Friday, August 12, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: AUGUST 10

    Gentle Reader,
    Sometimes, a man has a long day. Like,“real long” to be scientific. And on those days, although Roger stays mad, and although Burke and Barnabas have the overrated conversation about squaring off with cards versus cutlasses (made wacky by the Herb Alpert-ian music in the background), you gotta say… “I’ll have a Big Montana, medium curly fries, and a Jamocha shake.”
    But you must also say,“If I chronicle but one episode of this, the greatest thing on TV not starring Benny Hill, which should it be? When we look at the vast expanse of Collins history, what moment is most crucial?”
    And you feel like a Kryptonian Elder in a mylar frock, and you… hey, what am I doing? I have to write about this or I’ll be up all night. 

Aug. 10, 1970
Taped on this date: Episode: 1079

Quentin, entranced by Daphne’s ghost beyond reason, follows her to her grave. Acting with all of the sad wisdom of a lovestruck teenager, he moves to embrace the ghost. Acting like an existential punchline from a Henny Youngman joke, she draws a blade to stab him in the back. When Quentin offers to put her spirit at peace, she puts the knife away and looks away. He’d do anything to put her at peace. After he says this, she vanishes. Quentin wants to help her, despite the blade she leaves behind on the ground. David visits Hallie and finds her in the antique dress she was to put into the attic. David is disturbed that he found clothes from the same period on his bed. She begs him to put them on, guilting him by saying he wants to make neither she nor Daphne happy. She storms off. Quentin enters Collinwood, and Julia reminds him that “the day of the picnic” was the second clue in Future Carolyn’s note. Quentin says that nothing happened, but Julia senses Gerard’s presence. Quentin says that they owe it to the spirits to try and perform an exorcism to put them at rest. Future Stokes almost lost his life in an exorcism of the house, but Quentin brims with braggadocio and insists on performing it that night. David and Hallie discuss the trouble she will be in. She claims to have walked to Gerard’s ship where she spied him kissing Daphne, both of whom grew angry at her voyeurism. David says it makes no sense. She now resists being called “Hallie.” When things grow shrill, the door squeals open and Daphne enters. Hallie apologizes to Daphne, offering to accept punishment.

But after a wordless communication, Hallie knows that Daphne forgives her. Hallie takes her hand and encourages David to take Daphne’s other. Downstairs, Julia paces. Quentin enters with divining rods. He says the ceremony is simple but may leave distress in the house when finished. He and Julia go outside, and Quentin begins his ceremony. Upstairs, David is reluctant to take Daphne’s hand, but Hallie tempts him that he will learn the truths of Gerard and his ship. Outside, Quentin continues a vaguely Christian-but-not-quite exorcism. The exorcism disturbs Daphne, who flees. Hallie is convinced that someone else is angry and will punish them. David insists that they are alone in the playroom. Hallie, however, screams and collapses. Outside, Quentin just keeps going. As he’s reaching a head, he suddenly stops, struggling with the phrase, “Cast thyselves back into the darkness from whence ye came.” He asks Julia to wait as he heads inside. In the foyer, he sees Daphne glaring at him with burning intent. Up in the playroom, Hallie comes to, and Hallie complains of her injured arm and wonders why she’s in the strange clothes. David is determined to learn who Gerad and Daphne are, and takes Hallie to find Julia. Before they can, Julia comes back in to ask Quentin what’s wrong. A semi-dazed Quentin says that he never thought there would be that reaction to the ceremony. He says that the spirits in the house mean no harm. Julia is incredulous, wondering why he stopped when he did. David and Hallie enter and report the injured arm. She sends them into the drawing room, telling Quentin that the spirits injured Hallie during the exorcism. Later, Hallie (with her arm in a sling) and David go to the playroom to hold a seance to answer their questions. David’s seen the grownups do it a lot of times. David prepares the table, lights a candle, and dims the lamp. David begins to summon the spirits. He asks for a sign and the strange, whirring drone of the spirits begins. He then hears his own voice repeat, “Let us live.”

As I wrote about in the MONSTER SERIAL essay on INSIDIOUS, horror exploits our paranoia of losing control. While some critics of this storyline may claim that the protagonists are behaving out-of-character, that is, of course, the point. Quentin, the most seasoned and cynical member of the ensemble is turned into a weak, lovestruck flunky for Gerard and Daphne. Think about that. We see this all through the eyes of Julia. Although she knows that one possible endpoint is in the midst of Quentin’s future madness, she (as do we) also know that Present Quentin is one of her toughest, most knowledgeable allies in the fight against Collinwood’s looming doom. Seeing him taken out and turned against her is disquieting enough. Seeing him so hopeless and languid in the process is even more disturbing because we know that he is rewarded by neither savage joy nor the release from fear. He’s doing it to please a woman we know will and can never truly be his. Gordon Russell, a stellar author, pushes our buttons and defies our expectations, all at once. 

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