Roots (2016): Part 2

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Previously I reviewed part 1 in the reboot of Roots (2016). Let’s move on to part 2 of the miniseries, the first half of which takes place primarily during the 1770s and 1780s, the second in the early 19th century (1800s, I think?).

Roots: Part 2

I particularly enjoyed this episode because of the inclusion of more female characters, particularly in the second half when Kizzy, daughter of Kunta and Belle, was the focal point.

But first: Kunta gets involved in the American Revolution, and the irony of white colonists fighting for “freedom” is brought home; Kunta gets to kill the asshole overseer in a very satisfying moment; Kunta gets his foot cut off in a horrible scene, in order to stop him from running away; and Kunta falls in love and reluctantly finds his place on the plantation.

In the second half, it’s mostly about Kizzy. She’s a feisty character, and she’s in that super-bizarre position of being BFF with the white owner’s daughter (okay, technically the niece of the owner who doesn’t live at the same plantation, but still, total position of authority). I thought the production did a great job of showing what a weird position that would be: she’s singled out for all kinds of special treatment, but constantly reminded of her lower status and enslavement, even by her so-called bestie. And, in the end, we discover just how much Missy’s (the white BFF) relationship with Kizzy is predicated on their status/freedom differential.

And at the very end, my nightmare Jonathan Rhys Meyers shows up, and did I call it or what? He’s in the episode for 5 minutes, and he spends most of that time being a rapist. UGH UGH UGH. (Okay, perfect casting, I’ll give you that!)

Roots (2016)

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Let’s go through and look at the costumes more specifically, shall we? Overall, they’re improved but there’s still some WTF to enjoy.

Kunta’s Costumes in Roots

Kunta spends most of the episode in various versions of low quality 18th-century gear, as makes sense. Some specific thoughts:

Roots (2016)

When he joins the British during the Revolution (in order to gain his own freedom), he and the other enslaved people are given “Liberty for Slaves” smocks. The irony is ironic!

Roots (2016)

Once Kunta finds his role on the plantation as his owner’s driver, he gets somewhat nicer clothes, including a hat that isn’t falling apart. I liked them showing this distinction.

Roots (2016)

More not-threadbare clothing.

Roots (2016)

When Kunta and Belle get married, he wears a rough coat made of indigo blue cloth, plus an indigo turban. Not only was the turban a nice call-back/connection to his African roots, the intense blue color reminds you of the life he used to have.

Roots (2016)

This waistcoat is very rough and simple, but it still has the laced center back portion typical of this period. Nice!

Roots (2016)

Just chillin’ in the barn.

Belle’s Costumes in Roots

Belle helps Kunta recuperate from his foot amputation (which is truly horrible), and then two fall in love and marry (the proposal scene is particularly sweet). There was a lot I liked about her wardrobe:

Roots (2016)

Belle wears a lot of period/ethnically/class-appropriate corset-y bodices and headscarves.

Roots (2016)

I particularly liked this jacket. I can imagine that the short sleeves make sense for work, and I like how the bodice clearly either wasn’t made for her or has been worn long enough that it no longer fits (hence the inverted lacing gap).

Roots (2016)

If you peer, yes, those are metal eyelets. At least they’re not ginormous. Sigh.

Roots (2016)

The back has cute little tails. I can see this being a hand-me-down from the owners.

Roots (2016)

More low-quality cloth, plus headscarves.

Roots (2016)

Another peachy jacket, plus a bright pink bodice/jacket on her companion.

Roots (2016)

This hot pink jacket was great! The cut is totally right for the era, plus they got the pleated elbow cuffs that were fashionable in the 1730s-50s — this could be another hand-me-down.

Roots (2016)

More jacket.

Roots (2016)

Belle’s wedding dress. I’d love to know more about wedding clothes for enslaved people, as this production clearly goes with the idea that they were able to obtain new clothes. Anyone know about this?

Roots (2016)

Belle’s dress could be another hand-me-down or the lacing gap could be decorative. I’m pretty sure those are metal eyelets again. I like the lace fichu!! Note her wooden beads, another connection to Kunta’s family/past.

Jumping forward to the 1800s:

Roots (2016)

Mostly I wanted to point out the metal safety pins pinning her apron. They certainly look oldey-timey — does anyone know when these kind of pins were introduced?

