Second Looks – Melisandre

Posted: February 28, 2017 by patricksponaugle in Game of Thrones, Opinion, TV
Tags: , , , , , ,

Fans of the HBO series Game of Thrones (or fans of the book series it’s based on) will no doubt be familiar with the character of Melisandre of Asshai. She’s pretty memorable.

melisandre-fire-630x354

I’m memorable because I’m hot. But not as hot as the people I arrange to be set on fire. That’s legit hot.

Some pretty interesting stuff happened in the most recent season involving Melisandre, and I’m going to be talking about that. So if you’re not caught up on her story, you’ve been warned.

A Dimming of the (Lord of) Light

This season featured Melisandre possibly at her lowest. Her faith that Stannis Baratheon was the chosen of her god, R’hllor, proved to be mostly unfounded. On the morning of an alleged miracle in Stannis’ favor (the weather turned better… like it sometimes does) a huge number of Stannis’ men had abandoned his army and his grief-struck and guilt-ridden wife had hung herself. They just weren’t happy with the cost of the climate change.

Realizing that she was in deep-in on a losing cause, Melisandre snuck out of Stannis’ camp and returned to Castle Black, extremely bummed out. Meanwhile the doomed Stannis marched his men all the way to Winterfell to get clobbered.

Ramsay: Rather decent of you to come to me, so my overwhelming forces wouldn’t have to exert themselves overmuch with traveling to destroy you. Although it is a nice day to go riding.
Stannis: It seemed the polite thing to do. You know, you could always just surrender to me out of respect for my accommodation to you. Especially as thanks for my arranging the mild weather.
Ramsay: Yes.
Stannis: Yes?
Ramsay: Did I just say yes? I meant no.

At Castle Black, while talking to Ser Davos, Melisandre made some disparaging comments about her past predictions.

The great victory I saw in the flames … all of it was a lie.

When some people heard Melisandre say that in the first Season Six trailer, about her prophetic visions being lies, they misinterpreted it as a confession from the Red Woman that she had been running a scam on Stannis the entire time. I’m not going to dignify that with a debunking. I’ll grant that Melisandre admitted to Queen Selyse that she wasn’t above doing some fancy sleight-of-hand/fire-juggling for the masses, but it was reasonably clear that Melisandre was devout in her religious beliefs and in the rightness of her cause.

Can we imagine Melisandre just making this all up?

Melisandre: Hey, you should totally set your child on fire. For, uh, victory. Yeah, that’s it!
Stannis: You’re not just pulling my leg, are you?
Melisandre: *suppressing giggles* Dude, don’t question my verve, yo.
Stannis: Okay, I guess I have to…
Melisandre: *thinking to herself* I can’t wait to tell Kinvara about this! Best Prank Ever!

Melisandre is certainly someone that we can accuse of misconduct (as Ser Davos righteously did in the recent finale.) She’s a bit too extreme in her willingness to roast people as sacrifices to her angry and hungry god. Especially if those people have king’s blood for miracle-making. But she was probably honest in her extremism.

Melisandre and her very old trick

A few years ago, I wrote a post about Melisandre, trying to eye her vaunted magical powers with a critical eye. As far as I was concerned, the only definitive magic she had performed was birthing the shadow-assassin that killed Renly.

But the recent season firmly established that Melisandre demonstrably has at least one other impressive magical power. She can make herself look totally old. You know, for fun.

melisandre-old

Tee hee! I can always get the senior discount if I want. MAGIC!

Fine, fine. That’s not what’s happening.

The more accurate interpretation is that Melisandre is much older than she appears, and she has the magical ability to either look younger or can actually make herself physically younger. (That’s kind of a fine distinction, and probably won’t ever have to be explained. Kind of like how we accept that the Faceless Men can add or subtract height and weight when they put on a “face” – it’s magic, yo. It doesn’t always have to be explained in detail.)

There’s an assumption that Melisandre’s necklace is part of this wrinkle-reducing glamour, since when she dramatically showed her true age she had just taken the necklace off. There has already been tremendous buzz and discussion of a bathtub scene where Melisandre is visibly young but not wearing the necklace (or anything else.)

bathmelisandre

I’ve seen suggestions that it was just a continuity error, as well as rationalizations that Selyse (who was talking to Melisandre in the scene) was either actually seeing Melisandre in her crone-form, or that Melisandre doesn’t need the necklace to appear youthful to Selyse. I don’t think the show will answer that nor do I really need them to.

