Episode 1160: Look Who’s Walking

“Murder is only the first step.”

So who wants to talk about the last 85 episodes of Dark Shadows? Well, I do for one, although I know it hasn’t looked that way lately. I’ve been averaging somewhere between zero and four posts a month since August, and August was forever ago.

I could tick off the usual excuses — amnesia, curse, sudden appearance of an ancient stone altar owned by people who wanted me to do something terribly urgent — but it doesn’t really matter; the important thing is that we’ve got seventeen more weeks of Dark Shadows to watch. Let’s do this.

And right off the bat, we’ve got one of the all-time great surprises of Dark Shadows: Gabriel Collins can walk!

When we arrived in the 1840 timeline two and a half months ago, one of the first things that we saw was Gabriel in a wheelchair, ordering a subordinate to push him into the room. His disability is his defining characteristic, fueling the bitterness and resentment that dominates his every interaction. He sits and spits tacks at whoever’s in his way, and they have to accept it, because he had an accident as a child and they still feel guilty about it.

But here he is, up on his feet, challenging his father and taking his first steps towards a new life, if he can manage it.

Daniel Collins is up in the tower room making out a new will, pretending that he still has a sound mind and a sound body all the way up to the end. And here comes Gabriel, the man in the chair, rolling into the room with no specific plan in mind. He knows his father’s cutting him out of the will, and he’s determined to stop it at all costs, probably by shouting at him or maybe grabbing his wrist. Gabriel’s really good at both of those things, so he’s relying on his core competencies to carry the day.

Daniel doesn’t take kindly to being interrupted; he was just on the verge of giving the family fortune back to the son that he likes. He’d changed his will the other day, disinheriting Quentin, because he was under the impression that Quentin was a murderer and a warlock; now he’s reinheriting Quentin and redisinheriting Gabriel, because he’s decided maybe that’s not so bad. Now, technically, Gabriel isn’t actually being redisinherited, because he was never in the will in the first place and the original disinheriting still stands,  but he thinks that he’s being redisinherited, and I’m not going to go into why right now, because the explanation might get a little complicated.

Gabriel demands the document, and Daniel stands up, taking it out of Gabriel’s reach and quelling the rebellion, as far as he’s concerned. Gabriel keeps on handing him back-sass.

“You’re a sick and senile old man!” he grouses, and Daniel shouts, “Senile, am I? That’s where you’re wrong, you ungrateful wretch!” The dialogue’s getting pretty steamy in here.

Ungrateful?” Gabriel cries. “What do I have to be grateful to you for? You answer me that! I’ve sat in Quentin’s shadow all my life! I’ve watched you give him everything, and me nothing! Well, that’s all over with now, father, because you’ve revised your will once, and once is enough for me!”

Daniel strikes back with both barrels. This is how you make the lame less lame; observe the technique.

“When I’m through with you, you’ll have nothing, because you are nothing!” he storms. “Yes, I love Quentin, and do you know why? Because he’s ten times the man you are! You’ve done nothing but bathe in self-pity ever since you settled in that wheelchair. You did it to make others feel sorry for you, so that you could have your own way! Do you know what Quentin would have done if he’d had the accident instead of you? He would have fought, and gone on fighting, until the day he rose up and walked! That is why he’s had my love and my admiration, and why you’ve never had it, and never will have it! You’re nothing but a weakling and a coward!”

And finally, after all these years: it’s enough.

“That’s enough!” Gabriel cries, and rises.

Daniel just said that he would respect Gabriel if he got up and walked, but now Gabriel has, and Daniel still isn’t happy. “You’re even worse than I thought!” he thunders, and he’s right.

Gabriel really is worse, a lot worse. You wouldn’t think it was possible to get this much worse.

He could have walked years ago, but he sat and sulked, and wondered why everyone was passing him by. He nursed his injury, until it became his only goal in life; he was the memory of an accident in human form.

He really is a weakling and a coward, and as it happens, a murderer too; the one thing that got him up out of his crouch was the chance to run around in the woods and murder Randall, so that Quentin would be blamed. And now, for one more crucial moment, Gabriel is getting up and taking charge of the situation.

So, why did he stay in the chair? He knew that everyone despised him, and there was at least a chance of earning their respect years ago, if he’d stood up and taken his place among the vertical. But he kept his recovery to himself, and accepted a life of pity.

This is the truth he’s been trying to duck, all these years — that he could have made different choices, and in the end, he doesn’t deserve to be loved.

And then, as his father lies dying on the carpet, Gabriel goes and gets back into the chair. Even now, after the big reveal, he has to continue the pantomime. It’s more than just his alibi; it’s his identity.

