Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Game of Threads: Costume Analysis (S1E3: Lord Snow)

I'm so glad that these costume analyses have been proving popular!  I love doing them, and it's nice to see that other people are interested.  I'm still working out the best way to do them: if there's anything you'd like to see more focus on, please do leave a comment and I'll take it on board!

This episode is an interesting one: it has some pretty pivotal scenes for a couple characters, the importance of which will be reflected in how their costumes start to change.  Let's dive in, shall we?

The show opens with a new location!  Color-wise, this could almost pass for Pentos: warm oranges and earthy colors dominate.  The familiar Baratheon stag and the direwolf banners clue us in that we're still in Westeros.

And then, as usual, we have Ned riding in looking exactly the same as always.  What blended in to the Winterfell surroundings stands out sharply here.  He's dirty from the road, and there's nothing particularly to identify him as a major lord.

His appearance is explicitly referenced in this scene!  The rather pompous character on the left-–wearing a Baratheon antler pin at the collar–"asks" Ned if he's planning to change before his first small council meeting, and Ned gives a glorious laconic replay: pointedly removing his gloves.  As awesome as this may be, it also tells us how Ned's going to operate in the capital: exactly the way he always has.

Meanwhile, Sansa is already adapting to the south.  She's replaced her usual northern underlayer with a heretofore-unseen lace version.  While she's still recognizably northern, she seems unlikely to stay that way for long.

Arya's also had a small costume change: her white underlayer has turned black, as if in mourning.  This fits her mood after Micah's death, for which we will find out later in this episode that she blames herself.

We follow that up with yet another scene in which costume and appearance are a central part of the dialog.  We meet Jaime in the throne room, dressed in his King's Guard armor.  Ned points out how immaculate the armor is, implying heavily the Jaime has not seen real fighting.  However, Jaime's response–"People have been swinging away at me for years, but they always seem to miss"–is interesting.  It illustrates the difference in philosophy between these two characters: straightforward Ned expects warriors to charge in and take their damage; Jaime is subtler and avoids injury altogether.  Though Ned's final comment on the matter–"You've chosen your opponents wisely"-–is intended as a barb, but Jaime doesn't seem to take it that way, replying that it's a skill; a skill that Ned lacks.

Four minutes into the episode, and the costuming is screaming at us that Ned does not fit in and will not change to do so.

Now Ned's off to meet the small council: four new characters for us to meet too.

Posing hard in the background of the group picture is Renly, who Ned greets warmly.  His costuming here is not overtly showy, but it does look rich: textured sleeves, clean leather, silver stag pin.  The stag pin is the same as the one worn by the servant who greeted Ned a few minutes ago.

Littlefinger is wearing a style we've yet to see.  It's long and dress-like (read: Littlefinger is not a fighter) and it seems to be entirely designed to show wealth.  The fabric of the main tunic is shiny, and looks like a rough silk.  The drapey, dark green layer over that has no purpose except to be an expanse of velvet.  We've seen Japanese influence in the show before (particularly in the kimono-style necklines on several southern characters) and this drapey bit is arguably another: it looks like a stylized version of a kataginu, part of the formal wear for upper classes and samurai.

Littlefinger also has a sigil pin at the neckline.  This seems to be something of a fashion in King's Landing at this time.

Pycelle is identified as a Maester like Lewin, both in word and in dress.

Varys is an interesting one: he's got a botanical print (snake in the grass?), which seems to be a common motif in King's Landing.  The whole cut it different: he has bell-sleeves visible in the group shot, which is unusual for a man in this show.  The whole thing just looks different.

Here's a higher definition picture of the small council chamber I found on: http://www.twcenter.net/forums/showthread.php?608181-The-Small-Council
Apropos of nothing in particular except that I enjoy art history, let's talk about the painting in the back of the council chamber.  It seems to heavily inspired by the famous Uccello painting Niccol√≤ Mauruzi da Tolentino unseats Bernardino della Ciarda at the Battle of San Romano

Thanks, Wikipedia!

Notice the similarities in the two white horses: the rider on the left is holding a lance in both, and the rider on the right is falling off his mount.  There is a downed horse in both in the bottom right.  On one hand, this could just be a way to Mediaeval-up the set, but this particular battle is interesting because the result is apparently contested: both the Florentine side and the Siennese side record it as their own win.

This art history intermission brought to you by: caffeine-amplified distractability.  Let's get back to costumes.

We get a nice, close-up view of the Hand pin.  It's interesting to me how veiny and kind of gross it looks; it suits the position and the reality of what Hand of the King does.  The massive spike has always been ominous.