The thing that interests me: Melisandre of Asshai is really old, and she can be as old as they want her to be for the story, and I think I’d accept it. A hundred years old? A thousand years old? Why not?

We don’t know what happened when the Others first attacked Westeros 8000 years before. But maybe young Melisandre was around for the Long Night over in Asshai and has some things to say about that.

Okay, maybe that’s too many years for her, but I wouldn’t blink in shock if Melisandre reveals some first-hand Targaryen conquest knowledge, or really anything along those lines.

This could be good news for Carice Van Houten, if she wants to appear in any of the Game of Thrones prequel spin-offs that they’re considering over at HBO. Then again, maybe Bran Stark will see a familiar (to us) face when observing the past.

Meera: Bran! You’ve been warging for too long again.
Bran: Sorry. Sheesh!
Meera: You’ve been doing a lot more extended warging lately.
Bran: It’s not my fault! This red-headed witch takes a lot of baths.
Meera: What?
Bran: Uh, it’ll probably end up being really important. Don’t judge me!

This is just my gut feeling, but I assume that Melisandre’s incredibly advanced age won’t really come into play in these last seasons of the show. I’d be happy if I’m wrong on that, since it’s such an interesting detail. Feel free to tell me what you think.

Hot Enough to Bring a Dead Man Back to Life

Another power that we can potentially assign to Melisandre is resurrection. She’s managed that trick once with Jon Snow. Or rather, she did a lot of magical ritual stuff over Jon’s corpose and then shortly after that the former Lord Commander came back to life. The timing certainly implies that she’s responsible.

I’d personally like it to be revealed that Jon’s resurrection was more in-line with Old God magic than the kind of sorcery that resurrected Lord Beric Dondarrion. Lord Beric didn’t necessarily come back all that “wrong” on the show, but he admits in the books to not being as he was. (In fairness, Thoros of Myr relentlessly keeps bringing him back. Maybe multiple resurrections just aren’t viable for anyone to handle.)

Whenever magic is done on the show, there are questions of why the magic isn’t repeated. Can’t Melisandre bringing everyone back? Why not try to bring Rickon back? Shouldn’t she try?

Those are fair questions. I’d like it for Melisandre to try and bring someone else back and have it not work.

The repeatability of resurrection will go unanswered for now, since Melisandre was ordered by Jon to pack up and leave the North as punishment for her complicity in Shireen Baratheon’s death. It is unlikely that she’ll get the chance to bring Jon Snow back to life a second time.

melisandre-castle-black

Harrumph! Fine then! No one appreciates a witch who advocates for child death. Sad!

I do wonder if in the future she’ll try to resurrect someone else, though. (It’s not like there won’t be any deaths coming up on the show.)

What Does the Future Hold for Melisandre?

Since we’re thinking about the future…

Melisandre used to heavily rely on her prophetic visions for guidance. She has more cause now to question both the validity of what she sees in the flames and her ability to interpret these visions reliably. I will give her some credit; just the fact that she’s seeing *something* is interesting, even though I’m not a fan of prophecy in general.

Because I’m such a skeptic of her scrying in the flame, is it hypocritical of me to stare into some flames as well and try to predict what the show has in store for her? Yes. Yes, it is. So maybe I’ll just think about things instead, which might be about as accurate as her divine revelations.

Where is she going? Who will she be interacting with?

Well. we know Jon ordered her to leave the North. She could ride to the coast and get a boat and go wherever, but we’re running out of seasons and I assume they want to start bringing characters and disjoint plotlines together. I doubt this is the end of Melisandre’s story for us, and there’s no time to have her engage in some meaningful narrative off in Myr or Tyrosh or wherever.

So I’m assuming she’s just riding south, and will be staying in Westeros.

Due south is the Riverlands where there’s at least one group moving north – the Brotherhood without Banners. Melisandre has had interactions with them before; she theoretically has an ally in Thoros of Myr and she can give Thoros and Lord Beric information about the resurrected Jon Snow.

surprisedmelisandre

Melisandre: And then I cut his hair! And then he came back to life!
Thoros: You cut his hair? Nooo! Now he has no soul!
Melisandre: What? D’oh!

