“That bust was there in the future because you placed it there now!”
“We should be grateful that nothing has happened for the last two days!” says Hallie.
“That’s what’s bugging me most,” David moans. “Why hasn’t anything happened?”
The answer, I suppose, is because Barnabas is out of town, telling Women’s Wear Daily what he thinks about his new movie. Also, the writers may be running out of ideas.
So what, dear reader, can I say about this endless turning carousel of a storyline? The horses prance around in a circle, Dapple and Charger and Jewel, running a race that no one will ever win, including me. Characters from the present met characters from the past in the future, and now everyone is slowly scrambling to win the hearts and minds of the Collins family. Smart money’s on the ghosts, because we’ve already seen the future and they’re it, but we might as well watch as the foretold comes to pass. I didn’t have anything else planned for today, did you?
“There’s an old legend,” says David, except there isn’t, “that if you stand on somebody’s grave at midnight, you can tell whether their spirit is at rest or not.” This is simply not the case. I know a thing or two about what there’s an old legend about, and that isn’t one of them.
I mean, what would you do with a legend like that? It’s not that hard to figure out whether a dead person’s spirit is at rest or not. The procedure goes like this: Yes. They’re dead. Stop standing on people’s graves, it’s unnerving and nobody is impressed.
Meanwhile, Gerard is downstairs casting some kind of hoodoo on Elizabeth. Gerard is a houseguest who came to stay at Collinwood a hundred and thirty years ago, and he still hasn’t left, which may be an all-time record. There are so many rooms in this moldering manse that sometimes whole new life forms emerge from the ooze, sprouting lungs and legs and evolving themselves into something that requires breakfast on a tray in the morning.
Parallel dimensions expand and contract, pulsing inside the walls of Collinwood, like colonies of toxic termites that have made different choices. There are playrooms where there should be linen closets, and linen closets where there should be different linen closets. Out there in the wings, on the wild frontier, civilizations rise and fall that no man has ever seen, piling up in cobwebby heaps around the trunks of old clothes and haunted lampshades. You can walk into one of the sub-attics to poke around and look at forgotten antiques, and end up trapped behind enemy lines in a world war between a witch, a vampire and a series of lookalike governesses, each of them rewriting the other’s family histories in a round robin of paradoxical genealogy. We’re dancing on the skin of a thousand possible universes; it’s charged vacuum emboitments, all the way down.
That doesn’t explain why a ghost is casting a spell on a woman to make her believe that her family isn’t being threatened by ghosts, which she already believed in the first place. I can’t explain everything. I don’t have the time.
Julia hears Liz talking to the spirits in the drawing room, but when she opens the door, Liz is just standing there, in the dark, looking at nothing in particular. She says she was on the phone with her lawyer, an extinct species of soap opera character that we left behind ages ago. Who talks to lawyers, these days?
Julia cocks her head, listening to a tinkly music cue on the soundtrack. She asks, “Are you sure nobody else was here?” which if you have to ask that question then maybe it’s time to find a new mansion to live in.
“I’m sorry,” she says. “I just had that strange feeling again… the feeling of evil.” Fine, just leave a one-star Yelp review and move on with your life.
But Julia is determined to make this an interesting story, no matter how many speed bumps Liz lays on the tracks. This is a service that Julia provides at no further cost to you.
“On Thursday, the 27th day of August in the year 1841,”
she reads in a book she found laying around in the library,
“the Java Queen, notorious scavenger of the seas, was caught in a storm off the rockbound coast of Maine, near the fishing village of Collinsport.
“Her crew of twenty-three brigands and cutthroats perished at sea. For years, it was believed that her infamous captain, whose identity was never known, survived the wreckage and vowed to unite his evil followers in death, causing them to rise from their graves to kill and plunder once more.”
This is phenomenal, just what we need: brigands and cutthroats, rising from their graves! Of course, that image is pretty much the exact opposite of what we’re looking at — a woman sitting placidly on someone else’s couch, reading a book and musing on coincidences — but Rome wasn’t burned in a day.
So, sure, go stand on a grave if it makes you feel better. Knock yourselves out.
“That area over there,” Hallie says, “the one that’s fenced in. What is it?” It’s 11:58 and a half and they’re standing in the cemetery, and she’s sightseeing. She doesn’t really care, she just wants another excuse to make her anxious-disgust face.
David points. “See that gate over there? It’s been locked for a hundred years.”
“During the eighteenth and nineteenth century, they used to bury criminals and misfits here!” he explains. “Most of the graves are unmarked, and there are a lot of legends about them.” Yeah, I bet there are. You people have legends for everything.
Hallie stutters, “What sort of legends?” You know, it would make things a lot simpler if they just put up a sign.
“Oh, about how cruel and mean they were! They must have been, in order to have been buried there.” David gulps. “The story is that their souls had no place to go — they weren’t wanted in Heaven or in Hell, so they were left here to molder in their graves, and try to come back from death.”
Ugh, the living are so judgmental. Don’t even get me started on the living.
So as the angry ghost appears and the children exit stage right, I want to raise a couple of questions, starting with: why weren’t the spirits wanted in Hell? They sound like exactly the kind of people that Hell is looking for. Did somebody lose their file? Is there an appeals process? And how would anybody know where their souls ended up? Somebody needs to do an audit on these legends, they don’t make sense.
Now they have this radioactive Superfund clean-up site in the graveyard, abandoned and unattended to, like a great big gun lurking on Chekhov’s wall. Criminals and misfits, brigands and cutthroats, festering and fermenting in their lonely unmarked graves. What were they thinking, putting all of these people together? They’re just going to be a bad influence on everybody else. And where are they burying all the new criminals and misfits?
Now Gerard is angry, obviously, because he always is, but even more so now, because he found these dumb kids desecrating his resting place. So that whole grave-standing stunt was entirely counter-productive for their goals, which just adds up to one more reason for Hallie to make her anxious-disgust face.
“Know ye who do not rest,”
David reads in a note that he found inside the book that Julia found in the library,
“in the town of Collinsport, in the dead of night, watch for the signal as ever before. The green flag in the window, three times shall it wave, as it did in days of yore.”
And then it’s signed with a G. I have further questions.
For example: That note was written to the spirits that can’t rest, right? How would you deliver such a note? I don’t want to make a joke about “the ghost office,” but damn it, Dark Shadows, you’re forcing my hand. The flag, the book, the note, the lies, the brigands, the misfits and the ludicrous legends. Where does it all end?
Tomorrow: Today’s Ten Things That Make No Sense.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
When Julia overhears Liz talking and opens the drawing room doors, the boom mic scuttles out of sight.
The lights are out when Julia opens the doors to find Liz standing in the drawing room in the dark. When they come back from the commercial break, the lights are on.
Julia tells Liz, “I found some very interesting thing in one of these books.”
Hallie trips over a line, “What sort of lege — legends?”
When Julia sees David and Hallie sneaking into the house, the shadow of a camera moves across the floor.
They make a big deal about Liz putting the bust on the bannister in the foyer, but I don’t think we ever see it there again.
Tomorrow: Today’s Ten Things That Make No Sense.
— Danny Horn