Carice Van Houten discusses Melisandre’s new outlook and mission on Game of Thrones and Gemma Whelan discusses Yara’s mindset

Melisandre Dragonstone 702 Stormborn

When Jon Snow sent Melisandre packing last season on Game of Thrones, we didn’t know whether we would ever see the red priestess again. As a fan of her character I had hoped she still had a part to play, so it was a pleasant surprise to see her turn up at Dragonstone on Sunday night during episode two, “Stormborn.” In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Carice Van Houten shares some insight into her character and where Melisandre’s story is headed this season. In other news, Gemma Whelan chats about Yara’s take on her brother’s most recent and highly divisive betrayal.

Van Houten was as unsure about Melisandre’s fate as the rest of us after her exile from Winterfell, but she is happy to part of the action again. “I was a little bit afraid. The last time I had a conversation with Jon Snow and what’s-his-name, Davos, it didn’t really look good for me. I had no idea if I was going to come back,” Van Houten admits. “I was very happy to read that she’s back, not with per se a vengeance, but with an interesting and important mission.”

Melisandre at Winterfell Game of Thrones

Melisandre still has some unfinished business according to Van Houten. She says, “There’s some untied knots in some of these stories, and loose ends with Arya. There’s still a few things I think are bound to happen still.” It would be interesting to see a Melisandre/Arya encounter, especially since Melisandre was once on Arya’s list. Would Arya take vengeance on her after all this time? Both woman have gone through significant changes since they last saw each other – only time will tell how that affects any reunion between the two.

The Melisandre we saw last season was quite different than the Melisandre we met back in season two. She began season six defeated and unsure of herself; then after raising Jon from the dead she was exiled for burning Shireen. How has that affected her? “She knows now that she has to completely look at this from a different point of view,” Van Houten explains. “She slowly regains her confidence. Not so much her own confidence, but maybe her faith. She sees herself as a vessel. I don’t think she’s in it for her own gain. I don’t see her as a selfish person, per se. I think she regained some of her power and confidence after Jon Snow [came back to life]…She leaves Winterfell more heartbroken for the world than for herself.”

Everything Melisandre has experienced has altered her and her world view, as we will see this season. “She’s more realistic and self-aware in that sense…It’s as if she can look at herself better now. She doesn’t have that fanatic point of view. It makes her, to me, more interesting to play,” Van Houten says. She also has a mission, and sees Daenerys as an instrumental player. “[Melisandre] has respect for her. At this point, she’s just thinking: ‘What do we need to do in order to stay alive? What do we need to do to stop the world from fucking ending, really?’ She’s very serious about bringing the right people together in order to direct some of it, at least. I do think she knows more about what it means, what’s going to actually come. She’s seen it.”

Melisandre at Dragonstone Game of Thrones

The “right people” seems to include both Daenerys and Jon Snow, who is headed for Dragonstone with Davos in tow. It’s a risky situation for Melisandre, who definitely did not leave on good terms with either of them. Van Houten believes this speaks to the tremendous importance of what Melisandre has been led to do. “I think this isn’t a selfish act. She’s on a mission. She was wrong, terribly wrong, about the other mission – her first plan, with Stannis. But now she’s all the more determined to get it right [despite the risk to herself].”

The trials of the past two seasons, combined with the revelation that Melisandre is much older than she appears, have altered the way Van Houten approaches her character. “We haven’t seen her tell that to anyone, but she’s more transparent now. She’s becoming nicer, which we would say is a good thing from a human point of view.” Perhaps, but being nice can be a dangerous thing in Westeros, as Van Houten admits. “She might get too vulnerable for it. That’s my personal view of it. Who knows? She might be getting toward her end. She might be dying for all we know.”

It seems Van Houten – and the character she plays – believe Melisandre’s journey may soon come to an end. “It’s dangerous to say, but I feel sorry for her. I think she [feels like] she’s in her last days. But I can’t predict anything.” With the White Walker threat looming ever closer, time may be short for everyone on Game of Thrones. Hopefully Melisandre can help turn the tide before her story is over.

