“You accept the fact of unexplainable happenings!”
Well, this is just typical. A young man awakens an ancient horror and sets it loose to prowl the countryside and spread havoc and despair, and as soon as he’s done it, he decides he didn’t mean it and he wants to take it back. I guess there were irresponsible millennials back in the nineteenth century too, eating avocado toast and not buying houses.
So this is it, the new monster; it’s tall and angry, and it doesn’t have a head. This is the bottom of Judah Zachery, condemned wizard of the late seventeenth, who was forcibly separated and scattered around to no tangible avail. When he was alive, he was just one guy, casting spells and ensorcelling people one at a time. Then they cut his head off, and now there’s two of them, just as dangerous as before.
A few weeks ago, the head attacked old Ben Stokes, making him commit suicide by cutting his own head off. Then it glommed onto Desmond Collins through his dreams, telling him to find where the body was buried, and dig it back up. Desmond ran it to ground here, in this old cemetery, in a metal coffin pinned down by an enormous wooden cross.
Desmond hired a sailor, Tim Braithewaite, and asked him to move the cross and liberate the casket, while Desmond went out to rent a cart, and buy a whole bunch of gluesticks which he figured he might need later on. And then all hell broke loose, out of the coffin and up from the depths.
Now, you’d think that the body would be thrilled to get up after all these years, and it would probably want to thank the guy who freed it, right? At least he buys the next round of drinks, is what I’m thinking, but apparently not. The body gets up, and the first thing it does is decapitate Tim with its bare hands.
I’m not sure how that gets accomplished; this story point depends on people being equipped with a particular kind of snap-top human head that can be pulled off the neck at whim. Personally, I would imagine that pulling a person’s head off would require at least a couple of hours and an instruction manual. You could yank an arm or a leg out of the socket if you want one, but necks are really good at staying attached to people; it’s kind of what they’re designed for. But the deceased Judah Z seems to be able to do it in seconds, without even looking. There must be a trick to it.
Anyway, Desmond comes back with the cart and finds Tim lying on the ground disassembled, and all of a sudden he realizes that being in thrall to a severed head has a messy downside.
“It’s gone — gone!” he gasps. “What did I do?” He pauses, to think it over. “The Bedford Atrocities!” he cries. “It’ll kill us all!” And all of a sudden, he’s on our side again.
So I don’t know, I guess at this point I should stop expecting this story to make any kind of sense. Up until now, Desmond has been the only character who actually understands what’s going on with the Head of Judah Zachery plotline; everyone else just stands around and asks him questions that he refuses to answer. But now Desmond is confused too, which doesn’t leave us with a lot of room to maneuver.
Desmond wants to destroy the head, except it’s not there anymore; the credenza has been swept clean. His theory is that the body must have broken into the house somehow, silently making its way through the halls using echolocation and situational awareness, and carrying off both the head and the glass case it’s housed in. I imagine the body is probably holding the glass case up on top of its neck with both hands, running around outside and making vroom vroom noises. At least, that’s what I’d be doing.
This is the direction the show has been going for a while, constructing horror stories using bizarre nightmare logic to stagger from one visual set piece to another, with no real attention paid to consistent motivation or audience engagement. It’s the same kind of narrative fugue state that gave us Dameon Edwards and Claude North, but this time with a less attractive guy.
“I know what it was that happened, and I know what it was that caused it to happen!” Desmond exclaims, but he doesn’t, and neither do I. He’s come to Collinwood to come clean to his friend Quentin, who’s both the head of the family and the most popular actor on the show, so naturally that’s the guy you call when you need to get some semblance of control over your unraveling storyline. “Quentin, the body — the body has somehow found the head. He’s alive again!”
Quentin makes a faint gesture towards the “logical explanation” excuse, which nobody really believes in anymore. “It’s impossible, Desmond! A severed head can’t live! And a body buried over two hundred years ago must decompose!”
It’s cute, it’s like he thinks they’re Sheriff Patterson and Dr. Woodard, like they can still while away an afternoon pretending there isn’t a monster outside. Those days are over.
