“That may be true, but I have an odd feeling it isn’t.”
Previously, on Dark Shadows:
“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!”
It turned out Bramwell’s wife Daphne was hiding in the bushes during this exchange, drinking in every word, and as she lies now on her deathbed, irreparably poisoned by his toxic disregard for other people’s feelings, Bramwell has to wonder, Is there anything that I could have done differently?
The patient has taken to her bed, complaining of fatigue, headaches, hot flashes, low blood pressure and idiopathic melancholia. Her blood counts are low, her allergies are acting up, her love life is entirely in the toilet, and even her X-rays don’t like her. The left side of her body is hardly speaking to the right side of her body. She sees spots before her eyes. Her hair has lost its glossy sheen. She is unable to take any hot liquids after eight o’clock in the evening, and all of her favorite television shows have been cancelled. She suffers from chills, anxiety, dashed hopes, fallen arches, and generalized chronic tsuris. She feels lousy.
Dr. Fletcher has run his tricorder over her several times, and discovered that every single one of her vital life signs are weakening. His professional opinion is that Heaven must be missing an Angel.
“It can’t be true,” says Daphne’s devoted sister Catherine, the one who’s been sneaking off with Daphne’s husband for late-night open-air trysts at the gazebo. “She’s so young. Why, she’s never been sick before in her life!” She must have been saving it up.
“I know,” says the other half of the gazebo sketch. “And if this happens to her, then I will be responsible.” But obviously this is happening to her; that’s what the word “this” means.
“You? Why?” asks Catherine.
“Well, I married her, and then completely neglected her. I’ve given her nothing to live for… and now she’s dying.”
“You mustn’t blame yourself,” says Catherine. I don’t know what she’s basing that opinion on.
“Last night, I came home with such good news,” he humble-brags. “My ship had arrived. I now have as much wealth as I’d ever want.” That must be some fucking ship. “I would gladly give it all up, if it would make her well again!” People always say things like this, secure in the knowledge that no one will take them up on the offer.
Catherine looks gloomy. “Bramwell, if anyone is to blame, I am.”
He turns, in surprise. “You?” These two are not skilled at anticipating other people’s remorse.
“The way I’ve treated her, since she married you… She must think I hate her by now.” The adultery probably also played a part.
“The fact is that you were right,” Bramwell says. “She should have listened to you. I married her, because I was hurt and angry at you. But now, I feel very deeply towards her. Do you believe that?” Yeah, for sure, because that way it can still be all about you.
When we see Daphne later, upstairs in the sickroom, she’s turning the screws on her suffering sister. Daphne is one of those hideously self-effacing incurables who only think about the impact of their illness on other people, and it is giving Catherine the emotional pummeling that she so richly deserves.
“I feel rather foolish,” Daphne says, “taking ill so suddenly, and having to be waited on by everyone.” She turns to regard her sister. “You look very beautiful, Catherine.”
Just that remark by itself would be judo-master level passive aggressive performance, but she keeps on going. “Something troubling you?” she asks, all wide-eyed innocence.
Catherine says, “I’ve just been troubled, ever since…” and an awkward look flashes across her face.
“Since I married Bramwell,” Daphne finishes, hollow-eyed and consumptive.
Catherine has to flee the side of the bed, and take refuge on the other side of the bedpost. “Oh, Daphne,” she admits, “I’ve been so unkind to you ever since you did marry him.”
“No, you haven’t, Catherine,” Daphne croaks. “Not really. I should have tried harder to understand.” It’s a nightmare.
“But I could have tried to make it easier for you,” Catherine suggests. “Couldn’t I?”
Daphne pivots, so that Catherine can’t get comfortable with her inadequate confession. “Bramwell says everything will be different now,” she says. “His ship’s finally come in, did he tell you that? He’s waited and he’s worried about it for such a long time. Now I’m so happy for him. He told me I’m going to have everything I ever wanted.” This party boat is sounding better all the time.
She continues, “We’ll go places together, and do things together, so it’s going to be… Catherine, why are you crying? Oh, Catherine, please tell me what’s wrong.” She is a monster.
