Episode 1229: Catherine the Not-So-Great

“Sleeping is not one of the safest things you can do in this house.”

When you think about it, isn’t there a fine line between passion and obsession? Isn’t true love a kind of madness, in which nothing else really matters beyond your shared feelings?

“Morgan went into that room to save me!” Catherine cries. “That’s why I must stay here and help him, even if it takes the rest of my life!”

Bramwell glowers at her. “You’re remarkably generous with the rest of your life, considering it belongs to me!”

She turns away, her mind a whirl.

“Every minute you live is mine,” Bramwell urges, “just as every breath I take is yours! There is no Morgan. There never was! Other people are only shadows that we use to hurt each other with, to frighten each other with! That’s true, isn’t it?”

“Morgan did it for me!” Catherine cries. “He went into that room for me!”

“You and I are the only real ones,” he insists. “You and I!”

So the answer is no, there isn’t a fine line between passion and obsession, true love is not a kind of madness, and these people are psychopaths.

I mean, really. Other people are only shadows? How much of a lunatic do you have to be, to come up with that idea? You can be as much in love as you want, but other people are still going to exist, whether you believe in them or not.

And the weird thing is that I think Dark Shadows intends for us to like these characters and this relationship. They have the idea that Wuthering Heights is a tragic love story, which it is not. It is mostly a story about cruelty and revenge, and what a person can do when their primary purpose in life is to have a series of overlapping temper tantrums.

The stupidest thing about this stupid version of Wuthering Heights is that Catherine was offered a whole bunch of off-ramps before she decided to marry Morgan instead of Bramwell. In the book, Cathy is engaged to marry Edgar because Heathcliff is a dirty gutter orphan, and as much as she cares about him, he’s too low-class to marry. Heathcliff, hearing part of a conversation and not truly understanding Cathy’s heart, runs away to make his fortune, which he does, and then he comes back for her, by which point Catherine is already married and pregnant. There isn’t really any point in the story where Catherine and Heathcliff could have just married each other, and saved everyone else a lot of trouble.

But in this version, Bramwell comes back from his journey while Catherine is engaged to Morgan, and has several conversations with her about why she should marry him instead. He doesn’t have as much money as Morgan does, but he lives in the enormous mansion next door and clearly has enough money to keep his wife in overstuffed nightgowns.

And there wasn’t really a lot of social pressure for her not to marry Bramwell; in the first episode that we saw her, her sister Daphne urged her to say no to Morgan, because she knew that Bramwell still had a hold on Catherine. Everyone knew that, everyone seemed basically fine with it, and if Catherine had said guess what I’m marrying Bramwell intead, then Morgan would have been disappointed, but nobody would have been particularly surprised.

So I don’t really feel very much when Catherine says things like, “I love you, and I will always love you! But it changes nothing! You’re married to Daphne, and I to Morgan. Our whole situation is hopeless; there’s no end for us, Bramwell!”

This doesn’t feel like a tragedy; it feels like the predictable consequence of choices that these characters have made, freely and with full possession of the facts. The show can signal to us all they like that we’re supposed to find this romantic, but all I can see is two people whose hopelessness is entirely self-inflicted.

And then there’s Daphne, currently hiding in the bushes and discovering that exactly what she thought was going on is, in fact, going on. In Wuthering Heights, this role is filled by Isabella Linton, Catherine’s sister-in-law, who Heathcliff seduces in order to punish Catherine; they run off and get married, and soon return with nothing but regrets.

But Isabella was a foolish, sheltered young woman, too inexperienced to understand Heathcliff’s intentions. Daphne was introduced to us as competent and capable; she gets to know Bramwell when she nurses him back to health following a duel. It’s hard to see her as a victim here, when she walked into the situation with open eyes.

And it’s not like she wasn’t warned; everybody told her not to marry Bramwell, especially Catherine. Daphne even went to a medium for advice, and was given a stark warning not to marry the guy, which she immediately decided to ignore.

This sets up an unbelievably Dark Shadows-y moment that feels to me like Gordon Russell giving me a going-away present before the show ends.

Daphne is alone in the drawing room, thinking things over, and she turns around and suddenly notices a box lying out in full view that contains two loaded duelling pistols. I’ve been making jokes for years about the Collins family keeping murder weapons all over the house, including just a few weeks ago when I suggested they keep two sets of loaded duelling pistols in every room, and here it is on television, just as I imagined.

And she’s going to use it, too; Daphne’s a real go-getter. She’s lifting the barrel to her temple when Bramwell enters the house, and gives everyone even more reasons to pull the trigger.

After a brief Daphne/Bramwell conversation, Catherine and Julia walk in and start talking about whatever’s going on with Morgan these days. While Julia talks, Bramwell and Catherine stand about five inches apart and look directly into each other’s faces, breathing heavily.

