You can read all about the amazing Arya revenge scene in last night’s Game of Thrones premiere. You can consider the wisdom of Jon Snow’s decision to leave the Karstarks and Umbers in charge of their land. You can react with surprise at the identity of guy with gross arm, and you can dissect the whole strategy behind Dragonstone.
And after you’re done with all of those things, you can join me in marveling at the true spectacle of last night’s Game of Thrones: all the fabulous things going on with everyone’s shoulders.
Just look at the glorious things happening in the scapular region of this outfit. It’s militant and strong, but still feminine. The sharp angle of that neckpiece plays off of the rounded curves of the shoulders. The high neckline signals complete impenetrability; this is as much battle armor as it is a gown. No one’s getting access to that throat — no sword, and probably not Euron Greyjoy, either. But the real message is in those shoulders, which are a bit hard to see straight on. From the side, though, we can see …
… that those aren’t just random details on those shoulders. They’re Lannister lions. Hmm. Who else is sporting a lion look on the shoulder?
Cersei’s throne outfit is the feminized, translated version of Lannister armor, complete with small lions on the shoulders. Jaime’s is the real deal — he’s ready to hop on a horse and take down some invaders at a moment’s notice. And of course, it features very large, noticeable lions on the shoulders. It’s the Lannister lion, which is an obvious choice for Jaime. But in the context of Euron’s marriage proposal, it’s also a signal. You may be here to try to win Cersei, Euron, but if you didn’t already know the situation between these two, their matching shoulder lions should be a pretty obvious hint.
This is, as many people have noted, more Jack Sparrow than it is Lannister battle armor. If the way to read military prowess is across the clavicle, Euron is not making a striking first impression. At least not in person.
The Greyjoy Fleet
His ships, though. Tell me those sails don’t have a distinctly shoulder-like shape to them. Euron’s torso may say, “Hey, I’m not particularly threatening!”, but those boats are not messing around.
Archmaester at the Citadel
The Citadel may be long on interesting library designs and Stomp-esque bedpan montages, but the fashions — especially the shoulder fashions — are seriously underwhelming. Here, the Archmaester sports a utilitarian and unremarkable smock situation, suitable for autopsies and not much else. Archmaester: devastating lack of insight on Sam’s research proposal. Boring shoulders.
It’s hardly his fault that being carted around on a sled makes it hard to pull off a strong shoulder look. Still, Bran barely even has a fur slung over his shoulders. A very shabby showing. We have to hope that Jon Snow will hook him up with something a little more imposing.
Now this is what I’m talking about. The Northern fashions are all about shoulder size; the bigger and more furred your shoulder, the more power you have. Here, Jon finally has so much power that it looks like his shoulders are coming straight out of his ears. He has a problem, though.
Jon might be in charge, but Sansa’s shoulders are giving him a run for his money. Her furs are every bit as striking as his, and her shoulders are massive. The power struggle we saw playing out between them carries through to their competing profiles.
Just look at the two of them walking together! Those shoulders do not say, “Clearly Jon is in charge, here.” They are the shoulders of equals. And seriously, How do they even fit next to one another in a hallway?
We see another excellent example of shoulder-as-status-symbol in young Lyanna Mormont. She may be little, but those shoulders are not joking around.
Alys Karstark and Ned Umber
And in the same vein, we see the other end of the shoulder spectrum — Alys Karstark and Ned Umber are in the right genre, but their profiles are unquestionably wimpy compared with the Stark and Mormont offerings. It makes sense given their uncertain status at this meeting; they’d want their shoulders to be nothing but deferential.
Northern fashion shoulders are all about big, glossy furs, and the more civilized Starks wear them in a way that suggests wildness, but also some editing. Tormund, though, goes full mountain man as befits a wilding. It’s the same basic idea — big shoulders, big power. Except Tormund’s furs have none of the Stark sleekness. They’re powerful, but they’re also raggedy.
Somewhere in between Jon Snow’s ruling class furry shoulders and Tormund’s powerful wildness, we find the shoulders of the Hound. They’re not Kingsguard shoulders anymore, and they haven’t gone full wilding. They’re “winter has come” freestyle shoulders; vigorous but unaffiliated-independent-contractor shoulders.
Like the Hound, Arya’s shoulders are neither here nor there. They’re noticeable, but they don’t advertise their presence; they’re not Stark furs, but they’re not battle armor, either. They’re a useful, protective dark leather, but they’re also fairly featureless. They’re boring, protective, and unassuming — not especially male or female, and not drawing attention to themselves. They are shoulders of someone who can get things done, and can then slip away quietly.
If you bring in a famous face but you want to at least attempt to make him fit in with the fiction of the show, you’re going to want to aim for some nondescript shoulders. I give you: the shoulders of Ed Sheeran, Game of Thrones character. Just your average soldier shoulders. Nothing special to see here. Definitely no notable tattoos. Move along.
Finally, we turn to Daenerys, who’s often gone with a sleeveless or cap-shoulder look in the past. It makes sense in the desert, and she’s never come up against the actual Lannister threat before. These, though? These are aspirational shoulders. They’re almost Cersei-like, in fact. She’s now finally coming face to face with the Lannisters, and her shoulders say, “You better watch out.” Like Cersei, Dany’s paired the strong shoulder with a very strong V-neck angle, but while Cersei’s throat is entirely covered, Dany still shows some small vulnerability. In the light, at least, that’s what we see.
In a silhouette profile, though? Standing in front of that giant map table (which echoes Cersei’s giant floor map)? Daenerys is all shoulder. You better watch out.