Cersei in in one of my all-time favorite dresses from the series here.  There's no apparent lion detailing; instead we get a bird design, which we should keep in mind as the series goes forward.  The bird is also interesting in light of Cersei calling Sansa "little dove".

It's also in blue (except for one detail that we'll talk about in a second), blue being a color that in the last episode worked to tie Cersei to Cat and, I believe, indicate a degree of vulnerability and "realness" in Cersei that is not usually apparent.  In this scene, she is also trying to make a connection to her "darling boy".  Her dialog is a little weirdly all-over-the-place, at one point euphemistically refering to "mak[ing] little princes and princesses" and following it up with "fuck[ing] painted whores".

Joffrey is here with a typical southern men's style: a jerkin with gold details that look a little like coins down the front.  Robert wore a similar style in the last episode where he ordered Lady to be put down at Cersei's insistence.

Now, I really should have put this in soon, but I'd just like to take a moment to point out what a dead-ringer Joffrey is for Caligula:

Wikipedia comes through for me again.

This could just be a happy accident, but I think Joff's haircut (which I know reads as modern to some people, but which has always looked Roman to me) could well have been chosen to play up the connection.  I mean, Caligula is a pretty perfect real-world analog for Joffrey, no?

Color-wise, Joffrey and Cersei's costumes are having a bit of a conversation with each other.  Notice in the above picture that Cersei is wearing a red underlayer (you can see her knee sticking up just under the table).  Joffrey has a blue undershirt and red outer layer: matching but inverted.  This whole scene illustrates how Joff was brought up: promised the world, indulged, told that he could change facts.  We are to understand that he is, at least somewhat, a product of Cersei's handiwork and they are, to be a bit fanciful, "cut from the same cloth".  Their matching colors underscore the conclusion they reach at the end of the scene, "Everyone who isn't us is an enemy". 

I'll be brief on these two, since they're the same costumes they were wearing when they arrived in King's Landing.  I'm including them to show a) how light and southern Sansa's underlayer is and b) how dark Arya's looking.

Also, just a quick check-in with Winterfell, so we can remind ourselves how washed out and cold it looks.  All of the backgrounds in King's Landing are bursting with plants; here there's one sad little bundle of herbs above Bran's head.

Robb is dressed exactly the same as Ned, and most other northerners.  Clearly, he's comfortable in his role as Lord of Winterfell.

For me, this scene is all about how Cat is rubbish at subterfuge.  She's trying to ride into the city all incognito, assuming that no one will recognize her...as she's dressed utterly northern and wearing her damn fish pin!

Neither she nor Ned are really cut out for this city or the games that it requires.

We also get to check in on a different class of women in Game of Thrones world: the prostitutes.  Rodrik Cassel's furtive little side-glance is kind of hilarious.  Much more color, and interestingly, a hair style that we will later see mainly on noble women (hair rolls on top, crossed pig-tails down the back).  While it makes sense for presumably expensive prostitutes (this is Littlefinger's brothel) to be aping the styles of rich women, this conflation of the two groups is somewhat interesting, I think.

Check out Littlefinger's tasteful interior decorating in the upper left corner.  What a charmer.

And we're back oop north to check in on the Wall.  Tyrion is wrapped up against the gold, but you can see the gold embroidery peeking out: this is his same costume as before.  Why point it out?  Because it's going to change in this episode, and we need to see that he's wearing the same exact thing until that moment.

Tyrion chats with a man identified as Mormont, and the two watch the fighting practice below:

Now, there's not a whoooole lot to say about costuming in this scene, except...Jon's Winterfell-wear served to tie him to his home in previous episodes.  Here, though, I think it is a subtle indication of the differences between Jon and the other recruits, who are wearing visibly ragged items compared with Jon's smooth leather.  Jon will find out in his next scene exactly how hard their lives were in comparison to his own when Tyrion fills him in on their backstories.

One more quick look at King's Landing prostitute-chic.  It's interesting to me how different their costumes all are.  It's the most diversity we've seen in Westeros yet: they have come from all over.  Note the bars on the eye-shaped window.

Now, there's not much to say about these shots of Ned and Littlefinger–they're wearing the same thing as in their earlier scene–but I'm including them so you can get a better look at the total effect of Littlefinger's clerk-ish gown and the decoration of the fabric.  He's not dressed like the other nobles, but he's certainly not poor.

The shot of Ned and Cat really shows how strong their relationship is: Cat normally has southern or Tully touches, but here she looks utterly northern (the fish pin is nowhere to be seen), and their simplicity complements one another.  All the embellished velvet finery in the world couldn't help Littlefinger break this couple up.