The entire interview is worth a read, so check it out at The Hollywood Reporter.


702 - Sea Battle - Euron, Yara 1

In an interview with Newsweek, Gemma Whelan shares her interpretation of Yara’s reaction to Theon’s … less than heroic exploits at the end of “Stormborn.” Was Yara angry at her brother’s betrayal or did did she understand why he reacted the way he did? According to Whelan, it’s a bit of both.

“She feels betrayed, but I think she gets it,” Whelan says. “The one thing about Yara is that she loves her brother. She’s really upset at this point that they’re defeated, and she sees that he gets spooked and has no choice [but to save himself].”

Whelan is also aware of the dialogue that this divisive plot development has inspired online.

“I think people have made some really good points on social media. I follow what people say…. It’s true: He has PTSD. He gets spooked. He can’t do anything to help her at that stage. I don’t know if he has the thought, ‘If I quit now, I can save her.’ I think he does have PTSD, and afterwards he will be pissed at himself. He might do something about it…. You never know.”

She expands on this in another interview with Hollywood Reporter.

“I don’t think she feels like he’s abandoning her,” she said. “I think she feels like he’s having a terribly traumatic time, there’s nothing he can do, and maybe — just maybe — he’s jumping ship now so he can come back and do some good. Ultimately, I think she’s devastated. She’s completely helpless now, and so is Theon. She’s in the hands of her psychopath of an uncle, and she has no idea what’s going to happen next.”

Speaking of Yara’s uncle, Whelan has nothing but kind words for Pilou Asbaek. “He’s an absolute puppy dog and a dream to work with,” she says.

“We would fight, and he would say, ‘Are you okay? Was that too hard?’ And I was like, ‘No! Go for it! Grab me! Push me! We need to make this realistic!’ We had great communication and a great relationship. I was very pleased to be working with him.”

As for what lies ahead for Yara … Whelan’s not giving anything away, but she isn’t denying the bleakness of her character’s situation.

“It’s not looking good! [Laughs] But I can’t say anything else.”

30 responses

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    1. Its actually kind of crazy that Melisandre is the one responsible for bringing together the two lead characters of the series

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    2. Coldor!

      Carice seems to be very much in touch with her character…she gets it. When Melisandre said that prophecies were dangerous, it was clear she has humbled herself and it will pay off. What’s his name…Davos….heh…won’t touch her, either. She’s Dany’s guest and Dragonstone isn’t the Norf. No worries there, Mel.

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    3. Can’t wait for Mel and Davos to spar again. It could devolve quickly. Also, given Jon’s “don’t blame the children for the parent’s atrocities” speech from Ep1, I wonder how he will react publicly to Dany’s father’s atrocities toward his grandfather and uncle, especially with the tainted “childburner” red witch in his presence again.

      Mel and LF are both living on borrowed time.

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    4. I love Carice, and Melisandre’s one of my favorite characters.

      Melisandre dying trying to prevent the Night King’s victory would seem to be the natural conclusion of her arc. I wonder how it will happen, though.

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    5. Yara understands Theon. Yara is awesome. The begind the scenes material with Gemma and Pilou is great, they get along so well. Theon will save her, I predict. Maybe not for awhile, but he will.

      Dammit Mel, don’t die! I do like how she says outright that there are loose ends with Arya.

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    6. In the last episode, Mel seemed different than ever before. She seemed nicer, and much, much more humble. The cocky swagger has gone. I think she realizes by now that she had read so many signs in her fire, very, very incorrectly, and sacrificed hordes of innocent people.

      Pigeon: Theon will save her, I predict. Maybe not for awhile, but he will.

      I agree. I think Yara’s capture by Euron is part of Theon’s final journey back to himself.

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    7. Oh good, I was very curious to hear Gemma’s thoughts on Theon jumping overboard! I’m not holding my breath for a happy outcome but I would hope Yara understands.

