“For mother, the cards are blank. For me, they throb with life!”
Number one: The playroom. Right?
I mean, here we are, two months into the 1840 storyline, and so far, I don’t see what anything has to do with anything. Some of you may be too young to remember 1995, but I was there, and it seemed to me as if the playroom had a certain significance. It might have been all the people opening the door and saying, holy cow, a playroom, which happened approximately eight times an episode for what seemed like ages.
It’s not that the playroom is clearly designed for children in the four to eleven range, and the children in the house are old enough to be drafted. They had the decency to lampshade that early on, and I respect them for it; game recognize game. The problem is the architecture.
Now, correct me if I’m wrong, which I’m not, but I recall just about everybody remarking that the playroom is too big for the space that it occupies, like the TARDIS but stationary and invented by ghosts. If you walk through that doorway, you get a linen closet, and if you keep on walking, you get the outside wall and then a precipitous drop to the patio. In 1970, the playroom was the spirit of a room that didn’t exist — couldn’t exist — but in 1840, it’s just a dimensionally transcendent room that nobody bothers to think about.
We’ve got one of two only options — either this space is big enough to house a playroom, or it isn’t — and Dark Shadows, in its casually quantum way, has chosen both. So that’s one reason.
Number two: Tad.
In the future of the recent past, dead heir Tad Collins of the mid-19th century was possessing live heir David Collins of the mid-to-late 20th, a pivotal plot point that they brought up more or less constantly. But the scene shifted to 1840 six weeks ago, and we haven’t seen Tad once. His parents have talked about him a bunch of times — you’re not going to take Tad out of this house, they’ve said, for instance — but the boy himself has remained stubbornly offscreen. Everyone else is getting possessed and borrowing newspapers, but Tad refuses to join in the fun. At a certain point, it becomes deliberately insulting.
Number three: The carousel theme.
Another thing that we’re not seeing a hell of a lot of is the music-box carousel, another major player in the run-up to 1840. The tinkly tune performed a multitude of narrative conveniences — possessing people, indicating when someone was already possessed, luring people from one place to another, even serving as the background to a mysterious haunted dance number.
It was there for the irony, obviously, like everything in the playroom was — a spooky counterpoint to the destruction and madness that the ghosts would wreak. But the villains that we know now — Gerard Stiles, and the legendary head of Judah Zachery — don’t go in much for whimsical irony. Judah is a warlock from the Puritan colonies of 1690, and nothing in his backstory indicates an interest in carnival rides. Head bags and scowling, yes, light-hearted melodies, no.
There are a couple musical themes in 1840 — Judah’s terrible Dead of Night theme, plus the song that reminds Quentin of terrible dead Joanna. It’s possible that the carousel was haunted independently by some spook yet unknown, and it just happened to show up around the same time.
Number four: Rose Cottage, interior.
The room that David and Hallie died in was a purple parlor that was upstairs in the dollhouse, and apparently downstairs in the actual house, because that’s where everybody walked into as soon as they entered the front door. In 1840, everybody gathers in the drawing room, which is on the other side of the front door, except in 1970 when there’s a wall there. There may be a perfectly sensible explanation for this, but I’d need to see the floor plan.
Number five: The model ship.
Back in 1970, a ship sailed into David’s bedroom unasked-for, another spooky pseudo-clue that told us nothing at all. It says The Java Queen on it, which is apparently the name of Gerard’s ship, but that’s the ship that Tad and Quentin were swept off of and stranded in Brazil for six months, so Tad probably wouldn’t want to keep a replica around as a keepsake. They were thinking of Quentin and Jamison, I suppose, except they didn’t set up a relationship between Gerard and Tad, other than temporarily marrying his mother.
Hallie: I’m going to be punished!
David: Punished for what? You haven’t done anything wrong.
Hallie: Oh yes, I have! I went to his ship today!
David: Whose ship?
David: Who’s Gerard?
Hallie: I saw him, in one of the cabins, with Daphne! I saw him take her in his arms, and kiss her! I didn’t mean to see them! I was just walking by! They’re both very angry with me!
No idea what this could possibly be referring to. Is Gerard ever on his ship?
Number seven: Quentin’s diary.
Things that Julia should have learned from reading all those journals: Quentin and Tad being lost at sea. Gerard’s brief marriage to Samantha. Flora and Desmond living in Rose Cottage. A maniac prowling the woods, killing at least two Collins servants. Samantha’s sister’s sudden death.
Back in 1795, the Collins Family History included a detailed description of the last night of Josette’s life, including the loss of a ring, a door swinging open, and the sound of breaking glass. Why didn’t they write anything down, in 1840? There’s probably broken glass all over the place, and Julia has no idea what to expect.
Number eight: The falling bust.