Wow, subtle, Cersei.  Very subtle.  She's wearing the same blue gown in this scene, and she is absolutely freaking out about the Bran situation, which the "undoneness" of her dress suits.  Of course, this scene is also about Jaime and Cersei's creepy, creepy relationship and all the cleave on display throws the creepiness right in our faces.

Jaime looks more or less the same as always–he's not particularly worried about Bran.

Robert, talking about killing–in language that very creepily conflates it with sex–but overdressed in shiny, worked fabric.  He's got that same basic silhouette that we see on Ned (and earlier on Renly) but he it seems like he can't resist throwing some reminder of his kingship on.  As before: vain, wasteful, and fundamentally unsuited for kingship.

At least we have Ser Barristan to inject some decorum into proceedings.  It doesn't seem ridiculous for Barristan to be recounting war stories.  We also have Jaime come in, identically armored.  The connection is extremely favorable for Jaime, who we last saw getting his creep on with Cersei.  When people say Jaime is complex, this is exactly what they are talking about: on one hand, he is a an accomplished and respected warrior; on the other: incest-city.

The scaly look of the armor is a nice touch: the Kingsguard is a Targaryen institution.

Three cheers for Wikipedia.

We also meet Lancel for the first time who looks like a scared version of this Botticelli portrait.  It's not the most manly look in the world. 

BOOSH!  Dany has gone full-native in three episodes.  Well, not full native: she's still wearing her Targaryen hair down and fairly Westerosi.  Everything else, however, has gone Dothraki, from the pin-fastened, midriff shirt-wrap to the pants.  The pants!

This whole scene is about Dany's transformation: when Jorah tells her she's learning to talk like a queen, she retorts, "Not a queen.  A Khaleesi".  She has fully embraced Dothraki life, and it shows.

Viserys is just a fully rejecting the Dothraki way, even though wearing what are essentially formal clothes while riding is impractical and wasteful.  Look at the way everyone else is dressed: they're not wasting good clothes on the move.

It's exactly the same outfit as before, but you can see it's getting more and more disheveled, matching Viserys' internal state.

Jon and Benjen talk briefly on the wall.  The costumes in this scene are all about what is "true black".  Now, usually Jon appears to be wearing very dark, near-black clothes, but here in contrast with Benjen, he seems much lighter.  In this scene, Benjen verballly tells Jon that he's no ranger and not ready to go beyond the wall, and the difference between a real ranger and Jon is evident in their appearance.

This is a VERY important scene for Tyrion.  Note his typical gold-embroidered leather.  Here he talks to Yoren about finding recruits before grim Benjen comes in.  Tyrion says that the wildlings beyond the Wall are just humans, that there's nothing particularly frightening.  Benjen immediately dresses him down, informing Tyrion that he has seen things that give him "sleepless nights", that the boys Tyrion has watched training are likely to die sooner rather than later, and that that their sacrifice enables Tyrion to live the way he does down south.  

Tyrion jokes about it afterwards with Yoren, but we're going to see shortly that it's made an impression.

True crows in true black.

Brief scene with Dany.  It's the same costume as before, but there are two things to point out: the extent to which Dany blends in and matches her surroundings; and the prominently-displayed dragon eggs in the background of this scene.


It's a Tyrion costume change.  This is basically the first we've ever seen (if you don't count one scene in the first episode, where's he's not wearing much and talking to Ros)!  Benjen's little speech seems to have really sunk in: Tyrion's dark red leather and gold (Lannister colors) have been replaced by simple black.  The costuming is telling us something really significant here: Tyrion honestly takes the Night's Watch seriously now.

Jeor Mormont is asking Tyrion to aid the Night's Watch.  We also meet Maester Aemon for the first time, visibly identified as a Maester by his cowl neck and as a crow by the deep black color.

And, here comes fan-favorite Syrio to round off the episode.

Arya is the second female character to get pants in the last hour. 

Now, I'm going to say something and you're free to think I'm over-analyzing, but I'm going to say it anyway.  Arya is wearing more or less the same clothes she has been so far, only modified: she started the series in a dress, then she ditched the sleeves and added the belt in the last installment, and here she's simply swapped the dress for pants of the same color.  Meanwhile, Sansa is clearly changing her clothes, rather than modifying her existing ones.  In some sense, Arya is merely become more herself, while Sansa is losing or casting aside who she was in Winterfell.

I desperately wish I could read something into Syrio's costume–something must be going on with the quilted eye-pattern down his back, right?–but alas, I'm failing.  He doesn't look noble, but he doesn't look poor.  He looks like a fencing master. 

Read the costume analysis for "S1E4: Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things" here.