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    8. Extremely off topic but
      I bought factory entertainments royal crown of Joffrey Baratheon and it was too small for my head (jack gleeson has a tiny head apparently)
      I just got The royal crown of Robert Baratheon and it’s so big it slips down to my neck (guess I don’t need that Dany’s choker)

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    9. I get a vibe that Melisandre, if there is to be a sacrifice, like the books call “Nissa Nisa” she will be the one. There’s foreshadowing to that coupled with the new direction she’s taken.

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    10. It seems Van Houten – and the character she plays – believe Melisandre’s journey may soon come to an end.

      Indeed, she has no more than 13 episodes to go! 😀

      Hodors Bastard: Can’t wait for Mel and Davos to spar again. It could devolve quickly. Also, given Jon’s “don’t blame the children for the parent’s atrocities” speech from Ep1, I wonder how he will react publicly to Dany’s father’s atrocities toward his grandfather and uncle, especially with the tainted “childburner” red witch in his presence again.

      I do not think that it will. Yes, Davos hates Mel: but Davos is a pragmatist, and right now, the North really needs Daeny. Moreover, both Mel & Davos will be arguing that Daenerys needs to consider the Northern front to be the important one, not the southern one. After all, what are White Walkers to Daenerys, save perhaps children’s stories?

      Similarly, Jon is not going to get hung up on what Daeny’s father did: he’s going to judge her on his own. And, of course, I suspect that judgement is going to be deserving of a Paul McCartney ballad. (I would write “John Lennon” but that would require changing Daenerys to Yoko.) And, by the same token, I suspect that Daenerys will not get hung up on what Jon’s father did: after all, Jon’s father did unjustly and dishonorably help start a civil war just because his sister ran off with Daenerys’ brother. Indeed, I will not be surprised if Daenerys basically regurgitates Jon’s words to the Karstarks and Umbers when they meet!

      The big give and take should be: southern front or northern front? Jon wants the obsidian and he wants allies against the Walkers. However, Jon cannot continue to ignore the threat of the Lannisters for too much longer: Sansa is absolutely right about Cersei, after all.

      But that just brings us back to why Davos will not pursue his grudge against Melisandre: Davos needs her to help sway Daenerys, because right now Melisandre is the only one in Daeny’s camp who would think that White Walkers are any kind of threat at all, never mind one rivaling the Lannisters.

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    11. Kay: I think she realizes by now that she had read so many signs in her fire, very, very incorrectly, and sacrificed hordes of innocent people

      True: but, as the Hound aptly notes, R’hllor is awful at communicating!

      Still, she does better than a lot of fans do given pre-season trailers…. 😛

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    12. Wimsey: Yes, Davos hates Mel: but Davos is a pragmatist, and right now, the North really needs Daeny.

      Perhaps, but Davos will have a reaction at some point, too much charred history. Plus, they are not expecting to see Mel there. There will be a surprise factor.

      Jon is not going to get hung up on what Daeny’s father did: he’s going to judge her on his own…And, by the same token, I suspect that Daenerys will not get hung up on what Jon’s father did: after all, Jon’s father did unjustly and dishonorably help start a civil war just because his sister ran off with Daenerys’ brother.

      Yay…forgiveness for all! It’s all water under the bridge! We’re equals in the eyes of R’hllor! A healthy wariness (or misery) makes for strange bedfellows.

      “What? You still want me to bend the knee after sharing the misdeeds of our forefathers? Did Lady Olenna, Yara, or Ellaria bend the knee? Why me? The WWs are coming and you want me to bend the fucking knee?”

      Davos needs her to help sway Daenerys, because right now Melisandre is the only one in Daeny’s camp who would think that White Walkers are any kind of threat at all

      I wonder when Mel (and Davos) will realize that she is quite expendable once Jon and Dany get chummy. It’s not like undead Jon and cursed Dany are gonna invite her to create some shadow babies for them. R’hllor had better increase his communication skills and power or he’s gonna lose a red priestess soon.