The real problem, of course, is that this is the exact opposite of Wuthering Heights, which is what they’re supposedly adapting. In Charlotte Brontë’s novel, neither Cathy or Heathcliff ever feel responsible for anything they’ve ever done. They really are the psychopaths from the gazebo scene, who don’t think that other people exist beyond their own sick obsession with each other.
In the book, Daphne’s role is Isabella Linton, Cathy’s young sister-in-law, who Heathcliff seduces and marries because he thinks it’s funny, which it is. Once he’s got her, he has no real use for her, and he keeps her in his terrible drafty house and tells her to keep quiet. She’s been cut off by her brother Edgar, who threatened to disown her if she ran away with Heathcliff, and now she understands why. In a letter to Edgar’s housemaid, Isabella writes,
“The question I have great interest in; it is this — Is Mr. Heathcliff a man? If so, is he mad? And if not, is he a devil? I sha’n’t tell my reasons for making this inquiry; but I beseech you to explain, if you can, what I have married.”
Heathcliff doesn’t care about Isabella, and he never will; there are no magic boats arriving with luxury vacation packages. After Catherine dies, Isabella taunts Heathcliff with the fact that he’s responsible for the death of the only person he has ever had any regard for, and this leads to a fight, and she runs out of the house and goes all the way to London, where she has Heathcliff’s child, and then she dies thirteen years later, cursing Heathcliff to her final breath.
The entire point of Wuthering Heights is that Heathcliff and Catherine are unredeemed, and irredeemable. They inhabit a nightmare hellscape of their own making, and they force everyone who comes near them to submit to their pointless, destructive passion play, at the cost of their victims’ fortune, legacy, happiness and sense of self. They never feel guilty about anything, because that is an emotion that humans have, and Heathcliff and Catherine exist only to devour and despoil.
So, no, if you were wondering, there is not a sequence in Wuthering Heights where Isabella gets sick for no reason, and Heathcliff moons about her bedside, feeling very deeply towards her. I don’t know where they got this half-baked mellerdrammer scenario from, except maybe every radio soap opera from 1930 to 1950, inclusive.
Now, I didn’t ask for a faithful adaptation of Wuthering Heights, and I’m not going to pretend that I did. As I recall, my request was for them not to do an adaptation of Wuthering Heights at all, and to go make 1971 Dark Shadows, preferably with werewolves. This is what they’re giving me instead.
“I realize now something that I should have known a long time ago,” says fake-Heathcliff. “I love you, Daphne. I love you.”
“You said that to me once before,” she murmurs, “and I didn’t believe you, then. But you really mean it now, don’t you, Bramwell?”
So, wait: he only said that he loved her once, and she didn’t believe him, and they got married anyway? And now look what’s happened. Honestly, sometimes I think that I’ll never understand straight people.
Tomorrow: Last Call.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
There’s a brand-new camera fault today that we haven’t seen before: in the teaser, the camera has a red and green stripe down the left side of the screen.
More throat-clearing in the studio: When Bramwell opens the door for Catherine, the dude clears his throat twice. When he finally gets a chance to say the thing that he’s been trying to say for the last couple weeks, I bet it’s going to be epic.
Kendrick and Carrie trip on a line:
Carrie: My father told me never to use it again.
Kendrick: I s-
Carrie: Especially here at Collinwood.
Kendrick: I see.
When Kendrick says, “Carrie, put yourself in Melanie’s position,” someone says “ssshh!”
Kendrick tells Melanie, “Well, she was reluctant at first, but when she said — heard it was you, she said she would do it.”
The banister wobbles as Catherine comes down the Old House stairs.
Bramwell struggles with a line: “Well, we can keep on hoping, but… remember, Dr. Fletcher said that the… there was nothing that… (sigh) there was no hope whatsoever.”
Another throat-clearing: After Melanie says it would be a waste of time, and Kendrick asks why.
Melanie says that Julia may be trying to protect her. Kendrick says, “From what, Melanie? From telling you who your real parents are, I mean, there’s no understanding to it!”
Bramwell tells Daphne on her deathbed that he loves her. She says, “You said that to me once before, and I didn’t believe it then. But you really mean it now, don’t you, Bramwell?” So they got married, and he only told her that he loved her once, and she didn’t believe him?
Tomorrow: Last Call.
— Danny Horn