Maybe Melisandre won’t be able to serve Jon Snow, whom she now believes is the Prince That Was Promised, but possibly she can urge Thoros to do so.

Melisandre might be intrigued to hear about the approach of Daenerys and her fire-made-flesh dragons. Dany already has the blessing from the Eastern Orthodox Church of R’hllor (or at least from the Meereenese branch) so maybe Melisandre will try to cast her lot with a known Targaryen. (Someone who has a lot of king’s blood.) There’s already built-in conflict and drama with Daenerys’ team; Varys would not be happy to see Melisandre since:

  1. She’s a red priestess and Varys is receptive to magic-users or miracle workers
  2. Varys was clearly anti-Stannis in season 2 specifically because of his reliance on Melisandre

Melisandre might end up in Dany’s circles, but there’s someone else I’d rather she meet up with, just to close the loop on something the show added that was not in the books.

In Season Three, Melisandre came across the Brotherhood without Banners while the red priestess was using her magical insights to track down Gendry the blacksmith – possibly the last remaining bastard of Robert Baratheon. (Sorry Mya Stone, the show had no time for you.) Confronted by a defiant Arya who was trying to forestall Gendry’s forced relocation, Melisandre accurately assessed Arya’s murderous nature and prophesied a reunion with the Stark girl.

I’m not a betting man, but if I was I’d bet that such a reunion won’t go well for Melisandre.

aryamelisandre

Bad Touch! (Bad for Melisandre, I’m wagering.)

Melisandre used to be on Arya’s kill-list (along with both Beric and Thoros for separating her for Gendry) but in recent seasons I don’t recall the little wolf-girl including the Red Woman in her murder-prayer recitation. So it’s anyone’s guess if this reunion will take place or not, or if Arya will be up for some kind of throat-slashing revenge if they do meet up.

But because Arya and Melisandre never met in the books, this Melisandre’s pronouncement in Season Three seems an odd thing to include and then drop from the plot. So I’m expecting Melisandre to be looking into Arya’s calculating eyes at some point.


Okay, I think I’ve mostly expressed all of my main thoughts on Melisandre.

I do have at least one crazy theory that Melisandre might end up taking on the role of a stone-hearted character whom the show runners have otherwise omitted from the story.

I’m not super confident on that, and talking about it here might be too spoilery. (Feel free to demand details by leaving comments in my general purpose spoiler-post.)

melisandre-0-0

Melisandre: “Stone-hearted”? Should I google this character?
Me: NOOOO!

Anyone have opinions or thoughts on the dangerous and deceptively lovely Melisandre of Asshai? Feel free to let me know. We still have months to go before the next season.


(Comments are always welcome. Super welcome! But if you want to talk spoilery Game of Thrones talk with me (also welcome) I’d invite you to visit my Safe Spoilers page on my backup blog. That way my non-book-reading friends won’t be shocked with foreknowledge.)

Most images from HBO’s Game of Thrones (obviously.) 

I make no claim to the images, but some claims to the text. So there.

If you liked this article, thank you! I have all of my Game of Thrones related articles on my handy-dandy Game of Thrones page should you want to read more but don’t want to navigate around my site.

© Patrick Sponaugle 2017 Some Rights Reserved

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Comments
  1. writingjems says:

    Great post. Personally, despite her questionable deeds, I’ve always liked Melisandre and found her to be a fascinating character. I think I have an appreciation for the “well-intentioned extremist” characters, because they come from a place of having good desires and motives but go about it the wrong way. And even to that extent, you could argue whether Melisandre has done anything wrong. I was horrified by poor Shireen’s death, but from a purely logical standpoint, sacrificing one person to ensure the survival of the whole army and a victory in the North makes sense. And I do believe that the sacrifice did clear the weather and keep the army from perishing, but like prophesy (which I’ll also touch on), these “miracles” don’t always work out as expected. Sure, the army was saved from weather, but it also turned them off of Stannis and caused them to desert and leave the rest to get killed by the Boltons. I think, in the end, it was a lose-lose situation, and both Stannis and Melisandre did the worst for what they hoped was the best outcome for everyone (you know, except Shireen).

