Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Game of Threads: Costume Analysis (S1E6: A Golden Crown)

Trying to get back on my projected schedule after March went a bit off the rails!  Season 4 just started, and it's really hard not to jump the gun and start picking apart the first episode for costume details, however...since so much of this depends on tracking the changes over time, I'd only be able to tease out a fraction of what the new season's costumes have to tell.  Let's just keep chugging along, and we'll get to Season 4 in due course.

This episode is lots of fun.  It's one of the most action-packed ones we've seen so far, and its got plenty to discuss.  Let's go!

Ned, who we last saw with a gaping spear wound to the leg, is recovering in his bed.  The first thing he sees when he opens his eyes is:

His best friend in all the world, Cersei Lannister.  It's probably not the most welcome sight.  She is looking kind of interesting: as usual, the Lannister pendant is prominent (and we'll see two more later in the episode), and this blue color is, well, not atypical because she has another, more formal gown in almost the exact same shade, but neither is it a look she is remembered for.  When we've seen blue in the past, it seemed to coincide with scenes of vulnerability or connection.  This is a different dress, but I think that seems continues here.  She is repeatedly and scornfully referred to as "woman" by Robert, and finally is slapped in the face.  She has her Lannister lion, but not her Lannister "armor", and she's vulnerable to Robert's brutishness.  After the slap, she and Ned exchange an interesting look: what appears to be pity or sympathy for her.

Of course, Robert is there too, in a very common outfit for him.  Cersei's dress, it becomes apparent in this wider view, has an interesting, wide metal belt.  Robert's outfit is the same one he wore back in "E2: The Kingsroad", in which he ordered Sansa's direwolf to be killed.  This is, I believe, a deliberate callback to that, the first of two in this episode.  The situation is similar: Cersei is trying to goad Robert into exacting the revenge she wants.  In "The Kingsroad", Robert went along with it, though; now, he refuses and smacks her.

After she leaves, Robert reflects that hitting her was "not kingly", as his costuming works to show us just how uninspiring a king he is.  Similar to something that is done with Viserys, Robert is turned sideways and wearing a belt that hits him at the least flattering place possible, and tied tightly to give him unenviable muffintop.

I like that the bird frescoes that we discussed in the last post (as a probably reference to Varys' spies) make another appearance behind Robert in this scene.  Robert says he can't rule if "the Starks and the Lannisters are at each others' throats".  This is an almost direct rephrasing of Varys' line from E5: "The wolf and the lion will soon be at each others' throats".  Varys isn't even in this episode, but he has a presence in this scene.

Dany with her dragon eggs is here in something we've seen before: it's a quite Westerosi-looking garment (though in Dothraki colors and Dothraki touches like the more ragged hems) that she seems to only wear inside her tent.  This could indicate that it's just pajamas, but, like the last time we saw Dany wear this with Khal Drogo, this scene is about how Dany is different.  We see her pick up the dragon egg from the fire without any harm; Irri gets some nasty scale-shaped burns.  Usually Dany's costume is very Dothraki to show the extent to which she's adjusted to her new lift, but here it's reminding us that she's a Targaryen, not a Dothraki.

The North rarely has much interesting going on in terms of costuming, and I think that's the point.  The characters don't change much up there; they look much the same, scene to scene.  No exception here with Robb, who is continuing to dress like the Lord of Winterfell: he's wearing what are definitely high-quality materials, but in dark colors and relatively unadorned.

Theon, as usual, looks pretty similar to Robb, though it does seem worth noting that his fur doesn't seem to be as rich as the type Robb gets.  There is some minor differentiation between them and I think this "practically a Stark but not quite" is really key to Theon's character.

In fact, the dialog in the scene deals with Theon's position: when Theon pushes to retaliate for what happened to Ned, Robb tells him that it's not his concern because it's not his family.  When the realize that Bran (who's just gotten his new saddle and is out riding) has gone out of earshot, Theon spits that line back at Robb.

Bran has his typical detached sleeves (you can she the buckle for them under his cape) and is dressed similarly to Robb: same fine leather, same dark colors, similar rich fur (though in a lighter color).

We also get to meet the first Wildlings we've ever really seen on the show.  We've heard them spoken of (Benjen Stark called them "a little wilder" than people below the wall; and Thorne referred to the Wildlings who follow Mance Rayder as "hard men") but never seen them.  The look like matted heaps of fur and hair, with faces poking out.  They're scary, and we learn from their conversation that they are running away from the North. 

You know, I actually like that Theon got to do something kind of heroic and look a little bit cool for once.  He's always getting put down or put off or distanced or mocked, even if it's subtle.  No one lets him forget about his father's "failed rebellion".  He does save Bran here, though.  When Robb tells him off for taking the risk, Theon has a line that tells us a lot about how he thinks, "It was the only thing to do, so I did it."

The show really does a great job building Theon's character.  In many ways, we know who he is more than we do Robb.