They keep this up for a full forty seconds, or, as it is experienced by the audience, forever. Characters walk and talk and move about, civilizations rise and fall, and still Catherine and Bramwell stand there, heaving. This is what is known in the dramatic arts as indicating, and it is not a compliment. These two might as well be holding up signs.

When Daphne and Catherine are alone, Daphne does some passive-aggressive indicating of her own.

Catherine:  Oh, life used to be so simple. When we were children, wasn’t life simple?

Daphne:  Yes, it was, Catherine. So was love. We did love each other then, didn’t we?

Catherine:  I don’t understand… You’re still my sister. I love you very much.

Daphne:  (turning away)  That’s good to know, Catherine. Catherine, I was thinking this morning, about how you warned me against marrying Bramwell.

Catherine:  Well, yes, I did. Why, what about it? Are you really that unhappy, Daphne?

Daphne:  (turns back)  Catherine, if you don’t mind, I’d really like to be alone.

Catherine:  But, Daphne —

Daphne:  Please, Catherine.

So Catherine walks out of the room, despite the fact that she lives in this house, and Daphne doesn’t.

And then Daphne goes and fondles the duelling pistols again, and if she thinks she’s scaring me, she can think again. I say go for it.

Because Catherine did warn Daphne about marrying Bramwell, and it was for the exact reason that Daphne’s unhappy about. Catherine knew that Bramwell was just using Daphne to get back at her, and she told Daphne that, and Daphne did it anyway, and here we are.

Julia, an actual smart character, spends the rest of the episode having pointed conversations with all three of these fools, and the way that they respond does not make me like them any better. Catherine’s response is the worst.

Julia:  You and Bramwell have been in love with each other for a long time. You are both married now — to other people. For you to go on seeing each other now secretly is wrong, and could be scandalous. It must stop.

Catherine:  I have had just about enough of your lectures, and your moralizing! Ever since I came to this house, you have never given me a chance! Well, I only have one thing to say to you: as long as my conscience is clear, and as long as I am faithful to my husband, and I will be, I shall do exactly as I please, and there is nothing you can do about it!

So I have to admit that I don’t really know what they’re trying to achieve here. If they want this to be a full-on dystopian Brontë world where everyone is an unreasonable savage a la Wuthering, then that’s fine, but don’t expect me to hope for a happy ending, unless it involves Daphne taking those duelling pistols and ridding the world of this entire storyline in a hail of well-deserved gunfire.

Tomorrow: Mortal Engines.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

When Catherine tells Bramwell “I love you, and I’ve always loved you,” someone in the studio coughs during the pause in the middle.

Plus, the throat-clearing man is still allowed in the building: he strikes after Morgan asks Julia, “Why do you ask such a stupid question?”

Daphne’s memory of Catherine’s lines diverges from the actual scene. In the gazebo scene, Catherine says,

“I love you — I will always love you — but it changes nothing! You’re married to Daphne, and I to Morgan. Our whole situation is hopeless. There’s no end for us, Bramwell!”

In Daphne’s voiceover memory, she says,

“I’m married to Morgan, you’re married to Daphne. Nothing can change that! Our whole situation is hopeless. There’s no end for us, Bramwell!”

When Bramwell and Daphne are talking in the drawing room, the camera cuts to Catherine and Julia on the stairs just a hair too early, and you can tell that they’re just starting to walk down from the middle of the stairs.

Julia tells Bramwell that Morgan thought she was Catherine Collins; she means Constance Collins.

Tomorrow: Mortal Engines.

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

29 thoughts on “Episode 1229: Catherine the Not-So-Great

  1. “Staying awake for the final episodes is not one of the smartest things you can do in this series.”

  2. It is hard to get past the fact that Catherine is “in love” with and emotionally and physically (he did rape her) man. and when they finally get over the Morgan obstacle Catherine will not be having a good life. Morgan is a good man who really loves Catherine and who did try to save her at his ow expense. Bramwell is vengeful, and angry and entitled and Catherine should run as fast as she can away from him. It’s not a good relationship and it’s a terrible story line to go out on.

    1. The relationship is meant to be the reverse of Barnabas and Angelique. As it turns out, Catherine and Bramwell live happily ever after, and their ‘love becomes a living legend’, according to Stokes.

  3. This story arc is so unfocused and turgid, the only way I can experience it again is through this blog. If it serves any purpose other than inducing sleep, it’s a warning to script writers-don’t wear out your welcome and beat your story to death. Go out on a high note. This whole arc was pointless. I like to think of it as a post vampire nightmare experienced by Barnabas, after a huge roast beef dinner.