    As for her powers, I think Melisandre is the real-deal. I think it was her power that brought Jon back, just as Thoros brought Beric back. Resurrection seems to be a power restricted to priests of the Red God. As for why Rickon was not brought back, Jon himself didn’t seem so thrilled at his own resurrection. I don’t think he was eager to put Bran through that. When it comes to her prophesy, I don’t think Melisandre was faking it. Like you said, she claimed it was a lie because it didn’t come true. In reality, it just hadn’t come true YET. From what I recall, Melisandre only ever said she saw a victory against the Bolton’s in the snow. That didn’t happen for Stannis, but it DID happen for Jon. Interpreting visions can be a tricky business that people often get wrong (look at Cersei bungling the interpetation of the younger queen in her prophesy as Margaery instead of the more likely Danaerys or the younger brother as Tyrion instread of Jaime). You can’t really blame Melisandre for not being perfect at it. They probably don’t teach Prophesy 101 at Red Priest school.

    For what Mel gets up to in season 7, I see her interacting with the Brotherhood in the beginning to rally them to Jon’s aid, but eventually, I think she’ll end up with Danaerys. Like the Red Priestess in Mereen said, Danaerys seems the most likely candidate for Azor Ahai reborn. She was the one born amid salt and smoke and woke dragons, and I think she will be the key to stopping the White Walkers. I’m hoping that things do work out for Mel, and that she can at least live long enough to feel like her purpose has been fulfilled. I was actually hopeful when it seemed like Davos was ready to bury the hatchet with her in season, but I think the only hatchet he’s likely to bury now would be in her back. :/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Even though I skew skeptical when it comes to her miracles (just because) I’ll admit to a fondness for her character. She’s definitely plugged in to something supernatural. I’d like to think that she could reorient herself to be more on the side of the angels and be a super-valuable asset in the fight against the Others.

      As usual, GRRM should get credit for such a compelling character.

      Thanks for your feedback on Melisandre. I think we’re largely on the same page in regards to the mysterious woman from Asshai.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love reading your posts because they are so funny even as they dive really deep into these topics! I must admit I was never a fan of Melisandre, but I have found it interesting to see her vulnerability in this past season. Since seeing her without her necklace was such a shock, I didn’t even notice that she had once been seen young without it! But also, seeing her so defeated after the whole Stannis mess is a whole new side of her, and I actually felt bad for her for the first time ever. I think she’s the real deal, but in that case she can be wrong and I also believe that because she is so wrapped up in her power and finding the true leader, she is manipulative to the extreme to get her way. It’s fun to hear your thoughts on her since you seem to have more fondness for her than I do. It’s also interesting to hear your predictions of where she might go next. Like you mention, since Jon is not a fan, I do think it would be intriguing to see her find Dany, especially with things getting religious thanks to the alliance going on over there. And that priestess was wearing a necklace too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ashley, I’m so pleased that you enjoyed the humor I tried to seed into posts. (Otherwise it would just be me lecturing)

      I know what you mean by feeling sympathy for Melisandre for the first time. Her low period was quite a contrast to her usual smug and confidant attitude from previous seasons.

      Thank you again for reading the post, and commenting. I appreciate it, and I’m glad to know that it was a fun read.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sharon Fargo says:

    I’m not sure what role Mel will play, but I predict that Beric (not Mel or Thoros) will give his life to bring someone back, since he did in the books with Lady Stoneheart. Jon, again? Dany?

    Liked by 1 person

    • (I’ll share my spoilery idea with you… I doubt this will happen, my I have a notion that Arya will kill Melisandre, and Beric will resurrect her to be Lady Stoneheart, which will end his life. I have zero proof for this, but since we can’t get the original Lady Stoneheart, this would work for me, at least in some small measure.)

      Hey, thank you very much for reading my post and commenting, It’s much appreciated!

      Like

  4. Haylee says:

    I like the idea that Selyse saw Melisandre as a crone, regardless of glamouring necklaces – I always found it odd that she didn’t seem as threatened by her (and relationship with Stannis)… but maybe that’s just me showing my jealous side!
    Isn’t she pregnant (IRL)? Wonder how that will affect future appearances as I’m sure she announced it just after the finale. I’m quite a fan though, in a love/hate way, and certainly warmed to her (no pun intended) since she showed off her wrinkles!

    Liked by 1 person

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