Typically some of the slowest Game of Thrones episodes are the season premieres. A season premiere of Game of Thrones is usually a lot of table-setting for the new season and slight recapping for the old season. So no one was quite expecting the bombshell that dropped at the end of the “Red Woman” when it turned out that Melisandre has been hiding something from everyone. Melisandre is not neither as beautiful nor as young as she appears but instead she is very old . This shocking twist might have very big complications for the future of the series and season 6.
Melisandre Is a Secret Targaryen
The time of the Targaryens ruling Westeros is not that long. The Baratheon/Lannister reign has only lasted as long as characters like Dany have been alive. It is barely into its second decade, so it’s not like Targaryens are ancient history. They’ve just been pretty much wiped out with Dany being the only (confirmed) Targaryen who still draws breath. So the fact that Melisandre is actually so old doesn’t necessarily mean that she is a Targaryen descendant but it does seem important that she is hiding her age and appearance.
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The main reason that Melisandre appears to be disguising her appearance is the fact that she is approximately 400 years old. Yet she could also be hiding her appearance because she might be recognizable to someone familiar with history and royal history. Melisandre entered the series as a commanding presence in the pursuit of the Iron Throne. While it is obvious that Melisandre believed in Stannis, she could have more personal reasons for getting involved than her religious beliefs. Maybe she is a Targaryen or Targaryen ancestor who has lived for hundreds of years and is now looking to find a way to get power back for herself and that way reclaim it for her family.
Targaryens have an almost mythological presence in the world of Game of Thrones and to the audience watching. It would be quite the double whammy of the twist if it turned out that Melisandre was not only a wizened old crone but a politically significant wizened old crone. Plus there’s the fact that old Melisandre doesn’t look so dissimilar from Maester Aemon who himself was a Targaryen hiding at the Wall.
Melisandre is Dying
The assumption of the Melisandre reveal is that she is actually as old as she appears and that she just performs a spell to appear young and beautiful. While this might be true, there is nothing about the scene that suggests that is the case. In the reveal Melisandre just sees her “true self” in the mirror and looks very sad about it.
Melisandre is going through a huge crisis of faith following the death of Stannis. Perhaps her appearance shown in the final moments of the “Red Woman” is just a physical representation of her power level following Stannis’ death. This is not just in a metaphorical sense either but what is actually happening to Melisandre and her body. Melisandre has put so much faith in the Lord of Light and Stannis and it turned to diaster. Right now everything that Melisandre has ever believed seems like it is all a lie to her. Melisandre’s appearance could be nothing more than an example of the toll that the magic she uses is taking on her.
The more magic Melisandre uses the older her body becomes. In other words, she is prematurely aging herself. Melisandre might just as young as she appears to everyone else but the magic is twisting and killing her. Power is fleeing Melisandre has her faith erodes and the longer she doesn’t believe the more ancient she becomes.
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Perhaps with this reveal, Game of Thrones is further setting the stage for Jon Snow’s return. Everyone assumes that Melisandre will bring Jon back to life in some form. It is possible though that she is too weak to bring Jon back to life and keep her own life. Melisandre could be a living example of what the magi told Dany all the way back in season one, “Only death can pay for life.” In her effort to revive Jon Snow, Melisandre could kill herself.
It Doesn’t (Really) Mean Anything
While the reveal of Melisandre’s true face was visually impressive, seriously all accolades to the makeup department, it has to mean something. We already know that Melisandre is the real deal when it comes to magic. She can birth shadow assassins, we know other believers of the Lord of Light have brought people back from the dead. There is real power behind the religion. Game of Thrones didn’t really need to remind us that there is something freaky going on with Melisandre by showing us that she actually looks the uglier cousin of the Peddler Woman from Snow White. There has been something important about what Melisandre really looks like beyond shock value, or at least there should.
However just because something should happen, doesn’t mean it will on Game of Thrones. Tell that to the mound of dead and tortured Starks that seems to grow each season. The biggest shock of the Melisandre reveal is that it could mean nothing. The scene plays out as this very significant event but in the grand scheme of things it could just be another weird magic log to pile onto the fire.
In reality, Melisandre is just an old woman who believes in a mysterious god. She is not an important old woman. She is not dying from the use of her magic. She is just a tired, elderly lady who has seen too much. As disappointing as it might be, the Melisandre reveal could mean nothing more than that the Lord of Light can do some seriously weird crap.
But what do you think of Melisandre? What does the reveal mean for the future of Game of Thrones? Were you surprised by the reveal or did you pick up the very subtle hints? Is Melisandre really someone important?
Game of Thrones season 6 airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO.
(Images courtesy of HBO)