    1. Barnabas finally decided to bite Angelique, immediately after telling her he loves her & watching her die. He figured, what the heck, it ain’t gonna hurt his beloved.

      Unfortunately, her blood still contained Witch residue, and it immediately pushed him into a trance, where he imagined he was a boring doppleganger, infatuated with an Angelique doppleganger, in a boring storyline.

  4. Catherine and Bramwell are both drama queens. Scandalousness is in their very nature. That explains it all.

  5. What I wouldn’t give for a good werewolf attack! If you wanted family drama, here it is. And it’s terrible. I’ve rewatched through 1232 and I just can’t anymore.
    We’re supposed to think Catherine is noble because she’s staying with Morgan, passing off Bramwell’s child as his? Everyone’s shouty or whiny or defiant. There’s no humor. There’s no fun. It feels claustrophobic. Everyone gets locked into rooms! It’s like Ron Sproat has taken over the show. There’s no one I really care about and there’s a couple I actively dislike, and they’re the main characters! Frid wanted to play a different character, but how different is Bramwell from Barnabas? He’s still cruel. He still thinks his desires are more important than anyone else’s.. He’s still going to the docks at midnight. Catherine is like Angelique without her powers and wit. All she has is a disagreeable temper. Quentin has developed a verbal tick (Listen, now). Flora’s lost all her flighty charm from 1840. Not her fault. It’s the story. It’s just unrelentingly depressing. Julia is mostly still Julia but she has nothing to work with. Even the ghosts are pretty standard and the reason for the curse is pretty lame. And I hated Wuthering Heights!
    I’ve watched this before so I know how it ends. I may watch the final episode on the anniversary, but it’s pretty bad so I may not. I’m here with DSED until the end, though.
    Now back to 1897!

  6. On reflection, though: It would be pretty hard, however, to recall any time Dark Shadows set up a healthy romantic relationship–no? Leaving Burke (who was originally a Bramwell figure, too) and Victoria aside, who wasn’t a dangerous pair? Barnabas obsessed over Josette (whose entire function in the story, dead or a live, turned out to be to tell him no), Angelique obsessed over Barnabas, Adam over Carolyn, Eve (most probably of all) over Peter, Nicholas over Maggie, ultimately even Gerard over Daphne (my least favorite pairing–honestly, WHY?) . . . This is the show’s M.O., its fundamental vision of the kind of love that sells vacuums, TV dinners, and pricey makeup. Russell has kind of boiled it down to an essence for this last lap of the show, and, yes, it makes Kendrick (So-you-killed-my-sister-I-still-like-you) and Melanie look like rational people.But, honestly, isn’t it a little late to hate on poor erotic judgment? If you weren’t willing to swoon over this sort of batshit possessiveness, you were watching the wrong show from the start.

    1. No, as we had other things to enjoy beside the romantic obsession. Now at the restaurant at the end of the universe, we have nothing on our plate but two obessive idiots, and they are stale and cold. I started the show in reruns as a child and never watched for the ostensible love stories; I watched for the evil reverends getting bricked up in basements. There are infinite fountain pens on infinite Widows Hills waiting for all the Bramwells and Catherines in the galaxy in return for one Julia, one medallion and an arched eyebrow.

  7. So they finally gave Daphne a gun, and she’s going to kill… HERSELF? Boo, boo, bah. Girl, start with that worthless hubby (don’t need to kill him, just shoot him in his other shoulder). That’s what Regular Time Daphne would have done.

    This seems kinda like the NoDS plotline, at least the bones of it. Maybe they can hang Catherine from a big tall tree in the front yard?

  8. It’s funny, the story goes that when they Barnabas showed up, DS was in danger of being canceled, so why not go for broke and introduce a vampire. Well here they are again. They must know by now they’re on verge of cancellation. Why not do something crazy? But no, they’re doing the most boring thing possible and it’s only 4 years later from Barnabas’ intro.

    1. I think they ran out of horror reference material: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, Rosemary’s Baby, Mark of the Devil, The Time Machine, etc. Given the budget, they may have added giant monsters like Godzilla and The Amazing Colossal Man. But it was not to be.

      The themes were used multiple times, and it appears the writers were at their wits end by this time.

    2. They knew the show was going to end near the end of the 1840 story, I think around the time Stokes arrived via the time travelling staircase. Danny mentioned it around that time.

