We were wondering why, in particular, the season 6 opener for Game of Thrones was titled ‘The Red Woman.’ It obviously suggested there would be a degree of focus on Carice van Houten’s Melisandre, long thought to be the character responsible for Jon Snow’s predicted resurrection.
However, after months of waiting and theorising about the fallen Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, the episode’s WTF moment turned out to be Melisandre’s age. The episode’s conclusion saw Melisandre finally take off her mysterious necklace and reveal her character’s age in a moment eerily reminiscent of The Shining’s bathtub in Room 237 scene. Melisandre is hundreds of years old.
“I don’t think a lot of people will see that coming. It makes her immediately more vulnerable, but also more wise and even more mysterious. There’s also a vulnerability in her age.”
Van Houten said that the revelation helps contextualise Melisandre’s willingness to sacrifice Shireen in season five – because she has been around for hundreds of years.
“That’s why she was able to say, ‘This is just a small war, it’s all relative compared to the big war were going to face,’” van Houten says. “[Her age] makes everything even more meta. Definitely, that’s where all that stuff comes from.”
“She has no idea how she does it [her magical powers],” van Houten said, “A magic necklace? Wow.”
However, fans were quick to point out that the revelation brought up a serious question mark from a previous scene. As you can see in the tweet below, Melisandre is in the bathtub and NOT wearing the necklace. If she’s not wearing the necklace, why does she look like her younger self?
— Marcela Limon (@march) April 25, 2016
The episode’s director, Jeremy Podeswa, has given his explanation of the twist: “The idea is there’s an indefinite indeterminate quality that she could be ancient,” Podeswa says.
“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.”
“I think the performance of both actresses helps making her look ageless. There was a question of whether we should add more effects to make [the body double] look older, but I think anything we could have done would have made them look less real. When doing a fantasy show – or a show with fantasy elements – the more you can anchor an effect to reality the stronger the illusion is.”