Episode 1120: House of Hurt Feelings

“Read the book, and you will know why the head must be destroyed.”

And meanwhile, from out of nowhere: a good television show.

It’s one of the great mysteries of 1970 Dark Shadows, that it can careen from low point to high point as often as it does. The Parallel Time story rattled to an incoherent close in July, killing the villain a week early and throwing in an unnecessary new love interest at the last minute. Then Barnabas and Julia traveled to 1995 for two fascinating, moody weeks that showed a sharp uptick in writing and production — and then it all fell to pieces over the next few months, as they returned to 1970 and forgot what they were aiming for.

And now here we are in October, in 1840 of all places, and the show is worth watching again, because Dan and Sam and Gordon have simply scrapped all of the previous stories and continuity and started over again, with a brand new soap opera. Barnabas and Julia aren’t on the show today, and nobody talks about them; the only character who we know from longer than two weeks ago is young Daniel, who’s now a dying old man and hardly even counts.

The star of this new show is Gerard Stiles — gun runner, smuggler, best friend and fortune-hunter — who has the same name and hairstyle as a ghost that used to be on the show, but otherwise there’s no resemblance. Gerard doesn’t threaten children or governesses, and he doesn’t do magic tricks with dollhouses. Why would he?

But this is how it works on this show, which has reinvented itself and risen from the ashes for another cycle. Once again, they’ve discovered that the best way to make Dark Shadows is to start from scratch and do something else.

Of course, this leaves me at something of a loose end. I’m always a bit stuck in these periods where lots of things are going right — interesting plot twists, strong character moments, witty script — because I feel like I ought to give them credit for all the things they’re doing well. It’s easy to write a detailed hatchet piece, where I can dig into a mistake and figure out who’s to blame. But with a really good episode like this one, I’m just leading you through the rooms of Collinwood like a tour guide, typing a bunch of long quotes and saying, see? That’s good writing. Which means I’m doing recaps, and that’s not what I was planning to do with my life.

But to be completely honest with you, I can’t think of anything else to do, and it really is a good episode today. So I’ll just start writing nice things, and see if it gets me anywhere.

Yesterday’s episode ended with a clever piece of writing that makes the scene more pleasurable when you watch it again at the beginning of today’s. Gerard comes back from his afternoon in town, and tells Gabriel about the events of the day. Gabriel thinks that Gerard poisoned Samantha, but Gerard actually married her, so there’s a little twinkle in Gerard’s eye when he tells Gabriel that “it happened” at the courthouse in front of witnesses, and then reveals that she’s alive, and he’s rich, and Gabriel is out of luck.

Now, the underlying background hum of these trips into the past is the tension around who carries on the family name and fortune. The show is acting like this is a normal, open-ended soap opera narrative that happens to be based in the nineteenth century, but we know that there’s a goal that we’re shooting for — the Collins family tree, which tells us that Gabriel and Edith are the grandparents of the family we know from 1897 and beyond.

So it’s easy to see that Gerard marrying Samantha is a problem, history-wise. Elder son Quentin Collins is dead, and his heir died with him, but doddering old Daniel loves his widowed daughter-in-law Samantha, and he’s planning to settle the family fortune on her and see what happens. And if Gerard has transformed her into Samantha Stiles, that means that the money and the house will soon be in the hands of alien outsiders, and by the time we hit 1970, everyone will be living on the great estate at Stilewood.

But we know that’s a historical dead end, which means that deep down we’re rooting for Gabriel to win, except that’s impossible, because Gabriel is relentlessly, unbearably awful.

For one thing, he’s played by Chris Pennock, who after ten months on the show has consistently failed to make any of his characters likeable, so they’ve stopped trying and just opened the throttle on hatefulness.

As we all know, the three steps to making the audience like a character is to make a friend, make a joke and make a plot point happen. Gabriel is dripping with plot points — paying someone to poison someone else is an all-time classic, as far as plot points go — but it’s the other elements where things go awry. Gabriel doesn’t make jokes, except at other people’s expense, and he is absolutely incapable of making friends.

