Monday, April 7, 2014

Game of Threads: Costume Analysis (S1E5: The Wolf and the Lion)

Sorry that I am so, so behind schedule!  Persistent migraines for the past two weeks or so really threw a wrench in the works, and then late-March/early-April is a really busy time of the year for social events.  I was really hoping to get more of these done before Season 4 kicked off and no-one cares about the previous seasons anymore, but...  Let's look on the bright side: halfway there for the first season!  This is a pretty fun episode from a story perspective, though a lot of the costumes are continuations of themes we've seen before, but in any case, after last week's endless Castle Black/Dothraki carosel, we're off to some new places!  Let's seen what we've got to work with.

I don't tend to focus on the landscape shots too much, but they are several particularly lovely ones in this episode, so I figured I'd use this post to highlight a few.  I always liked the design of the Red Keep, because between the color and all the rounded towers, it looks like a 'roided out version of the Hampton Court Palace chimneys, which seems a good choice for the story and personally reminds me of school trips.

Ned and Ser Barristan look the same as always; what's really interesting here are the Silent Sisters.  This is the second time they've shown up, more or less without any explanation: they were briefly seen marching around Jon Arryn's body in the first episode but here are shown in far more detail, stitching up the deceased Ser Hugh.

I actually like how much credit the audience is being given with the Sisters.  They have the Seven Pointed star that we've seen in the stained glass of the Throne Room, but they're never explicitly linked.  All Ned comments is that they've "done their work well", and the audience is left to fill in that, based on their name and "uniform" this is a probably-religious group dedicated to tending dead bodies.

They don't look entirely "Westerosi" either: those big...signboards behind their heads don't have a clear European parallel; they look odd and exotic.  Fitting for the rather mysterious Sisters, but also hints that the Church of the Seven is not a wholly native part of the culture.

Ned and Barristan give us some back-history, while a page, who looks enormously like Lancel stands by to help Barristan with his cloak.  This page's hat and cape are a different color, a kind of neutraly brown, whereas Lancel, who we're on our way to see, is anything but neutral.

The two men continue a common image of warriors side by side.  Barristan, we learn in this conversation, is a famous knight of great ability.  Ned, in his usual Northern brown, modestly downplays his own skills, though Barristan himself praises his fighting.

Who's arm could this be, I wonder?  Who might possibly be wearing a large, gold-embroidered Lannister lion on his sleeve?

It's Lancel, of course, attempting to wedge Robert back into his armor.  Compared to the page we just saw, Lancel's cap and cloak are also Lannister red, as indeed, is the tent that Robert is using.  Robert is surrounded by Lannister influence, though Lancel's timidity makes him seem to be not much of a threat at present.

Robert, of course, has stag motifs on his armor: a column of antlers down the breastplate, and a pretty ostentatious antler helmet.  We see, though, what Robert "is"; previous episodes have shown through costuming how fundamentally unsuited Robert is to be king, but we see here too how he's no longer even a warrior.  He cannot "fit" either role.  Compare that with Ned, who more or less only wears subdued armor.

Back out at the joust, we see that Cersei is still not attending.  Note the way Robert leans in his throne, "sits squiffy" if you will: it may be an interesting comparison in future episodes.

Sansa and Ned look the same as the last time we saw them, with Littlefinger littlefingering behind them.  He has had a costume change: we've seen this floral coat before, but usually covered with the striped layer.  The flora pattern ties him to Sansa with her roses.

Let's take a closer look at Littlefinger's floral, shall we?  It looks dark on one side, and light on the other.  On other shows, I would be tempted to write this off as, well, that's just what the fabric looks like, but we've established that a great deal of attention goes into Game of Thrones' costumes.  I think it could be argued that Littlefinger's two-tone gown/coat is telling us something about his character.

Loras is really interesting character, especially in light of Ned's complaining about knights who "strut around like peacocks" in the South, basically saying they don't know how to fight.  Well, Loras is embodying "strut" in this scene, and his armor and helmet are finely decorated.  It turns out, though, that he is a good fighter and rider, and is clever enough to use the fact that his mare is in heat to throw off The Mountain's own horse.

Renly here has a jumble of patterns: stripes and geometric diamonds, with his typical stag-antler pin.  As we discussed last episode, regarding Littlefinger, too much clashing pattern can be a costuming way of representing a character who is lying or trying to hide something, and this scene more or less informs us that Renly lives in a glass closet.

Robert's actually wearing something kind of interesting too: we've seen it in previous episodes, but from a distance.  This is the first time we've seen the embroidery and pattern up-close.  It's a quite busy, with stylized flowers and botanical shapes, but dominated by two birds inside circles.  In fact, I'm a bit puzzled by this one: Robert doesn't have any particular association with birds (though Sansa and Cersei do).  I suppose it might be notable that the two birds are facing away from each other.  I'm not sure about this costume yet, but it seems...notable, so I wanted to make a mention of it.  It may fall into place later.

