Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Game of Threads: Costume Analysis (S1E7: You Win or You Die)

I talked a little bit about why I haven't written much lately in my previous Haircare Question post, but there's another reason it's taken me so long to get this episode's costume analysis out...  This episode is effing boring, y'all.

Purely from a costume perspective, I mean.  Plot-wise, it's got some fun stuff.

Let's just knuckle through this one, okay?

To be honest, it seems like the set designers decided to really step up there game in this episode.  Here's the first thing we see once the credits finish rolling:

No questions about whose camp we're in here, huh?  We've seen tons of scenes that were set against red backdrops, which I don't think is a stretch to say indicates Lannister influence. Well, they're not really even hiding their power any more.  Everyone is wearing red, down to the little Nobody in the third shot seen rolling a barrel.  Lions are everywhere.

In case anyone's squeamish (and if you are, you probably shouldn't be watching Got...), there's a deer carcass pretty visible in the next few shots, so scroll ahead if you need to.

TYWIN!  I can't decide if Charles Dance-as-Tywin is the most perfect casting in the entire show or the worst, in that Book-Tywin is a monster that I un, but Show-Tywin is undeniably...not likeable, but charismatic?  Definitely awesome.  (Come to think of it, due to the actors themselves and some decisions on the part of the writers, the Lannisters in general went from being, in my opinion, the Big Boo-Hiss Villains to...kind of my favorite House.)

Given the enormous sea of crimson we spent the first few seconds of the episode looking at, the most notable thing about Tywin is his simple, completely black attire.  Compare him to Jaime, with whom he's speaking in this scene:

Jaime's got the red cape; he's got huge, stylized lion faces on his shoulder and elbow joint, as well as the pommel of his sword..  To go off on a slight tangent, the choice to make the lion face more human-like is interesting to me.  It reminds me of the--in my opinion--kind of eerie Bocca della Verità carving in Rome:

Thanks, Wikipedia

Or to a lesser extent, this carving of a debated deity in Bath (this is actually what I thought of first, and then after searching around for similar images was lead to the Bocca, which is rather more similar; I can't find any pictures of the carving that I can use, so I'm just linking to one).

This continues the pattern, I think, of Lannister-style being Mediaeval, layered with Roman and Japanese touches. 

Pardon the digression.  Anyway, the key point here is that everyone in this camp is seriously decked out Lannister-style, particularly Jaime who's got lots of red and gold and lions.

And Tywin's hanging out in the middle of it all in plain black.  I really scoured these screenshots looking for lion-motif anything: I checked the clasps on his jacket, I looked for embossing; pins or details around the collar.  Nothing.  This makes a few interesting points:
  • Compare this with Ned, who always dresses simply.  On the surface, you might think they're similar, however, the difference is that Ned looks and dresses like his own soldiers.  Here, Tywin is much more simple than the rest of his men.  Tywin has set up his power-differential in a rather unusual way; most of the lords in Westeros seem to dress more grandly than the people under them.  However, it's actually much more expensive to fully outfit your entire army and equip them the way Tywin has done here.  This is some pretty subtle work: he's basically letting his wealth and power speak for themselves.  I wonder if we'll ever hear Tywin's opinions on people who feel the need to explicitly state their social status in future episodes?
  • This also recalls Ned's burn on knights who "strut peacocks" and have never really seen war.  Well, Tywin is the complete opposite of those: he's dressed plainly and literally field-dressing a stag barehanded.
  • Jaime and Tywin are different.
The overt symbolism of the stag-carving has been well-remarked on in other places.  This is the second gutted stag we've seen this season; the omens are not looking good for House Baratheon.  More subtly, though, I think we can relate the stag to Jaime in this scene.  Through there conversation, Tywin deftly slices through Jaime's facade of swagger, cuts right down to what seems to be his biggest insecurity (his reputation as Kinslayer), and tears down Jaime's ideas about personal honor and glory.  So we have a physical stripping of the deer and a psychological "stripping" of Jaime.

What do we learn from our first meeting with Twyin?  In short: he has a sophisticated knowledge of "the game" and shows of power; he seems both physically active and psychologically astute; he can most likely fuck you up if he needs to.

Let's check in with our King's Landing-based Lannister.   I'm increasingly finding the botanicals of the capital sinister: they look beautiful, but the wall people in and are basically "cover", useful for hiding.  I don't think it's a coincidence that they're a favored design for both Varys and Littlefinger.

