“When the cairn blew up and the room burned, that should have been the end of you, too.”
So here we are at the tippy top of Widow’s Hill, waiting for teen gang leader Jeb Hawkes to drown his sorrows, and ours. Jeb is a Leviathan, which is a word you use when you’re not really sure what your monster is supposed to be. He used to be a hundred feet tall, with glittering teeth and eyes like opals, but he’s given it all up for love. And now we’re here, potentially ending it all.
The spirit of Peter Bradford blew into town yesterday, with a king-sized kick against Jeb that he’s been bottling up for a hundred and seventy-three years and counting. You remember young barrister Bradford, of course; he’s the lawyer who couldn’t win a witch trial, a hundred years after they’d stopped having witch trials.
But somehow — by luck or inspiration or lunatic plot contrivance — Peter Bradford figured out the Leviathans’ only weakness, which is drowning, and he figured it out by pushing a Leviathan off Widow’s Hill and into the water, where it drowned. Or maybe he found out some other way, like reading the Book, which has a whole chapter on what the Leviathans’ only weakness is. The Leviathans would apparently write down their only weakness in a handy reference guide and then leave it on display in an antiques store, because they’re a secret society that isn’t really very good at keeping secrets. They also wear jewelry with a four-headed snake on it, so you know who to drown.
The only way that Jeb can die is to fall from the top of Widow’s Hill to a messy death on the rocks below, like Josette and Beth did, which I believe means that they were both secret Leviathans the whole time. And then there’s the three widows from the old legend that Elizabeth got all worked up about; they were probably Leviathans too.
Oh, and then there was the other Jeb, the impossible Jeb, who lived in 1797 somehow, and died right here, impossibly, at Peter’s hand. Peter was annoyed with Jeb at the time because he’d lured Victoria Winters to these cliffs, and made her jump to her death, so I guess she was a Leviathan, too. Oh my god, you guys, I think Vicki was a Leviathan.
And that’s not all, because Jeb’s other only weakness is werewolves. We found out about that a couple months ago — the Book said it was because werewolves and Leviathans had a big war, back in the day. Now that I think about it, the Book said a lot of useless nonsense; it was like the Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader for demonic Elder Things. But Jeb certainly believed it, and there was a big Jets vs Sharks dance number in the Old House drawing room.
So that makes you want to take a fresh look at Dorcas Trilling, doesn’t it? And Tessie, and Carolyn’s friend Donna, and Mr. Wells the hotel clerk, who I warned you was a Leviathan at the time. Oh, and Count Petofi’s unicorn. There must be Leviathans all over the place; Collinsport is simply dripping with Leviathans.
But forget about werewolves, if that’s possible. Today, Jeb’s only weakness is drowning, which requires two things: a cliff, and a person to push you off it. So here comes Jeb’s adopted father Philip, freshly sprung from jail. He was being held without trial for killing Carolyn’s father, but he was apparently released thanks to Peter’s ghost, who’s finally become a good lawyer, seventeen decades late. Now Philip’s here, angry-eyed and spoiling for a fight.
Jeb’s basically spent the last two months pissing everybody off, which is typical for a soap opera villain; it usually means they’re working their way up to a murder mystery storyline. Philip’s mad because Jeb framed him for murder, Peter’s mad because Jeb killed Vicki somehow, and Barnabas is mad because I forget why exactly. Something with zombies, I think.
This is what they do on soap operas, they establish motives until they reach saturation level, and then they spend a couple weeks with everyone saying “I could just murder that guy!” and “The world would be better off without him!” and “I am currently planning to sneak into his hospital room and inject something nasty into his IV drip!” Then someone finally kills him, and we spend a happy couple of months investigating everybody.
But Dark Shadows always takes the road less traveled, which in this case means that instead of doing a murder mystery, they just line up all the suspects and launch them off a cliff, one by one. Philip and Jeb tussle for a while, and then Philip rushes at Jeb, who steps aside and lets him just run all the way off the cliff like Wile E. Coyote. And that’s it for Philip Todd, an ignominious end to a character who was already pretty ignominious to start with.
That’s got to be strike three for Peter — maybe four, depending on how you count — and it’s time for him to retire. So Angelique shows up and just wishes him away, off into the neverland, using one of the most raggedy-ass Chromakey effects we’ve seen in a good long while.
Angelique’s motive for hating Jeb is that the Leviathans ruined her already pretty-ruined marriage to a handsome but rock-stupid guy who owed all of his success and prestige to a deal with the Devil. She’s better off without him, really, so it’s hard to get too emotionally involved in her struggles. Happily, this storyline has moved far beyond the need for emotional involvement; now we’re just disposing of secondary characters, so we can start over.
“I can make him pay!” Peter swears. “I drowned him once before. That’s the only way he can be destroyed — by drowning!”
“That’s the only way that you could destroy him,” says Angelique. “I have other choices.”
Then she waves her magic wand, and says go back, Peter Bradford, back into the darkness, go back! and that is exactly what he does.