“I never could explain while you were alive, father,” he says, to the second man he’s killed. “You never cared for me much, even as a boy. You always said: be like Quentin. You gotta get out and lead men some day. You’ve got to play games, and win! And win… I played games, father, I played until Quentin stopped them forever. You see, I made him stop them. You know why? So that — you’d have to take care of me. I made you take care of me, father.”

So I guess that plan backfired pretty comprehensively. Gabriel obviously thinks of himself as a manipulative character, always trying to twist people around for his own benefit, but the truth is, he’s terrible at it. If what he wants is to make everyone hate him, then he’s doing a great job, but getting any other reaction but weariness and frustration is beyond his powers.

Meanwhile, Gerard has run rings around Gabriel’s chair, competing for the same prize — Daniel’s love, as a necessary preliminary to the Collins fortune — and he’s winning that contest by approximately one hundred percent. Gabriel is spending his life being an object of pity, and he’s not even getting anything out of it, the poor sap.

So let’s enjoy this moment, because this is something that Dark Shadows is about to stop doing — a non-supernatural fam-dram revelation that provides instant character development without resorting to an external entity made of Evil with a capital E.

In fact, this may be the last gasp of real character development, before the plot mechanics take over for a more or less unbroken eighteen weeks. Next week, all kinds of things are going to happen to Quentin — accusations and revelations and several horrid surprises — and there isn’t a single one that tells us anything new about him, or affects his outlook or behavior in any way. That’s because 1840 Quentin isn’t a character, really, he’s just a handsome blank canvas for the villains to use in order to express themselves. Gabriel might be the only actual character we have left.

Meanwhile, in the world outside, the writers — Sam Hall and Gordon Russell — must be aware that the show is winding down, and pretty soon they’ll have to look elsewhere for a paycheck. Sam actually stays in Dan Curtis’ orbit for another five years, working on Night of Dark Shadows and various horror adaptations, but Gordon knows where they’re really headed, and he goes straight to One Life to Live, where fam-dram character work is the rule and not the exception.

It won’t be right now, obviously — like I said, there’s seventeen weeks left to go — but all of us, Sam and Gordon and Gabriel and me, we’ve got one eye on the exit, waiting for the day when we rise from our chairs and walk out the door.

Monday: The Monster of Collinwood.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

In the teaser, Gabriel mixes up the reprise of his big speech:

Yesterday’s version: “What do I have to be grateful to you for? You answer me that! I’ve sat in Quentin’s shadow all my life! I’ve watched you give him everything, and me nothing!”

Today’s version: “Ungrateful wretch? And what do I have to be ungrateful to you for? You tell me that! I’ve watched you, I’ve watched all my life, being in Quentin’s shadow! And watching you giving Quentin everything, while I got nothing!”

There’s a long pause between Gabriel saying, “I’ve been waiting to get back at Quentin,” and Daniel remembering to gasp, “Quentin!”

When Daniel looks over the will he’s just written at the start of the show, he reads: “I, Daniel Collins, being of sound mind and body, do hereby –” When Gabriel reads the will a couple minutes later, he reads: “I, Daniel Collins, being of sound mind, do hereby–” Admittedly, by that point, Daniel’s claim of a “sound body” is pretty thin.

Gerard says, “You always, always take your personal hatred towards me, don’t you, Desmond?”

Gerard tells Edith that he proved he has powers “to show you that there are certain mysteries pertaining to life and death, certain mysteries that will make a difference of your life and living.”

Gerard asks Edith to repeat the incantation after him.

Gerard:  My body and soul I give to thee.

Edith:  My body and soul I give to thee.

Gerard:  For in return —

Edith:  For in return —

Gerard:  I ask to be granted the secret powers from — the darkest pits of Hell.

Edith:  For in return, I will be given the secret powers from the deepest pits of Hell.

Samantha says, “The question is better put to you, isn’t it, Grabiel?”

When Gerard pushes Gabriel into the drawing room, you can see the shadow of the camera moving across the floor of the foyer.

Monday: The Monster of Collinwood.

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

31 thoughts on “Episode 1160: Look Who’s Walking

  1. So how did Gabriel get all the way up to the Tower Room without an elevator? Did a servant have lug him up all those stairs? Because let’s face it — 1840 Collinwood isn’t exactly handicapped-accessible! 😉

    1. I’ve wondered about that, too. Grabiel (wonderful rename!) must have some sort of ‘dumbwaiter’ for mobility, as anything else would require two servants (either with one on each side of the chair, or one to schlep the chair and one for his carcass). And he’d be the type to want his movements kept private (though forcing two lackeys to hoist him WOULD be satisfying, especially since it was unnecessary. ) Plus, the carriers would need payment, room and board, and days off (though again, Gabie Baby would love making some poor grey old wretch cart his lying ass up a steep flight of stairs then go back and fetch the chair) – and there’s the chance they might drop him.
      And a dumbwaiter would be useful for the staff to bring other large useless loads up and down in Collinwood (and a handy spot for ‘accidents’, as well!)