Every sentence that Gabriel utters is a manifesto on the subject of his pathetic, isolated existence. He lives his life trapped in a metal chair, and I don’t think Collinwood has an elevator, so every time we see him upstairs it means that some poor servant just gave him an exhausting and humiliating piggyback ride. He talks incessantly, filling the air with words, but he never asks a question unless it’s a trap, some rhetorical landmine deployed as an area denial weapon to ensure that no one ever gets close enough to feel anything.

The fact that he can’t make friends isn’t a problem, because we’re not supposed to like him. Gabriel is a villain, a serpent, a pest burrowing into the walls of Collinwood that the family is unable to eradicate. Everybody hates him, and every sniff and sneer makes us long for his comeuppance.

Except that he’s the guy who needs to win all the money, if Elizabeth and Roger are ever going to exist. It’s diabolical scriptwriting, pitting us against ourselves and ensuring that we’re never quite comfortable in this time period. I don’t know if that’s a goal that a show that’s struggling in the ratings ought to be occupying itself with, but they’re doing a damn good job with it.

And his father Daniel is another monster, locked away in the tower room. We don’t know exactly what happened to turn a happy little boy into this morose mess of a man, but here he is anyway. Practically all that we know is that he hated his wife, who he felt was always deceiving him, and that he killed her — or at least, he’s convinced himself that he did, because he spends a great deal of time drifting around in his personal autobiography, highlighting favorite passages and scratching out the parts he doesn’t believe in anymore.

In this scene, Gabriel rolls himself up to the tower somehow — there must be a worn-out servant, wheezing in the hallway, and dreading the return trip — and I’m not sure why he’s here, but it’s a perfect example of his self-defeating conversation style. He wants something from his father — money, trust, some scrap of approval — but he can’t bring himself to be kind, even for a single sentence.

Gabriel:  I thought it time that I paid you a visit. Are you comfortable here?

Daniel:  It’s time for my dinner! Where is Ben Stokes?

Gabriel:  Ben won’t be bringing your dinner tonight, father. Not tonight, nor tomorrow night. Ben’s dead, father, killed by his own hand.

Daniel:  Dead? I don’t believe it.

Gabriel:  Well, he’s dead all the same, father. The funeral’s going to be tomorrow. Think you could attend? You haven’t been to many funerals, for many years. You didn’t even go to mother’s.

And there you have it, that’s Gabriel, the man with so many grievances that they just spill out of his mouth. This is Gabriel when he’s trying to connect with his dad.

Daniel:  Get out of here!

Gabriel:  I can’t, father. I can’t, because I need you too much.

Daniel:  I don’t want you here! I want to grieve for Ben alone.

Gabriel:  Why do you hate me so much, father? Why was I never the son you wanted? Is it because I couldn’t run like Quentin, because I couldn’t sail off in ships like Quentin? Stop grieving for Ben, father, I’m alive! He’s dead! I’m the only son you’ve got!

It’s not obvious why Gabriel chooses this moment for a sales pitch on loving the unloveable, although it’s possible that this is just Gabriel’s baseline behavior, and the fact that Daniel is grieving for multiple loved ones is just a coincidence.

Gabriel:  Samantha married, again. Oh, yes, Samantha married again this afternoon.

Daniel:  Oh?

Gabriel:  She married Gerard Stiles, so now all the Collins money is completely out of the family. Don’t you understand what I’m saying, father? Samantha married someone…

Daniel:  I know! He asked me for her hand.

Gabriel:  What?

Daniel:  He tried to save Quentin and Tad.

Gabriel:  You agreed —

Daniel:  While you sat in this house, he risked his life for theirs. I shall adopt him, I think!

Gabriel:  You’re mad!

Daniel:  I should have a son. A son who can sail the ships!

So the depth of Daniel’s disdain for Gabriel is just remarkable; there’s a whole novel’s worth of emotional backstory here. Just the phrase “while you sat in this house” — you could power a year of psychotherapy appointments from that alone. What does a crippled child have to do, in order to alienate people to that extent?