Let's check in with Tyrion, who we find out has been put in the Eyrie's unique dungeon.  We also get to see he rather large Lannister Lion ring in detail.  We'll talk more about this later when he figures out the right angle to use with Mord, the turnkey, but this scene really calls attention to it, so I wanted to point it out.

Arya and Syrio look the same as when we last saw them together.  Syrio does have an important line in this scene, "There is only one god; the god of death", but in terms of costuming there's not a lot new going on.  These are stable characters.

Plants are a really important motif in King's Landing: they're everywhere, in the rooms and on people's clothing.

Out in public, Dany's back to her full-on Dothraki drag.  I mean, understandably so: this is a Dothraki ceremony in their holy city.  To dress any other way would be disrespectful, right?

So of course Viserys is there, looking totally Targaryen.  He really won't make any concessions at all.  At least he seems to have washed a little bit since we last saw him on the road.  Jorah's still Westerosi is dress too, but he's much more dark and subdued, and isn't walking around with a huge Mormont Bear stitched on to the front of his clothes.

But actually...let's look at Dany again:

She has a massively important new piece of apparel that we're seeing for the first time: her massive, metal dragon-tooth necklace.  We never get to hear where it comes from, but it's a very "Targaryen", dragon-themed thing for her to be wearing.  It doesn't look out of place with the rest of her Dothraki clothes, but it's also definitely different.  Jorah has a line in this scene that "she truly is a Queen today", and I think the new accessory complements that line.

I like the Venus of Willendorf-like carving on the pillar behind Dany.

Okay, now we can talk about Tyrion.  He's got that big, Lannister ring on, that we got to see up close a few scene ago.  He's got his Lannister colors.  As much as Tyrion talks shit about his family, in fact for most of Season 1, his Lannister name and Lannister trappings are his armor.  He's able to talk his way out of his sky cell thanks to the ubiquity of the phrase, "A Lannister always pays his debts".  Even this not-very-bright goaler way out in the Eyrie is familiar enough with the saying for it to have weight.  Tyrion gets through life partially on his wits, but also in no small part thanks to his Lannister connection.

More Lysa and Robin dressed identically, and all I can think is:

Their costumes are so identical that it seems that their pins match.  This is significant.  You can see clearly that Lysa's a Tully-fish design.  It's not unexpected for her to wear this: Cat wears her Tully pin all the time.  However, it really looks like Robin also has a fish pin, which is odd.  We would expect to see a falcon, the Arryn sigil, but that doesn't seem to be what we're looking at.  We've actually heard a lot of good things about Jon Arryn, but the costuming seems to be separating Robin pretty strongly from his father, and tying him to crazy Lysa.

Speaking of Cat, she's standing up on with the Throne, but with a lot of distance between her and her sister.  Once again, though, their colors do match.  They are family.

This scene's actually fun: we get to look at some Eyrie residents besides Lysa and her son.  It seems that the bizarre, complex cape that Lysa wears is part of Vale fashion.  The other women in the scene are all dressed similarly, with the odd, metal clasps running down the middle.  It's a really peculiar look, and definitely would be uncomfortable.  I started to wonder if it was Lysa, with her penchant for...attachment parenting, that started the weird, separated breast look and the other women copied it (like women copied Alexandra of Denmark's limp), and then I remembered that the Vale is a fictional kingdom and I was probably putting way to much thought into the origins of its fashion trends.  It's safe to say that the typical Vale style looks stiff, odd, impractical, and more than a little officious. 

But it's also rather similar to what this civilian man seems to be wearing as well, which is...interesting.  The line between men's and women's clothing tends to be quite sharply drawn in the other parts of Westeros that we've seen.  Most of the other male characters are in armor, though, which is also somewhat unusual: even if King's Landing, Jaime doesn't walk around in full plate unless he's on official business.  Ned wears lightweight, leather armor regularly, but not the full knightly regalia.  There's no way these people could have known there would be a trial by combat coming; it comes across again as kind of impractical and show-offy.

Bronn, offering to fight for Tyrion, is visibly not a knight.  No sigil, no colors: he's kind of unreadable.

We very briefly stop in with Robert's hunting party.  Renly, who we learn in this scene prefers parties to hunting, doesn't really look any different from what we usually see.  Prominent Baratheon pin.  Robert actually looks a little less fat than we typically see him (remember we got that super-unflattering side-view at the start of the episode?) and he's wearing plain leather.  This is the best he's looked in the show, and it's when he's away from King's Landing and out hunting, though this scene also establishes that he's drinking heavily.

We don't see Smallfolk that much.  This guy's come down from the Riverlands, and has a Tully Fish on his left arm.  He's informing the King's Council about the attacks led by The Mountain.

Littlefinger, who's one of the show's Costume MVPs, has something pretty interesting going on in this scene.  Take a look:

Doesn't look like much at first, does it?  It seems pretty in line with what he tends to wear.  Well, when I saw it, I thought that the underlayer was new.  We've seen him wear something similar back in Episode 3, when we meet him for the first time.  I went back to confirm that it was genuinely different.  Here he is in that E3 scene:

The color looks different.  He's gone red.  He's definitely not working on Ned's side, let's put it that way.  And what's up with his mockingbird pin changing directions?  It's facing the left of the screen in E3 and facing the right now.  Not. to. be. trusted.

