“I know it’s wrong to love the dead.”
This is what we currently know about Daphne Harridge:
She doesn’t speak.
She died 130 years ago.
She’s a governess.
She smells like lilacs.
Her hobby is encouraging living children to wear dead children’s clothes.
And she is partly responsible for killing everyone that Quentin knows.
So you can see why Quentin likes her so much, she’s a real catch. And it’s not like there’s anyone else who would want to date Quentin, except for one hundred percent of the population of the world.
So what can one say about the unbearable emptiness of Quentin and Daphne? This is the latest in a string of thoroughly unconvincing romances, concocted by a writing team that has lost all interest in love stories.
The last time they really made a big deal about romance was back in January, when Quentin braved a trek through the underworld to save Amanda’s soul. In retrospect, I wish I’d appreciated that storyline more, because that was the end of Love with a capital L on Dark Shadows. They tried to generate some sparks from Jeb and Carolyn, and Chris and Sabrina, but they both fizzled out, with no real resolution. Then the only female writer left the show in April, and they just stopped trying.
Quentin and Daphne is not a love story in any meaningful way. You need two people to make a love story, and Quentin plus Daphne adds up to less than one. Quentin hasn’t really been a convincing character himself since — well, since Amanda and the underworld, actually — and deciding that he’s in love with a Chromakey effect is not making him any more well-rounded.
The problem, obviously, is that she’s silent, because they think they’re doing The Turn of the Screw again, and the ghosts in The Turn of the Screw don’t talk. Every other ghost on Dark Shadows talks a mile a minute — try having a heart-to-heart sometime with Julianka, or playing a quick round of catch with little Sarah — but T of the S spooks don’t say a word. It’s called sonic branding.
So Quentin has a dream where he’s introduced to a girl who looks pretty and smells like a flower, and has no other discernible characteristics. And then he decides he’s in love with her.
And this is especially frustrating, because it’s not even a month since the last time a main character suddenly and inexplicably fell in love with a mute woman who he knows absolutely nothing about. We just endured the bizarre and unsatisfying spectacle of Barnabas going goofy over Roxanne, who was asleep at the time. They failed to nurse this non-starter into much of anything, so at the end of the Parallel Time storyline, they decided to leave Roxanne behind and forget all about her, which was the correct thing to do.
But here we are, three and a half weeks later, with a story that has more in common with Barnabas and Roxanne than it does with The Turn of the Screw. Roxanne and Daphne are both mute, pale and uninteresting, and they both have an unspecified connection to an openly malevolent male.
I mean, when you think about it, is there any real difference between Claude North and Gerard Stiles? Dark, curly-haired guys with weird dress sense who glower and hypnotize people and don’t make a lot of sense. In both cases, we don’t really know why these girls are involved with those guys, and the ladies both jump at the chance to attach themselves to the first pair of pants that happens by.
In yesterday’s episode, Quentin made a point of telling Julia how lonely he is these days, with no woman in his life, and that was the beginning and the end of his motivation for falling in love with a girl who doesn’t talk. The way I figure it, he’s already had sex with everybody at Collinwood — that’s what they were all doing, while they were waiting for Barnabas and Julia to get back from Parallel Time — and now he’s ready to move on.
So here’s the meet-cute: he’s sitting in the drawing room sipping on brandy. “Daphne Harridge,” he thinks, “the scent of lilacs.” Those are the only two things he knows about her so far. Then he gets up and sits in another chair, and grins in a weird way, and says “the scent of lilacs” again, and then he leans back and loses consciousness, just like the rest of us.
In his mind, he sees a bunch of lilacs — they’re flowers, by the way, we won’t get anywhere if you don’t know what lilacs are — and they start whirling around the screen, to indicate that we have just crossed over to the lilac zone.
We see the drawing room doors in his mind open, revealing a pretty brown-haired girl in a long burgundy dress, and guess what she’s holding, that’s right, lilacs. She stares at him as she deposits her bundle on a nearby accent table.
He gets up. He’s entranced. He’s never seen anyone put down flowers quite like that. He looks at her, and she looks at him, and she smiles, for once, and he says, “Daphne?”
She looks at him, and she twitches her lip, and then she turns and walks out of the room. He asks her to wait, but she doesn’t, and then more whirling lilacs, and then he wakes up, and there’s a bunch of lilacs on the table. So now he’s in love with her.
What do you even do, with a scene like that? One of the two romantic leads of the show has fallen head over heels in love with the way that a flower smells. It’s possible that he’s actually in love with the flowers. Maybe when he was young, his parents tried to teach him about the birds and the bees, but they got distracted in the middle and he never really grasped the full picture.
