Type keyword(s) to search

Quick Hits

Game of Thrones: Melisandre was the Comeback Queen of “The Long Night”

Did we witness a Red Woman Redemption?
  • Carice van Houten as Melisandre in Game of Thrones (HBO)
    Carice van Houten as Melisandre in Game of Thrones (HBO)

    Prophecies on Game of Thrones are a lot like predicting who is going to die in the Battle of Winterfell; some are inevitable, but rarely is prognosticating a certainty. Nevertheless, if you were going to guess the person who would rock up unannounced at the gates of Winterfell as a secret weapon, Melisandre was the obvious choice — spotting Carice van Houten’s name in the opening credits was also a pretty big clue. Historically on this show, the “Red Woman” has inflated clairvoyance on her resume, specifically her ability to accurately foresee the identity of the “Prince That Was Promised.” However, in Season 7, when Melisandre told Varys she would make one final journey to Westeros before her life was over, she stuck to her travel plan.

    During this encounter last season, Mel was seen avoiding Jon Snow and Davos at Dragonstone, despite being the one who told Daenerys to swipe right on the King in the North. She had a valid reason, as the last time she was hanging out at Winterfell she narrowly escaped execution for what she did to Stannis’ young daughter, Shireen. Instead, she was banished from the North with the disclaimer that if she did return, death was a promise. Burning a child alive is not a crime that is easily forgiven or overcome, even if Rihllor, the Lord of Light, demanded a sacrifice this big. Well, that’s how Melisandra put it to Stannis when she whispered in his ear and he complied with the Lord’s wishes. It didn’t go so well for Stannis, as the last person to see him alive was Brienne and her trusty sword, Oathkeeper. Turns out, the Lord of Light didn’t have plans for him after all.

    This week Melisandre came back to make amends, because apparently resurrecting Jon Snow is not enough to wipe clean the memory of infanticide. Before the Battle of the Bastards, Jon told the Red Woman to keep resurrection in her bag of tricks; much like Buffy, he wasn’t particularly thrilled to be alive again. This was not a requirement at either battle, as Jon somehow avoided that particular fate despite the Stark blood that runs through his veins, which makes him noble but also strategically dumb. Rather, Melisandre provided some much-needed fire reinforcements. By using her powers to ignite the Dothraki swords and the barricades around Winterfell, she not only provided temporary respite from the army of the dead, but she also helped lterally light up the screen so viewers could actually see what the hell was going on. The Lord of Light is a messy bitch who is vague in his demands, but when a battle is at night and the creative team is going for “realism” then we are definitely Team Red Priestess. Helm’s Deep this is not.

    It was nice of the dead to give Melisandre the time to have a dramatic solo entrance, which she more than earned by lighting up the Dothraki weapons. Not that the Dothraki benefitted much from this weapon upgrade; their flames were snuffed out in devastatingly quick fashion. Melisandre already had a lot of blood on her hands, but that first wave defeat lands squarely at the feet of the GOT writers, who needed a reason for Daenerys to abandon the battle plan — this contrived sacrifice did just that. Later, as Melisandre struggled mightily while setting the barricades ablaze, the Lord of Light seemed to be pulling back from her. It took several attempts and all her strength to light up the defenses around the Stark ancestral home.

    Winterfell (and specifically her old foe Davos) opened its gates to her, but not their arms. The North remembers and Davos does too. That little Northern girl with a scar on her face last week acted as a Shireen reminder for him. This particular wound, understandably, cuts deep. But before he could remonstrate, Melisandre quickly informed him she wouldn’t be alive by dawn, denying Davos a chance to utter a threat.

    Davos was not the only long-awaited reunion awaiting Melisandre, and no we’re not talking about Jon, or even her former leech-buddy Gendry. She was also not there to save Beric Dondarrion, he of the flaming sword, for whom six times was enough for one man to survive death. Instead, Mel and Beric tag-teamed to protect Arya long enough for Melisandre to remind her of their conversation way back in Season 3. Arya didn’t have time to swap Gendry stories or explain why Melisandre is no longer on her death list (the only two names that remain are Cersei and The Mountain). Rather, eye color was the hot topic.

    “I see a darkness in you. And in that darkness, eyes staring back at me. Brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes. Eyes sealed shut forever. We will meet again,” said Melisandre in season 3’s “The Climb.” The first time they met it was far from friendly, but meeting again, in that darkest of nights, Mel was the prompt Arya needed to jolt her back into fearsome warrior mode. During their brief original interaction, the young Stark accused Melisandre of being a witch; Melisandre’s promise they would meet again did little to assuage this assessment. This is one of Mel’s predictions that did come true, so at the end of the world, look to the Red Woman with a well-timed pep talk. This moment of peace, as war raged around them, also served as a reminder of Syrio Frrel, the man who taught Arya not only how to use her first sword but also what she should say to death.

    “Not today” were words for Arya, but not Melisandre. Her time was all but over; she got to where she was supposed to be. Men have tried to end her life before, including back in Season 2, when one of Stannis’ advisors tried to poison her, but her enchanted necklace saved her life. We learned the truth of that necklace in the season 6 premiere, titled “The Red Woman.” After burning Shireen but before she brought Jon back to life, Melisandre had a crisis of confidence; the Lord of Light was causing her to make some very bad life choices. She removed the ruby stone statement choker, which in turn revealed her true, aged likeness.

    The night at Winterfell was long and full of terrors, but with victory secured and day breaking, Melisandre’s long service to the Lord of Light was over. She arrived with fire, and without her, it is likely Winterfell would have fallen. Despite all of this, Davos seems like he won’t allow her to leave without fulfilling his promise. However, Melisandra fulfilled her own prophecy, at last. She was in complete control of her exit from this world, as she removed the formally life-saving necklace, walked a few paces before collapsing to the ground, her hair changing color from red to white while fluttering in the post-battle wind and snow.

    The Red Woman is no more. It’s too bad; they could probably do with her help, considering the queen they’re fighting next.

    For more Game of Thrones, join the conversation in our forums.

    Emma Fraser has wanted to write about TV since she first watched My So-Called Life in the mid-90s, finally getting her wish over a decade later. Follow her on Twitter at @frazbelina

    TOPICS: Game of Thrones, HBO, Carice van Houten