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 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.”
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.
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.”