Dark Shadows has completely forgotten what a love story looks like. They’re vaguely aware that there are supposed to be obstacles, so they’ve constructed a story that’s nothing but obstacles. The girl is dead, she can’t talk, she can’t stay in the room for more than twelve seconds, she doesn’t like him, and she’s imaginary. This is not the foundation of a happy marriage.
Later on in the episode, Quentin loans young David his camera, and they have an unbelievably annoying scene. It starts, naturally, with the scent of lilacs.
Quentin sniffs around, and asks David if anybody was wearing lilac perfume in here. David says that Maggie was in the room earlier, and Quentin says, well, it could be that. David just looks at him. He hasn’t really given it a lot of thought.
“David,” Quentin says, “do you want to know something interesting?” He does. We all do.
“I’ve heard it said,” he relates, “that a scent like this — one that seems to fill the whole room, for no reason at all — indicates that a spirit is present.”
David gasps. “A spirit?”
“Yes. You’ve never heard that?”
David looks around. “You’re trying to tell me there’s a spirit in this room? If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were trying to scare me.”
Quentin makes it worse. “Would it frighten you, if you knew that there was a spirit here?”
“Of course it would!”
“Well, I don’t mean to scare you,” Quentin says, patting the boy on the shoulder, as if he wasn’t an angry spirit a year and a half ago, appearing in this exact room to scare this exact child.
I mean, my expectations are pretty low for the amount of continuity I expect in a daytime soap opera, and there are a lot of people in the audience who weren’t watching the show a year and a half ago. Besides, it wouldn’t make sense to acknowledge the mostly-erased timeline where Quentin haunted the halls of Collinwood, and it wouldn’t add anything to the scene. And yet, this conversation makes me feel like hitting somebody. How do you account for a thing like that?
And then there’s the note; I can’t even with the note. There’s a whole sequence where Quentin sees Daphne in the hall somewhere, and follows her to a dank, abandoned room, somewhere near the lilac patch.
She disappears, and he looks around, and then he spots the note, left behind on a dusty desk at some point in the past.
He lights a candle. He reads the note.
I’ve tried not to tremble, but I couldn’t help myself.
Nothing in my life has terrified me more than the thought that you love me.
Nothing in my life has —
And that’s it, it breaks off. Apparently, she found herself halfway through that note, and then she just left the room and never came back. That is a career-ending note. Her supervisor came by, told her that her services were no longer required, and escorted her out of the building. She didn’t even get to clean out her desk.
My question, which will not be answered in this life or any other, is: what kind of message is that supposed to be? Why would you ensorcell somebody, hook them on lilacs, and then deliberately hand them one of the world’s most unfinished notes?
So, I don’t know what I’m going to do with this girl, except hang around until they figure out she’s dead weight, like they did with Roxanne. Then they can leave her in a burning building somewhere, and she’ll leave show business, and nobody will ever hear of Kate Jackson ever again.
Tomorrow: Everyone Must Leave This House at Once.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
After the dream, Quentin opens the drawing room doors, and there’s a black thread hanging down, apparently part of the ghost doors effect.
When Daphne appears to Quentin at the end of the teaser, the Chromakey isn’t synched right — she’s about a foot too short, and there’s a blue line around her.
Quentin grouses that David’s wanted to use his camera for the last year. Quentin only showed up in present-day Collinsport eight months ago, calling himself Grant Douglas. We don’t know exactly when he moved into Collinwood, but it couldn’t have been any earlier than six months ago.
At the picnic, Maggie starts eating something, and then she has to get up so that David can take her picture. Her mouth is still full, and she mumbles a line. Quentin chuckles as he helps her up.
Behind the Scenes:
Today they mention the 1840s Quentin Collins for the first time, the brother of Quentin’s grandfather Gabriel. Quentin refers to him as his “great grand-uncle,” but he’s pretending to be his own descendant. I think 1840 Quentin is the 1897 Quentin’s grand-uncle, not that anybody really uses that word very much.
During the Quentin/Beth haunting in 1969, Barnabas and Julia were trying to find information about Quentin Collins; it’s funny that they didn’t run across the other Quentin in their research. There’s more info about the various Collins generations on Dark Shadows Wiki’s Collins family tree page.
David’s room is a bit less crowded today. He’s got a new model ship, and some of the other toys are gone. Partly, this is because his dresser’s been replaced with a smaller model, so there’s no room on it for anything but the football player, and the dog and girl cardboard protestors. He’s got the concert posters, and today the cat picture shows up again — it was missing last week. He’s also got the crummy globe, the ship in a bottle and a few cars. The robots may have gone off on their own somewhere.
Tomorrow: Everyone Must Leave This House at Once.
— Danny Horn