SFX blogger Alasdair Stuart is impressed by the costume department’s attention to detail
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I came to the TV version of Game of Thrones with no prior knowledge of it. As a result, what drew me in first were the characters and writing, and I found myself able to parse it very successfully as something close to Rome crossed with Lord Of The Rings . Inevitably, as I’ve got deeper into the season, that view has changed and now I view it as something almost Shakespearean, a series that cleverly uses the tiniest of choices and mistakes as the engines of history and the start of catastrophic events that those few who know about it seem powerless to stop. As the Starks like to say, winter is coming.
What’s fascinated me more and more as the series has gone on, though, is how incredibly clever it’s design work is. Everything from the costuming to some of the apparent budgetary choices keep you focussed on what’s on screen and keep that focussed in turn on the vast events that unfold around every character. It’s a fascinating, almost impossible thing to do and it bears a little examination.
The costuming is so good, at first, it’s almost invisible. The Starks are all dressed in dark blues and greys, all furs and thick boots and duty, while the Nightswatch are very similar but dressed in black, even down to the furs they wear. It’s an interesting choice that keys you in on the key characteristics of the people in the north of Westeros. They’re strong, solid, dutiful and, crucially, a little slow. They carry the weight of responsibility and age on their backs and that makes them slower, more deliberate, than the precise, clever Lannisters.
This also keys you into where Ser Jorah is really from long before it’s said out loud. He’s dressed, and carries himself, like a Northman and that contrast between his clothing and his location keys you in on just how isolated Ser Jorah is, and how far he is from home. The Nightswatch costumes also cleverly fill you in on just how much of a shadow of its former self the organisation has become. No Nightswatchman dresses alike, all wearing hurriedly assembled combinations of armour and fur, all standing on the wall and all either too old or too young to make a difference.
The Lannisters are as martial but in a far more elegant way, their armour fitted as well as functional, and the colours – predominantly, black and red – far more pronounced. There’s more finery on the Lannister armour too, because, after all, they’re Lannisters,: there are appearances to consider. Form follows function, but everything follows money and status.
Speaking of money, the very deliberate choice to not show Robb Stark’s first battles as the King in the North actually ends up paying dividends. There’s a visceral punch of relief that you feel right along with Catelynn Stark when she sees her son crest the hill whilst, on the other side, and the other battlefield, Tyrion’s less than auspicious first battle is both a neat callback to The Hobbit and a surprisingly effective character beat. Tyrion’s a genius, but one who hasn’t proven himself physically, meaning he’s trapped very much on the same intellectual battlefield as his father. It’ll be interesting to see whether he wins, or fights a different kind of war, in the second season.
Every shot in Game of Thrones is rich with information either about the world or the characters that inhabit it. From the furs of the Northmen to the closed helms of the Lannisters or the ostentatious gold and white of the King’s Watch, everything tells the same story and everything has a reason, and a point. That level of consistency, that sheer volume of information, is extraordinarily well done and in the last part of this series, I’ll look at the central themes of the story itself, it’s approach to heroism and what game the characters are really playing.