Cersei's wearing something we've seen a couple times already: the pink vaguely kimono-ish dress, with an interestingly chunky, metallic, "armor-y" belt.  Plus, the big, honking Lannister necklace.  This is the same dress that Cersei wore in Episode 5 when she and Robert discussed their marriage, the Dothraki threat, and Lyanna, and--perhaps more relevantly--in Episode 4 when she talks to Ned about what he plans to do in the capital.  In that scene, she informed Ned that she was trained to kill her enemies just as much as Ned himself.  Now, she's back; at the start of the scene, we see her (and Ned) like this:

Ned is basically blinded by her and bent down; if you want to get symbolic, wounded prey and victorious lion.  He gets to his feet, of course, and Cersei makes a show of sympathy ("You're in pain"), but really we know who's winning the game at this particular point in the show.

Throwing this one in because it's a really clear shot of Cersei's pretty cool braided hairstyle.  It's unusual to see one for so long, so I'm making a note of it for future reference.

Littlefinger and the scene that spawned the phrase "sexposition".  Before we look at that, I just wanted to briefly comment on this exterior shot, that stuck out to me because of the pointed yellow-ness of the curtains behind Littlefinger.  The brothel interior is dominated by red, as we learned from previous episodes.  The curtains in the other window are red; that's what I really would have expected.  So, (I know it's a bit of a reach) I suppose you could say Littlefinger seems Lannister-adjacent, but ultimately his own man.

Let's go inside...

Set design did a *great* job here.  These shots are beautiful.  In terms of color schemes, chiaroscuro effect, and the abundance of fruit (but fruit that looks kind of faded and maybe just on the edge of going off) these shots are giving me Caravaggio:

Wikipedia again.  That fruit is so gross looking; I love Caravaggio.

There's probably some Dutch still life going on too.  Littlefinger himself isn't wearing anything new: we know he dresses down in his establishment, with the long layer we've seen several times here unbuttoned.  That could reflect his relative openness in this scene: he discusses his history, his aims, his feelings quite candidly.  He's still got his mockingbird on, even in such a...casual setting.

You'd think there'd be nothing in particular to say about the prostitutes, but actually Ros has something super-noteworthy:

She's wearing her giant Lannister necklace!  Why would she have that on for this scene?  We just saw Cersei with hers...  A part of me thinks it's just to remind viewers who Ros even is, but it's still an interesting choice.  Red background, too.  It could be that the episode is trying to show us that the Lannisters are ascendent at present, kind of all pervasive.

You know, off all the sexposition scenes in the four seasons of the show we've had so far, this original one actually bothers me the least, and I think it's because I can see the parallel or metaphor they were likely going for, though they flubbed the execution in a major, major way.  Littlefinger, in his speech, puts himself in the metaphoric prostitute role; Ned is the john.  Littlefinger will lie and flatter Ned right up until he gets what he wants.  What needed to happen was for Ros, who is our point of connection since we know her, to be the "prostitute" faking her pleasure and then immediately being able to turn it off.  However, by making Ros "the man" (as Littlefinger puts it) the scene ends up undercutting it's own message.

Oh well.  What might have been.

Having a little fun with Asha's Harry Potter connection here.  That broom is the cleanest, brightest thing in shot.  Definitely no joke.

Asha herself is a giant pile of rags and hair.  The camera is positioned to put us on her level, though; she's who we're meant to connect with in this scene, not Theon being smug and pompous.  This is a pretty boring scene for costumes: Theon apparently only has one outfit:

We don't always get to see it in so much detail.  The sleeves definitely look like they've got some sort of floral pattern on them: there's some straight lines/print mixing (though it's not as clear in other examples).  We usually see that on Littlefinger and it seems to mean "I'm a huge liar" in his case.  For Theon?  Well, though Asha downplays it, he does come off as a little threatening in this scene.  Asha is in chains.  She verbally dances circles round Theon in their conversation, though; I'm inclined to see Theon's pattern mixing as perhaps more tied to his confusion and internal conflict.

Lewin looks like he always does.  Reliable that way.

Uuuuuuuuuugh.  You know, when I called this episode "boring" initially, I think it was just because it's got a bunch of Night's Watch.  The rest of it (especially Tywin!) has some cool costuming going on, but scenes at the Wall tend to be a total bust.  What's there to say?  Jon is looking broody, and his large, white fur rough is preventing him from looking like a real crow.  Sam has the bushiest neckbeard in all the land.  Next.

Back in King's Landing.  This is just a nice little reminder of something we discussed regarding Tywin: Ned doesn't dress simply, he dresses the same as his men.  If it weren't for his Hand pin (and the fact that he looks like Sean Bean, whereas Ser No-lines on the right looks like an extra) you wouldn't really be able to tell who he is.

