Monday, April 1, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 1


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 727

When a scheming clergyman demands that Collinwood praise the Lord, will Quentin pass the ammunition? Gregory Trask: Jerry Lacy. (Repeat. 30 min.)

Barnabas and Quentin spar over the location of an escaped Jamison. Trask arrives and threatens a terrified Rachel Drummond, who liberated herself from his abusive school after being punished for a teenaged tryst. Barnabas attacks Trask’s daughter at the end of episode.

Doubles! Twins! Reflections! And a terrible school.

The story of Worthington Hall revealed in this episode is a story of stunning cruelty, and the audience experience of enduring its master, Gregory Trask, until the very end of the 1897 storyline is excruciating. But it is a pain shared by Barnabas and Quentin. By all rights, either had the moral sanction to drag him to the Old House and have Magda turn him into goulash. But they don’t. Why?

Quentin is already in transformation when he returns to Collinwood for this story; he just doesn’t entirely know it. The guilt of abandoning Jenny may not have him wringing his hands, but his desire to keep her isolated from his life is not the attitude of a devil-may-care cad. A true cad would disavow that there was anything to hide. Quentin at least has the conscience to want to deceive. So, regarding Trask, he’s playing by more rules than he might have once disobeyed. Even if he’s just trying to stay in Judith’s good graces, that’s at least an acknowledgement of consequences. Additionally, the man was just a zombie and spends time in this episode pondering why and how. Quentin’s most monstrous moments are when he has no mind at all and must hear reports of what he did while his conscious mind was out. It will be the same thing as when he is the werewolf, and this is a foreshadowing of that. If Barnabas’ secret is one of urges kept under wraps, Quentin’s is deeper and more existential. When Barnabas seizes upon his capacity for evil, it’s because he is choosing not to be good. Quentin, however, is slowly learning to choose goodness, but has something so “cursed” within him that a monstrousness manifests itself whether he tries to make a choice or not. The lesson of Barnabas is that some have free will that is excruciating to exercise. The message of Quentin is far more 20th century. Free will is irrelevant. We ARE the monsters. Our crimes are done unconsciously. In both cases, he’s revealed as such by a curse. Because I think “revealed” is more appropriate than “transformed.” Quentin, by abandoning his family, dies to them. But he comes back. His damage, however, continues, despite his rebirth. The second curse simply makes him aware of what he is... and what he does… just by being himself. It’s not really a curse, then. It’s a window. His struggle after the painting is finished resides in being an evil man who must choose not to be. The painting becomes his gift to see himself whenever he wishes. It’s a constant reminder.

Barnabas is a good man finally mastering the choice to invoke evil. (And not choking Trask on the spot, here, is a tough choice for him to make.) He is Quentin’s mirror in this sense, and in this episode, both men address the same mysteries with information the other lacks. Being two sides of the same metaphorical man, they naturally mistrust each other. Only through tragedy and courage will they learn to trust and confide in one another. If 1897 is about anything, it’s about virtue and vice learning to acknowledge that each has an invaluable element of the other within it. Vice gets things done, and can do so with a sense of judiciousness. Virtue does more when it can can admit that its representatives need the liberties of vice to fight the villainous. 

Trask exists as a counter to both. His grandfather had good intentions wrapped in a toxicity he couldn’t see. Gregory is a toxic man who is wrapped in the cloak of good intent, knows it’s only a cloak, and doesn’t seem to care who else sees it. Because they’re not going to take the risks associated with calling him on it. If the Emperor with the new “clothes” were an intentional exhibitionist, he’d be Gregory Trask. Both Quentin and Trask learn that they are fundamentally evil people. But Trask likes it. He’s Quentin’s dark future, where the Cad of Collinwood has gamed the system to a point above reproach. He even resembles a dystopic Quentin from Earth 3. Sideburns. Long coats. A charisma. And a hypnotic sense of lust. Quentin eyes the ladies, but Trask practically carries them away to a mental seraglio. As he leers at his own daughter and savors his power to punish Rachel for smooching with someone other than him, we begin to give Quentin a break. Quentin is simply a chauvinist. Trask is a misogynist. The difference is demonstrated by watching the two men in contrast.

And here’s Barnabas, navigating between the two and realizing he might not be so bad, either. He’s in his social milieu and has enough of the hang of the vampire thing that he doesn’t have to use it. I’m sure he wanted to when Trask asked him to leave the drawing room. But that would have called attention to himself and this is a long game. Instead, he plants a spy with Charity and gets on with the larger work. His first mission is to free himself from the irony engine that is 1897. Yes, Trask and Quentin are two ends of a perverse spectrum. Just as Barnabas and Quentin are dark reflections, Quentin -- especially as a ghost -- and Trask are dark siblings. Both invaded Collinwood when least expected, attracted by the promise of power, and both have designs on the estate’s heirs, David and Jamison. The coincidence could not have escaped Barnabas’ attention. He’s been fighting to free the present from the past. Quentin and Trask plot to direct the future from the seat of the present. All Barnabas has to do is stop them.

This episode was broadcast April 8, 1969. 

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