There's not a whole lot going on with Cat's costume in this episode: it's the same one we've seen before.  That makes sense, though; she's on the road and probably doesn't have loads of changes with her.  Though, in Cat's case, this is the only dress we've ever seen her wear, outside of the feast in the first episode.  Like Ned, she has basically only one face that she presents to the world.

She spends this whole scene playing with her Tully Fish pin; it seems almost like a nervous habit.  She and Tyrion discuss the fact that they're going to the Vale, where Cat's sister lives, another Tully.  Tyrion vaguely tells Cat that her sister's changed in the five years since they last met, but before they can elaborate...Hill People!

We don't see much of the Hill Tribe that attacks, though.  It's your standard brown-ish horde.   We get to look at them a bit more closely in the future.

Unsurprisingly, seeing as he's been captured and Cat's hardly got spare clothes for him, Tyrion looks exactly the same as always.  As usual he's got his Lannister colors on as he uses his Lannister name to sound out which of the mercenaries might turn to his side, for a price.

The camera cuts to this guy, who as yet has nothing about his look to differentiate him from anyone else.  He has no sigil.  As far as we know, he's just some guy...except he keeps getting singled out.

With the Hill Tribe attack, we do get to see that he's a competent fighter, and one possibly interesting detail appears.  Compare:

Note the paneled skirt
Versus Bronn's breastplate

Look, even I think this is a bit of a stretch here, but another part of me thinks that there's something in the fact that famed violent nutjob Gregor Clegaine shares an armor type with Bronn, who we don't know much about...except that he's possibly open to bribery and is good at killing Hill Tribesmen.  Think of it this way: the costume designer could just have easily put Bronn is that leather armor we see Ned and the Northmen wearing all the time, but...that's not what we're seeing.

As he and Tyrion talk, we learn that Bronn is a bit more talkative than The Mountain, but that armor is possibly a warning sign.

Let's just take a moment to appreciate the comic relief provided by Cat's absurdly tiny little dagger.  Really, girl?

Back up to Winterfell, where Bran is angry that Cat is off having fun getting attacked by barbarians.  I'm not sure what to make of the Winterfell fondness for decorating with skulls, to be honest.  There was a stag skull behind Tyrion in the previous episode, and now a cow hanging out to the right of Bran.  It just seems a bit ominous for a place that's supposed to me our "heroes'" home.

Theon looks like usual.  That's the geometric jerkin we've seen him wear before.  This is yet another scene that reminds us he's not a Stark or even from "The North".  He does look a bit different from other Northern characters (the colors especially look different...too light), but not in a way that's particularly obvious.

Bran looks plenty Northern here, though.  He's got the fur ruff, the crossed cape design, and the dark colors.  He's also got his typical detached sleeves, buckled in the front.

But he's also got his mother's Tully pin.  I think this is the first time we're introduced to the Tully words: Family, Duty, Honor.

Just a brief check-in with Ned and Varys.  Ned looks the same as always.  Varys is wearing something we've seen before: the botanical-print he wore in his introduction.  It's too early to say for sure, but botanicals and prints based on them, I think, are tied to King's Landing (plants grow throughout the city, like the profusion of lavender visible behind Ned) and by extension indicate a measure of shiftiness.  Varys is fantastic in this scene too, shutting all the windows and doors of the room, save for, of course, the big balcony behind Ned.  This is a wonderfully ambiguous gesture: is Varys shielding them from spies, or is he caging Ned in?

It's Illyrio!  It's actually kind of funny to me that he looks...exactly the same as he did back in Pentos.  I mean, if he's kind of snuck into King's Landing to meet with (easily identified by his voice) Varys, wouldn't he be kind of disguised?  We're supposed to know who these two people are, though, and since we haven't seen Illyrio since the first episode, I think they sacrificed realism for ease of identification.

Lots of Varys in this episode!  If they didn't want us to know that was him talking to Illyrio, they wouldn't have sandwiched that scene in between two others of him undisguised.  Anyway, he's back to verbally spar with Littlefinger in the throne room here.

I like the contrast between Varys and Littlefinger: the latter wears a really quite loud floral print; Varys' plants are not flowers, they're simple leaves or grasses (as I mentioned back at his introduction, this outfit calls to mind the phrase "snake in the grass").