Joffrey actually looks really upset here.  Awwwwwww.  Don't we all feel terrible for him?

We never really see Joff and Robert interact.  Kind of just on the King's Road, and even then not directly.  Joff's usually talking to Cersei; Robert actually laments this, "I should have spent more time with you."  Costume-wise, this is the simplest we've ever seen Joff.  No gold details.  Just plain reddish-brown leather.  With the neck-wrap, this is the least Lannister-y Joff has ever looked.  I wonder if the apparent...respect? that Joff seems to have for Robert will ever pay off in the story.

And there's Cersei in the background, wearing her "kill my enemies" dress from before.  Depending on the lighting, it really looks different: much more red than out in the garden.

Outside, Varys has just sort of...appeared.  Notice him standing in front of a window full of leaves.  I kind of like that Barristan is still in full armor.  Renly's looking all disheveled, but Barristan's just slightly bloody.  They probably had to carry Robert back themselves.  Barristan: always on duty, I guess.

Nice framing here: the door of the Dothraki hut is limiting.  In Drogo's mind, the land ends at the ocean.  Dany's trying to convince him to help her take Westeros and he has no interest.  This is a super Dothraki-y look for Dany, with the whispy, slightly-unkempt-looking hair hanging down around her face.

In the back, though, she's got some more precise braiding going on.  This is the second time we've gotten a really good look at hair this episode.  Overall, though, this is just a really nice, intimate scene about a solid relationship, even though the disagree about Westeros.  The Dothraki way of thinking does seem to becoming a little frustrating and limited for Dany though.

Out in the market, Dany has her dragon-fangs back on.  Jorah sticks out in his Westeros-wear as always, but this scene provides an interesting possibility for why he might be continuing to dress that way.

Note the long row of birdcages on the left.  "Little birds".

From this direction, a child calls Jorah over, addressing him as "Jorah the Andal".  He's given a pardon, and the child makes reference to The Spider, our buddy Varys.  It may be that Jorah's stubborn, somewhat impractical clinging to Westerosi clothes may be to make him recognizable to those who need to find him.

Jorah, surrounded by the Little Birds and Varys' doings, pieces together that the pardon means an assassination attempt on Daenerys.  He goes on to foil the plot by exposing the wine given to Dany as poisoned:

That's kind of a huge ring he's got there.  It looks...maybe either abstract or like it has some sort of snake design.  It seemed interesting, but I'm not sure exactly why.  Comments welcome!


More Night's Watch.  We're just seeing a continuation of what we've seen from Jon in the past.  He is not (yet) really a man of the watch, but rather still a Stark.  His white fur ruff makes him instantly identifiable in all the rest of the uniform black.

The extra in the foreground of the screenshot above looks a lot like Theon.  Totally irrelevant, I know, but it stood out.

After Jeor reads out the assignments and Jon is pissed to have been made a steward, they push the fact that Jon is mentally not a crow yet home even harder:

The black crowd disperses, leaving Jon standing alone in the circle.  Sam, all in black, looks more like a crow than Jon does.  Same goes for Pyp, who was really ragged and urchiny in previous scenes.

I can't lie, all of Jon's "It's not fair" shenanigans in this episode were much more irritating to me than anything Sansa ever did, though she gets (got? it seems to be changing lately) more hate than Jon on average.  I was really happy to see the rest of his brothers set him straight on what unfair really means.

There's a brief scene between Renly and Ned.  Renly's pulled himself back together since we last saw him, with a prominent Baratheon pin.  They discuss Stannis in the most detail we've ever heard ("the personality of a lobster") and Renly comes out with what may as well be the thesis statement for the whole series:

Do you still think good soldiers make good kings?
Renly positions himself as a better choice, but Ned refuses.

Hot on Renly's heels comes Littlefinger, with an even more treasonous proposition: set Joffrey up as a puppet king, rule from behind the scenes, and replace him if he makes trouble.  Costume-wise, this is also nothing new for Littlefinger.  The striped outer-layer (which as remarked in previous posts might be interpreted as a Westerosi pin-stripe suit, the mark of the smarmy businessman).  The mockingbird is in place.  No pattern-mixing, though.  Littlefinger seems annoyed when Ned refuses to listen to his advice: is that because, when this scene started, Littlefinger wasn't dead-set on betraying Ned at the end of the episode?  Was it genuine advice?  Based on the costuming, it's definitely possible.

Dany stops in to visit her would-be poisoner.  Definitely looking super-Dothraki.  This is the scene where Drogo comes in, promises Jorah any horse he wants for saving Dany's life, and then does his war-haka.