  9. “The stupidest thing about this stupid version of Wuthering Heights is that Catherine was offered a whole bunch of off-ramps before she decided to marry Morgan instead of Bramwell.” I’m not sure Danny and I actually disagree, but in case we do…Kurt Vonnegut famously said that every character in a story should want something, even if it’s just a glass of water. This isn’t bad writing because of Catherine’s decision to marry Morgan (despite her potential off-ramps) as such. It’s bad writing because that decision is so utterly unmotivated. In general, this story line is badly written because it features a bunch of poorly motivated characters sleepwalking through a sequence of plot points lifted from a different set of characters’ story. We’ll get to the lazy use of MSOD (Mysterious Soap Opera Disease) in a couple of episodes…

    1. Catherine’s decision WAS motivated……by GREED. She told Bramwell Morgan would be able to provide the type of life she wanted, making it clear she was marrying Morgan for money. The fact she screwed around with Bramwell proved it, although her conscience bothered her later when Morgan took her place after she “won” the lottery.

      1. Ah, OK, looking at the 1199 summary on the DS wiki, yep, you’re right. The scheming little baggage. I think there are still beaucoup reasons Bronte would never stop throwing up if she saw 1841 PT.

  10. James is even more disagreeably shouty than Morgan, if such a thing is possible. And now his ‘possession’ has devolved from realizing that he is inhabiting someone else’s body and that it’s 160 years later, to suddenly thinking he’s alive and everyone is their 1600s version. But it puzzles me that he’s been staying at Collinwood like he has, with all the ranting about how he despises all things Collins. It doesn’t follow that he would stay. At least go and get a hotel room in the village.

    And what’s that thing that Julia’s upholstered into? She looks like she’s gained ten inches at the waist!

    Catherine claims to have been faithful to her husband and marriage. While carrying Bramwell’s child, after yet another kiss with him at the gaz-ay-bow. Ugh. I just don’t see what’s so romantic about this!

    1. I keep wondering why James hasn’t ravaged the (for want of a better word) heck out of Morgan’s wife! 160 years is 159 years and 364 days too long! That would be a BIG reason why he’d want to stay at Collinwood. What a good way to torment the despicable Collins family!

      As for Julia’s attire……I’ll bet the whole cast enjoyed wearing all of the ostentatious costumes during this final story line. As I mentioned before, I’ll bet the budget allocated for future sets was redirected to the costume department, since the series was about to get canceled. It’s always fun to spend money freely when there’s a surplus. I wouldn’t doubt it if some of the money was also spent on fine cuisine. Perhaps they ate steak & lobster for lunch just as if they’d been real-life Collins family members during those final weeks of production.

      btw Years ago, my dad and I built what we called a guh-zee’-bow in our back yard. But what did we know? We were only lowly workers doing manual labor. How would we know the correct, high class pronunciation of gazebo?

      1. Agree about James’ erm, needs. And it would make a perfect excuse for her little bundle of joy.

        You say ‘guh-zee-bow’,
        they say ‘gah-zay-bow’,
        I say gazbo. The ‘e’ is silent. 🙃

  11. Bottom line, they should have cast Selby in the Heathcliff role. When you have a hunk like David Selby in your cast, you put him front and center. Always.
    Having Lara Parker torn between Selby and Prentiss would have raised the heat tremendously. Also, Daphne could be expected to turn suicidal if she was rejected by David Selby. Who wouldn’t.

    1. ” Also, Daphne could be expected to turn suicidal if she was rejected by David Selby. Who wouldn’t.”

      Me.

  12. …..but I understand your point!

    (I accidentally hit and my comment was posted before I was done. If only there was a way to edit these posts, I would’ve done that instead of having to add this.)

  13. Argh!!!! In my previous comment I typed “I accidentally hit the ‘Post Comment’ button…..”, (with less than and greater than symbols around it instead of single quote marks) but it was taken out by WordPress.com. Hopefully it isn’t removed this time!

  14. I enjoyed watching Kate Jackson in this episode. It begins with her watching the scene we’ve been watching, and proceeds to show her reacting to it as we might imagine ourselves reacting in her position. Combine that, on the one hand, with all the times in previous episodes when she’s asked questions we’ve wanted to ask and made statements we’ve wanted to make; combine it, on the other hand, with the fact that PT Daphne is more continuous with Regular Time Daphne than any of the other characters is with a Regular Time counterpart, and we have established her as the audience identification character.

    When Daphne and Julia have their conversation, it’s interesting to see two smart people leveling with each other; when Daphne confronts Bramwell, it’s good to see our point of view character show strength.

    There’s a melancholy aspect to the scene where Daphne and Catherine are talking near the piano. Kate Jackson and Lara Parker excel in their respective acting styles, but Lara Parker’s is so specific to DARK SHADOWS that you can see why any producers and casting directors who might have seen her work o the show wouldn’t have thought of casting her in anything else. I suppose they probably also saw SAVE THE TIGER, where she proves she can do other styles, but she was only on screen for a few minutes in that one, and for about half that time her character is imitating Angelique. Kate Jackson, meanwhile, proves that a quasi-naturalistic style exportable to other TV shows can also work on DARK SHADOWS.

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