“We cannot ignore the fact that that hairpin was your mother’s.”
So, for starters, it’s not a dream. I know what a dream sequence looks like on Dark Shadows, and that isn’t what this is. Carolyn’s eyes are open, and she’s sitting on the couch. This is some kind of wide-awake Chromakey phenomenon that they apparently have in this parallel band of concurrent time when they want somebody to think about something, but they don’t have time to put her to bed.
In this weird green-screen memory mashup, Carolyn sees Angelique lying dead on the floor, after her murder at the infamous seance that Carolyn did not attend. And lying on the floor next to the remains, there’s the head of a hatpin. That’s the whole thing, not a lot to shriek about.
But Carolyn shrieks like she’s being attacked by parallel pig weasels, and Julia comes running.
“I remember it now!” Carolyn cries. “I know who murdered Angelique!” But the dream only told her something that she already knew, and it’s not a very interesting revelation. Also, it wasn’t a dream.
This begins a five-minute long scene which turns out to be entirely circular. First, Carolyn refuses to tell Julia what she’s talking about, and then she claims that it was just a dream, which it wasn’t. Then she says she doesn’t remember it. Then she says she doesn’t want to discuss it anymore, and runs upstairs. Now the House Intelligence Committee needs to get a subpoena.
Barnabas arrives, and Julia recaps what happened just before he walked in. They decide that Carolyn is protecting someone, so it must be her husband Will. Barnabas calls Will up from the basement, which I don’t know why he was down there, and then says, “Have you ever thought of writing a murder mystery?”
By the way, neither Carolyn or Will were at the seance where Angelique died. When they did the re-enactment two months ago, they said that the attendees were Angelique, Quentin, Cyrus, Sabrina, Bruno, Elizabeth and Roger. Quentin refused to be part of the re-enactment, so they left an empty chair for him. I know that they couldn’t include Carolyn and Will when they did the re-enactment because those actors were filming House of Dark Shadows, but either this is a murder mystery or it isn’t. It’s nice that they’re finally getting around to introducing some clues, suspects and motives, but audiences are good at retaining visual information, and we know Carolyn and Will weren’t at the scene of the crime. This bothers me a lot more than it bothers them.
Anyway, the answer is no, Will didn’t kill Angelique, so after a couple fruitless minutes chasing that idea, Carolyn comes back downstairs and admits that she thinks her mother killed Angelique, because Liz has a hatpin collection. They’ve known for a week that Angelique was killed with a hatpin, and now is the first time that anyone’s remembered that Liz has a whole box full of them. I wonder who she killed with all the other ones.
“Someone could have taken it from her,” Barnabas says. “I don’t think Elizabeth has the temperament to kill!”
But Carolyn tells him that Liz had a motive — Angelique was driving Will and Carolyn apart, and Carolyn told Liz that she was going to leave him. Liz was upset, and that was just before the seance, so obviously she went to her room, selected a hatpin, and silently inserted it into Angelique’s brain cavity without anyone noticing. That wasn’t even a thought-out plan; it just came to her all of a sudden. Elizabeth is secretly Jason Bourne.
Carolyn asks Barnabas not to tell the police — it was all her fault anyway, Liz has had such a sad life, and so on.
Barnabas says, “Carolyn, I won’t say anything to the police until we have further evidence, but we cannot ignore the fact that that hairpin was your mother’s.” Of course, someone could have taken it from her, which brings us right back to the beginning of the conversation.
So the thing is, David Selby’s on vacation for two weeks, and they have to figure out what to do without Quentin. The Parallel Time sequence only has two storylines — the Jekyll/Hyde story, which is over, and the Angelique-Quentin-Maggie love triangle. If Quentin’s hiding out somewhere for a couple weeks, then all we’ve got to focus on is Angelique.
Last week, there was a lot of plot movement — Julia killed her parallel self and took her place, Bruno found Cyrus’ journal and gave it to the police, Barnabas and Julia discovered that there’s a pretty young woman who’s supplying Angelique’s undead life force, and Quentin and Angelique teamed up to murder Bruno.
This week, once Quentin escapes from the police, the pace slows down noticeably. Yesterday’s episode was basically four people walking in circles and recapping each other’s conversations. Today’s episode is mostly about hatpins, plus Julia and Barnabas recap yesterday again. They’re basically just keeping themselves busy, while they wait for Quentin to come back for the season finale.
So we should talk again about the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which says that a system needs new sources of energy to be introduced, or it slides into entropy. Energy can’t be created or destroyed, but it can transform into a state that you can’t use anymore, so a completely closed system will gradually slow down until it comes to a complete stop.
This little four-month bubble of Parallel Time is something of a closed system itself — there are no secrets from the past intruding on the present-day, and nothing that happens to these people has consequences for the actual Collins family that we care about.