What I think is especially interesting about those two Littlefinger shots is: his costume matches his background in both!  In E3, he's yellow like the walls of the Small Council Chamber.  Now, he's red like the stones of the throne room.  He really is a chameleon.

Ned, Ned never changes.

Back to the Eyrie, where Lysa and Robin have had a costume change, and once again they are identical in the same heavy, quilted fabric.  They just kind of merge into one another.  It's a creepy effect.  In that shot of Lysa standing, it's not clear where her cape ends and Robin's starts.  He looks vestigial.

Leaving Lysa's braids with huge, unfinished tails is a nice touch.  It just makes her look...kind of messy and off.  It marks her as different from Cersei with her perpetually perfect hair or Cat with her neat, practical braids.

Then there's some sort of swordfight, or something.  Who cares about that, amiright? :P

So let's talk about Sansa instead!  There's some outright discussion of costumes in this scene; Septa refers to Sansa "wearing [her] hair like a real Southern lady now" and the importance of remembering where one comes from.  The show really wants to make sure we notice the change.  The Southern styles are more elaborate and controlled than Northern hair styles, more decorative but less practical.  They require fillers or hair-rats to pull off.

However, she is still wearing an identifiably Winterfell dress, one that we've seen a couple times.  In fact, it's the dress she was wearing on the King's Road when Nymeria bites Joffrey and her wolf is killed; this is significant because...

Here comes Joffrey, finally making good on Cersei's instructions to do something nice for "the Stark Girl".  He apologizes for the Kingsroad incident and gives her a Lannister Lion necklace just like the one Cersei has, and similar to the one we know Ros got from Tyrion.

This scene is shot in a very particular way: it's all warm lighting, the set and the costumes are beautiful.  Look back at Sansa's life in Winterfell in Episode 1.

Visually, this is a great representation of the cycle of abuse: this is the "honeymoon phase" that typically follows abusive episodes.  It's a key part of the abusive cycle; it's one of the reasons why it's so hard for people to leave those relationships.  This is one reason why widespread dislike of Sansa always made me uncomfortable.  The show is very clearly portraying an abusive relationship.  It's also giving a marvelous example of the fact that apologies from abusers don't mean anything.

I'm going to do one scene out of order, but because we're talking about Sansa, it makes more sense to bring it up now:

 Ned tells Sansa and Arya that they're going back to Winterfell, to which they both protest.  Sansa makes a big speech about wanting marry Joffrey and all of it, and both Arya and many viewers take it as evidence that Sansa's an idiot.  She may be naive, but like I said: look at what Winterfell life means for her, and how she has experienced life in King's Landing so far, and I don't think her reaction is all that surprising.

Arya's wearing a throwback to E3 too: the black underlayer is what she wore when she seemed to be in some sort of unofficial mourning for Mycah and angry with her father.

And here's the third Lannister necklace of the episode, worn by Ros as she leaves the North for King's Landing.  Remember how I said apologies from abusers don't mean anything?  Well, this scene (which occurs in between Sansa getting the necklace and her flipping out about having to leave) seems to show that those Lannister necklaces don't mean all that much either.  Tyrion pays his prostitutes with Lannister necklaces.  In fact, Ros' is bigger.

Ros' costume is kind of funny.  Why would she be so cleavage-y just out on the road?  Isn't she cold?  I like her two-tone cape, though: blue on one side and yellow on the other.  It reminds me a little of Littlefinger's light half/dark half floral layer that we saw in the joust.

Theon's here too, wearing pretty much his standard thing.  I don't think we've ever seen the...floral-ish-looking pattern on his sleeves before, but other than that, nothing of note.

It's a party in Vaes Dothrak, and everything looks harmonious and happy until...

Viserys walks in, carrying his big, dragon-pommeled sword (which we know are banned in the city) and making a scene, threatening Dany and her child unless he's given the army he wants.  And wearing the exact same thing he's worn in every single scene.  However:

This is not a couple to be threatened.  Dany has that same big, dragon-tooth necklace we saw before, with another piece of jewelry on underneath it.  The appearance of this necklace in the episode really indicates her coming into her harder, Targaryen nature.  Viserys' is not "The Dragon"; she is.

Once again, we see that blue color as a Dothraki celebration color; Drogo's wearing it as body paint here, and it was all over their wedding.

We don't often get to see a lot of intricate detail in the Dothraki costumes, so I liked getting to see this golden belt, albeit briefly.  Dothraki don't have sigils, but it's not surprising that they'd go for horse designs.  Jorah remarked in episode 2 that horses and grass are the two things they have "in abundance", and grass isn't particularly impressive looking on a belt.

And Viserys dies as he lived: looking like a kind of crazy Tolkien elf, and covered in ostentatious dragon symbols.  Good night, sweet prince.

Read the costume analysis for "S1E7: You Win or You Die" here.