How That One Melisandre Scene Changed 'Game of Thrones'
Why Melisandre's true nature changes Game of Thrones and Jon Snow's plot, going forward
The Season 6 premiere of Game of Thrones did not answer the burning question of whether Jon Snow will remain dead, but it did pose a new one that could very well be connected to his fate.
The plot twist everyone is talking about is that final shot, as Melisandre removes her magic necklace — and with it, her youthful veneer. The Red Woman is not a really seductive ginger, but rather an ancient crone. It came as a bit of a shock for TV viewers, though not so much fans of the books, who have long theorized she might be a Targaryen bastard Sheira Sestar.
Then again, it wasn’t a surprise to eagle-eyed fans of the show, if they’ve paid attention over the years; Melisandre dropped hints about her real identity by speaking of her days as a slave, despite the fact that her naked body (which we’ve seen on many times) has never born the markings of a slave.
But the fact that the show is choosing to reveal it now, to kick off Season 6, is telling. With just 13 more episodes after this season, the foundation is being laid to bring together the show’s disparate plot lines by the series finale. By making Melisandre’s true nature a pivotal moment in the Season 6 premiere, Game of Thrones is positing it as the connective thread. Here’s why.
It Will Connect Jon’s Story to Bran’s
Bran Stark and Jon Snow have always been the Starks with the most isolated plot lines. Jon has always been divorced from the main narrative at The Wall, and Bran has spent several seasons wandering with a rag-tag team of wildings, half-wits, and various members of House Reed in pursuit of an elusive three-eyed raven. His Season 4 story ended with him meeting said raven in human form, but Season 6 will see him taking us into Westeros’s past through his visions.
What does this have to do with Melisandre or Jon? The Targaryean bastard Sheira Sestar — Melisandre’s possible former identity — is related to Brynden Rivers, otherwise known as the former human identity of the Three-eyed raven. (She was also his mistress, as the Targaryeans are all about incest.) She’s invested in Jon while her brother/lover is invested in Bran.
As the story positions itself for its endgame, the furthest corners of its wide-cast net will have to be drawn in. Connecting Jon and Bran so intimately, each guided by mystical former Targaryens, is a major step.
It Will Connect To Thoros of Myr
Thoros of Myr is a character we haven’t seen since Season 3, when Arya joined The Brotherhood Without Banners. Recall that he was a Red Priest who resurrected Beric Dondarrion but then the writers hastily realized Jon’s return would be less of a surprise if we remembered that, so they haven’t mentioned it since. But Thoros of Myr is going to return in Season 6, which will finally stitch that dangling Season 3 subplot to the rest of the narrative.
And that’s not the only reason Thoros of Myr is important. When Melisandre meets him in Season 3, Thoros explains he’d lost his faith and was at his lowest before he resurrected Beric Dondarrion.
“I said all the prayers just for show,” he tells her. “A spectacle for the locals. Until The Mountain drove a lance through this one’s heart. I knelt beside his cold body and I said the old words. Not because I believed in them, but he was my friend, and he was dead. And for the first time in my life, the Lord replied.”
Melisandre doesn’t exactly seem chipper as she strips and stares at herself in the mirror at the end of “The Red Woman,” and it’s fair to say her misplaced conviction about Stannis has shaken her faith. In order to resurrect Jon as Thoros resurrected Berric, then, reverting to her natural state indicates a crisis of faith.
It Might Connect To The Doom of Valyria
The Game of Thrones writers are staying mum about Melisandre’s true age, but “The Red Woman” episode director Jeremy Podeswa gave some hints to Entertainment Weekly.
“The idea is there’s an indefinite indeterminate quality that she could be ancient,” he said. “We were limited by choosing to use a real person rather than a complete CG creation. Because what does a 400-year-old person look like? We don’t know. So if you try to create that, then you’re creating something that looks beyond our known reality. Here you feel like she’s very old without putting a number on it.”
If her age extends back 400 years, that puts her right at The Doom of Valyria. Recall Jorah and Tyrion’s boat trip in Season 5, when they passed through the ruins of the once-great Rome-like city of Valyria? Remember those stone men? What about every reference to Valryrian steel? Those are all connected.
Valyria is the ancestral home of House Targaryan, and it was the capital of the world’s dominant military and cultural power. It fell in the mysterious and catastrophic Doom 400 years before the events of the main narrative, though House Targaryen’s power in Westeros rose as Valyria fell. Some think its cause was sorcery — and in that case, perhaps Melisandre played a role in it. If it was a natural disaster, it’s possible she’s merely a survior.
Either way, Valyria, Greyscale, and Valyrian steel as a White Walker weapon became prominent plot points in Season 5. Game of Thrones wouldn’t have lingered on them if it wasn’t planning to do anything with them.
If Melisandre’s age means she lived during The Doom of Valyria, she will help Bran Stark tie together the past and the future. As we know from “Hardhome” Valryian steel is the only substance besides dragonglass that can kill a White Walker.
If Jon turns out to be the son of Rhaegar Targaryen — as most think he is — that means that Valryia is his own ancestral home.
Melisandre says saw Jon Snow in the flames, and though Davos thinks he’s gone for good, he should know not to bet against the Red Woman.