And they’ve been leaking energy like crazy lately, getting ready to wrap this storyline up. The Jekyll/Hyde story is dead, taking Cyrus, Sabrina and Buffie with it, Bruno is dead, and by the end of this week, another character is going to die. We already know how Angelique came back to life, and now that they’ve introduced the woman supplying her with life force, we’re pretty sure we know how that story thread is going to end.
Now, Julia’s arrival is a perfect example of new energy coming in from the outside — actually hopping between dimensions to replace her doppleganger — but that means that we lose Hoffman, who was also a source of weird narrative energy of her own.
So Parallel Time is kind of an experiment in what happens when the Dark Shadows writers run out of new ideas, which it turns out is an even bigger problem than just getting back to our home dimension. There’s four more weeks in Parallel Time, and then they have to figure out what to do next.
According to The Dark Shadows Companion, executive producer Dan Curtis gathered the show’s three writers for “a 52-hour marathon session, looking for the sure-fire storyline, reexamining all that had gone before.” They came out of that story meeting with the 1970/1840 storyline, and I guess they really did reexamine all that had gone before, because it’s basically the Turn of the Screw story from 1969 paired with the witch trial story from 1967.
The thing that makes that story believable for me is the “52 hours”. If they’d said 48 hours, then you’d figure they worked for a couple days, no big deal. But 52 hours means that it was so exhausting that you remember exactly how long it was. 52 hours means you get naps and meal breaks.
Obviously, they had problems figuring out how to get new energy into the system. Dan wanted a big new thrill-packed story, and they’d already stolen every classic horror novel and monster movie available to them. Cribbing material from famous people isn’t actually the only way to write a soap opera, but it’s the only way that Dan knew. After 52 hours, you say fine, we’ll do Turn of the Screw again. You’d say anything to get out of that room.
So that brings Barnabas and Willie back to the secret room in the Collins mausoleum, to unearth the only scrap of new energy the writers can think of, after 52 hours with Dan. His name is Claude North.
Barnabas wants to defeat Angelique by waking up the lady in the back parlor, breaking the witch’s life force supply chain. But they’ll need a place to stash her, so he figures he’ll use the secret room, if there is one in this timeline.
There is, as it happens, but it’s occupied. Someone’s been living there, and sleeping there, and drinking milk there. Barnabas finds a charcoal sketch rolled up on a packing crate, and it turns out someone’s been drawing there too. The picture looks like the beautiful life force donor, and the signature at the bottom says “Claude North”.
“Was this where she lived before, or he did?” asks Barnabas, rhetorically.
Will shrugs. “There’s no way of telling.”
Although there is a way, obviously, which is to close the door and wait for whoever’s living here to come back, but you can’t think of everything. So that’s what we’ve got, to tide us over for the next couple weeks: an unconscious woman, and Claude North. He’d better be a real ball of fire, that’s all I’m saying.
Tomorrow: Weekend at Barney’s.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
When Will opens the basement door, there’s a boom mic hovering over Barnabas and Julia at the top right.
Barnabas steps on Will’s line, “When I came to this house, I thought I’d find a little peace (of mind).”
Several times in act 1, you can see the edge of the Old House drawing room set; the yellow wallpaper stops about halfway up the flight of stairs.
When Will leaves the Old House, a shadow passes over the basement door.
When Barnabas and Carolyn sit down on the couch, the boom mic drops into the frame at top right.
When Barnabas says, “We cannot ignore the fact that that hairpin was your mother’s,” he means hatpin.
More drama around the voodoo doll — for the last couple episodes, they’ve been pretending that a little marble bust was actually a voodoo doll. Today, Julia says that the object Maggie found in her drawer was “a small clay doll”. They need to make up their minds.
The Barnabas/Julia argument is basically a festival of Fridspeak, and even Julia gets rattled. He starts by saying, “If we control some of her condition — slightly! — Angelique will collapse. Then — well, we can control her then, and she can do nothing!” Then he tells Julia, “You are a scientist. You’ve had some work in this before, you’ve worked with the life force through Adam!” Julia’s response: “Barnabas, don’t you understand that Angelique will find a way of — this’ll make her destroy you more quickly!” Then Barnabas has a hard time picking up his cane off the coatrack. Finally, Barnabas says, “You forget, Julia, that I’ve had work transferring life force into Adam.”
Will lights some candles in the secret room, which are supposed to illuminate the scene. You can see the moment when the actual studio light is turned on, reflected on his back.
In the secret room, Will says, “Well, it certainly cannot hide her here.” He means we certainly cannot.
Behind the Scenes:
I said that Quentin was on vacation for two weeks, which is mostly true, but he does actually appear in one scene next week, at the end of episode 1047. Then he disappears again and doesn’t come back until 1051.
The Smith Brothers mustache portrait is hanging up at Stokes’ place. We last saw it in Alexis’ room in May.
Tomorrow: Weekend at Barney’s.
— Danny Horn