Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 29


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 836

When Julia explores a haunted Collinwood, will the ghosts of Quentin and Beth make her join them as a permanent guest? Beth: Terry Crawford. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Julia encounters the ghost of Beth, who leads her on a flashback to see how Quentin was denied Jamison’s love and then shot by Beth as a result of choosing Angelique as his fiancee. In the present, the ghost of Quentin kills David before the very eyes of Julia and Stokes.

There are corners that we readers turn as we’re learning to get the most out of a book or a play. For me, one of the most interesting and significant is when I learned that a narrator -- that great, infallible, surrogate God/Parent of the page -- may be a liar… motivated by madness or an agenda. It’s a truth I usually forget about because they usually aren’t liars. However, there are moments when it just makes more sense than accepting what’s being sold as truth. In 836, we meet one of those moments. We can explain it away if we want to. Things I might say under other circumstances. You know, “Don’t nitpick” being chief among them. Because nitpicking usually spoils the party. In this case, it possibly makes it.

What if Beth is a liar? She was never mentally stable and her story omits several crucial truths and conceits of common sense. According to her story, Quentin dismissed a distraught Jamison (in a way that seems a bit too condescending based on what we’ve seen previously), suffering his contempt as a result. Then, Beth shoots him and kills herself. This is all a result of Quentin’s (forced) choice of Angelique over Beth. Quentin’s ghost then allegedly roams the halls of Collinwood, desperate for Jamison’s forgiveness.

Which he gets, you know, by trying to kill the boy’s identical grandson.

You can talk about the Leviathan storyline having holes, but this is an earlier case where all of DARK SHADOWS begins groaning under the weighty goodwill we extend to it. We want it to work out. We want it to make sense. So often on the show, it’s easy to look at plot events and say that they seem logical because we want them to seem logical. But Beth’s story fails under the most casual scrutiny because we know things that Julia does not.

File the rest of this under, “Unless I’m forgetting something….”

Beyond the behavioral wackiness of the ghosts from 1897, Beth’s story really falls apart in the light of Quentin’s portrait from Delaware-Tate. At no point do we get the impression that it’s vulnerable to bullets. That means that Beth’s gun might have caused pain, but not death. We get the idea of a prophecy regarding Quentin’s death, with three events, etc, etc, but this is all predicated on the idea that Quentin died.

But one of the three signs heralding his death is the silver bullet. Another is Julianka’s death. Which means that Quentin becoming a werewolf was always destined and not a tangential result of Barnabas’ meddling. If Quentin became a werewolf, then it was always likely that Petofi would show up, get his hand, and hire Delaware-Tate. And again, unless I’m forgetting something, that means that Quentin was always destined to be immortal. If that’s the case, maybe he never died. Maybe that’s always been Trask in Quentin’s room. Maybe there’s not another timeline. Because killing David to gain Jamison’s forgiveness makes no sense at all.

This only makes sense if the ghost of Quentin is not the ghost of Quentin. So, another ghost. One who wants to discredit Quentin before “Grant Douglas” reappears. One who wants to shuttle Barnabas back in time where he can be more readily hunted. One who wants to get rid of Julia Hoffman, too, because she’s too much help. One with no compunction for murder. Ultimately, one who wants the house for himself as the strange, grand master.

I’m easily trampling literary analysis with Fan Theorizing, but a girl has needs. Is it not possible that the ghosts of Quentin and Beth are just dress-up by ghosts who love dress-up? In other words, Gerard and Daphne. And by that, I mean Judah Zachary. Specifically, manipulating images of the ghosts the way he manipulates images of the ghosts of Gerard and Daphne a year or so later. How much of the series can be seen as him eating away at the efficacy of the most powerful family members? Get rid of Barnabas. Get rid of Quentin. Get rid of Julia. Be it 1897. Parallel Time. 1840. Maintaining the house as a ghost wasn’t enough. The family came back. By 1970, he did a quadruple gainer. Barnabas, Stokes, and Julia are back in time, the family is out, Quentin is insane, and Collinwood is no more. Take that!

All of this is predicated on one choice, and that’s how to “read” the show. Although it was written piecemeal, with no five-year master plan, there is a finished series called DARK SHADOWS. It does operate as a single text with a prologue, beginning, middle, end, and epilogue. No one was supposed to approach it as we do, with a semi-intimate knowledge of the production. And if you don’t have that, you have no way of knowing that Gerard wasn’t in the writers’ minds all along. Story interpretation can be like a great pair of glasses. If you put on the right pair, amazing patterns can emerge… and you can always take them off. In grad school, we’d constantly refer to Freud when talking about Shakespeare. I’d often joke that this made sense, since Shakespeare was reading a lot of Freud when he was writing in the 1590’s. Nonsense, but it’s interesting that there was something universal into which they were both tapping.

With DARK SHADOWS, the story that Art Wallace began had its own universality that gathered momentum and swept along Hall & Russell and company. If you reverse engineer the program with a little imagination, patterns, themes and story consistencies become remarkably evident, as if some larger or more catholic story were being both created and then responded to with even more creativity. That kind of engagement with a series is unique.

It’s a gift in a rare way that most shows are not.

This episode was broadcast Sept. 8, 1969.

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