“An afternoon of cards — a night of murder!”
The curtain rises on what is honestly one of the most irritating scenes that Dark Shadows has ever done.
So you already know the thing with Tim Shaw, we’ve talked about this. He’s played by Don Briscoe, who only three months ago was the undisputed titleholder of Only Hot Guy on the Show. Except he’s not the sexy haunted bad boy werewolf anymore, with a Southern drawl and an easy smile and a tendency to take his shirt off on camera whenever he feels like it. Now he’s a prissy schoolmaster with a tight collar and a weird part in his hair, and he translates Latin for kicks. Oh, and he’s being secretly trained as an assassin.
You’d think that maybe the trained-assassin thing could be kind of sexy and interesting, but no. They’ve decided they want to do The Manchurian Candidate this week, because that’s what you do when you’ve got a spare few minutes on your soap opera spookshow. So Tim is being hypnotized into murdering someone on cue, without being consciously aware of it.
Now, I’ve never been opposed to having the cute boys hypnotized and forced to do shocking and terrible things against their will. That concept is entirely okay with me. But the way that they hypnotize Tim is that they paint the edges of a book with magic hypno-assassin juice, and they ask him to read it. So he sits there and reads, and every time he’s done with a page, he licks his finger and turns to the next page.
This is a deeply unsexy thing to do.
But that’s how they establish that Tim is being hypnotized, so they spend several long scenes with us just watching him sit there and read, licking his finger. They even have a conversation where they specifically point out that he licks his finger to turn the page, just to make sure we’re spending a lot of time focusing on this entirely aggravating and unsanitary habit.
Even the murder weapon is boring and lame. When Tim sees the hypnotic trigger — the Queen of Spades, just like in The Manchurian Candidate — then he goes and pours a drink, dumps some poison in it, and hands it to whoever’s in the room with him at the time. And they spend several scenes running drills — showing him the trigger, and making him go put poison in a drink. This is not a particularly difficult skill to grasp, but they make us watch it three times over the course of two episodes. And honestly, that poison drink looks more and more appetizing every time we see it. The whole sequence is dull and baffling and unpleasant and disappointing, and it makes me want to hit somebody.
And yet this is one of the most thrilling Dark Shadows episodes ever made. Explain that!
Continue reading Episode 763: The One Where Magda Finds Out