I know that I’m blaming the guy in the wheelchair for the fact that his father overlooks him, and discounts him as a son and heir. Ordinarily, I’d have more respect for a disabled person. But I think it’s a testament to the quality of the writing that Daniel can be deliberately cruel to a son with a disability, and everyone in the audience still blames Gabriel, without question.

Gabriel:  Father, you don’t know him the way I do. I’ve had a complete report, I’ve had him investigated! He’s a smuggler, he’s a fortune-hunter, he’s probably a murderer! Father, I have proof!

Daniel:  You’re jealous, Gabriel! You always were, even as a child!

Gabriel:  I have a complete dossier on him! I’ll show that to you! Then you’ll believe me!

Daniel:  You’re jealous of his happiness!

And then Gabriel rolls out the door, hoping somehow that showing his father some pieces of paper will solve something. Daniel isn’t saying that Gabriel is lying, and demanding to see evidence. Daniel doesn’t care whether these wild accusations have any substance or not. Even a murderer and a smuggler would make a better son than Gabriel does. Daniel just really, really hates this kid, that’s all.

And we love Gerard, which makes this whole situation confounding and fascinating. Gabriel’s right, Gerard really is a smuggler and a fortune-hunter, but Daniel doesn’t care, and neither do we. Gerard is sexy, and sexy has its own rules.

Gerard:  My wife is a remarkably loyal woman. I admire loyalty, in women.

Gabriel:  Her loyalty is going to be tested.

Gerard:  Why don’t you just relax, and accept the fact that it happened?

Gabriel:  Because I know you’ve been scheming, and plotting, and talking to my father, and pretending to kill Samantha when you wouldn’t!

And that’s perfect, that Gabriel’s real kick against the criminal who’s insinuated himself into the family is that he didn’t commit the crime that he promised he would.

Gerard leans over, looming just above Gabriel and the chair, in another act of disrespect for the disabled.

Gerard:  I only went along with you because I was afraid that you would try to kill her yourself. I saved her life, Gabriel. I saved her life, with very little cost to me.

Gabriel:  Well, you just watch what you say.

Gerard:  May I give you a word of advice?

Gerard strolls around to the other side of the chair, and Gabriel — not wanting to be outflanked — tries to roll himself out of range. Gerard reaches out, and stops the chair cold.

Gerard:  You had better listen to me. Why don’t you just be a good boy, from now on? It’ll prove beneficial to you in the future. Samantha and I may even be a little charitable on your unfortunate situation.

Gabriel:  Let go of my chair!

So Gerard smiles and removes his hands, and Gabriel rolls away, mocked and utterly defeated.

You see what I mean about the good episodes? At a certain point, all I want to do is post quotes and enjoy the show. I don’t care. It’s worth it. Forget the vampire and the time travel and the magical severed head. Please, before the show dissolves: give me more of this.

Monday: Quentuplets.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

There’s an ugly tape edit in act 1, going from Samantha in the drawing room saying “Hold me” to Gerard — and then the doorknob of the tower room.

Desmond reads the title of the book Ben brought to Rose Cottage: The Artifice of the Anti-Saints. When the book was introduced two episodes ago, Ben called it Relics of the Anti-Saints.

It takes two tries for Desmond to throw Ben’s crumpled note into the fire.

When Gabriel turns around in the drawing room, you can see Gerard’s shadow on the floor of the foyer as he waits for his entrance.

After Gerard says to Gabriel, “May I give you a word of advice?” the camera pokes into the shot on the left side.

Listen carefully when Gabriel rolls away from Gerard, and Desmond opens the front door — just after the door swings open, it sounds to me like you can hear a car horn from outside the studio.

Gerard says to Daniel, “You must have had a good few times, sir?”

Daniel acts like it’s a big deal that Gerard wants to bring him downstairs, but Ben brought Daniel downstairs two episodes ago to meet Barnabas. I don’t know why people can’t remember what happened two episodes ago; they just can’t, that’s all.

Monday: Quentuplets.

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

46 thoughts on “Episode 1120: House of Hurt Feelings

  1. And the writers choose to go with this characterization for the Parallel Gabriel. Both good byes come with a heavy dose of good riddance.