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    13. Wimsey:
      Jon’s father did unjustly and dishonorably help start a civil war just because his sister ran off with Daenerys’ brother.

      To be exact, when Rickard and Brandon were already burnt, Aerys demanded Ned’s and Robert’s heads from Jon Arryn (they were in the Vale). That’s when all three of them called the banners and the war started. So the rebellion itself had nothing to do with Rhaegar or Lyanna, it was because the Mad King was … Mad.

      right now Melisandre is the only one in Daeny’s camp who would think that White Walkers are any kind of threat at all, never mind one rivaling the Lannisters.

      Well, once Jon tells them everything, I expect Tyrion will believe him, because he knows him well enough.

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    14. Should be some interesting stuff,

      could have a Jon/Theon type moment between Davos/Mel perhaps?

      The conversation between Mel and Varys teased in the trailers will be interesting, given they were both on the opposite sides of the Blackwater equation

      It’s fascinating to go back to S2 E1, where Mel (and Stannis) had such different hair, and now it is much simpler etc. One of those thigns, eg watch the change in Sansa’s hair, and we are at the stage where it is like Cersei’s…

      It could have been easy for Mel to be such a one-note rigid fundamentalist all the time but it is good that even at her (apparent) age she is still willing to change, adapt, humble herself, learn new lessons as a person

      My personal theory for her end is that Jon Snow has to stab her in the Heart with Dawn which will set it alight as Lightbringer (flaming heart R’hlorr sigil and all that)

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    15. Well, once Jon tells them everything, I expect Tyrion will believe him, because he knows him well enough.

      Will really put the whole “…Grumpkins and Snarks and all the things your wet nurse told you about…c’mon your a smart boy…” conversation from S1 into a new light

      Seems aeons ago that scene, Jon was such a sulken child and Tyrion still a funny smartass

      Tbh from Tyrions perspective of Jon based on his experience at Castle Black he would be immature and even Brattish with the whole “I’m better than any of them” which earned him the “you’re better than no one” slapdown from Benjen

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    16. My personal theory for her end is that Jon Snow has to stab her in the Heart with Dawn which will set it alight as Lightbringer (flaming heart R’hlorr sigil and all that)

      Don’t expect this to season 8 though, in which case even the characters who aren’t dying will be coming to a close with the involvement in the show…like everyone else

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    17. Ghost Lunch: Will really put the whole “…Grumpkins and Snarks and all the things your wet nurse told you about…c’mon your a smart boy…” conversation from S1 into a new light

      Seems aeons ago that scene, Jon was such a sulken child and Tyrion still a funny smartass

      Tbh from Tyrions perspective of Jon based on his experience at Castle Black he would be immature and even Brattish with the whole “I’m better than any of them” which earned him the “you’re better than no one” slapdown from Benjen

      Tyrion also sees Jon accept his situation and turn things around by making Pyp and Grenn his friends and passing on the teachings he’d learned from Ser Rodrik.

      And when Tyrion is Hand of the King in season two, he reads out a letter from Commander Mormont telling him about Othor the Wight, who tried to kill him. Cersei dismisses it, but Tyrion points out that Mormont doesn’t lie.

      And both Mormont and Maester Aemon were clear to Tyrion that the upcoming winter would be a dark one – Mormont also told Tyrion the story of Will the Ranger, who had sworn his brothers were killed by Walkers.

      This won’t be the first time that a high-ranking (or in this case former high-ranking) officer in the NW has told him that there are more than just grumps and snarks lurking beyond the Wall.

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    18. Hodors Bastard: Did Lady Olenna, Yara, or Ellaria bend the knee?

      Presumably they already have! After all, they already all are in Daenerys’ camp

      Hodors Bastard: I wonder when Mel (and Davos) will realize that she is quite expendable once Jon and Dany get chummy.

      Will Mel then be expendable? She still offers considerable resources. Daenerys might not be thrilled with what Mel does, but, then, at this point, Daenerys must know how the Red Church operates. Jon told Mel not to return to the North: but Mel hasn’t done that.

