“I have much too much work to do, to be bothered with dreams.”
Young David Collins has returned home, after a lengthy trip to Boston to recuperate from realizing that his cousin Barnabas was a vampire who planned to murder him. This was a major storyline six months ago, and it led directly to the séance that sent his governess, Vicki, tumbling through time to visit the Collins family of 1795.
Last month, when Vicki came back to the present day, the Dark Shadows writers used the opportunity to make a fresh start on the story — not so much tying up the loose ends as just cutting them off and pretending that they were never that loose in the first place. Everybody just stopped talking about how worried they were about David, and now he’s back from Boston, and everything’s fine.
But there’s something different about the boy, which is even more important than his slow-motion off-screen amnesia. David has come back to Collinwood wearing a Nehru jacket.
The Nehru jacket is a tailored coat with a mandarin collar that was popularized in India in the 1940s and named after the Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. It was terribly trendy in America and Europe in 1965, inspired — as so many things in pop culture were, in the mid-60s — by the Beatles.
In February 1968, the Beatles went on a well-publicized trip to India, to study Transcendental Meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. By then, they’d moved on from the Nehru jackets and were mostly wearing white linen open-necked shirts, but the jackets were still a sharp fashion statement in the US.
So here’s David, back from Boston and all of a sudden he’s dressed like someone from the 1960s. This is another noticeable shift in the development of Dark Shadows in this period — the clothes are getting a bit more modern. Spending four months in the 18th century will do that.
There was a new emphasis on wardrobe during the 1795 trip, because they had to find period costumes for everyone. Sometimes they just went wild, especially with the women’s hats — and now that they’re back in 1968, it feels like they’re more confident in their ability to use the characters’ clothes to enrich the story.
So when David comes home from his trip and finds that his father has suddenly married a complete stranger, he’s got some subtle clues that something is terribly wrong. It’s not just that Cassandra is fifteen years younger than Roger, and she doesn’t actually seem that interested in getting to know her new stepson.
There’s a much more fundamental problem going on here: Roger Collins isn’t wearing a tie.
As we’ve noted recently, ties are mandatory for most of the men in the Dark Shadows cast, even if you’ve got a robe on and you’re alone at home reading a book.
There’s actually a pretty strict dress code for guys on Dark Shadows, which is mostly based on social class and authority. Please allow me to explain.
The older men on the show — Barnabas, Roger, Dr. Lang, Professor Stokes — all wear ties pretty much non-stop. This dress code applies even when you’re drinking the blood of the living.
So if you’re an older guy and you don’t have a tie on, then that’s a signal that you’re in some kind of distress. The only excuse Barnabas has for showing off his bare neck is when he’s been in a car accident and has been insta-cured of his vampire curse.
Therefore, Roger wearing a tie is a happy, content man, and Roger without a tie is troubled and confused. There have only been two episodes since we’ve come back to 1968 when Roger hasn’t had a tie on. The most striking example is the moment when he briefly breaks through Cassandra’s spell, and realizes that he’s married someone that he hardly knows.
And then there’s today’s episode, when David comes home wearing his stylish Nehru jacket, and finds Roger — now fully under the control of David’s wicked stepmother — wearing a turtleneck.
A turtleneck shirt is the other acceptable fashion choice for the men of Dark Shadows — but only for the younger, lower-status guys. Willie wears a turtleneck, because he’s a servant.
A few weeks ago, the housekeeper’s son, Harry Johnson, scandalized everyone by showing up at the front door of Collinwood with a turtleneck on. Vicki actually opened the door, saw a guy who’s not wearing a tie, and immediately started screaming.
In fact, you can tell a lot about the younger guys’ position in a given scene, based on their tie vs. turtleneck choices.
A few weeks ago, when Joe paid a social call on Vicki, he was rocking the turtleneck. But last week, when Joe had to confront Barnabas about Willie showing up at Maggie’s house, he needed the authority of a jacket and tie.
Jeff is the guy with the most complex fashion choices, as befits the mysterious amnesiac character who might turn out to be the ghost of Vicki’s 18th century boyfriend. When Jeff popped up for the first time — standing at the side of the road, causing traffic accidents — he had a tie on, like a proper gentleman.