Roots (2016)

I liked that Belle’s wardrobe shifted to high-waisted dresses for this portion. It would make sense for slaves to be wearing dated clothes, sure, but it also makes sense that style changes would reach their wardrobes.

Fiddler’s Costumes in Roots

These were GREAT. Story-wise, they clearly took the basically-upper-class clothes Fiddler wore in the last episode and demonstrated how he’s still wearing them 20 years later. He’s no longer in his exalted position, and no one has bothered to give him new clothes. From a practical perspective, I love that the costume team clearly made him clothes from the same fabrics and then distressed the hell out of them to make this visual story happen. Props!

Roots (2016)

Here’s that lampas/brocade/whatever coat, totally distressed.

Roots (2016)

And his dark woven-patterned coat, again totally distressed.

Roots (2016)

Also, he no longer has wigs to wear, but I liked that he replaced them with a variety of caps.

Roots (2016)

It makes sense that he would feel more appropriately dressed with something on his head after all those years in wigs.

Kizzy and Missy’s Costumes in Roots

I’m going to talk about the two characters together, as Missy often gives stained or torn hand-me-downs to Kizzy, and they’re generally on screen together.

Roots (2016)

Here’s the kind of rough but serviceable stuff young Kizzy wears under her own devices.

Roots (2016)

Cap, dress, big apron.

Roots (2016)

But here comes oblivious perfect-princess Missy in her floral patterned dress… note ringlets and wide sash.

Roots (2016)

One of these things is not like the other.

Roots (2016)

Missy gives Kizzy this dress, which was stained. What a weird position to be in for Kizzy.

Roots (2016)

I love the detailed ruched sheer fabric on Kizzy’s bodice. Don’t love the ribbon rosettes on Missy’s sash, but that’s just my aesthetic.

Roots (2016)

Hanging with 18th-century Nellie Olsen, whose dress is weird but I’ll deal. Missy has a new ribbon-rosetted dress, while Kizzy is still in the same stained hand-me-down (note how tiny the stain is!).

Roots (2016)

Same dress, great sleeves!

Now, fast-forward to the 1800s:

Roots (2016)

I loved how similarly the two girls are dressed in this scene! Missy’s dress is VERY fashionable.

Roots (2016)

Lovely Grecian silhouette.

Roots (2016)
Roots (2016)

When Missy leaves, she puts on this blue spencer with frog closure.

Roots (2016)
Roots (2016)

But without Missy around, Kizzy is back in low quality clothes.

Roots (2016)

Like this number — hard to get more rough than this!

Roots (2016)

This corset is VERY 1780s in cut and style, and it makes perfect sense for Kizzy to have received it as a hand-me-down. It’s clearly been well worn!

Roots (2016)

Spiral lacing, yay!

Roots (2016)

Nice bow-fronted boning placement.

Roots (2016)

In the final scene between Missy and Kizzy, Missy is suddenly wearing a pink faux-fur 1950s-esque shrug. Huh?

Roots (2016)

Kizzy’s dress features a blue embroidered silk robe over a sheer gown.

Roots (2016)

Everyone Else in Roots (2016)

Roots (2016)

Did the British really wear skull and crossbones helmets? It just makes me think of the Mitchell & Webb “Nazis” sketch

Roots (2016)

Not a huge fan of the British soldiers’ wigs…

Roots (2016)

While fighting for the Brits, Kunta semi-adopts another man who clearly reminds him of his younger brother. The super-rough eyepatch was nicely done.

Roots (2016)

This general is VERY Scottish.

Roots (2016)

A variety of clothes on enslaved people. I loved how call-and-response music was featured as a means of communication from the slave ship through to the plantations.

Roots (2016)

Elizabeth Waller, wife of Kunta’s former owner, is back and her hair is still WTF (it’s the 1780s here, FYI).

Roots (2016)

“Well fiddle-dee-dee!”

Roots (2016)

Matthew Goode, however, continues to be my boyfriend in his black suit. ROWR.

Roots (2016)

Random extras in supposed 1780s clothes. I have no idea what this lady is wearing, nor do I know what’s going on with her hair.

Roots (2016)

This lady’s hair was up in a 1940s-esque roll and pincurls in back.

And, in the 1800s:

Roots (2016)

At first glance, I thought these costumes looked very Edwardian (especially on Elizabeth’s friend). But upon closer inspection, I like the Indian/paisley motif on Elizabeth’s dress, they got the high waists, and hey, the changed up Elizabeth’s hair!

