Episode 1026: The Seventh Level of Witchcraft

“Relax, and enjoy the spectacle of Barnabas Collins trying to prove anything.”

Imagine there’s a man who’s seen the truth.

Have you ever woken from a dream, and felt like you were losing touch with the world where you belonged? Like the world in your dream was the real world — where you were happy, where things made sense — and when you were there, it was so easy to see how everything fits together?

Don’t you get that weird itch sometimes, in the back of your head, like there’s someplace else that you’re supposed to be?

Imagine there’s a man who’s stepped through a crack between the world you know, and the world as it should be. Imagine that he understands how to trace back through your life, to find that awful choice that you made, the moment when you made the wrong turn. He knows your deepest regret, and he’s seen the world where you didn’t do it. He knows the person you might have been.

And he knows it instinctively, without even trying. You walk into the room, and he knows your name. You’ve never seen this man before, but at a glance, he recognizes who you are, who you should be, and where it all went wrong. He knows everything about you. He knows things about you that aren’t even true.

Has he come to save you? To take you by the hand, and bring you to that other place, where you can live the life that you were always meant to live? Or is he here to destroy this false world, while you’re still in it?

Imagine there’s a man. For the sake of argument, let’s call him Barnabas Collins.

And this woman’s name is Angelique, which is just the kind of thing that’s going to arouse his worst suspicions. Angelique is an ice witch and twin impostor who’s currently living in the castle under an assumed name, Blandings-style, but Barnabas has learned not to take Angeliques at face value. This one doesn’t even have a black wig.

In fact, this Angelique has recently returned from the dead, awakened from eternal sleep through some unspecified mechanism related to sucking the body heat from living people every once in a while. She’s going around calling herself Alexis, the luckless twin sister who she flash-froze and stashed in her own coffin, and now she’s engaged in a secret war against Maggie, her old husband’s new wife.

Of course, she didn’t realize that a vampire from outer space would fall through a time rift on some kind of cross-dimensional student exchange program, and unpeel her disguise with his X-ray eyes, but that’s her problem. She should have thought of that before.

So here’s Angelique, sitting in the drawing room, literally playing with fire. She’s been tossing around spells lately, up the flue and into her rival’s dreams. Admittedly, her first sort-of sorcery was a base on balls at best, sending Maggie to fiddle with a table until she found some hidden love letters, which didn’t really accomplish much in the way of vengeance from beyond the grave.

But her latest gag was pure box-office, a one-two-three punch involving a ringing telephone, a haunted piano and a talking portrait, all of them urging Maggie to jump from an upper-story window to a messy death on the rocks below. This came within a whisker of working; she would have gone right over the edge, if a passing sister-in-law hadn’t come up at the last minute, and asked what the hell she was doing. Say what you like about Angeliques, but they know how to get people to jump from things.

Of course, Barnabas knows all about Angelique’s curses; he’s spent the last couple centuries under one. This isn’t the same Angelique, but she’s same enough.

And now Barnabas has found a book called The Seventh Level of Witchcraft, which Angelique has strewn about the room in the hopes that Quentin would suspect that Maggie is secretly a witch. This was a tactical error. Her plan was pretty dumb to start with, and the book might be the dumbest part of the whole dumb thing.

Maggie’s the one who’s been complaining about witchcraft, reporting to Quentin every time she has a peculiar dream. If she’s secretly a witch, then why would she bring it up so often, and then sit around in the drawing room, reading the latest issue of Witches Weekly? It doesn’t make sense.

Besides, everybody knows that the book was originally owned by Angelique, who was interested in the occult. Yes, Angelique is currently telling everyone that she’s Alexis, but you still don’t want people walking around putting “Angelique” and “witchcraft” in the same sentence all the time.

So the book is a weird boomerang move that’s bound to smack her in the face, sooner or later. She might as well be tweeting, “How low has Maggie Collins gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. Bad (or sick) witch!”

Now Barnabas is on a fishing trip, throwing out lines and waiting for her to bite, as she conducts a master class in how not to act innocent.

“I see that that book has caught your imagination!” she says, and “I find even the idea of the occult immensely boring,” and “Well, I don’t dismiss it entirely, but it does seem to me that to pursue it deliberately would be a waste of time,” and “I don’t mean this as a criticism of Angelique, but wouldn’t you think that a really fertile imagination shouldn’t have to resort to witchcraft for stimulation?” All he was doing was holding a book.

He presses her a little bit, and she moves into sarcasm, and stays there. “Oh, I see,” she mews. “Now you’re returning to your notion that Angelique’s interest was sparked by a desire to return from the dead.” He says, “Possibly,” and she just keeps on talking and talking and talking.

“Well, forgive me,” she chuckles, “I’m afraid a discussion of witchcraft so late at night is positively ludicrous.” Honestly, all you have to do is say, “Well, that’s interesting,” and then it’s the other person’s turn to talk again.

So he insinuates, and she deflects, and he goes upstairs with a satisfied smile, and who is this madman with a box, this impossible descendant, who saunters into the house and fights other people’s monsters?

And she goes upstairs to chuckle and preen, secure in the knowledge that even if Barnabas suspects the truth, nobody would ever believe that the woman calling herself Alexis is really Angelique returned from the dead, although pretty much everybody on the show has believed it, at one time or another.

It’s hubris, really, a challenge to the gods, which is exactly what an undercover agent shouldn’t do. As soon as you do that, the gods put out a call for a nemesis, and they’ve already got one on-property.

“Let me look into the eyes of Angelique, and know the truth!” says the nemesis, and that is what he does.

He has clashed with her, again and again, in a world she’ll never know. Somewhere in the clouds, he’s fought her in other guises, multiple incarnations and iterations of the woman that she might have been.