Jeff’s tie is very precisely attuned to what’s happening with his character. The other day, he wore a snappy blazer and tie when he visited Vicki at Collinwood.
Hearing that Dr. Lang — his boss, and captor — had died the night before, Jeff ran over to Lang’s house to break into the doctor’s filing cabinet. Returning to Vicki with exciting good news, he’s clearly in a much more emotional state of mind, and that’s reflected in his loosened tie and unbuttoned sport coat.
Along similar lines, Jeff was wearing a tie on the day that he planned to leave his job and move out of Lang’s house.
Then Lang drugged him and planned to cut off his head, and obviously that’s more of a business casual situation. Lang removed Jeff’s jacket and tie, and strapped him to the table.
When he was freed, and Julia hypnotized him into forgetting the entire experience, Jeff still had the wide-open collar that indicates that he’s had kind of a trying day.
He wakes up a couple episodes later, ready to walk out on his boss and start a new life couch-surfing at Maggie’s, so he puts the tie back on.
He’s even got the tie on in his sleep, when he nods off in a chair and has the Dream Curse nightmare. Again, it’s a stressful situation, so he’s looking a bit worse for wear.
But when Jeff is really upset, he turns to the turtlenecks. Dr. Lang — as befits his age and higher status — is always impeccably dressed, even when he’s in the cemetery on a grave-robbing expedition. Jeff, who’s going to do the actual digging, has changed into a black turtleneck and jacket.
And later on, when Lang visits his ex-assistant at Maggie’s place, a distressed Jeff is just openly flaunting his turtleneck. There’s actually a moment when Jeff gets so upset that he grabs Lang by the tie, a sign of open inter-generational rebellion.
So that’s the men’s fashion update. On the women’s side, there’s only one notable fashion trend — Cassandra’s love of bright green.
It’s really quite striking. In this period, the women of Dark Shadows don’t have a defined look. There are occasional high points and low points — and Maggie’s quilted rainbow-flowers skirt, which is both simultaneously — but there’s nothing that you can identify as a coherent wardrobe concept.
Except for Cassandra, who is almost always dressed in a very 1968 shade of bright green.
And it’s not just one outfit that she wears all the time — she has several different dresses and coats, all bright green. It’s obviously a deliberate wardrobe choice for her character.
Over the last couple of weeks, she’s expanded slightly to include the other secondary colors. Last Friday, when she used a voodoo doll to attack Dr. Lang, she was dressed in a striking green, purple and orange combo.
We’ve also seen her in a lavender coat, in a confrontation scene with Barnabas.
There are only a couple of episodes where she wears something that isn’t green or purple, and in each case, she only wears it for one act and then changes into secondary colors again. When Carolyn came home a couple weeks ago, she was actually wearing a green top, so Cassandra had to switch over to dark navy.
But when she ducked outside to cast a spell on Tony, she threw on a green coat, and was back in her comfort zone.
The next day, Cassandra was wearing a stylish black-and-white outfit when she met Maggie.
But then she got back into purple and green in time to send Maggie the first Dream Curse nightmare.
So, why all the green? One obvious metaphor is that she’s “green with envy”, now that she knows that Barnabas is out of the box, free from her curse, and in love with someone else.
But the addition of purple and orange — especially when she’s casting spells — suggests that there’s something deeper that’s going on.
The fact is — with apologies to Kermit the Frog — secondary colors are villains’ colors. The most obvious example is Spider-Man’s rogues gallery. Five members of the Sinister Six — Doctor Octopus, Electro, Mysterio, the Sandman and the Vulture — all wear either green or purple.
And then there’s his ultimate nemesis, the Green Goblin, who wears an ensemble of green skin and purple clothes, with bright orange pumpkin bombs as accessories.
When you think about it, the entire fifty-year run of The Amazing Spider-Man is actually about the battle between primary colors and secondary colors.
So obviously David is going to back away when his new stepmother tries to pull him in for an unsolicited hug. He’s a kid in 1968, and he reads Spider-Man. He knows a villain when he sees one.
Tomorrow: What to Expect When You’re Expecting.
— Danny Horn