Roots (2016)

I think the friend does lean a little bit more Edwardian, but if I squint I can see Regency.

Roots (2016)

James Purefoy gets very un-shiny in this episode.

Roots (2016)

Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ character’s wife, who gets the joy of watching her husband rape his new slave. While wearing a random piece of lace that kind of annoys me, but for no real reason.

 

Stay tuned for episode 3 of Roots (2016), in which I shall give you the Gallery of Shittily Dressed Extras!

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

15 Responses

  1. Charity

    You’ll appreciate this, as a JRM-hater.

    My mother happened to catch a split-second shot of “The Imitation Game” cover the other night as I cracked the case open for her to watch. It wasn’t long enough to distinguish Benedict’s features, so she mistook him for JRM and said, “PLEASE TELL ME THE ACTOR WHO PLAYED IN THE TUDORS ISN’T IN THIS. I CAN’T WATCH IT IF HE IS!”

    Reply
    • Lady Hermina De Pagan

      Ugh, JRM is like Derek Zoolander, he has only one “look” and he emotes by yelling. I’m happy!, yell I’m Sad! yell Angry! yell

      Reply
      • Charity

        I think it’s his intensity that throws me off. There’s something… unstable about it. I remember thinking, when watching him as Henry VIII, “I can’t believe all these characters aren’t on pins and needles, waiting for him to explode with rage.” Even when he wasn’t playacting upset, the tension and potential was there — and it underscores everything he does.

        (The only movie I’ve been able to relax and enjoy him in was “August Rush.”)

        Reply
  2. ladylavinia1932

    Where was this production filmed? The house featured in one of the photos looked as if the setting was in the early to mid 19th century Deep South, instead of late 18th and early 19th century Upper South.

    Reply
  3. Susan Pola

    The only thing to say about the meh costumes on the uppity, er upper class White women is, to paraphrase,’No more unfortunate bigginses.’ As there weren’t any, but the pseudo-Hollywood-esque take on late Georgian Fashion is abysmal.
    I really enjoyed Kunte’s indigo wedding attire. It reminded me of African Islamic attire.
    I also abhor, detest & dislike JRM as an actor. There is no growth in his performance. It’s the same no matter what or who he is portraying.

    Please review Mommy Dearest. I like the 1940s attire in it.

    Reply
  4. Alden O'Brien

    I could not deal with Kizzy’s white hand me down dress…those ruched panels on the bodice, and puffs on the sleeves, were straight out of 1819. I’d attach a fashion plate if I could…you see this EXACT bodice treatment in 1818-19, ditto sleeves. Was this really supposed to be the 1780s or 90s? the girls all looked 1810s-20s. That’s not my only “huh?” here but it was the one that bothered me the most. Then again–Matthew Goode. So, forgiven.

    Reply
    • Kendra

      I’m pretty sure the grown-up Kizzy scenes are supposed to be 1800s or 1810s, since she’s born in the 1780s…

      Reply
      • Alden O'Brien

        oh, ok then. The rest of the costumes were not that clear…and when they were grown up, it looked more like about 1800-05…IIRC.

        Reply
  5. ladylavinia1932

    I also abhor, detest & dislike JRM as an actor. There is no growth in his performance. It’s the same no matter what or who he is portraying.

    I’ve always considered JRM as a pretty good actor. However, I don’t know what he is like as a human being.

    Reply
  6. Andrew

    In 1759, the 17th Light Dragoons were created and in memory of the recent victory and death of General Wolfe at the Battle of Quebec, their cap badge was the skull and crossbones with the motto, “Death or Glory”. This unit served in the American Revolutionary War and was part of Tarlton’s Legion. They converted to the lance in 1823 and became the 17th Lancers.

    Additionally, the death’s head badge also has a long association with German light cavalry units. Beginning in the 18th C. the 1. Leib-Husaren-Regiment Nr. 1, 2. Leib-Husaren-Regiment „Königin Viktoria von Preußen“ Nr. 2, and Braunschweigisches Husaren-Regiment Nr. 17 all used it.

    Reply
    • Rowen G.

      True it is. However, I’ve seen some things in the corners of 16th and 17th c. portraits that look like safety-pin prototypes, so I suppose they’re just possible here.

      Reply

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