  2. Gabriel’s closest counterpart would be Carl in 1897. Both were the one the family pitied, only Carl was never aware of it that we saw (or he at least didn’t let it get to him) while Gabriel main source influence is the pity people have for him (as we find out later he’s more able than he lets on). Carl goes off and does his own thing, the family at least entertaining him in his pranks and the way he feels for Pansy is so adorable if a bit naive. Gabriel broods on his status as the unfavorite and milks every bit of guilt and pity for all it’s worth. How he met Edith, let alone got married to her is a mystery unless it’s an arranged marriage (which the show hasn’t done much of actually, would have been prime for a love triangle). Carl danced about in a nest of vipers, miraculously surviving longer than he should have. Gabriel keeps poking at it and agitating things for his own vindictiveness and amusement (he needs his financial security).

    1. OOOOH!
      I knew it, I just knew it, Gabriel’s fakin’ the wheelchair, isn’t he?
      Even for someone as detestable as Gabie Baby, that’s LOW.

  3. I have an idea as to why Chris Pennock does so well in the role of Gabriel. I suppose it’s my favorite, though I did very much enjoy his performance as Cyrus Longworth/John Yaeger. But his characterization of Gabriel really is perfect.

    When he was Jeb Hawkes, making his debut on the show, and even as Sebastian Shaw in 1970, he always seemed to use his considerable height and size to mask his insecurities as a beginner in television acting. The way his arms would be extended outward at his sides, he would use his height and size to just lord it over the other actors, as if a lumbering hulk in search of a fight.

    But now as Gabriel he doesn’t have that convenient outlet. His physicality is restrained by confinement to a wheelchair. Instead of always looking down at other actors, now in every scene he must look up. His whole performance as Gabriel is limited to just facial expressions and voice. Now, at last, Chris Pennock is acting with a capital A.

  4. Gabriel and Edith, how on Earth?

    Two kids, really?

    And how could the family DNA from that pair produce Quentin of 1897?

    Here’s how. I don’t think that they ever addressed it, but….

    Edith meets the family as a maid. Has an affair with Quentin, gets pregnant.

    He won’t marry her, but he has a brother. Who COULD inherit. Next best thing.
    So she does, and mates with Gabriel for plausibility. She and Quentin continue the affair for years…

    The kids are Quentin’s. Genes from that union eventually make Quentin of 1897.

    And Jamison, and David.

  5. make a friend, make a joke and make a plot point happen

    I’m not so sure those rules apply to villains, especially as someone who often favors villains in dramatic situations. Consider Darth Vader. Once the wall exploded in 1977 and his presence was known then we knew “It’s On.” Or, earlier, the Wicked Witch of the West zapping into the middle of the Munchkin celebration. I think there’s an element of that in Gabriel that once he wheels into the room and opens his mouth, It’s On. He doesn’t really need more than that for me to like his presence on the show.

    1. No, Darth and WWW didn’t seem to have “friends” (can’t really count Stormtroopers or Winkies or Winged Monkeys), but they make jokes –

      “I find your lack of faith – – disturbing.”

      “Well, my pretty, I can cause ‘accidents’, TOO!”

      and they (as good villains do) move the plot along and are interesting to watch.
      No, we’re (most of us) not rooting for them, but when they’re defeated, the story essentially ends. Okay, until George Lucas makes a sequel, anyway…
      Guess the main thing for any character, good, evil or in between, is to be entertaining. We don’t turn on our TVs or computers or go out to theaters to be bored. (Unless that’s entertaining for us, I guess.)

      What’s the most boring thing YOU’VE ever sat through?
      Apart from my comments, of course. 😉

      1. There have been quite a few BBC costume dramas that I suffered through to the bitter end, straining to find some enjoymen in them. I’ve sat through some Miss Marple episodes that made me want to hang myself. I know it is the ultimate blasphemy to criticize BBC or ITV productions but, I just don’t find everything stamped with those brands to be that great.
        The most recent example of boring BBC stuff is that new Poldark series – which I purchased before I previewed it, unfortunately.
        Apologies to all the Poldark and Miss Marple lovers here!
        Don’t get me wrong, I love the Poldark novels.