      Again, it’s going to come down to choosing your battles. Davos can carry out his personal vendetta against Melisandre (however justified it is) and weaken the effort against the Walkers, or he can weaken his vendetta and maximize the War effort. Either way, he’s going to be shooting himself in a foot: he’s got to choose which one.

      Aszusz: Well, once Jon tells them everything, I expect Tyrion will believe him, because he knows him well enough.

      He didn’t believe Benjen Stark! Look at it this way: someone you know and like and even respect is convinced that Elvis is still alive. So, do you now think that Elvis is alive?

      Moreover, even if Tyrion is willing to accept that there is some sort of threat north of the Wall (and I can see him doing that, but thinking that they are not really the White Walkers of legend), then that doesn’t change his ranking of priorities: the Lannisters are the adjacent and greatest threat, then whatever spooked the Wildlings and Northerners if it ever gets past the Wall. Right now, that is the issue: which front is the most important. I think that the false dichotomy people have made is rejecting that Walkers exist vs. making Walkers the #1 priority. Accepting that Walkers exist means making them a priority; the more immediate threat of the Lannisters will trump that.

      Hodors Bastard: Did Lady Olenna, Yara, or Ellaria bend the knee?

      Presumably they already have! After all, they already all are in Daenerys’ camp

      Hodors Bastard: I wonder when Mel (and Davos) will realize that she is quite expendable once Jon and Dany get chummy.

      Will Mel then be expendable? She still offers considerable resources. Daenerys might not be thrilled with what Mel does, but, then, at this point, Daenerys must know how the Red Church operates. Jon told Mel not to return to the North: but Mel hasn’t done that.

      Again, it’s going to come down to choosing your battles. Davos can carry out his personal vendetta against Melisandre (however justified it is) and weaken the effort against the Walkers, or he can weaken his vendetta and maximize the War effort. Either way, he’s going to be shooting himself in a foot: he’s got to choose which one.

      Aszusz: Well, once Jon tells them everything, I expect Tyrion will believe him, because he knows him well enough.

      He didn’t believe Benjen Stark! Look at it this way: someone you know and like and even respect is convinced that Elvis is still alive. So, do you now think that Elvis is alive?

      Moreover, even if Tyrion is willing to accept that there is some sort of threat north of the Wall (and I can see him doing that, but thinking that they are not really the White Walkers of legend), then that doesn’t change his ranking of priorities: the Lannisters are the adjacent and greatest threat, then whatever spooked the Wildlings and Northerners if it ever gets past the Wall. Right now, that is the issue: which front is the most important. I think that the false dichotomy people have made is rejecting that Walkers exist vs. making Walkers the #1 priority. Accepting that Walkers exist means making them a priority; the more immediate threat of the Lannisters will trump that.

      Hodors Bastard: Did Lady Olenna, Yara, or Ellaria bend the knee?

      Presumably they already have! After all, they already all are in Daenerys’ camp

      Hodors Bastard: I wonder when Mel (and Davos) will realize that she is quite expendable once Jon and Dany get chummy.

      Will Mel then be expendable? She still offers considerable resources. Daenerys might not be thrilled with what Mel does, but, then, at this point, Daenerys must know how the Red Church operates. Jon told Mel not to return to the North: but Mel hasn’t done that.

      Again, it’s going to come down to choosing your battles. Davos can carry out his personal vendetta against Melisandre (however justified it is) and weaken the effort against the Walkers, or he can weaken his vendetta and maximize the War effort. Either way, he’s going to be shooting himself in a foot: he’s got to choose which one.

      Aszusz: Well, once Jon tells them everything, I expect Tyrion will believe him, because he knows him well enough.

      He didn’t believe Benjen Stark! Look at it this way: someone you know and like and even respect is convinced that Elvis is still alive. So, do you now think that Elvis is alive?