Littlefinger's thrown on his striped layer, and I'd like to give a shout-out to a redditor, /u/ChiliFlake, who brought up in the discussion of my last post that this layer, in addition to mixing up prints, also resembles in some ways a pin-stripe suit, or at least the Westerosi equivalent of one, and how that fits Littlefinger's whole smarmy businessman vibe to a tee (and I think this was particularly true in the last episode, where we learn that he is personally profiting from the tournament that is driving the crown into debt).

Quick look at Renly, who is awfully, awfully shiny in this particular scene.

Arya, who was last in the dungeons listening in on Varys and Illyrio, gets out by way of a cliffside hole.   She really is a million miles from the (albeit surly) little lady we met in Winterfell in the first episode.  She is mistaken for a boy by the City Watch (perhaps evidence that it is unusual for girls to wear pants, I think), until she puts on her noble voice and gets back in.

The City Watch have their faces almost completely obscured by their helmets.  Anonymity is not something you usually want in a police force...

Arya goes up to talk to her father about the conversation she heard but didn't really understand.  Nothing interesting from a costume perspective...but those painted birds on the wall behind the pair certainly recall Varys' "little birds".  This is probably not as private a conversation as Ned and Arya may think.

It's Yoren!  A couple noteworthy things happen in this conversation: Yoren meets Arya; Yoren also mistakes Arya for a boy; Yoren comments that Arya has the Stark "look".

Back to Cat, who's riding next to Ser Rodrik, the two of them looking very Northern.  Furs, dark colors, all the typical signs.  Tyrion's hanging out behind them, with his Lannister colors in full view.  It seems like he'd be cold: everyone else has furs and he's got nothing.

Knights of the Vale!  The one in front, Ser Vardis is obviously important: he's shiny and decorated with a studded pattern.  The Vale knights' helmets are kind of interesting--compare them to the Winterfell and Lannister soldiers we saw last time.  Vale knights are shinier and showier that the decidedly pot-like Stark guards, but not as tricked out as the Lannisters.

Another one of this episode's standout landscape shots: the Eyrie looks amazing.  It's beautiful but...looks a little foreboding and perhaps unstable (you can see clear through the mountain: are those supports really enough?).

But we don't get to see what kind of person makes their home in the Eyrie just yet!  No, it's back to King's Landing, where Ned is summoned to the Small Council by that same Baratheon lackey who met him when he first arrived in King's Landing.

Everyone looking quite grim, sitting around the Small Council table.  In terms of costumes, everyone's pretty much wearing what we've seen before.  Obviously Varys and Littlefinger haven't changed, since they came to the meeting straight from their last conversation.  Robert is present for the meeting, wearing that piece with the coin-line closures down the middle and the detail at the shoulder (that is both somewhat reminiscent of armor and also decorative and delicate).

In the course of the meeting, Ned resigns as Hand of the King, decides to get the hell out of Dodge, and almost...almost does, until...

Littlefinger, coming to mess shit up.  In his clashing "don't trust me!" patterns.

You know what other show uses almost exactly the same technique to show that a character is not what he seems to be and is not to be trusted?

Image from:

That's right, Hannibal, whose uniform is basically (well-tailored) plaid suits with paisley or floral (occasionally geometric) ties.  Just so you all know that this is a legit costuming technique, not something I'm making up as I go.

We finally, finally get to go inside the Eyrie!  To be honest, I thought this set was really beautiful in a faded, Byzantine kind of way, but then I saw one of those "Making of" segments where the set designer said the Eyrie was supposed to look kind of off and unsettling.  So I dunno what that says about my taste level.

Perhaps "faded" really is the right word for this world: the walls are obviously painted or frescoed, but they're scarcely visible through the gloom.  We know that the Vale's greatlord died somewhat recently.  The Vale seems like it just isn't what it was.

Neither Cat nor Tyrion fit in this place, and neither of them really know what to make of Lysa.

One thing I love about this show is the fact that the costume designer creates regional fashion.  It's not all that same, square-neckline, wizard-sleeve mediaeval gown everywhere you go.  This is our first look at Vale couture, and it's got a lot of new stuff going on: bare arms, high collar, the generally weird cape design that clasps in the middle, then fall straight down before swooping off around Lysa's arms.  The cape design seems to possibly be related to Lysa's...unique parenting technique: it's very open and offers...easy access.  This whole scene is ludicrously uncomfortable.

The bare arms look crazy, given how high up and and relatively open to the elements the Eyrie seems to be.

She wears similar colors to Cat; they are sisters, after all.

It's definitely not an exact match, but Lysa puts me somewhat in mind of this John Singer Sargent portait, Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth.

Thanks, Wikipedia.

I think it's the colors, the big chunky braids, the bare arms, and the crazy look in the eyes of both women.  Lysa's big cape-swish around Sweetrobin is such a dramatic gesture too.  Of course, Lysa's face is much more pinched and birdlike than the portrait, but she definitely reminded me of the painting.