He knows what she looks like when she’s happy, and when she’s angry, and most of all, when she lies. She has lied to him so many times that he would be a fool not to know it. And he is not a fool, not today.

He knows her laugh. He knows her scent. He has seduced her, and betrayed her, and danced on her grave.

He has loved her and hated her, married her and murdered her.

He has set her on fire, and laughed as she burned.

What is this man, this Barnabas Collins? What is he, but your own destruction?

Tomorrow: The Winds of War.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

During the teaser, when we see the piano playing itself, there’s an offscreen clang.

Liz tells Maggie, “I don’t — I’m not interested in what he was thinking.”

When Maggie tells Liz that she doesn’t blame Quentin for running from the house, loud footsteps are heard just off screen. A moment later, there’s a little flicker on the left of the screen as someone passes by the edge of the set.

Angelique spends most of the episode looking at the teleprompter; she has a lot of complicated lines today, and she hasn’t memorized all of them. The best example is when she and Barnabas are sparring by the fire. She gets a closeup as she asks, “What are you implying, Mr. Collins?” He answers, “Well, I’m merely stating my impression,” and then there’s a long moment when she looks at him and flutters her eyebrows, and tries to remember what she’s supposed to say.

I don’t usually mention boom mic shadows because they’re so common, but in the scene with Liz and Barnabas standing by Maggie’s bed, there’s a boom shadow that’s so big and clear, it’s like there’s a fourth character in the scene. There’s a moment when the camera moves, and the shadow repositions itself, so that it fits into the composition of the shot. You should go and look at this one.

In the same scene, a shot of Maggie lying in bed roams aimlessly from her face to her hands, and back again.

Tomorrow: The Winds of War.

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

17 thoughts on “Episode 1026: The Seventh Level of Witchcraft

  1. Just a brief note: Thank you so much for including “Blandings-style.” (Of course, Collinwood has instruments of death the way other houses have mice.)

  2. He knows things about you that aren’t even true.

    That is truly, seriously chilling. It’s like that poem about the man who isn’t there.

    twin impostor


    some unspecified mechanism related to sucking the body heat from living people every once in a while.

    I think it’s called a vam-pyre.

    unpeel her disguise with his X-ray eyes, but that’s her problem

    Her other problem is that she’s a poet and doesn’t know it.

    So here’s Angelique, sitting in the drawing room

    And drawing in the sitting room!

    What’s going on in that 4th picture? Is that… Jonathan Frid stealing the focus from Grayson Hall?!? Can you even DO that?

    (As the child of a twin, who’s spent her life being mistaken for a twin herself, I love all the supernatural twin stuff on Dark Shadows.)

  3. Did I miss the explanation of why Barnabas is still wearing that outfit? And if he’s going to dress like that, at least FIX THE COLLAR! (I know, I know, he can’t use mirrors, but still; doesn’t he notice that collar point poking him in the cheek when he turns his head?) Maybe he just decided he liked his party costume so much that he’s not going to take it off. Or there hasn’t been time, what with all the sleuthing he’s been doing? Come on, if Liz could get out of her corset, Barnabas could either update, or get a dashing cape and beaver hat.

    1. I hate him being dressed in period costume. I suppose it’s because I know what’s going to happen a few months from now. Enough of the damn time travel.

  4. This was a great episode leading to a great climax with serious momentum for the Barnabas- Angelique story….. And then of course the next episode just completely drops it.

    1. It was positively thrilling to see Barnabas start with the upper hand: “Lady, I know you. I know every move you’re going to pull, because you were yanking my strings when neither of us suspected we’d still be around, let alone know about time bands.”

      So naturally they don’t follow through.

  5. Barnabas’s narratively convenient but generally inexplicable eye-power makes for a great scene; but I’m less interested in his saving Maggie than I am in finding out how the original Angélique didn’t become a witch. What does that say about the story they’ve got going?

    1. We don’t know that the original PT Angelique didn’t become a witch. My theory is that she either never became Josette’s maid or Barnabas never met her or had a fling with her.

      1. Or maybe he did have a fling with her, and then she became his contented mistress. There’s a lot of room for variation.

    2. It seems to me that Angelique’s PT “non-witch” powers are increasing exponentially all by themselves as the narrative moves forward. When she first appeared, she needed Aunt Hannah’s help and her herbs and spices just to cast a rudimentary love spell. Now she’s making portraits talk, brainwashing people with Martinique mind melds, flash-freezing fresh flowers, and all manner of anything she manages to think up at the drop of a hat.

      1. Must be that Seventh Level Witchcraft book; it has all the answers. (Of course, one would think that Angelique had already read the book before she died (died the first time, I mean). Unless it was a mail-order series from the Satanic Book-Of-The-Month Club, and came after she got hatpinned.)

        1. She was probably in the middle of reading it when she died. After her return, she finished reading it and leveled up. Now she’s a seventh level witch, but the DM must’ve realized that she’s overpowered and gave Barnabas some new abilities of his own to balance things out.

  6. and this beautiful line says it all…

    “He has loved her and hated her, married her and murdered her.”

  7. Never thought I’d be nostalgic for those old model 500 telephones but the beige one in the room Angelique is currently staying in is the same one my mother had (my grandmother’s was black, which to me meant “old-fashioned”). I grew to hate that distinctive ringing sound, until my mother had some sort of box installed that turned it into a chime instead. Then I soon came to hate the sound of the chime as well. We had a wall phone, too, in the kitchen. But we only had one line, so you couldn’t use one phone to call the other in order to anonymously harass other members of your household. You could eavesdrop on their phone conversations though, provided they didn’t notice the click when you picked up the receiver, which they almost always did.

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