“I know about hypnotism. I know how to resist it!”
It was Roger!
And just like that, the mystery is solved. For the last three months, Dark Shadows has been asking us Who Killed Angelique, and we’ve said, we don’t know, how about giving us a couple hints? And then the show would go and do something else for a while.
Angelique died at a seance, in the company of her husband, her lover and a couple of cousins, plus a mad scientist and his assistant. Almost all of the participants are dead now, killed by each other, and nobody knows how, or why.
They were sitting around a table, trying to conjure up the spirit of Phyllis Wick. Months ago, young Daniel awakened in the middle of the night, and found a ghostly governess standing at the foot of the bed, holding a cat. My name is Phyllis Wick, she said. My journey is beginning, a journey that I hope will open the doors of life to me. And she came back again the next night, with more stories of an impossible Collinwood, and again the next, five days a week for months and months. Something had to be done.
So Daniel’s mother called a midnight meeting, hoping to dial up the governess and tell her that nobody cared. But they reached someone else instead — a different lost soul named Dameon Edwards, who’d been murdered months before, and nobody had even noticed. He was sealed up in some catacomb down in the basement, another unsolved mystery, and his spirit floated around in the airspace above Collinwood, getting more and more depressed.
He told them a thing or two about Angelique and her multiple ongoing love affairs with half the town, which made her husband Quentin leap to his feet and start strangling her. This was nothing out of the ordinary. But then it happened — a hatpin, wielded by who knows who, pressed into the base of her skull with lethal force. Angelique always drank too many hatpins, everyone said so, and it finally caught up with her.
The medical examiner ruled it a suicide, of course, or a brain aneurysm, or a drive-by shooting. It was probably just one of those things. Sometimes people die, even blonde people, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
After all, nobody had a motive, as far as we know. There was no reason for that night to be particularly hazardous for Angelique. She hadn’t threatened anyone, she wasn’t blackmailing anyone, she hadn’t just broken up with anyone or announced she was having somebody’s child. She didn’t have money that anyone would inherit.
I mean, maybe there was a reason, but if there was, then maybe the television show should have made that information available to the audience some time earlier than now, because it was Roger, and there’s no explanation for why.
They actually did have a moment two weeks ago when Carolyn realized that her mother might have had a motive. Carolyn had just told Elizabeth that she was leaving her husband because of his relationship with Angelique, and Liz was very upset — maybe upset enough to grab a hatpin from her extensive hatpin collection and jam it somewhere it didn’t belong. It was almost like the show realized that a murder mystery needs means, motives and opportunity, but then they instantly tacked away from it, because it wasn’t Elizabeth after all. It was Roger!
“I should have known all along that you would do your utmost to have the final word,” says Roger, apropos of nothing, to the portrait of the person that we’re about to find out that he killed. “How my life has changed, and what I have become, because of you!” There will be no further information about how Roger’s life has changed.
“I was foolish to think that everything would be changed once you were gone,” he continues. “Nothing has changed, except me. You’ve dominated our lives more than ever.”
“I believed I’d done the best thing, even though I loved you!” Roger announces, which is brand-new information. I didn’t know that Roger loved Angelique; I thought he was gay. Also, he doesn’t seem to have liked her much.
“I thought that it was a good thing to be rid of you,” he explains. “But you found a way to return, bringing with you more suffering and tragedy!” And that’s why I loved you, he doesn’t say.
But this quickie-confession needs to wrap up, apparently. “And then, it became necessary for Carolyn to die,” he croaks, and Elizabeth is at the door, horrified and angry, shouting, “YOU! You killed Carolyn!”
And that’s it. The whole thing takes less than a minute, and it’s solved via casual eavesdropping. After all these months, that’s the beginning and the end of the solution to the mystery. It was Roger!
And so, as Roger chokes his sister to death and stuffs her into the window seat, I have to ask: why did I ever expect anything else?
A real murder mystery is fiddly and complicated; it involves planning and consideration. Mystery writers have to draw diagrams, and read up on rare poisons and interesting tricks you can play with locks. They plot out misdirections, and plant red herrings. It takes ages.
Meanwhile, the Dark Shadows writers had no plan at all, besides getting half the cast members out of the door so they could go make House of Dark Shadows. When they set up the re-enactment of the seance in episode 990, it was Elizabeth and Roger’s last episode before they left for Tarrytown. Carolyn and Will had already left, the day before. There wasn’t any time for people to hang around and establish motives; they had to go put on scuba gear so they could film the movie’s funeral scene.
That’s how this story started, as a hurried jumble of leftover ingredients, and it’s ending that way, too. There’s no detective to put the pieces together, because there aren’t any pieces. The characters would occasionally show some interest in this story thread, but then they’d get distracted by their own problems, and drop the subject before they’d reached any conclusions. It was really just a background for the Quentin/Angelique story, a wedge that the witch could use to drive Quentin and Maggie apart.
And you can’t really take this seriously as a mystery, because the whole setup is ridiculous. They established early on that Quentin got angry during the seance and started strangling Angelique, and by the time they turned the lights on, she was dead — but Quentin didn’t do it.
There’s no way to resolve that and feel good about yourself in the morning, so they don’t try. If there was a detective on hand to review the evidence and walk us step-by-step through the murder, what could they possibly say?
Roger decides somehow that it would be best for everyone if Angelique was out of their lives, so he comes to the seance with a hatpin up his sleeve, figuring if you’re going to kill someone, you should do it in a crowd of seven people, packed around a small table. Then Quentin gets up and starts strangling his wife — which, admittedly, Roger could have seen coming, because that appears to be Quentin’s answer to everything — and Roger says, Here’s my moment! and stealthily positions himself on the other side of Angelique’s skull.
So never mind, it’s probably best if he just randomly decides to issue a forty-five-second confession to the decor, and then just keep on killing until we run out of characters.
But who done it, really, in the end? Was it Violet Welles, the writer who left the show a week into Parallel Time? Was it Robert Costello, the producer who left in October, just around the time that the show stopped being good? Was it Dan Curtis, Sam Hall, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer or Daphne du Maurier? Or was it all of them, Murder on the Orient Express-style? Is there a detective clever enough to piece together clues that aren’t there? And what did Phyllis Wick want, anyway? And why the cat?
Tomorrow: Another Day in the Desert.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
When Liz walks into the drawing room and says, “I woke up for a reason,” there’s a little glimpse of a camera at the right side of the screen.
Roger tells Liz, “Speaking of death has alwhen — always been disturbing to me!” A minute later, when Liz says she won’t go upstairs and rest, Roger sighs, “Very when, then.”
When Liz tells Barnabas, “When the time comes, I’ll get all the rest I need,” we can see electrical cables on the floor at the left side of the screen.
Liz accuses Roger, “Quentin didn’t murder Car- Angelique! It was you!”
Liz is clearly breathing when Roger looks at her corpse in the window seat.
Angelique tells Julia, “You have no food, no water, and no chance of a stake — escape.”
Tomorrow: Another Day in the Desert.
— Danny Horn