Over on Reddit, /u/spiral_cake had a good observation about the Eyrie costumes, that the drape-y parts are rather like wings, tying them to their falcon sigil.  The movement Lysa makes to wrap up Sweetrobin has a bit of a "mother hen" vibe.  The Starks dress like their sigil too, with the near-omnipresent big fur ruffs.

This whole scene is awesome.  Moreover, this is the same thing we saw Cersei wear last episode when she went to speak to Ned, warning him that she was also "trained to kill [her] enemies".  The one difference, and this will seem incredibly minor, is that she's swapped her necklaces.  With Ned, she wore a small one than fell quite low, right in the shadow of her cleavage (basically designed to draw the eye there, even as the design of the dress shadows is); here, she has her typical Lannister lion pendant.  This is actually the second time we've seen the necklace: it appeared earlier in a scene between Theon and Ros, where it functions as a sign that Tyrion Lannister patronized her while in the North (I didn't include screenshots from that exchange because there were no costumes, and I'm trying to keep these posts safe for work).

The different lighting means that, here, her dress looks pink; with Ned, it looked much more red.  It is, however, the same garment.  The Lannister trappings reinforce Roberts line (complaint?) that "your father's voice comes out" when she speaks, but the softer appearance of the color makes sense given the flash of vulnerability when, after their discussion of strategy, they speak about their marriage. 

Anyway, I think it's interesting that Cersei would ever-so-slightly sex-up her look for Ned, but then go back to her Lannister lion for Robert.  I think it shows that she's really abandoned that sort of approach when it comes to dealing with her own husband.  This comes up in the dialog with Robert, where she tells him she once had some sort of romantic feeling for him and asks if a real relationship was ever possible: he tells her, flatly, no.

There is an absolutely gorgeous moment in the wake of this "no", where the hurt flickers across her face before she takes a sip of (red) wine and, her mask in place, in her Lannister armor, she says it "doesn't make me feel anything".

Robert is wearing the same thing he has been all episode: the bird pattern.  Again, I'm surprised that it's a a design he'd have, since it's associated with other characters but not him.  Perhaps it could be taken as a reference to the marriage that they discuss: two birds in one circle (birds are, after all, a fairly common symbol of love and marriage) but facing away from each other, at odds.

EDIT: Commenter Sofia left a brilliant observation at the bottom of this post about Robert.  He actually does have a connection to birds.  In the very first episode we see that he brings bird feathers to Lyanna Stark's tomb, seen here:

In the books, it's explained in even more detail: they are the feathers of exotic Southern birds.  So, with this added detail, the use of the bird motif in Robert's clothing actually makes a great deal of sense.  Cersei and Robert explicitly discuss Lyanna in this scene, and her memory casts a pall over the entire Baratheon-Lannister marriage.  Thanks again, Sonia, for pointing this out!  The books and show are so dense, it's impossible for one person to catch every single detail, so I really love getting comments.  END OF EDIT.

In Littlefinger's brothel, Ned speaks to the mother of one of Robert's illegitimate children.  She herself is not particularly notable, except that her style of dress is one that we'll be seeing in the future.  I just wanted to make note of it here, when it really appears for the first time, on this "good whore", who is depicted as much more pure (uninterested in money) than those seen next to Littlefinger in the next shot:

See?  The other prostitutes, notably the woman in green to the left, who distracts Jory, look much more vampish.  This is, I think, supposed to recall Loras Tyrell's trick with his mare to distract the Mountain's horse at the start of the episode.

Apparently Littlefinger starts skeeving out in his own establishment.  The coat layer, that is normally closed up to the top of the high collar, is open.  He just looks smarmy.

The red curtains surrounding the scene seem relevant, given that this little contingent of Lannister soldiers shortly surround the brothel:

Led by Jaime, who is wearing something that should by now be familiar: the white leather with the red lining.  It seems to be what he wears under the Kingsguard armor, like a sort of off-duty uniform.  It's showy and, as noted before, borderline-flamboyant with the flounces around the hips.  A big contrast to Ned, though their swordfight reveals them to be relatively evenly matched (until a Lannister soldier steps in to cripple Ned, for which he is punched out by Jaime).  Again, Ned's disdain for fighters who maintain an "image" in the the past episode seems somewhat misplaced.

Dead Stark men, and the exact same prostitutes watching the scene that seem to always be up on that balcony (visible because one wears a lot of gold in her hair, the other because of her thick, black hair is distinctive).  I wonder what they made of the fight, or if, indeed, they're someone's eyes and ears in Littlefinger's establishment.  Can't trust King's Landing.

Read the costume analysis for "S1E6: A Golden Crown" here.