“The curse is more powerful than all of us put together.”
Morgan Collins has pulled the ol’ love-and-shove on his faithless wife Catherine, pretending that he’s going to rescue her boyfriend Bramwell from the human sacrifice chamber. Where is he? I can’t see him, she said, and he said Just look closer, he’s right there, and she said I don’t — and then all of a sudden she was on the wrong side of a locked door.
“You tricked me!” Catherine cries. “Just as you tricked Bramwell, you tricked me!”
“I plead guilty, my dear!” Morgan hollers, through the door. “On both counts!”
“Well, listen to me, Morgan!” she shouts. “I’d rather die with Bramwell than live with you one more day!”
“Then you have your wish, don’t you?” he chirps. “Goodbye, Catherine!” And then he saunters away, mentally updating his Tinder profile.
So we’re agreed: Morgan is the asshole in this story, and we refuse to put up with him anymore. After nine and a half weeks of this lemon of a storyline, Dark Shadows and I are finally on the same page.
So here’s where we find ourselves, with two episodes to go: two of the most popular actors on Dark Shadows, trapped and frightened, desperate to get out of this studio before they die. The television show that they’re in actually ended two months ago, with a bittersweet romantic/tragic ending for their characters that didn’t quite hold up, but was good enough for daytime TV. Angelique died, and Barnabas lived, and then they were supposed to walk off the set and spend the rest of their existence in spinoffs and fan fiction, as per their contracts.
But the show refused to die on schedule, and now they’re locked up in a spooky box where they have different names and hairstyles, and all they want to do is go home. Anyone who spends the night on this set either dies or goes insane, and at the moment it’s touch and go whether that’s already happened or not.
“You and Bramwell wanted to be together,” Morgan gloated. “Well, you are together! You are together like James and Amanda, and I hope you rot together like James and Amanda!” That sounds like it’s supposed to be a threat, but James and Amanda are in the room downstairs, and they haven’t rotted at all; they’re just lying there in the packaging, two action figures who are still mint in box. So I guess we’re going to live forever, in novels and comic books and audio dramas, thanks a lot, Morgan, Angelique said, and Morgan got all frustrated and stomped off to think up some better threats.
Meanwhile, Willie Loomis and Dr. Julia Hoffman are down in the drawing room, trying to figure out some way out of this mess. Julia is uncharacteristically defeatist; usually, she’s the first one to propose a plan, and sure, it’s usually sedatives, but at least that’s a place to start. Now she thinks that the curse that’s trapped them in this storyline will go on and on, until the very last cast member is dead. I’m not saying she’s wrong; I’m just telling you what she thinks.
“Julia,” Willie says, “what if we brought Carrie Stokes here, held a seance? Maybe we could make the ghost of Brutus Collins appear!”
She just shakes her head. “We have tried that, and it brought us more trouble,” she says. “As a matter of fact, there isn’t anything you can think of that we haven’t tried!”
She’s right about that, too: they’ve tried seances already, and ghosts, and coffins and werewolves and mad scientists, and gypsies and witches and Frankenstein monsters, and the black goat of the woods with a thousand young, and basements and time travel and haunted portraits, and fire and murder and hypnosis and old phonographs, and candles and special effects and black magic and blood and logical explanations and trespassing and brandy and skeletons and telephones and cats and bats and roosters and flashlights and antiques and horoscopes and staircases and poison and amnesia and secret panels and music boxes and thunderstorms and clocks and exorcisms and graveyards and witch trials and fog machines and Chinese divination techniques and flashbacks and love triangles and turtlenecks and doomed investigators and crystal balls and alchemy and tarot cards and lamps and dark creatures of nature and pirates and hatpins and widows and pentagrams and blackmail and bungling and board games and gum cards and carousels and medallions and harpoons and plaster made from clamshells and horsehair, and at a certain point, there just isn’t anything left to do.
But Julia and Willie know from hopeless situations — almost every situation they’ve ever been in has been hopeless, in one way or another — and they learned years ago that when you’re facing existential oblivion, there’s still one thing that you can do: You can be kind.
Look at how she’s grasping his arm, as he faces off against the steaming pile of hairspray that turns out to be their current nemesis. “Kendrick Young” and “Julia Collins” don’t like each other: Kendrick blames Julia for the death of his sister, and Julia thinks that Kendrick is determined to expose all of the family secrets. They’ve never been on the same side of anything.
But in this dark hour, she recognizes him for who he really is: Willie Loomis, her partner and her friend. Barnabas and Angelique are in trouble right now, and Quentin and Gerard aren’t around to take part in the rescue operation. The lovers will have their hands full inside the cursed room; Julia and Willie will have to deal with the mess on this side of the door.
Naturally, Julia’s the one who figures out what’s going on, during a private therapy session with Morgan. She doesn’t have her medallion anymore, but that was just a prop. All she really needed was a sharp mind, a key light and some creative facial expressions.
Morgan is walking around with the world’s most pompous and self-satisfied grin on his face, like a cat who’s been given the keys to the canary factory. He claims that he talked things over with Angelique like mature adults and they agreed to separate, but obviously that’s not true; if anybody in this storyline ever acted like a mature adult, then everyone in Collinwood would have been in police custody weeks ago.