      Moreover, even if Tyrion is willing to accept that there is some sort of threat north of the Wall (and I can see him doing that, but thinking that they are not really the White Walkers of legend), then that doesn’t change his ranking of priorities: the Lannisters are the adjacent and greatest threat, then whatever spooked the Wildlings and Northerners if it ever gets past the Wall. Right now, that is the issue: which front is the most important. I think that the false dichotomy people have made is rejecting that Walkers exist vs. making Walkers the #1 priority. Accepting that Walkers exist means making them a priority; the more immediate threat of the Lannisters will trump that.

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    19. Ghost Lunch:

      My personal theory for her end is that Jon Snow has to stab her in the Heart with Dawn which will set it alight as Lightbringer (flaming heart R’hlorr sigil and all that)

      The problem with your theory is that is based in an “only-in-book” prophecy. We haven’t touched that in the show yet. The prophecy can still appears in the show of course, but then it comes the second and all-important problem. In the prophecy it was the ultimate sacrifice, he killed the woman he loved. Since I don’t see Melissandre in that category, there only three options left: Dany, if Jon and her fall in love. That’s what mos people go for, but if that doesn’t happen, the only 2 other women loved by Jon and so electible are (gasp!) Sansa and Arya.

      So, the show either change the idea of “ultimate sacrifice” for “some sacrifice of sorts”, forgets the profecy all together (Lord Beric has already a flaming sword) or fires all the cylinders and we are gonna watch some really heartbreaking shit.

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    20. Interesting that Carice states the end of the road for Melisandre is approaching. I have never expected her to survive the series and was really starting to think she dies this coming episode given the title however this makes me think she is safe otherwise she wouldn’t have called this out.

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    21. In ep. 2, just after Mel tells Dany to summon Jon and “let him tell you what he has seen,” Tyrion starts talking about Jon and how the North could be helpful to Dany. The shot of Mel has her looking at Dany, and as Tyrion is talking about how Jon can help their cause, Mel looks away! I wonder what she is thinking? They’re not listening!? They are missing the point of why they need to meet Jon Snow? I think old Mel would have jumped back into the conversation and told them more or corrected them but new Mel is definitely more reserved. Looking forward to next episode with her and Varys.

      The Melisandre and Theon story lines did not interest me that much in the early seasons but since season 5, I’ve been caught up in them. Both actors are excellent! As well as Gemma and Pilou!

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    22. Here is a theory: could Melisandre actually be Rhaenys Targaryen – having disappeared from Westeros about three centuries ago, presumed dead but actually wandering Essos, and now returning to help the her family take back the iron throne…

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    23. Wimsey,

      Jon doesn’t really need to worry about Cersei as long as Moat Cailin is well manned. The north will be safe from southern attack, especially in the winter.

      I agree with you though that Jon and Davos will not bring up old grudges, more than maybe a quick line of dialogue. Like Tyrion mentioning his niece last episode.

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    24. WallyFrench,

      Is MC a thing on the show? LF marched the Vale army through it like it was nothing in season 6 *I think*.

      There is still this supposed winter though. Not sure how Cersei could march a southern army north through this winter and expect success.

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    25. Aryamad,

      If you judge by the sneer of complete disgust she gave Theon as he jumped overboard, I don’t think she will understand why he did it. She has no idea of the depths of horror he’s been through; she thinks pep talks are going to do the trick, for a minute they did, but he will be traumatized all his life. I feel bad for both of them. I don’t think she makes it out of this, sadly, but she gave it a grand try.

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    26. Tycho Nestoris,

      Yeah it’s a thing. Remember show Theon helped get it to surrender for Ramsay when he was still Reek. It was also a central issue when Robb was planning on bringing his army back north prior to the Red Wedding.

      Perhaps it was just left empty then? Like Dragonstone?

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    27. Wimsey,

      Why was the Hound of all people able to see vivid images in the flames when a “professional” like Mel kept getting garbled or misinterpreted transmissions ?

        Quote  Reply

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