In 1995, we saw and/or heard about a number of ghost-related deaths, including a bust falling on Jeanne Flagler, Mrs. Johnson having a heart attack, a bust almost falling on Julia, and Carolyn dying in the middle of writing a note. Judah’s whole thing is beheading, and there wasn’t a smidgen of beheading. Crushing someone’s skull is not the same thing, even if you crush it with someone else’s head.
Number nine: The unfinished horoscope.
There was the night of the sun and the moon, the light from the star that guides the destiny of Daphne Harridge, and Elizabeth’s sudden and under-explained obsession with astrology. In 1840, Gerard does prepare horoscopes, apparently, but only as a sideline and not to any real purpose. What was that all about?
Number ten: The pirate zombies.
Now, stop me if you’ve heard this one, but “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.”
So that’s a thing that I don’t think is happening. As I said, Judah is all about witch trials, hangings and decapitations, not pirates or circuses. We know that Gerard is the captain of the Java Queen — and known to the authorities as a swindler and a gun runner — but Quentin and Tad were traveling on his ship when they went overboard. I can’t imagine they were part of the brigands and cutthroats, and anyway, they were within swimming distance of Brazil, not off the rockbound coast of Maine. Also, the ship isn’t wrecked, and why would Gerard vow to unite his evil followers in death? It doesn’t add up, and I would have figured that the thing that ultimately destroys Collinwood would get more set-up than this.
Number eleven: The night I sang my song.
Julia read in Quentin’s diary that on one particular day in 1839, there was a concert in the Collinwood drawing room headlined by Leticia for the entertainment of Gerard, followed by an evening of champagne and whist. But Gerard and Leticia didn’t arrive until after Quentin and Tad went overboard, which was apparently early 1840, plus if Quentin kept such a careful diary, then why didn’t he mention the maniac running around in the woods, tearing people’s heads off. Also, Gerard and Leticia don’t live at Collinwood.
Number twelve: The old McGruder place.
In 1840, Flora and Desmond Collins live in a mansion known to the family as Rose Cottage, a nickname given to it by Carrie at some point in her childhood. It’s within easy walking distance of Collinwood, and possibly on the Collinwood estate itself.
But Quentin remembers this house as “the old McGruder place on Cumberland Road,” which he presumably remembers from his childhood in Collinwood, circa the 1870s. By 1970, the family doesn’t even know where that is. How old was old McGruder when he moved in, and why doesn’t anyone remember that Collins family members used to live there? Didn’t the McGruders call it the old Collins place?
Number thirteen: Hallie’s crush on Gerard.
And this one is the most story-bending head-scratcher of all. If there’s one thing that we absolutely remember from 1970, it’s that Tad and Carrie adore their governess, Daphne. She’s more important to the kids than anyone in their families; their destinies are irrevocably intertwined.
But in today’s episode, Carrie returns from a trip to Boston, and meets Daphne for the first time. “Hello, Miss Harridge,” Carrie says. “Well, if you’ll excuse me, there’s someone I have to see.” And then she exits, going upstairs to say hi to Gerard. All wound up and ready for romance with this handsome houseguest, she tells him, “One thing Boston did teach me was, I’m too old for a governess.”
Now, there’s two and a half months left, which I suppose is enough time for Tad and Carrie to fall in love with Daphne and learn to fear Gerard, but the track record does not inspire confidence. Sometimes I think this might not be a documentary, after all.
Tomorrow: The Golden Moment.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
At the beginning of Gerard’s second scene in act 1, as Gerard says, “What powers do you hold?” somebody walks by off-camera, and they’re reflected in the head’s glass case.
In Carrie’s line about being too old for a governess, she calls the city “Boe-ston”.
When Gerard opens Judah’s journal, he has to hold it in place for the camera to get a shot of the cover. He watches offscreen for his cue to turn it around, and start writing in it.
Daphne has come to Rose Cottage to get the newspapers from 1803 that Desmond took from the newspaper archive. He opens a cabinet, and hands Daphne a newspaper — but the headline is about Otis Greene’s death, which happened just a month ago.
The footage of the sea crashing on the rocks under Widow’s Hill is terribly old and scratched up, plus it’s in black and white. I guess it’s been a while since we’ve been up to Widow’s Hill, they must have mislaid the color footage.
When Gerard whirls around after throwing the head, you can see the top of the set.
Gerard says, “Well, now, Carrie, go back and tell Flora good night for me, will you — won’t you, please?”
At the end of act 3, the closing trill obscures the last couple words of Gerard’s line.
The mic cuts off one of Gerard’s lines: “Perhaps I shall take a little nap –”
Gerard asks Dawson what he wants, and Dawson says, “well, sure-you — surely you know who I am.”
Behind the Scenes:
Charles Dawson is Humbert Allen Astredo, returning to the show. We last saw him as Nicholas Blair, wrapping up the Leviathan story in March.
Tomorrow: The Golden Moment.
— Danny Horn