The Wheel of Time Pays Attention to Detail in Costuming
The ways in which the series establishes place, reign, and role are seen immediately in how they define, dress, and depict the ageless serenity of the Aes Sedai. As women who can channel the One Power (the elemental source that runs concurrently in this world,) they’re divided into seven different “Ajah’s” — placements that express their goals and prolific actions — coded by color, yellow, blue, red, green, gray, brown, and white. The Red Ajah hate men and are effectively the police of the organization, capturing men who are able to channel. Their outfits are militaristic, and leather bound, a stark contrast to the Blue Ajah, such as Rosamund Pike’s Moiraine. The Blue Ajah seeks justice, with an enormous network of informants around the world. Accordingly, Moraine often dresses best to benefit the nature of her surroundings, always with a piece of regality that puts her slightly out of step with those around her.
Members of the battle-ready Green Ajah are known to bond as many Warders as they please. The Aes Sedai Alanna mainly represents that group and her charisma and wily nature are channeled into her outfits, loose fitting to engage in the lack of rigidity of her Ajah while also showing the hardness of their nature in the jewelry adornments and metallics she wears.
There’s thought and precision that goes into each costume, each set piece, that makes it feel worn and ready for use. Meanwhile, Rings of Power season 1 suffered due to a lack of cohesion in the costuming, along with a few distinguishing items to establish the setting and space. While it makes sense for a dwarf to be dressed in gold, it’s nonsensical for an elf to do the same, with the lore pushing them more towards silver or mithril. It’s a small element for a casual viewer but those are the small touches and grace notes that help in meticulous worldbuilding, something a series, especially a fantasy series with so many realms and characters, necessitates.
That lack of consideration can be seen in the armor worn by humans and elves in the series that possesses as much dexterity and durability as styrofoam. One small part of the success of the original The Lord of the Rings trilogy was its artisans’ ability to convey weight and texture through costumes. When the characters stand their ground at Helms Deep the fatigue is palpable due in part to the heavy, realistic costumes the actors were wearing, believably waterlogged.
The creature, armor, and weapons art director of the original Peter Jackson trilogy, Kanye Horsham, along with his crew, created chainmail shirts that contained 80,000 rings, woven and linked by hand. That level of painstaking detail — for pieces of armor that may appear only for a second onscreen — is notably absent in The Rings of Power.
The Wheel of Time Season 2 Gets Important Characters Right
The Wheel of Time, meanwhile, demonstrates a clear respect and love for the series it’s adapting, going further than simply relying on budget. This is most notable in season two with the introduction of the Seanchan, a civilization that will prove to be one of the main antagonists to our heroes. Having traveled from across the sea, they’re immediately distinguishable from the characters we’ve met, their culture different and foreign to the ones we’ve come to know about. The Seanchan operate under the doctrine of enslaving those who can weave — channelers of the One Power — calling them “damane” and treating them like animals.