Desmond insists, “Quentin, I came to you because you have an interest in these things! You accept the fact of unexplainable happenings!” Desmond’s tousledness is reaching escape velocity; at a certain point it stops being tousled and turns into a whole new type of hairstyle.
Desmond asks, “What can we do, Quentin?” and then looks at him, because the handsomest man in the room gets to make all the decisions.
“We’ve got to find Judah Zachery,” Quentin decides, although personally I still think there’s a question of whether they’re looking for one guy or two.
“If we do,” Desmond quakes, “we won’t be able to kill him!”
“There must be a way!'” Quentin says, heading for the armory, which is in a drawer two steps away from where he was just standing. As you know, every drawer in Collinwood contains at least one loaded revolver; housekeeping has a regular maintenance schedule of cleaning and reloading them once a week.
“No, Quentin, a gun won’t help!” says Desmond, and Quentin sighs, “We won’t know until we try, will we?”
“Quentin, you don’t know the evil!” Desmond insists, so I don’t know why he was asking in the first place if he’s going to backseat drive the whole time. Either you accept the unexplainable happenings or you don’t; grab a gun, and let’s get out there and pointlessly shoot at monsters.
But then it’s two scenes later, and the unexplainable happenings haven’t happened. Desmond and Quentin are standing around in Rose Cottage, with no monster and no gun, reviewing the case.
“Desmond, there’s one thing I don’t understand,” says an underestimating Quentin. “If the head was here, how did the body get inside the house to get it?” This is a tricky question to parse, because the head was here; that’s the part that we know. The question isn’t how the body got inside, it’s how the head got outside. Am I the only one keeping track of this?
Desmond says that he doesn’t know, and Quentin insists, “Are you positive that you told no one?” This is another trick question. Told no one what?
“I don’t think the two are together,” Quentin decides. “I know it!” This telegram arrives from nowhere in particular.
Desmond moans, “I hope not, for all of our sakes!”
And then Quentin says, “All right, I want you to go to bed,” which is possibly the most perplexing line of dialogue in this entirely perplexing story thread. You want what?
Desmond says, “I can’t sleep!” and then Quentin says something garbled that I can’t quite catch. It sounds to me like he says, “Now, listen to me, there’s no point in hunting for him [perfect]!” That last word can’t be “perfect”, but I can’t think of how Quentin could end that sentence, either with a word that sounds like “perfect” or in any other way. These two have moved beyond the bounds of human language.
“Perhaps he’ll go back to his vault,” Quentin postulates. “What did you do with Braithewaite’s body?”
“I got rid of it!” Desmond shouts. “What else could I do?” There are a lot of possible answers to that question.
“All right, that’s good,” Quentin says, “because with his reputation, I don’t think anyone’ll miss him.” That doesn’t really mean anything either. “I want you to get some rest.”
So these are the unexplainable happenings, which aren’t getting any more explainable as these two try to explain them. The body doesn’t have the head, as it happens, and in tomorrow’s episode, Hortense finds the body lying on its back in the woods, inexplicably covered in tree branches. She removes a branch, just to see what the hell is going on, and the body sits up and grabs her and rips her head off.
Tomorrow: As Rome Burns.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Gabriel taunts Samantha, “You’ve come back to announce your choice, haven’t you? And all of us are just dying with — we just can’t wait to hear what it is!”
“You are not weak!” Gerard assures Samantha. “You were the one that — well, you didn’t create this situation.”
When Desmond moves from his scene with Leticia to the next scene with Gabriel, he looks at the camera for his cue to start.
When Desmond admits to Quentin that he didn’t give him the real present, Quentin asks “What was it?” too soon, and has to do it again when Desmond finishes his line.
Desmond tells Quentin, “Poor Tim Braithewaite — his body was ripped from his head!”
When Gabriel rolls into the drawing room in act 4, the carpet behind Quentin is folded over, probably to allow the cameras to pass by.
Tomorrow: As Rome Burns.
— Danny Horn