        1. With some big exceptions, it’s any given car chase story, comedy or drama. The moment I hear those tires screeching for the first time….

    2. A good villain needs to make an enemy instead of a friend. The important thing is that they have an emotional relationship with an existing character.

    3. Vader and Tarkin have a rapport. I’d argue they are friends — or as much as evil mustache twirlers can be friends.

      Even most successful villains meet the 3 Horn(ed) Rules. I’d argue that we like Nicholas originally because he and Cassandra are friendly toward each other. As that relationship spirals, so does our interest in Nicholas.

      Gabriel really is an outlier in that he has no allies (even henchman working with him).

      1. In defense, Gabriel does TRY to gain an ally with Gerard, but Gerard has his own plan (which I saw coming a mile off – Gabriel is just not good at this).

  6. Gabriel and Gerard are almost as great a pairing as Barnabas and Julia! When the 2 G’s are in the room, the scenes crackle with sinister fun. Five minutes of them together has more entertainment value than a week of Daphne & Quentin.

    1. Daphne and Quentin may look pretty together, but I find them so dull! The G&G Music Factory, on the other hand, delight me.

  7. Hi Danny and others, I am visiting from the past to tell you how much I am enjoying your blog! You are a fantastic writer, and I love your comments sections, so intelligent and fun! I am still watching the first entry into parallel time and despair of catching up to you. I was 11 years old when I first watched Dark Shadows sometime in 1968, and it made a huge impression on me. At one time I owned all of the Marylin Ross novels, which I read many times. I was lucky enough to afford the coffin DVD set when it first came out, and I began watching the show in my retirement. I really appreciate your take on the show, and the knowledge you and your comment sections brings to this fascinating topic.Thanks so much! Stepping through my time portal now to return to spring 1970.

    1. If you watch quickly, you may catch up to the blog before 1841 PT is over! I was years behind but actually swept past the blog sometime in 1970 PT, I believe.

    1. ^ LOL. So true. And with Gabriel, we get a new literary nod, to Dostoyevsky. (This one wasn’t intentional but Gabriel’s bitter stew tastes very Russian to me).

  8. Danny, I’m glad you’re liking 1840 so sar.

    I had never seen this part of the story before, and I thought the general fandom consensus was thumbs down. So I was surprised how good it was. I wonder whether it was really good, or just a mild improvement from the Gerard/Daphne haunting.

    I think this is the most ambitious, emotionally complex storyline that the show ever launched. I loved the conflicts amongst Daniel, Gabriel, Edith, Samantha and Gerard. They seemed well-reasoned, well-written and well-acted. And as we’ve discussed before, here’s the sweet spot where I think the show needed dwell in terms of human, soapy events vs. the supernatural. The supernatural is that much more compelling when it’s happening to 3D characters you care about.

    I really enjoyed what they did with Samantha and Roxanne. Funny, the gals of 1840 have much more spirit and spunk than the gals of 1970.

    So I feel a little validated here today reading this review.

  9. Darn — I need to read these more closely before sending. I should have written: “I was surprised how good it was. I HAD BEEN WONDERING whether it was really good, or THE RELIEF I FELT WITH a mild improvement from the Gerard/Daphne haunting.”

  10. “The show is acting like this is a normal, open-ended soap opera narrative that happens to be based in the nineteenth century, but we know that there’s a goal that we’re shooting for — the Collins family tree, which tells us that Gabriel and Edith are the grandparents of the family we know from 1897 and beyond.”

