“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.
— Danny Horn