The Season 6 premiere of HBOs Game of Thrones saw women take control, and ended in one shocking twist that may lead to the resurrection of a beloved character. [Warning: Spoilers]
Jon Snow is dead but thats hardly the point anymore. The most righteous boner killer in Westeros history unveiled itself in the final moments of Game of Thrones Season 6 premiere, when the titular Red Woman Melisandre revealed her true form in the best way possible. Turns out the lovely priestess whose physical perfection has bewitched so many powerful men is ancient, saggy, wrinkledand far more formidable than anyone knows.
Hopeless and defeated after the deaths of Stannis and Jon Snow (both of whom her prophetic flames told her were destined for much more), Melisandre sits alone in a bedroom at Castle Black, then stands and moves to disrobe. Of course, the sight of Melisandres nude body is almost laughably routine by this point.
Among all the shows female characters, hers is most frequently ogled, both by the men around her and by the audiencewhich is exactly what makes every fold, wrinkle, gray hair, and sagging breast on Melisandres newly revealed body so subversive.Here she is,your object of lust,the camera seems to say, facing squarely what skittish viewers might recoil from.
It drinks in the sight of the old womans naked body and pans back to behold it from top to bottom. It flies in the face of the shows established male gaze, a brilliantly self-aware twist from director Jeremy Podeswa and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who wrote this episode. New cast member Ian McShane may think hes got this show figured outIts just tits and dragons, he saysbut Game of Thrones just proved yet again that it can be so much more.
But what happens the minute Melisandre removes that ruby necklace packs more than just meta-commentary on the shows favorite vices. It also means Melisandres magic, long since assumed to be mostly smoke and mirrors, may actually be realand more powerful than we anticipated. (Perhaps powerful enough to revive a certain fallen Lord Commander?) And while we dont know exactly how old she is, hints about the Red Womans real age date back to at least 2012.
Not long after she was cast in Game of Thrones second season, Carice Van Houten told Access Hollywood of her character, I dont know how old she is, but shes way over 100 years, so she is a wiser spirit, in a way, but its difficult for me to say too much because Awe want it to at least stay sort of a mystery and BI didnt read the books.
Way over 100 years may translate to about 400 years old, as Maester Cressen actor Oliver Ford Davies said in a 2013 video interview. That jibes with what David Benioff said in an HBO post-episode interview after Sundays premiere when he called her several centuries old.
Why is this significant? Because if Melisandre is indeed 400 years old, that makes her the oldest (known) person in Westerosold enough to remember events like the Doom of Valyria, the cataclysmic event that laid waste to the ancient city from which Valyrians once ruled Essos. (Melisandre is originally from Asshai, an Essos city where she says she was born a slave.) Consequences of the Doom of Valyria still play out across modern-day Westeros: The event indirectly led to the Targaryens taking of the Iron Throne, and the secrets to forging Valyrian steel (one of the only known properties that can kill White Walkers) were lost with the city as well.
But apart from her potential for unlocking Westerosi history, Melisandres revelation is also remarkable in that it comes at the end of a decidedly female-driven episode, in which five of the shows leading ladiesCersei, Margaery, Daenerys, Arya, and Sansaare all at the lowest point theyve ever been.
Margaery is still in prison. Cersei is humiliated and heartbroken. Arya is now a blind beggar (and being visited for daily beatings by the bitchiest of her fellow interns from the House of Black and White). And Daeneryss spunk in the face of a new Dothraki Khals crudeness just booked her a one-way ticket to a widows convent.
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