Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: June 6


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 519

Liz slips further and further into Angelique’s spell of death obsession. Joe is equally upset as he comes to Collinwood to see Maggie, who’s been moved there. Meanwhile, as Angelique escalates her spells, the spirit of Trask strikes and ties her to a tree. After a fiery exorcism, she vanishes. 

A hallmark of soap operas is their ability to make you feel sympathy for terrible people. Yeah, yeah, everyone knows we need to feel Real Bad for Vicki when she’s in the post-colonial slammer, or for Maggie when she gets kidnapped for the upteenth time. That’s easy. You’re a creep if you don’t. But going right back to feeling nervous for Roger when he’s interrogated by Burke, finding a strange sadness in Matthew Morgan’s desire to appease the spirits, or even sometimes-kinda seeing Laura as a very strange mom who just wants her kid back, DARK SHADOWS plays odd sympathy games. We can attribute this to writing and acting, certainly, but more than anything, we can attribute it to time. With so much screen time devoted to each character, it’s easy for them to have their ‘moment in court.’ Even if we don’t lionize them, we get to appreciate the fact that each sees themselves as the hero of the show -- a fact that is true in life, as well. Moreover, we get a sense for the reasons why. And, when a reckoning comes, we don’t lose sight of the fact that they’ve asked for it, usually at length.

Lara Parker’s charm, awareness, and sense of mirth make Angelique immediately likable despite the many horrible things she routinely does before breakfast. But she really gets dragged over the rocks in this week of episodes, and it’s too early for us to shed very many tears over that. This may explain why she’s even nastier than normal just prior to Trask’s exorcism. She REALLY has it in for Liz, practically transporting her into a Chekhov play of death obsessions. The same with David -- she really wants him to know Sam’s last words and get him thinking about his own last words. I’m a morbid guy, and that’s a bit much even for me. This is Angelique at the height of her sadism; after all, Barnabas broke her heart. Her revenge on him is excessive, but we get it. Right now? She’s just a sadist.  

It’s triggered two things. First, it positions Stokes to go from a curious exposition machine to full-fledged hero when he invades the dream curse. Secondly, it allows Trask to be at his loopiest and for us to still kind of root for him. Angelique has become so toxic, she’s catching it from skeptics as well as fundamentalists. It’s hard to see how she can dig herself out of this moral hole and still be Angelique. The beauty of DARK SHADOWS? They pull it off. But it will be a long slog over various hot spots in two centuries as well as a failed marriage to get her there. It takes what it takes. 
As an extra, Joel Crothers delivers another reliably energetic and truthful performance as Joe reels from Sam’s death. This is material that would seem histrionic in the hands of another actor, but Crothers never fails to sell the honesty in the moment. Historically, it may also signal the beginning of Joe’s mental degradation as the most unlikely of Angelique victims. 

This episode hit the airwaves June 21, 1968.

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