We still don’t know how long or why she’s been doing this – maybe it was part of a plan to seduce Stannis, maybe she’s trying to disguise her true identity, or maybe she just likes looking younger (who doesn’t) – but one thing’s for sure, it was a terrific unforeseen surprise for absolutely everyone. Right?
This theory was partly brought up because Melisandre commented at one point (in both the books and TV show) that she had been a slave, despite having none of the tattoos or brands (such as this tearmark, below) used by slavers in George RR Martin’s world.
The books also hint that the character has been around for a while, as in this sentence from the only chapter written from Melisandre’s point of view – “Melisandre had practiced her art for years beyond count, and she had paid the price”.
Adding these elements together fans concluded that Melisandre was using magic to conceal her great age, an idea finally proven right in this week’s Game of Thrones as the Red Priestess took off her necklace and revealed her true appearance. And according to co-showrunner David Benioff, this was George RR Martin’s plan for the books as well, so all the clues people picked up on were planted with a purpose.
“There have been a few hints before that Melisandre is much older than she appears,” Benioff said in an Inside the Episode video (below). “[This is] going back to a very early conversation with George RR Martin about her: she’s supposed to be several centuries old.”
“But hang on,” you may be thinking. “I have a photographic memory for every time Carice van Houten takes her clothes off (for reasons I’d rather not share), and isn’t there a scene in series four where she removes the magic de-ageing ruby WITHOUT going all Mother Gothel on us?”
And you’d be right – you can watch the NSFW clip here – but the Game of Thrones fans also have an answer for that, posted a relatively recent 12 months before the episode was broadcast. Jeez, they really dragged their feet on the pre-emptive response against the backlash to an event that hadn’t happened yet.
As brashendeavors puts it in this reddit post: “Rewatch the scene where she takes her bath without the ruby choker, and this time, picture Selyse seeing the hag in its true form but still its obedient servant.”
“’If they are lies milady, aren’t they best avoided?’ Selyse refers to Melisandre’s illusion of a sexual temptress. ‘Not always,’ Mel replies. When she discusses ‘the trick that led them to the truth,’ she is talking to Selyse as someone who has crossed over that line, into the true believer camp. She does not need to use ruby chokers with Selyse.”
“I think it’s clear the missing choker in the bath scene was not an oversight but instead was a clue for us. Mel uses tricks with most, she uses none with Selyse. It also means that Selyse is not acting under any charms, any illusions, any ‘ruby choker’ magic mind tricks, when she agrees to take her daughter to the Wall. She already knows the truth.”
It’s definitely an interesting theory, though we here at RadioTimes.com have a few other ideas for the apparent continuity error as well. Maybe Mels doesn’t actually need to wear the necklace to keep the spell up, and just chose to go casual in this week’s episode while depressed over Stannis’ defeat. Maybe it acts as a way to focus her magic but doesn’t actually need to be worn at all times, or maybe last night’s revelation was a revelation of how she sees herself rather than how she actually is (in something of a reversal of the reddit theory). Or you know, it could be that the production team messed up a small detail a few years ago and we should all just move on.