Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dark Shadows Diary: Episode 15

Episode 15: "The Dark Threads of the Past"
July 15, 1966

It's Friday on a daytime drama, do you can bet something huge is going to happen ... relatively speaking.

DARK SHADOWS hasn't exactly spoiled us with weekend cliffhangers so far, but the show has been building to a specific moment all week. It's actually surprising the suspense was drawn out longer, but it finally happened: Roger Collins had an unhappy accident behind the wheel of his car, courtesy of his own son.

For a child who hasn't yet seen his 10th birthday, David Collins is a master manipulator. He doesn't get any points for bamboozling Victoria Winters (which is like shooting fish in a barrel) but he's laid the groundwork to fluster the more authoritative adults at Collinwood in upcoming episodes. Even though he and Burke Devlin have a lot in common (i.e., their distaste for Roger Collins) it's doubtful Devlin is going to like the attention the car wreck is going to attract to him. Having been seen loitering around Roger's vehicle in the previous episode, he's going to be the obvious culprit. Certainly more so than Victoria, even though David's planted some damning evidence in her room.

David is a profoundly disturbed little boy, jaded and bitter beyond his years. He tells Victoria that everyone lies, and that he believes compliments are nothing but tools used to get over on the world. After the governess shares a story with him about a child at the foundling home who struggled with bullies and low self-esteem, David suggests the solution to that problem was to line up the bullies and gun them down. He uses a capgun to illustrate his Machiavellian philosophy.

David is not reacting simply out of boredom or casual cruelty. After overhearing his father threaten to institutionalize him, he's worried his time at Collinwood is coming to a close. And he really, really doesn't want to leave. In the last episode, we saw that he removed a part from Roger's car, and has placed the item (as well as a magazine about automotive maintenance) in the care of Victoria. She thinks she's made a friend in David; he knows he's found a patsy in the new governess.

Both Roger and David show uncharacteristic signs of rationality in this episode. Roger tells Victoria that he wanted her to leave Collinwood for her own safety. He does a stellar job of selling this line of bullshit. (I almost believed it, myself.) On the off-chance that Roger was in danger of becoming likeable, he stops to warn Victoria about trusting David. "You can't buy friendship from David," he says of his own son. "He has none to give. Give him enough time ...he'll destroy you."

Victoria managed to almost reach David, who comes close to having a change of heart about his plot to murder his father. After revealing his true feelings for Roger ("I hope he dies!") he ambushes him in the foyer, possibly looking for some sign of love or compassion. At this point, it's not too late to turn back. But Roger doesn't know he's being tested and fails miserably, dismissing David on sight. He leaves Collinwood, on the way to a business meeting at the Blue Whale with Devlin, when his car spins out of control. Liz gets a call about the accident, ending the week on an unlikely note: the caller (whoever they are) can't tell Liz about the condition of her brother. If I remember correctly, Roger walks away from the incident with a few bumps and bruises. I wouldn't think you'd need a doctor to disclose that bit of information, but Dan Curtis rightfully wanted us to tune in again the following Monday. Thanks to DVD, I don't have to wait that long.


Ash said...

The Beginning Collections are timeless. This DS gal really used to have it out for David. The kid really irritated me but I've been looking at these early episodes again. He's really good at being a parricidal terror. I think this is Henesy's best acting.

Possessed by Petofi in 1897 is another winner for me.

Anonymous said...

Although the build-up to Roger's car accident seemed to take a century, the aftermath did grant us two great revelations: one, David is an absolute sociopath whose masterful manipulation and murderous schemes only slow when he senses that he might be imprisoned for them. Two, Roger's scar! Seeing it fade from episode to episode was more exciting than the astonishingly gradual exposure of David as the mechanic (complete with engine diagrams) behind the car crash.

dmontgomster said...

The early episodes are fascinating for how dysfunctional the Collins family was compared to other family dramas or comedies of the time, such as The Donna Reed Show, The Brady Bunch, Leave It To Beaver, or My Three Sons. Can you imagine a father wanting to institutionalize his kid, a kid trying to kill his father, or a teenage girl taking up with a motorcyclist to spite her mother and prevent her second marriage? Only show I can think of from that period that might have gone that far out was maybe Peyton Place--also produced by ABC--but since my mother wouldn't allow me to watch it, I can't say if the families on that show were equally screwed up.

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