“What makes you think that you can describe a man from my dream?”
What do you think they were doing, all that time?
Gerard Stiles is an evil pirate-sorceror-ghost, an advanced energy-being with the power to control people’s minds, by either hypnotizing them or, if necessary, dropping heavy objects on them. He’s got a governess gun-moll sidekick who can magically seduce romantic leads, and two teenage enforcers who can convince kids to turn on their own families. He can utterly destroy Collinwood, and kill everyone who lives there, one at a time or in handfuls.
So what do you think he was thinking a year and a half ago, when some young upstart named Quentin Collins kyped his whole strategy? I mean, there’s Gerard, just biding his time until a blonde girl showed up, and all of a sudden, Quentin and Beth jump the line, and start doing exactly what Gerard has been planning to do since fifty-seven years before Quentin even died. And they failed, obviously, because they were noobs who didn’t even have a single zombie.
Now that Gerard’s pushed the button and put his own plan into operation, he can finally show everyone how to follow through on a Turn of the Screw-themed extreme home makeover. But when Gerard goes to his girlfriend’s room, he finds her kissing on — guess who? — Quentin Collins.
No way, Gerard emits. Are you kidding me? Fuck that guy.
Now, if you haven’t been keeping up with current events, I have recently decided that Gerard is my hero, because he does interesting, story-productive things like killing people, which the rest of the cast is finding difficult to pull off these days.
Here’s an example, right off the bat: at the end of yesterday’s episode, he appeared in the hallway in front of David and Hallie. She screamed and ran away at the last second, so when today’s episode starts, it’s just David and Gerard in the hallway. Hallie doesn’t appear in today’s episode, or tomorrow’s either. So Gerard has magical Hallie-repelling powers, and I am in love with him.
The funny thing is that this is the first time David has seen Gerard, and the boy has no idea who this new stranger is. Gerard is the guy who’s been running David’s life for the past three weeks, and the kid doesn’t have a clue.
Granted, Gerard doesn’t actually do much with this particular apparition appointment; he just looms over David, walking the boy into the bedroom and slamming the door, scaring the kid witless. Then he’s gone, which is a shame, but David’s scream sets up what is probably the best haunted-kid scene so far.
Julia rushes in, and finds David entirely out of bed, standing in the middle of his bedroom with the light on, and when she asks why he screamed, he says that he was having a nightmare. Julia is not fooled by this. She’s been lying non-stop since the day she was born — even as a baby, she would push the plate of strained beets off her high chair, and then tell everyone that she’d just returned from France — so she does not believe in this so-called nightmare.
Julia is Gerard-sensitive, as all right-thinking people are, and she can tell that he was in the room. But David just doubles down on the nightmare story, saying that he was dreaming about a war. And then it all kicks off.
Julia: David, don’t turn your back to me. It is very important that I know if anything unusual’s going on.
David: What’s so unusual about a dream?
David: Or a kid having one? I can’t do anything around here without one of you jumping on my back, asking me about unusual things! Well, the unusual things around here are you, and Barnabas, and Quentin!
Julia: David, just be calm.
David: No, you calm down! Pretty soon, somebody’s going to come in here and say, David, why aren’t you asleep yet? How can I go to sleep in a house like this, with all of you people crawling all over the halls?
So that escalated fast, right? I love it. Any scene where somebody says, “No, you calm down!” is a good time. And it’s lovely that David correctly identifies the actual Stranger Things in his life — the monsters and mad scientists pretending to be members of his family. It takes being possessed by several ghosts to get him there, but at least somebody’s figured it out.
But what about Gerard? Let’s get back to Gerard.
We take you now to the green-tinged undersea kingdom of Daphne’s room, the governess’ old spawning grounds. Daphne’s a ghost too, but she’s the badass seductress type, who doesn’t let death get in the way of an active social life. She’s been all up ons with Quentin, partly because she’s confusing him with somebody she used to know when she was alive, and partly because it’s Quentin, and come on. If you had the power to do this, you would also be doing this, and you would be doing it with Quentin.
The show doesn’t really have a strong theory on how ghosts work exactly, but Daphne and Gerard are particularly solid ghosts. These are what we in the horror game call caspers — ghosts who can fool you into thinking they’re alive, especially for the purpose of making out with you. These ghosts are getting more action than you are.
So Quentin and Daphne are having one of their regular Boo!-ty calls, when all of a sudden Gerard apparates on the other side of the room, and gives her the spook eye.
Gerard is not pleased with these shenanigans. I don’t know what his plan is, but I gather this is not a part of it. He makes this known to Daphne by standing on the other side of the room and looking like this. If you’ve never seen a ghost slut-shaming a fellow ghost before, this is what it looks like.
Now, ghost-wise, I have never really understood the concept of a ghost being present or absent in any particular room. Sometimes the people on Dark Shadows will say, I feel a presence! — or a chill, they get a lot of mileage out of random chills — and that means the ghost is specifically paying attention to this room. But ghosts are also sort of generally aware of everything that’s happening anywhere in the vicinity.
Anyway, what I’m getting at is that there’s no way this is the first time Gerard has noticed that Daphne is trying to scoot Quentin underneath her petticoats. He doesn’t have that many direct reports.
He makes it clear to Daphne that playtime is over, so she pulls away from Quentin and signals that it’s time to go by opening the door, and pointing in a hallwise direction. I remember the days when all ghosts could do was write JAMISON on a mirror, or push over a grandfather clock. These ghosts don’t speak, but they’re a lot more direct than the ones we’re used to.
Once the living is out of the room, Gerard points at a quill pen. He wants her to write something. This is a thing that ghosts do, they give each other assignments.
Daphne won’t take the pen, so he reaches out and grabs her roughly by the upper arm, and pulls. She takes the pen. Advantage: Gerard.
You know, half an hour earlier on ABC, One Life to Live was running a very socially aware storyline in the summer of 1970, about teenager Cathy Craig going to Odyssey House in New York to deal with her drug addiction problems. That’s a real treatment center, and they went and filmed some actual addiction counseling scenes for the show. And then Dark Shadows, which had two ghosts from the 1840s, silently grappling over a quill pen.
But this is what I want, from my weird, ghost-riddled soap story. Gerard brings an exciting physicality to the role, which the ghost version of Quentin never really did.
Gerard is violent. Even as a ghost, he’ll grab people, and push them around, and drop stone statues on your head. There’s a sense of immediate physical menace that I don’t think we’ve ever seen from a ghost before, and I like it. Daphne will fill the room with lilacs, and the ghost kids will play dress-up and sit on a rocking horse — but Gerard will seriously mess you up. You are not safe in this house, with Gerard.
And that doesn’t just apply to the living. There’s another scene later on, where Daphne tries to walk away from Gerard, and he grabs her arm and twirls her around to face him. Then he puts his hands around her neck, and makes her kiss him. It’s crazy. They’re not doing this to scare anybody; this is what they do when they’re alone. This is how ghosts work now.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is: look how good this story is when Hallie’s not around. Isn’t there something we can do?
Tomorrow: The Summer of Our Discontent.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Julia trips over the word “vengeful” when she tells Sebastian, “They’re very vengeful spirits.”
When David is yelling at Julia, you can see the edge of the set on the left.
Tomorrow: The Summer of Our Discontent.
— Danny Horn