This latest tour of set pieces, costumes, and artifacts from Westeros is deliciously detailed and delightfully macabre.
Whether the 2014 incarnation of the internationally touring Game of Thrones: The Exhibition will be your first opportunity to sit on the Iron Throne or mark yet another opportunity to visit artifacts you now view as old friends, you’ll find this exhibit at the TIFF Bell Lightbox to be a rich and varied experience. Once again, all the items on display are genuine—the real items used in the show—rather than replicas. But now you’ll find objects from all four seasons of the hit HBO fantasy series and several items that weren’t included in earlier tour stops, such as Oathkeeper (the sword Jaime Lannister gives to Brienne of Tarth) and the crossbow that Joffrey points at Margaery Tyrell.
The popularity of this exhibit, which has once again sold out before the doors have officially opened, is sustained by the beauty and intricacy of the props on display. From the scale-like stitches on Daenerys Targaryen’s exquisite dresses to the bodies of women carved into the holds of Daario Naharis’s weapons, the attention to detail here is stunning—and you’re able to appreciate it up close in a way you can’t while watching the show itself.
Because of the extremely violent nature of the Game of Thrones television show (and the books the show is based on, for that matter), many of items on display are wonderfully macabre. We find Jaime Lannister’s severed hand and shackles; the severed fingers that Davos Seaworth, the Onion Knight, carries in a pouch around his neck; and a map of Westeros written on a flayed human skin, courtesy of House Bolton. The creepiest items—the ransom letter and wooden box sent by Ramsay Snow to Theon Greyjoy’s family—are also the most understated: though the box is closed, we know it contains Greyjoy’s severed penis, bloody and wrapped in bandages. There is also a grimly comical In Memoriam wall, which features tributes to all of the characters who’ve died in the series so far. (Hint: there are a lot of them.)
The keystone of the exhibit, however, is the fully immersive 3D “Ascend the Wall” experience. Using headphones, an Oculus Rift headset, and other effects including gusts of air, participants take a virtual tour of the Wall, moving up the vast elevator to the highest reaches of the icy structure, more than 700 feet up. With its stunning view of Castle Black and disorienting sense of height, the experience is eerie and utterly convincing. It would be criminal to leave the exhibit without waiting your turn to don a headset and experience it for yourself!