“I implore you to remember the dead!”
Dark Shadows is currently engaged in a murder mystery storyline with no detectives, suspects, corpses or clues. Every few days, the characters forget that they’re doing a mystery story, and the only person who brings it up is the deceased.
Angelique was killed six months ago, during a seance in the Collinwood drawing room. At the time of death, her husband Quentin had his hands around her throat. A ghost said that she was cheating on him, which he already knew, and he decided to choke her to death, only to discover at the next-to-last moment that she’d already been killed by someone — or something! — else.
The doctor said it was a stroke. Angelique, who isn’t dead, insists it was an invisible hat pin, poked into her brain while her husband was innocently strangling her. It’s likely that the real murderer, if there is one, was one of the people at the seance, except I can’t remember which ones they were, or if any of them had a motive for killing Angelique, other than her husband, who has an airtight alibi. He couldn’t have killed her, you see, because he was standing right there at the time that she died, murdering her.
So I don’t know, maybe we ought to bring in another investigator, like Sherlock Hemlock or Inspector Gadget or somebody. We need a fresh pair of eyes, or at least a fresh pair of eyeglasses. But all we’ve got is another seance.
And here we are, touching fingers in the dark, yelling at candles and trying once again to get in touch with customer service. Quentin and Angelique’s son Daniel was disturbed by the portrait of Barnabas Collins hanging in the foyer, and their neighbor Will is writing another book about Barnabas Collins, and they saw a weird vision of people from another dimension, who were talking about Barnabas Collins. It’s come up a lot lately.
Now, Barnabas Collins is apparently an ancestor who they never really gave much thought to before, so they’re trying to reach his spirit through the power of darkness and dialogue. And somewhere in the afterglow, Parallel Barnabas is shaking his head. What are you asking me for? he shrugs. I can’t explain you to you.
So it’s time to play our favorite game, What in the Wide World Are These People Talking About. This is the game where everyone strikes a pose and says things in an urgent tone of voice, and the audience has to figure out why they’re saying what they’re saying. It’s hell on the characterization and narrative sense-making, but it’s super fun to play, because what’s so great about making sense? We’re Quentin and Angelique, and this is Parallel Time. We can do whatever we want. Turn the lights out, and fire up the candles. Tonight, we ride.
Quentin’s barking at the candles, “Whoever you are, whatever you are, don’t leave us!” and the air is alive with theremin birdcalls.
Then Angelique says, “Quentin! Quentin, look!” and oh my god, it’s the dead, just standing there in the drawing room, wearing a purple Dracula cape.
“Are you Barnabas Collins?” Quentin asks.
“I am Joshua Collins,” the dead replies, “the master of Collinwood, father of Barnabas, and I’m standing over here because the lighting is better.”
Figuring this is close enough, Quentin asks, “Can you tell us about Barnabas?”
“You know all there is to know about him!” says the specter, which is probably not the case, considering they don’t know what Barnabas looks like, even with his portrait hanging in the foyer.
Quentin presses on. “Then why did you respond? Why did you appear?”
“You must be warned!”
“Warned? Warned about what?”
And oh, goddamn it. It’s one of these.
Ugh, always this, with the dead. It’s like, what is it now, the dead? Always telling you to heed things. Okay, fine, the dead, how about you let me move on with my day, and I promise I’ll heed whatever it is when it gets here.
“There is an ee-vil come into this house!” Joshua proclaims. “An ee-vil that has disturbed the graves of all those who once lived here!”
Which is super uncomfortable, because, I mean, Angelique is sitting right there. She’s looking at him, and thinking, Does he mean me? Should I — it’s not me, he’s talking about somebody else. Right? Or is it me?
“I don’t understand!” Quentin shouts. “What evil?”
“You have not seen it yet!” Joshua hollers, to the twang of a theremin whine. “For it has not yet appeared! But it exists! And it will appear!”
“How? How? You’ve got to tell us how!”
“I cannot tell you,” says the ghost, backpedaling. “I do not know what form it will take.”
Okay, so, what? What are you even talking about? There’s already a literal grave disturber currently in the house, and you’re looking at her.
“You are of the living!” says Joshua. “I am of the dead! But this ee-vil of which I speak… is both!”
Cue a zoom-in on Angelique. “Living and dead?” she asks. “How can that be possible?”
I honestly don’t know if that’s supposed to be ironic, or what, and it looks to me like Lara Parker doesn’t either. She opts for “stunned,” which is just as good as anything else.
Joshua swings into his closing number.
“I can do no more than warn you,” he admits. “You are the master of Collinwood now! I implore you to remember the dead!”
All right, consider us implored. Oh, he’s still talking.
“Allow them to rest in peace! Find this ee-vil, and destroy it! Restore pride and honor to this house, before it is too late!”
“No, wait!” Quentin cries. “Don’t leave us!”
And Joshua fades, as the unseen electric whippoorwills vocalize their discontent.
“I have warned you!” says the ghost, wrapping things up. “Now heed that warning!”
So, you see what I mean about the heeding? Always with the heeding, these people.
The post-game panel discussion is not particularly enlightening.
Quentin says, “There’s got to be a connection between the original Barnabas Collins, and the events we’ve witnessed in your room!” and Angelique replies, “But Quentin, the original Barnabas Collins has been dead for nearly two hundred years!”
So I’ve got a question for the pair of you, which is: why do you keep referring to him as “the original Barnabas Collins”? He’s the only one that you know about, so far.
And why is everyone getting all disrupted over Barnabas, evil-wise? Angelique killed her sister and burned her body, Bruno and the butler killed Dameon and hung him up on a coat hanger in the basement, Quentin chokes his wives and chases them away, Cyrus is a complete psychopath, Gladstone’s a power-crazed blackmailer, Hoffman’s off her meds, Carolyn and Will hate each other, and that’s not even counting the person who murdered Angelique, which was supposed to be the point of this whole storyline in the first place.
And y’all are saying that Barnabas is the problem? He just got here. This might be the first time in the series that I’ve actually felt sorry for Barnabas — not because he’s chained up, but because he’s going to break those chains pretty soon, and have to deal with these nutcases.
“What was it the spirit said?” asks Quentin, trying to make sense of his life. “There was an evil in this house. The evil has disturbed all those graves, of all the people who once lived in this house.”
He furrows his brow. “Oh, god!” he cries. “I wish I knew what it meant!”
Tomorrow: The Larry Parts.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
All the lights come on in the drawing room before Quentin touches the lamp.
Angelique tells Roger, “At least no longer people think I am Angelique.”
Larry knows that Gladstone wants to talk to him about John Yaeger, but he chatters on to Cyrus about meeting Gladstone as if they haven’t just been discussing Yaeger a minute ago.
When Gladstone falls to the ground on the Collinsport docks, there’s yellow marking tape on the bare floor, and an electrical cord.
Tomorrow: The Larry Parts.
— Danny Horn