There's not much going on new with the costumes (which I found a little surprising, since it's a major change in thinking for Drogo); Dany's dragon fang necklace continues to be prominent.  The most interesting thing for me is the set design, I suppose: the post-carvings are pretty cool.  The would-be poisoner tied to the clearly-female figure foreshadows, in a sense, the fact that he will be tied to Dany's horse and forced to walk behind until he dies.

Back to King's Landing, where Ned is called to swear an oath of fealty to the new King Joffrey.  On the way to the throne room, he meets Littlefinger (wearing his mixed patterns and a floral print: this is bad news, as we've previously established) and Varys (in the botanical-type print he wore the first time we saw him).  Varys' wide sleeves are unusual on a man's costume in the GoT-world.  That could me a mark of his foreign-ness or eunuch state, or rather more metaphorically, his unseen influence in Westeros (his hands are usually hidded).

Just to hammer it home one...last...time...  Ned has not changed.  At all.  In fact, the coolest thing about his costume here is the fact that they made the leather look worn in and buckled up around the armhole.  Ned is Ned.

Entering the throne room.  Again, the plant-style decorations on the columns stand out, at least to me.  Janos Slynt (talk about a name that basically guarantees a betrayal) shows up to assure Ned that the City Watch has been bought on his behalf.  His armor is plain, grey, and totally covering; kind of a blank slate open to influence from any other faction.

Nothing interesting costume-wise in this shot; I just thought the composition, with Littlefinger on one shoulder and Varys on the other, was interesting.  I can't believe I'm about to say this, but the triangulation seems almost Freudian: Littlefinger, who declared at the start of the episode that he wants "everything", as the id, Varys (who we know from his secret dungeon-conversation with Illyrio is abstractly concerned with the realm) as the superego, and Ned in the middle as ego.

I can't believe I just wrote that.  Freudian fucking analysis? Let me rephrase that in terms I can tolerate.  Littlefinger seems to be a force for greed, for personal acquisition, for chaos; Varys for security and order.  We'll see if this dichotomy is developed in later episodes.

Approaching the throne, we see Joff sitting (obnoxiously leaning) in the throne.  The Kingsguard are out in front, but what we can easily identify as Lannister soldiers are behind the throne.  No accident: we know where the power lies.

We've seen Joff's outfit before, in fact: we know there are big, red Lannister lions on the sleeves.  He's got a little Baratheon pin, but this is a red-and-gold Lannister outfit.

There's no question who's got the most interesting costume in the room, though...

Cersei.  Cersei is dressed completely different from anything we've seen her in before.  This green color is beautiful but not usual.  There is a sort of swirling pattern visible on the sleeves.  I watched and rewatched this scene about seven times trying to get a solid view of what exactly that pattern is, but because of the draping of the sleeves, it's never quite possible.  Here's what I think could be going on:
  • It could be a massive print of the Lannister lion.  The swirling detail visible here looks a bit like the tail of the lion visible in a smaller form on this dress of Cersei's (the picture is from a later season, but no spoilers, unless "Cersei wears a red dress with a lion on it" is your idea of a spoiler).  This seems definitely plausible, since it would tie her costume to Joffrey's: they would both have large lion motifs on their sleeves with small pieces of Baratheon jewelry (Cersei's crown and Joffrey's pin).
  • It's another botanical or, at least, botanical-ish kind of design, which is highly associated with King's Landing, and arguably associated with duplicity or betrayal.  It would also tie her to Littlefinger's dramatic floral too.
As usual, she's got her big Lannister pendant.

What's most striking about Cersei's look here is: she looks like LysaCheck that sleeve design with the bare arms; check that hair hanging over her shoulders unbraided; check that weird, very un-Cersei jewelry thing that runs down the front of her dress and then splits over her hips (in Lysa's case, that part was made of cloth like the rest of the cape, but here the jewels are clearly mimicking the design). For reference, here's Lysa from the previous episode:


In the first episode of the Season, Cersei was linked by costuming to Cat: sitting at the banquet next to each other, they had some really key similarities.  Here, though, she looks like a more-fabulous Lysa: they are two crazy-ass mothers prepared to go to crazy-ass lengths for their crazy-ass children.  I know I said previously that "Do you think good rulers make good kings?" is kind of the series' thesis statement, but "crazy-ass mothers" is definitely kind of one too.

There's some stabby-stabby action, and we end the episode with this shot:

"I did warn you not to trust me", says Littlefinger.  His costume's been telling us the same thing several episodes.  Keep an eye on men in florals.

Click here to read the costume analysis for S1E8: The Pointy End.