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!)
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:
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!
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.
More not-threadbare clothing.
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.
This waistcoat is very rough and simple, but it still has the laced center back portion typical of this period. Nice!
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:
Belle wears a lot of period/ethnically/class-appropriate corset-y bodices and headscarves.
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).
If you peer, yes, those are metal eyelets. At least they’re not ginormous. Sigh.
The back has cute little tails. I can see this being a hand-me-down from the owners.
More low-quality cloth, plus headscarves.
Another peachy jacket, plus a bright pink bodice/jacket on her companion.
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.
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?
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:
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?
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!
Here’s that lampas/brocade/whatever coat, totally distressed.
And his dark woven-patterned coat, again totally distressed.
Also, he no longer has wigs to wear, but I liked that he replaced them with a variety of caps.
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.
Here’s the kind of rough but serviceable stuff young Kizzy wears under her own devices.
Cap, dress, big apron.
But here comes oblivious perfect-princess Missy in her floral patterned dress… note ringlets and wide sash.
One of these things is not like the other.
Missy gives Kizzy this dress, which was stained. What a weird position to be in for Kizzy.
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.
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!).
Same dress, great sleeves!
Now, fast-forward to the 1800s:
I loved how similarly the two girls are dressed in this scene! Missy’s dress is VERY fashionable.
Lovely Grecian silhouette.
When Missy leaves, she puts on this blue spencer with frog closure.
But without Missy around, Kizzy is back in low quality clothes.
Like this number — hard to get more rough than this!
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!
Spiral lacing, yay!
Nice bow-fronted boning placement.
In the final scene between Missy and Kizzy, Missy is suddenly wearing a pink faux-fur 1950s-esque shrug. Huh?
Kizzy’s dress features a blue embroidered silk robe over a sheer gown.
Everyone Else in Roots (2016)
Not a huge fan of the British soldiers’ wigs…
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.
This general is VERY Scottish.
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.
Elizabeth Waller, wife of Kunta’s former owner, is back and her hair is still WTF (it’s the 1780s here, FYI).
Matthew Goode, however, continues to be my boyfriend in his black suit. ROWR.
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.
This lady’s hair was up in a 1940s-esque roll and pincurls in back.
And, in the 1800s:
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!
I think the friend does lean a little bit more Edwardian, but if I squint I can see Regency.
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!