“Who are you — or perhaps I should say, what are you?”
The witch stalks into the room, her identity revealed, her plans disrupted, her eyes burning. “How did you discover that I am Angelique?” she demands, advancing on her newfound foe.
“I am an astute observer!” shouts the vampire, and I am still in love with Dark Shadows.
Angelique: Who are you — or perhaps I should say, what are you?
Barnabas: A cousin of Quentin’s, and a friend of his and Maggie’s.
Well, we all are, I suppose. I mean, everybody wants to be friends with Maggie, and Quentin has so many illegitimate children that there’s a forty percent chance of just about anybody being his cousin. But we’ve left all that behind, and who knows when we’ll get back to it?
Because this is Parallel Time, a duplicate dimension hidden in an abandoned wing of the house, and the only place in the multiverse where Angelique needs to ask what Barnabas is.
You know what he is. You made him that way. This is basically all your fault.
Angelique: Any man who can sear my eyes by staring into the eyes of my portrait in another room, and who can stand in my presence completely without fear is more than just a friend and a cousin! He is not human!
But the show’s been going through a rough period lately, I might have mentioned that five or six thousand times. They took away half the cast to shoot a movie, punching a six-week hole in the show that hasn’t healed up yet, and they left us stranded in a parallel dimension where everything is exactly the same except that I don’t care about it.
For example, the current kerfuffle. This is a front-burner storyline starring Quentin, Angelique, Julia and Maggie — four out of five of the most popular actors on the show — and it’s still not really going anywhere. Personally, I’m a lot more interested in how Carolyn and Will are doing, and we only see them about once a month.
But they’re working on it, bless them, and the key is to build Barnabas back up to full strength, setting him up against this world’s villains and proving that he’s crazier than they are. He is not human, he is better than human, and we need him now.
Barnabas: Let us concentrate on you, for the moment! And tell you my reason for summoning you here.
Angelique: Very well. What is your “reason”?
That’s a good question, actually. This Angelique isn’t our Angelique; she doesn’t know Barnabas, or have any kind of history with him. So why has she been summoned to our television sets?
Well, again, everybody went to make the movie, and she’s one of the most popular characters who stayed behind. But it turns out that Angelique only works in context; an Angelique without a Barnabas is like a hammer without a nail, and vice versa.
For the last several months, with no supernatural kaiju to oppose her, Angelique has been exclusively fighting people who can’t fight back. Nobody else has magic powers, or even basic powers of observation and deduction, so the only way to keep the story going is for her to keep foiling herself. Her spells shamble out of control, her illusions crumble into powder. She needs someone who can fight back, just to help her pass the time.
Barnabas: I want you to stop this plot of yours!
Angelique: What plot?
Yeah, no kidding. What plot indeed. She’s trying to win Quentin’s love, using a convoluted set of traps and triggers to convince him that Maggie is a witch. Why she picks that as the easiest way to break up a marriage is hard to say. Maybe she can’t help sabotaging herself, projecting her own failings onto her rival.
Angelique: And if I refuse to heed your warning, what will you do then?
Barnabas: Then I will be forced to stop you myself.
But this is what we need: Barnabas, Angelique and another world war. These two are evenly matched in terms of power set, recklessness and audience appeal — a supercouple, which the show returns to every time things start to flag.
The fact that this isn’t the “real” Angelique doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t even matter what they’re fighting about, it’s the tone that’s electric, their ability to stride like gods through the mess they’re making of other people’s lives.
Angelique: How? By telling Quentin? He will laugh at you, after he gets over his exasperation! He’s convinced that I am Alexis. If you don’t believe me, tell him that I’m Angelique, and see what he says!
And this is an irresistible twist. Barnabas has discovered Angelique’s secret by using secret powers of his own, which puts them at a stalemate. It’s like Peter Parker and Norman Osborn, alone in a room together — two arch-rivals who can shout and stamp and flash their eyes, but when a civilian walks in, they have to pretend that nothing’s wrong.
Barnabas: There are other ways of stopping you, I’m sure!
Angelique: What confidence you have in your powers! Whatever they are.
I’m pretty confident in his powers too, at least as far as this scene goes, but there is a larger question here about the future of Dark Shadows.
The writers have had a surprising number of opportunities to reboot the entire show while the show is still happening, creating new sets of characters and situations using the current actors, sets and music cues.
The first time they tried it was 1795, which gave us mad magical soap vixen Angelique, plus Josette, Reverend Trask and Peter Bradford, and they all outlasted their original storylines to become recurring features of the show. The second time, it was 1897, which gave us Quentin as a regular character, plus some short-term visits from Amanda Harris and Charles Delaware Tate.
But what could possibly survive Parallel Time? How is this period contributing to the long-term success of the show?
Angelique: But remember, I too have powers, and they are stronger than yours!
Are they? Cause I don’t really see it, from here.
I mean, this moment is sure-fire — Barnabas stern and supernatural, Angelique angry and threatening, both of them silly and beautiful.
But the characters that the show has created over the last six months — Jeb Hawkes and John Yaeger, Maggie Collins and Megan Todd, Aunt Hannah and Bruno Hess — none of them have lasting value.
Barnabas and Angelique started battling two and a half years ago, and it was so thrilling that they’re still engaged in that same war, stretching beyond the edges of the Earth and into a whole different universe. But what are we creating right now, that could power the show over the next two and a half years? Is this a television show that can continue, indefinitely?
Barnabas: We shall see, Angelique. We shall see. Good night.
Tomorrow: Can’t Stop the Trouble.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
There are a number of abrupt edits in this episode. This includes: an abrupt cut during Stokes’ explanation of Parallel Time, the beginning of the Cyrus/Sabrina scene in act 2, and Barnabas entering Collinwood in act 3.
Stokes is sitting with Angelique at the window seat in Angelique’s room, and a shadow passes behind Stokes when he says, “Tell me about these odd occurrences.”
There’s an abrupt edit during Stokes’ explanation of Parallel Time, hopping awkwardly to the next scene.
Quentin tells Maggie, “Look, I’m struggling very hard to — to get things free for myself. I’m struggling very hard to understand certain things.”
At the end of Quentin and Maggie’s scene in act 2, there’s a studio light reflected in a picture frame.
Last week, the new series of Twin Peaks started airing on Showtime and Hulu, and oh my god, you should be watching Twin Peaks. The new show is a difference engine, in the sense that it is constantly demonstrating the difference between itself and every other show ever made.
Like Dark Shadows, Lost, Star Trek, Doctor Who, The Muppet Show and basically anything worthwhile on television, Twin Peaks is designed to show you the most interesting thing it can think of, until it comes up with something else. Watch it the same way that you watch Dark Shadows, with the same expectations. You’ll see what I mean.
Tomorrow: Can’t Stop the Trouble.
— Danny Horn