So Peter was only here for two episodes and didn’t really affect the plot very much, which means that brutalizing the happy ever after for Vicki and Peter wasn’t some master plan from the writer’s room; it was just something they did because they couldn’t figure out how to get Philip to jump off a cliff.
But it was always thus. Vicki’s ridiculous insistence on tangling up the timelines has come to a cataclysmic crescendo, snapping history in half, with dire consequence. Somewhere in the east wing, a space-time fissure sizzles open, exposing all of us to cancellation radiation, and turning Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer into a luxury hotel.
Meanwhile, at Collinwood, Carolyn is wrapping up a long, stressful evening, telling her mother that she’s decided to elope with Jeb, tonight. Then she gets a call from the sheriff — not the one that her fiance killed, I guess there’s a new one. The sheriff says that her friend Philip, the nice man from the antiques shop who murdered her father, has broken out of jail, and they don’t know where he is.
“Tell them to look in the water,” Jeb announces, appearing dramatically in the doorway, “below Widow’s Hill.”
Jeb has a brief chat with the law, and then breaks the rest of the bad news — Philip had a nervous breakdown, escaped from jail, and tried to push him off a cliff.
Carolyn asks what caused the breakdown, and Jeb says, “They don’t know. But they’re pretty sure that these periods of madness come only when he feels the need to kill.”
Carolyn is horrified. “But this time, he almost killed you!”
Jeb chuckles, disarmingly. “But he didn’t.”
“I know, but…”
“But what?” He reaches out, to place a protective arm around her shoulder.
“Honey, something’s bothering you,” he says. “What is it?”
So you’d think that with a resilient attitude like that, Jeb would be able to survive anything, but it turns out he has another only weakness, and here it is at the card table, running with scissors.
Jeb goes back to the Carriage House and finds Angelique making herself at home, just sitting there doing a crafts project.
She asks what he knows about her, which is hardly anything at all. But she knows a great deal about him, and she lets loose with the intel.
“I know, for instance, that you should have been destroyed when the box was destroyed,” she says, nailing it in one. “When the cairn blew up and the room burned, that should have been the end of you, too.”
This is an unsettling thing to come home to, an intruder who knows exactly how badly you screwed up the Torah portion at your bar mitzvah. That’s going to put a dent in your day for sure.
She also knows that Peter Bradford tried to kill him, which is another bad sign.
“But he didn’t,” Jeb boasts. “And neither will you, because no one is going to lure me near water again.”
And then he looks into those big blue eyes that have caused so much more destruction than he could ever possibly know. This expression is your cue to run, as far and as fast as you can. It won’t help, of course, but at least you’ll get the exercise.
And then she unleashes the arts and crafts, handing Jeb a little figure that she just scissored out of some black construction paper which I guess she carries around in her purse, for emergencies. This is the world’s angriest paper doll, made out of malice and werewolves and drowning and school supplies, and it will haunt him for the rest of his short and frightened life.
No matter where he goes, Jeb will always know that this shadow is near, tucked away in the corner of his eye. And all of the people that he killed and betrayed and terrorized will be there too, grinning, and wishing him the worst.
This is Jeb’s third only weakness, a shadow that’s cast over his once-promising career. He never really had anything but bravado and the ability to raise the dead, which doesn’t translate well to married life.
Jeb is diminished now. He’s given up his powers for love, on a television show that runs almost exclusively on powers. He can’t make any more attacks, and he has no means to defend himself. And now he’s being taken out by Angelique, a villain who made good, stretching out her run as a short-term love story spoiler for so long that by this time next year, she’s the star of the show. That was the life that Jeb wanted, too.
He thought that when he destroyed the box, and blew up the cairn, and burned the room, that this would make him free, and it has. He is free to leave.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
The start of the show is a mess. When we fade in on Jeb, he’s standing on the Widow’s Hill set, waiting for his cue. Then he runs forward a few steps, and we can see a big fan right in front of him. Trying to correct for that, the camera pans away, and we can see one of the studio lights. It corrects again, and for a moment, we can see both the light and the fan.
During a couple lightning strikes on Widow’s Hill, you can see parts of the back of the set, illuminated.
Jeb hangs up the phone, and says, “Well, they — I answered their questions, and they answered mine.” A moment later, Carolyn says that Philip almost killed Jeb. He mumbles something unintelligible, and then, “They didn’t — he didn’t.”
The credits begin with: “Starring JOAN BENNETT as Judith Collins”.
Behind the Scenes:
We offload two cast members today — Roger Davis and Christopher Bernau. I am not sorry, and I will not miss them.
Davis’ next gig was pretty unusual. He performed the opening voiceover for Alias Smith and Jones, a Western show on ABC starring Pete Duel and Ben Murphy, and he appeared in one episode. Partway through filming the second season, on a lonely New Year’s Eve, Duel shot himself, and the producers cast Davis as Duel’s replacement with unseemly haste — contacting him on New Year’s Day, and rushing him into production two days later. They didn’t explain the change of actor on the show, because how could you explain casting Roger Davis in anything? It was New Year’s Day, and everyone had a hangover. Things happen.
— Danny Horn