“No, I couldn’t have, but she could have — that demon inside me, she could have, and she did!”
“I don’t know how to bring my son back,” declares Flora Collins, “except to wait.”
Her daughter-in-law Catherine looks at her in surprise. “Wait? Wait for what?”
“I don’t know.”
“And how much longer must we wait?”
“I don’t know that either.”
So if you’re looking for a way to sum up what’s happening on Dark Shadows these days in ten seconds, then that little excerpt from Waiting for Godot ought to do nicely.
Because honestly, there aren’t that many storylines in this phase of Dark Shadows, and a lot of the characters are actively involved in slowing down the ones that we have. The worst recent offender was Gabriel in yesterday’s episode, who suddenly remembered something crucially important immediately before the commercial break, and suddenly forgot it again immediately after.
“Quentin!” he gasped, eyes boggling. “I know! I know what terrified me! I know what happened in that room!”
Then, after a couple brief words from Bufferin and L’Oréal, Quentin says, “All right, what was it?” and Gabriel turns and looks him straight in the face and says, “What are you talking about?”
So that is just not something that we do, as a grown-up television show. It does not signal confidence to the audience.
Now, today it looks like we’re going to get a huge payoff to a long-simmering plot point: Melanie wants to tell her boyfriend Kendrick that she’s the one who murdered his sister, while in the grip of an angry alternate personality from the 1680s.
At the end of yesterday’s episode, Melanie — sick and tired of the constant lies that scatter about the house — finally walks into the drawing room and tells her mother, “Mama, you’d better tell him. I tried, but I couldn’t. So you tell him, please.”
This is potentially a big deal, and worthy of the episode cliffhanger that it was — and when the next episode begins, it only takes forty seconds to cut through the obligatory “tell him what/you know what I’m talking about” before Melanie says the words: “That I killed Stella!” And there you have it, a plot point.
Kendrick’s response to this bombshell is delightfully subdued. He’s been walking around and shouting at people pretty much non-stop, even when he’s telling Melanie that he cares for her, and this is the painful truth that should be sending him into orbit.
Instead, he turns toward her and asks, “How did it happen?”
Melanie, turned away from him in shame, says, “I don’t know.”
“It was an accident, wasn’t it?” he says.
That’s a demonstration of how invested they are in the Melanie/Kendrick relationship, and I appreciate it. Kendrick knows that Melanie isn’t capable of murder, and there’s not even a flicker of anger or blame in his voice. In fact, it’s the opposite: he sees that confessing to the crime is causing Melanie pain, and his instinct is to comfort and care for her.
Melanie and Kendrick are nice together, and the sincerity and courage that they bring to this storyline prevents this period from being an endless grim parade.
But then here comes Flora, to reverse the story progression and try to drag us all back a step. She sends Melanie out of the room, and tells Kendrick that Melanie doesn’t know what she’s saying, nobody knows how or when or by whom Stella was killed, and anyway maybe there never really was a Stella, I’m not familiar with that name, maybe it was antifa and cancel culture.
So Flora is a storyline speed bump, and now Kendrick is having the exact same conversation with her that he did a week ago. Flora and Julia are both tirelessly devoted to slowing down the story; they take helpful plot information, declare that it’s a secret, and then keep it away from anybody who might use it to grow as a character.
And then Flora goes and does it again in the next scene with Melanie, assuring her that Kendrick isn’t right for her and it’s best if he just goes away and stops trying to make something interesting happen.
Then over to Daphne, who’s busy undermining her own story. Last week, it looked like Daphne was getting wise to her train wreck of a marriage, with some snappy dialogue about her husband Bramwell’s obsession with her married sister. She was acting like a smart character, figuring out what’s wrong with her life, and moving in a story-productive direction.
Well, about that.
Daphne: Bramwell, when I asked you to take me away, you said no. You said that I could either stay here and be your wife, or I could leave by myself. That was the choice you gave me. Well, Bramwell, I’ve decided what I’m going to do.
Bramwell: I see. And what is that?
Daphne: I’m going to stay! Oh, Bramwell!
Then she rushes to his arms to embrace him, and somewhere in the world, another fish gets a bicycle.
Daphne: I was so lonely, even for just the hour that I was by myself! I know I could never live without you.
Bramwell: You won’t have to.
Daphne: I know that, but Bramwell, we can make this marriage work, I know we can!
So I don’t know what to do with that. Even for just the hour? Is she a baby duck that imprinted on him?
Daphne: We can be happy together, we can be happier than, than, than anyone else could make each of us —
Bramwell: I must —
Daphne: Bramwell, you’ve got to believe me, I —
Bramwell: I must go upstairs, if you’ll excuse me —
And then he extricates, and quickly walks away from her.
And she follows him, still gabbling, as he goes all the way up the stairs.
Daphne: Bramwell, things will be different from now on! Let’s go out tonight, just the two of us, and… Bramwell, did you hear me?
So this is a whole other level of speed bump, which slows down story progression while also making the character look pathetic and foolish.
So I’m losing patience with these people, who talk endlessly about waiting and hoping, and hardly ever take real action to move things along. Kendrick and Melanie actually do have a nice scene where he shouts at her to deny everything she’s said about Stella, but then pivots to a marriage proposal, which they treat very capably and with some real feelings. But then it’s back to Catherine and Flora talking about Morgan, and Bramwell leaving Daphne to come and meet with Catherine again, and honestly, how much longer do we have to wait?
Tomorrow: Catherine the Not-So-Great.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
The guy who kept clearing his throat yesterday is still at it, when Flora closes the drawing room doors.
After Melanie’s confession, Flora says, “Don’t listen to him, Mr. Young; she doesn’t know what she’s saying!”
When Kendrick yells, “Melanie, stop torturing yourself!” you can see a studio light.
Kendrick tells Melanie, “In time, the truth will come about, what happened to Stella.”
There’s an offscreen clatter as Catherine walks down the foyer stairs, and the guy clears his throat again as she enters the drawing room.
Catherine tells Flora, “You know, I used to think that the worst thing in the world would be waiting for someone you loved. Someone you loved to die.”
Bramwell and Flora step on each other’s lines, and then Bramwell goes off-book:
Flora: You will never assure me, no matter what you say, Bramwell. Now, leave us alone!
Bramwell: That’s all —
Flora: Leave Catherine alone!
Bramwell: That’s all she is to you — just your son’s wife! Well, she’s become a Collins possession now, as far as you’re concerned, you can tell her what to do, you have the right to tell her what to do, and how to act!
Then Flora says, “And what about Morgan? Is his situation — less — suffering?”
Bramwell tells Catherine, “Every minute you breathe is mine, just as I — every breath I take is yours!” He does the line correctly in tomorrow’s reprise: “Every minute you live is mine, just as every breath I take is yours!”
Similarly, he says, “It is only you that I love, and always will be. It can never be anything else.” The line in tomorrow’s reprise makes a bit more sense: “It’s you that I’ve always loved, and it always will be. Nothing could ever change that.”
Tomorrow: Catherine the Not-So-Great.
— Danny Horn