“This house is covered by a veil — a veil pierced by lightning!”
A hooded figure skulks through the Eagle Hill cemetery, as hooded figures do, making a yearly pilgrimage to the scene of the crime. She enters a free-standing mausoleum and pulls on a ring held in the mouth of an ornamental lion, and a secret catch uncatches, moving a panel that we all thought was a wall. Pushing it aside with practiced ease, the hooded figure steps into the room, raising her lantern to illuminate the coffin that isn’t there. “It’s gone!” she cries, as she lifts the lantern, and ta-DAH! It’s Angelique.
Now, I’m going to take a moment here to explain how this visitation fits into Angelique’s complex continuity. It doesn’t. There, that was easy.
Okay, fine; I’ll play along. This is the 1840 storyline, another in the series of time tangles that come up every so often on Dark Shadows, flipping the audience backwards for a few months and letting everyone change costumes. While lots of the other cast members double and triple up on roles in these periods, Lara Parker does not. She always plays Angelique, no matter what time it is.
So far, Angelique has appeared in 1795, 1968, 1795, 1897, 1795 and 1970, more or less in that order. She’s dead, or some semisolid version of dead that leaves her walking around and talking to people. As far as I know, there’s no room in her twisted history for her to spend 45 years walking around in circles, looping back to Collinsport every so often for the anniversary of Barnabas’ incarceration, but that, according to this episode, is what she’s done.
Like the Daleks, Lex Luthor, Lucy Van Pelt and other supervillains, Angelique is impossible to shake; when you turn around, there she is, inviting you to kick another kryptonite football, to your certain destruction.
And this time she’s brought along a friend — Aristede, from 1897, who’s also dead and doesn’t belong in this decade. She calls him Laszlo, probably for tax purposes, but this is clearly Aristede and there’s no sense denying it.
This gypsy assassin has been traveling with Angelique for several years, apparently, and she keeps him around for exposition purposes. “Now, we made this same pilgrimage last year,” he says, “and the year before, and I always have to wait outside! Now, what do you come here for?” He starts a lot of sentences with “now”, because he’s fify-seven years earlier than he’s supposed to be, and it helps him feel grounded.
“What’s different than the other nights?” he insists. “When you walked out of this tomb last year, you were smiling.”
“Of course,” she snaps. “Because I was happy.”
So that’s the question on the table: what makes this version of Angelique happy?
This, I imagine, is the timeline where girl governess Victoria Winters didn’t travel by doombuggy back to the 18th century, pulling Angelique along on her return trip to 1968. Somehow, we’ve found ourselves stranded sideways, in that uncharted era when Phyllis Wick went to the gallows instead of Vicki, for reasons that have never been explained.
Phyllis wasn’t wearing inappropriate clothing when she crash-landed at the Collins mansion, with startling zippers and suspicious labels bearing Satanic washing instructions. She didn’t call everybody by the wrong name and insist that she was living in a dream. She didn’t carry a book printed in the wrong century, bearing gloomy and semi-accurate predictions of the near future, and she didn’t go around telling people that they were going to die or marry the wrong person. But they hanged Phyllis Wick anyway. The only person who knows why is Angelique, and she won’t tell us, because she doesn’t care.
All she cares about is Barnabas, who she married and killed and left in a shoebox on the top shelf of the closet. And forty-five years later, here she comes again, still stuck in orbit around his corpse, forty-five years older and not a bit closer to achieving escape velocity. She’s been in a holding pattern that she just can’t break; she’s the smartest, the sneakiest, the most beautiful and capable and assertive woman for miles, and the only thing she can think of doing is collect gypsies and arrange the world’s bleakest anniversary parties.
But this year it’s different, because the guest of honor woke up and took off, taking his coffin with him. And he didn’t leave a note, because he forgot all about Angelique. He made peace with her in 1970 during that Leviathan business; as far as he’s concerned, all their drama is in the past. The fact that he’s in the past too hasn’t quite clicked with him yet.
So Angelique tells her gypsy to go to Collinwood and find out if Barnabas is there, and if he is, does it look like he misses somebody blonde.
“Barnabas Collins,” she explains, the lantern light dancing in her eyes, “is the only man I ever loved.” And that’s going to keep on being true, as long as she circles his resting place like an everlasting buzzard. Angelique needs a new peer group.
Laszlo finds Barnabas at Collinwood, of course, impostorizing just like Angelique figured he would be. He can’t break out of his patterns either; whenever he faces a problem, he steps into another timestream, and then he just hangs around the drawing room, like he always has and always will. That’s why it’s so easy for Angelique to stalk him; he never really goes anywhere.
Once Laszlo’s gotten an eyeful, he takes his leave, and Barnabas gives him some parting words: “If you happen to be going into the village, I advise you to be careful. There are strange things happening here tonight.”
Yeah, there are, Laszlo thinks, and you’re one of them, and then he’s gone, out into the night.
Then Barnabas sits down, and asks Gabriel if he believes the wild stories about the enormous headless man who’s wandering through the woods, assaulting people. Gabriel doesn’t.
“Well, I do believe he exists,” Barnabas announces, “and I’m going out to join the search, before he kills someone else.” Which is a grand thing to say, except that he was already out searching before, and if he was such a big help, then why did he come back to Collinwood, take off his coat and sit on the furniture?
People keep doing that; I’m not sure why. They say they’re going out to comb the woods for the mad killer, and then two scenes later, they’re back at the house, with the woods still largely uncombed.
But that’s what the show is like, these days, a series of runarounds and retreads, featuring characters from the back catalog dusted off and reused. There’s a new Aristede, and a Quentin, and another Pansy Faye, and then there’s Angelique, restored to factory settings.
When Aristede reports that Barnabas is out chasing monsters around the yard, Angelique lights up like a 16 Magazine subscriber. “Tell me,” she coos, “does he still have that same strange intent look in his eyes? And his smile — when he smiles, does his face suddenly go gentle?”
And that’s where Angelique’s at, these days. She still wants Barnabas, even if he’s been taken out of the box and isn’t in mint condition anymore.
So she does the only thing that occurs to her to do, which is to show up at Collinwood pretending to be herself. “I’m Mrs. Barnabas Collins,” she says, which she actually is, posthumously. She showed up in 1897, too, and told everybody that she was Barnabas’ fiancee, or at least she will do, if she manages to hop over to Earth-Prime and join the rest of us in the timeline where they used to get decent ratings.
She learns that Barnabas is living at the Old House again, but when she says she’ll go and see him, Gabriel warns her: “I wouldn’t, if I were you. There have been many attacks here tonight; he’s out with the men.”
He doesn’t explain what he’s talking about, so it’s not clear to Angelique whether Barnabas is on the side of the attackers or the attacked. But it doesn’t really matter, of course, because eventually he’ll be coming back in for another conversation, before going out again, with the men. And so we come back, and back, and back, in endless loops of time and tantrums.
Tomorrow: The Perils of Memory.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Barnabas stumbles a little during the confrontation with Leticia: “Now, we’re — it’s very important that we find –” At the end of the conversation, he says, “All right, Leticia. I only hope for your own sake that you do not where that body is.” He means the head.
Laszlo asks Angelique, “Is it too much to — or too foolish to ask if there’s any reason why we couldn’t leave this foolish town?”
Behind the Scenes:
Norman Parker plays Judah’s headless body in four episodes starting with 1126, and this isn’t one of them. In this episode, the body is played by Joe Della Sarte, in his only episode.
Tomorrow: The Perils of Memory.
— Danny Horn