Julia guesses that Angelique is pregnant with Barnabas’ child, and this gets him to open up and reveal his secret plan, like a proper villain. “I followed Catherine last night,” he says. “Instead of going to the Old House, she went to the gazebo, with him. They were talking about a child — their child!”
“You don’t have to talk about it any more if you don’t want to,” Julia says. She’s already lost interest in the anecdote.
“I knew then and there what I had to do,” he preens. “I wanted my revenge in the form of… Poetic Justice.” He says it like that, with the capitals and everything.
And then she just puts it all together, and lays it out for him. Morgan’s acting the way that Brutus Collins acted, back in 1680 when he came up with this terrible storyline. He tricked the main characters into entering that cramped, dusty bedroom set, and then injected them with something that kept them frozen in place, unable to move the story along or do anything remotely entertaining.
That’s what Morgan’s done to Barnabas and Angelique, and now he’s smirking and congratulating himself. Julia gazes at him, and wonders where she could find a decent mad scientist apparatus, at this time of night.
Upstairs in the torture chamber, Barnabas comes up with a cunning escape plan, which involves grabbing a wooden chair, throwing it at the doors and hoping for the best. The chair bounces off the door, and Barnabas turns away with a frustrated look, thinking, Damn you, Sy Thomashoff! You’ve thought of everything.
Well, the cursed room isn’t going to stand for that kind of behavior; this set is crappy enough without people tossing the furnishings around. So we finally get some action from the spooks, who create some theremin-supported wind noises and a shuddering chandelier.
Barnabas checks in with Angelique, who says, “Why do you keep calling me Catherine? My name is Amanda!” and then Barnabas makes a facial expression about it.
Now, the obvious question is, if Amanda is already up in the tower room possessing Melanie, then is she doubling up here, or is Amanda a franchise that can open in multiple locations under some kind of licensing agreement?
For some reason, Amanda decides that she needs to stab herself to death with a magical knife that appears in the room. This is a bit on the nose, in my view; when they said that everyone who stays in this room overnight either dies or goes insane, I figured there would be more to it than just possessing the person and making them stab themselves. That’s not even a new knife, it’s the same knife they used all last week. For the amount of time we’ve spent hearing about this Disneyland Dream Suite, I’d expect turndown service, at least.
Now all I can think of is little Tim Braithwaite, dressed up in Gabriel’s clothes, getting possessed by Amanda and stabbing himself. I hope they cleaned off the knife afterwards.
She snaps out of it, so for round two, the ghosts make Barnabas feel like he’s choking, for the length of a commercial break. He says, “I can’t breathe!” and she says, “Fight him! Fight him!” and he says, “Agggaaahhhaggghhh!” and then there’s an ad for Wish-Bone Italian Rosé salad dressing.
It turns out saying fight him, fight him is the magic antidote to pretty much anything the room throws at these two; Barnabas just gargles for a bit longer and then they let him go.
“He will try once more, before this night is over,” Barnabas says, but I’m not super worried at this point. Angelique and Barnabas have lived through worse than this before. They’ve done worse than this, to each other, in their first week of marriage. Brutus has no idea who he’s dealing with.
Meanwhile, Julia and Willie rummage through Morgan’s bedroom, to see if they can find the key to the locked room. The search is utterly futile, as they acknowledge within twenty seconds, because the key could be anywhere, but it’s worthwhile anyway because it wipes the dumb smile off Morgan’s dumb face, and accelerates his descent into villainy. Just look at Willie’s expression as he glares at this overdressed pantomime dame. We are done with Morgan.
“Mwa hah hah hah HAAAA ha ha haha!” Morgan says, approximately. “Yes, I locked her in the room! And with her lover! And they just may stay there beyond the morning! I haven’t quite made up my mind yet.”
“No!” Julia objects. “You know that door must be open, tomorrow morning!”
“I know no such thing, Julia!” Morgan snaps, and segues into monologue mode. “You see, there are no more rules anymore. I have taken over at last! And what a pleasant sensation it is, not to be at the mercy of anything, or anyone! To be my own master! The master of Collinwood!”
“You’ve lost your mind!” Julia cries.
“NO no no, quite the contrary! I have regained my senses! You know, I AM! I AM the master of Collinwood!” He starts puffing, the newly self-appointed emperor of everything. “I have such sympathy for Brutus… how misunderstood he was!”
“But Brutus got his revenge,” his highness sighs. “Oh, yes! And I’m getting mine.” And then he sings a full chorus of “Poor Unfortunate Souls” from The Little Mermaid.
So that’s the state of play, as we head into the next episode, which is shaping up to be the final battle between good Dark Shadows and bad Dark Shadows. Let’s meet back here, for the final time, tomorrow.
Tomorrow: Sunset at Collinwood.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
There’s a purple stripe down the side of the picture from one of the cameras today, which actually adds kind of a nice accent color to some otherwise drab scenes. If you had to choose one of the camera faults that they’ve had lately, this is the keeper.
In the teaser, when Catherine throws herself at the door, the whole wall shakes.
Morgan shouts, “You don’t believe I s— believed a word you said, do you?”
Morgan tells Julia and Kendrick, “I’d like you to like — to know that I’m going to open the room.”
Tomorrow: Sunset at Collinwood.
— Danny Horn