Have you seen season six, episode one of Game of Thrones? If the answer is no, think carefully before reading on.
If you were watching Game of Thrones last night, you’re probably wondering if Jon Snow is really dead or not, and if not, how he can be saved. What you should be thinking about, though, is the mystery of Melisandre.
Because the title of the episode is ‘The Red Woman’, many assumed we’d be seeing Melisandre resurrecting Jon Snow via the power of The Lord of Light, something we’ve seen Thoros of Myr do for Beric Dondarrion – remember?
It wasn’t to be – instead, the big reveal we got at the end of the show was that Melisandre was really, really old. Inconceivably old. Possibly hundreds of years old – turning from this:
And the thing holding it all together? Her scarlet choker, which appears to be the source of all her power.
In previous seasons, we’ve seen Melisandre survive poison via her choker, which glows bright in this below clip as she swallows the poison and says: “The night is dark and full of terrors, but the fire burns them all away.” That same choker appears to let her change her form from crone to youthful enchantress.
What canny Thrones viewers have pointed out, though, is the scene from Season 4, where Melisandre has a bath, choker-less, while Stannis Baratheon’s fervently religious wife Selyse looks on. In the clip, despite not having her choker on, Melisandre appears to viewers in her youthful, red-headed form, and not as an old crone. It’s a plot-hole, some believe, but there is another explanation.
What if the producers of the show were holding back the old-Melisandre reveal, not letting us see the hag behind the glamour, and showing it only to Selyse? In the bath scene, Melisandre refers to her body (which she’s used to seduce Stannis) as “just flesh”, perhaps suggesting that Selyse can see her real, withered form. Watch the scene again and look out for the mix of fascination and horror that Selyse has when confronted with Melisandre’s naked body. Before she seemed like an uptight prude – now she just seems to be having a fairly normal reaction to Melisandre’s impossible age, and suppressing her horror because of her devotion to the Lord of Light?