    I haven’t looked ahead and don’t remember how 1840 resolves itself (okay, DS is not known for resolving anything, but go with me here), but i was figuring that somehow Gerard Stiles gets really screwed out of his prospects for a fortune by Gabriel. Perhaps even murdered with that knowledge, and that would fuel his beyond-the-grave haunting. (Although it takes him 130 years to haunt Collinwood…maybe 1895 Quentin told him to take a number/take a seat and that made him even angrier?)
    I do agree though that with the current writing, i really don’t need vampires and severed heads. All this knifing each other in the back is quite suitable for me. 🙂

  11. *** SPOILER *** When 1840 ends Quinton is in control of Collinwood and it appears Tad will inherit. It is never explain how Gabriel’s side of the family gets control. I could see a future time trip back to the 1860s to explain how control switches. Maybe Ted is a Confederate sympathizer and has to flee giving Gabriel’s son control.

    1. Maybe Tad is in the foyer just below the landing and Julia “accidentally” makes a statue situated on the landing, fall and strike Tad on the noggin. Problem fixed.

      1. Are there two statues (or maybe one long one)? Weren’t Tad and Carrie (er, Hallie – oh, never mind) shuffled off the mortal coil together? Or has the whole 1970 plot been scrapped, and I can just ignore it?

        And I still want to know if she says “Tad” as much as Hallie name-checked David.

        1. John, you can pretty much ignore the summer of 1970 plot, except that Collinwood was destroyed. Expect no references to the Java Queen or pirates.

          1. Disappointed sigh.
            I was really hoping for some yo-ho-ho, or at least a pile of dead buccaneers being buried in the ‘reserved’ section of Eagle Hill.
            But this does seem to be how DS does plotlines – major themes are used, details are ignored. Like they didn’t expect us to be watching this fifty years on…

            1. I know they weren’t expecting us to be watching the series again and again. But I was disappointed that these details were not addressed in 1840.

              Yeah, the parallel time premise works for me.

              Danny said some time ago that Collinwood was the true star of the show. That’s one way I deal with the inconsistencies, but considering the show a group of unrelated stories about Collinwood through the ages.

    2. SPOILER The audio Speak No Evil, which stars Arthur Darvill as Tad when he’s a young man (set in 1855, so mid twenties most likely), tells us 1840 Quentin married Daphne, and that Tad became a lonely young man (so Carrie definitely leaves Collinwood after 1840 in some way or another). In the audio Curtain Call Letitia returns to Collinwood in 1857, and sees Quentin exiting the house which appears to be empty of other people. Maybe Tad drinks himself into an early grave or is kicked out of Collinwood by Gabriel’s son. There’s a story in this, and since it’s a continuity unknown there’s plenty of scope to work with.

      All we know is that Tad is forgotten, or not mentioned by 1897 and that one of Gabriel and Edith’s children has Edward, Judith, Quentin and Carl, with Quentin being the embarrassing black sheep of the family.

      Both Speak No Evil and Curtain Call are great stories, well worth listening to if you’re a fan of the 1840 storyline, Tad or Leticia.

    3. That’s always been my major issue with 1840 as well. It was too close to the other time periods for the kind of freetell they did. (I know, I know, they didn’t know we’d be watching 45+ years later.)

      I like to think Quentin took the money, left Edith’s kids the house, and started a life in Boston. It’s one of my favourite scenarios to try to connect the missing 130 years so as not to “reset” the show entirely for continuing fanfiction.

  12. “Rhetorical land mine deployed as an area denial weapon”.

    This is brilliant writing, and why we’re Danny fans,
    So say we all. My eyes open wide with such a yes! That’s Good.

  13. I am currently on episode 830. This is my third time through the series. Not counting the episodes I saw in 1967 & 1968. Then I caught some of it over the years on PBS and Sci-fi. I started renting the vhs tapes and collected some dvds. I now have the complete set in the coffin.

    I discovered this blog a couple of weeks ago and have been enjoying it.

    1. Welcome. Danny Horn has done quite a great thing here. Quite a fun community.

      I’m dreading him coming to the end, because I’ll want to keep on talking and posting.

        1. JB – Which ones? I’d be interested in listening to them. I only listened to one of the audios. I’d be willing to give them another try.

  14. I’m saying it for nearly the tenth time, but to me Chris Pennock always seems like he was MADE to be in weird Gothic stories. So seeing him play a possibly fake invalid, fighting over an inheritance and planning a murder, seems fitting in all sorts of ways.

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