique (“Apotheosis“). He was also fairly prominent as the non-speaking gaoler in the November 1968 episode where Eve goes back in time to find Peter (“This Is Happening“).
Consulting his IMDb page is a little tricky, because there are several James Shannons in the world, and they’re a bit mixed up. (The bio on that page is clearly not our James Shannon; it says that he was born in 1982.) But there are some credits that are obviously our guy — 34 episodes of NBC soap The Doctors in 1969, and he played Dr. Max Cooper on another NBC soap, How to Survive a Marriage, which lasted for one season, 1974-1975. He played a Courthouse Photographer in a 1978 Eric Roberts/Susan Sarandon movie, King of the Gypsies, and a Hotel Maitre’D in a 1990 Jamie Lee Curtis movie, Blue Steel. There’s also a credit on his page as a writer on Vibe, Sinbad’s 1990 talk show, but that might be a different guy. Farewell, James Shannon; I will miss your cute monkey face.
— Danny Horn