“I never thought I’d have to introduce you to yourself.”
So, here’s where I struggle. I’m looking down the barrel of a whole week of Dark Shadows featuring my current least-favorite characters — young David Collins and his accomplice, Hallie Stokes — and they’re going to keep on doing the same things that I didn’t enjoy watching them do last week.
There’s a villain in here, somewhere — a steel-souled man named Gerard Stiles, who lived and died and turned into a malevolent entity bent on the extermination of the Collins family. He will rise, and the House of Collins will fall. That’s locked-in, it’s flavor-sealed. We’ve already seen it.
And somehow, that’s connected to these two dopey dead kids, Tad Collins and Carrie Stokes, who died in 1840 and still haven’t adjusted to the experience. They seem to think that an appropriate way to handle dying young is to grab a couple descendants of the same age, gain control of their brains through the use of magic hypnoclothes, and then — what? Turn them into Tad and Carrie, and then just go on with their lives, as if 1970 is 1840? Are they going to get drivers’ licenses? And why does Gerard care whether these kids turn into those kids?
It doesn’t make sense. I don’t understand what Tad and Carrie get out of it, and I don’t want to watch David and Hallie try to get their brains around the ungetaroundable. I’m sick of all four of these kids, and I don’t want them on my television show anymore, but here we are.
So do I even want to get into the weeds on this? Hallie’s spent the last couple weeks putting on and taking off Carrie’s 1840 party dress, and on Thursday, she yelled at David when he refused to don his own mid-nineteenth ensemble. “You don’t want to make me happy!” she screamed. “You don’t want to make her happy!” It was a whole thing.
And now here she is, entering the magical 1840 playroom, and she sees David sitting on the rocking horse, wearing exactly the clothes that she was talking about.
“David, what’s the matter with you?” she says. “You know you’re not supposed to be here! And what are you doing in those clothes?”
And the viewers at home say, how do you not understand what’s going on here?
She leaves the room in a huff, and who’s there in the hallway but David, which is such a cast-iron shock that it’s worth a Friday-afternoon cliffhanger. And then on Monday, they have to explain that that was actually a ghost, which we already know, and we are not impressed.
Because this is clearly not going anywhere for a while. They can talk, again, about how they’re going to tell the adults what’s going on and blow this thing wide open, but we’ve already seen that, it didn’t work the last three times, and there’s no reason for us to think they’re going to accomplish it now.
Last Wednesday, the ensorcelled Quentin tried to tell Julia about Daphne, but she appeared at the window and stared him into stopping. And on Friday, David and Hallie tried to tell Elizabeth about the ghosts, but they stopped short when they saw the model ship that the spirits are using as a marketing gimmick. The ghosts are gradually getting a better hold on the kids, and they’re not going to suddenly break that pattern now.
When David tells Hallie that he wants to tell people, then that’s a dead end, and when she tells him that they just have to promise each other not to go to the haunted playroom anymore, then that’s a dead end too. This story already has a shape, and they’ve proven through repetition that this shape is going to keep repeating in concentric circles.
So when Hallie says, “Oh, David, I know they’ll leave us alone! I feel different already!” then that makes one of us.
Hallie leaves, David sits down and tries to read, he hears the carousel theme song, he looks around and shouts at the ghosts, his dresser drawer magically opens, and ta-dah, the hypnoclothes.
Yes, we get it. We got it, like, four iterations ago. Kid, ghost, theme, hypnoclothes, Tad wants to live again through David. Don’t know why, don’t care, and where did all of David’s robots go? I could seriously use a shot of those robots right about now.
And then — I don’t even know why I’m telling you this, it’s so stupid — he drops the clothes on the floor, marches out of the room like a zombie, and goes straight to the playroom, where he promised Hallie he wouldn’t go. Then Hallie realizes that she’s lost track of David, so she goes to the playroom, and there’s David sitting on the horse, rocking it.
She marches into the playroom and says, David, what are you doing, and he says, What did you call me? and she says, What’s happened to you? and oh my god are you even kidding me? Are we really going to have a whole other scene where he calls her Carrie, and she acts like she’s never heard the name Carrie before?
I can’t take this, I just can’t. I don’t know what to do with myself.
But the problem isn’t really the kids, it’s about what this sequence does to Barnabas and Julia, otherwise known as the main characters of the show. They came back from a distressing vacation in the future with six random phrases to help them figure out how to stop the impending. By now, three of those clues have come to pass — the eclipse, the picnic and the unfinished horoscope — and they are zero percent closer to noticing the noisy crisis taking place just upstairs.
This is a sign of bad faith with the audience. The main characters are supposed to be driving the action, but so far they’re just sitting in the drawing room looking at old tax records, and the story is really driven by the actions of — who? David and Hallie? Tad and Carrie? Gerard and Daphne? Or, most likely — no one at all?
At this point, we know way more about what’s going on than the main characters do, and the shape of this story clearly dictates that they won’t figure it out until ten seconds before it’s too late. The thrill of seeing Barnabas and Julia confronting the ghosts in 1995 has drained all the way out of the show, and I’m wondering if it was a mistake coming back. Maybe we should have just stayed in the 90s and started over with a new family.
Tomorrow: You Don’t Have to Put on the Red Light.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Hallie tells David about seeing Tad: “I talked to you — but you just stood there, playing with that boat!” He was on the rocking horse, no boat involved. This episode was taped four days earlier than the previous one — episode 1081 was taped on August 7th, and episode 1080 on August 11th — so they must have changed the boat scene to a rocking horse, after this episode was already in the can.
Barnabas tells Carolyn, “We all know how important that chance is in our lives.”
After Carolyn asks Hallie if she believes in horoscopes, someone slams a door in the studio.
Hallie tells David, “You know Julia and Doctor — and Barnabas are trying to find out about it!”
The folder with Carolyn’s horoscope says “CAROLYN STODRARD HAWKES”.
Sebastian tells Barnabas, “I’m an astrologist, Mr. Collins, not a doctor!” Then he says, “The only shoeman that tells me what I must do is me!”
Tomorrow: You Don’t Have to Put on the Red Light.
— Danny Horn