    2. If Gabriel could run through the woods, kill Randall and be back at the house with AIS (ass in seat) before anyone noticed his absence then he could easily run right up the tower steps, carrying his wheelchair.

  2. I love the lighting effect on Daniel in this scene, to make him look anemically pale.

    You can see it on that fourth screencap, the close-up, where the round white lighting fixture is reflected on Louis Edmonds’ forehead.

    That’s one of the Dark Shadows signature touches — makeup and lighting!

  3. Apropos of your comment that the non-supernatural element of Gabriel’s years of lying; the writers could have gone in another direction, using elements of the 1942 film ‘Night Monster’. But I doubt that the effort to find storylines was happening at this point – and the plot as written IS effective.

  4. Years ago I watched the scene described above, while Christopher Pennock was in the room. When asked afterwards about his thoughts while watching the scene, Chris told fans something along the lines of “I’m chewing the scenery and Louis is still acting rings around me.”

  5. No need to hurry posting. The “real” Dark Shadows – the characters and show that we know – will nicely wrap up everything come episode 1198 (late January 1971). Later often comes sooner than we expect. For now, let’s all just enjoy the ride.

  6. This is one of my all time favorite scenes. The first watch through I yelled when he stood. The speeches, the fury! So good.

    I expect Gabriel did some secret standing outside of the murders when no one was looking.

    1. That’s another reason Gabriel didn’t want the help coming around – and more reason for him to have a dumbwaiter style elevator to get from floor to floor; someone might see that he was faking, and gossip might start, if he had servants carrying him around.

      1. There would have been a lot more dead servants on the grounds…in the dumbwaiters….down the stairs…

        1. Window seats and secret passages will also ‘serve’ in a pinch, if you don’t have a convenient alcove, a pile of bricks, and a batch of mortar to hand. And there’s that super easy walk to Widows Hill…if there isn’t some headless guy on the way to pull their noggin off for them.
          No wonder they had problems hiring staff at Collinwood!

          1. I’ve just read a perfectly dreadful DS-by-way-of-Marilyn-Ross fanfic, and I’ll throw in King Rehotip, the most ineffectual mummy to terrorize the populace. He may kill one of the staff by pure chance.

  7. Danny’s back! happy dance

    When Dark Shadows remembered that it was a soap opera it did it very, very well. I was on the edge of my seat when Gabriel got up out of his chair, and I would happily have swapped every scene with the head of Judah Zachary for more such character based moments.

    (As for the delays in posting, I look at it this way: if you turn this blog into “Dark Shadows Every Month” at least we’ll still have new posts to look forward to into 2026!)

  8. I watched Dark Shadows once in 2014-2015 when I bought the coffin box. I decided to watch one episode a day starting on January 1, 2016. I’m now up to episode 1163 [1146]. I watched it much quicker the first go around. I’ve really enjoyed seeing one episode a day. This Dark Shadows blog post has been so much fun to read. I look forward to more whenever you have the time Danny. I appreciate your writing so much. Thank you.

  9. One bummer about Gabriel killing Daniel is that Louis Edmonds is now left to just play ghosts, for the most part. It’s too bad he isn’t in the scene where Barnabas, Julia, and Stokes return to 1971 and encounter Liz.

  10. It is good to see Danny rise back out of the coffin, to scribble more notes in a madman’s hand, no doubt transcribed to the internet by a helpful stenographer at the cannery.

    We thought Gabriel had a dumbwaiter, but if he can walk, maybe he just has multiple wheelchairs stashed all over the house. It’s not as if anyone would notice.

  11. https://deadline.com/2019/02/the-haunting-renewed-season-2-mike-flanagan-trevor-macy-partner-intrepid-pictures-netflix-overall-deal-the-haunting-of-hill-house-1202561592/amp/

    A bit off topic, but I wish they’d do it a Haunting of Collinswood” aka a better version of Night of Dark Shadows.

    My true wish being it would do well and spin off into a DS reboot.

    Of course, why bother with rights to DS, when they can get to the less troublesome source material that shaped DS.

    1. I’m glad it’s coming back for a second season, but I was hoping that we’d get more of the back story from Hill House.

      But hey, if they’re doing The Turn of the Screw it will hopefully please Dark Shadows fans.

  12. So nice to see a new post up!

    The wheelchair scene is a great surprise twist — it works and we didn’t see it coming. 1840 would have been better with less magic and more fam dram. But I still think it’s a better story arc than most folks do.

    1. What makes it less effective for me is that there’s no follow through from the ‘intro’ story, with the playroom and pirates and (I can’t believe I’m saying this) Carrie and Tad. Guess Julia changed the timeline as soon as she arrived?

      I’m sure it’ll turn out fine. Perhaps even without the huge body count that usually comes with time travel on DS.

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