Carice van Houten on the new Melisandre, her brief Season 7 appearance, and prophecies

Melisandre Dragonstone 702 Stormborn

Carice van Houten made a surprising return in “Stormborn,” only to apparently say farewell again a single episode later. Who knows how and when Melisandre will return from Volantis (will she meet Kinvara?); but there is much to talk about, despite the brevity of her appearance, and no one has more to say than the Dutch actress who brings this mysterious character to life… though she is not all mystery anymore, is she?

Carice van Houten reacts to ridiculous Game of Thrones theories for ELLE

Van Houten spoke at length to ELLE about Melisandre’s new state of mind and her key season seven moments, though it did not escape her how fleeting the scenes were:

“I’ve had some really epic scenes,” van Houten told ELLE. “In fact, I’m spoiled because now I feel like, ‘Where was my big, crazy scene this year?'”

The Red Priestess came and went, but she did leave a mark: she was responsible for bringing Jon and Daenerys together, or rather Ice and Fire, implying the Prince or Princess That Was Promised may actually be the Prince and Princess That Was Promised; and then, as she hid from Jon (because if he sees her “it’s the end of her,” as van Houten put it,) she casually threw a prophecy at the eternally annoyed Varys:

“It was different for her, talking to Varys, than it was talking to Stannis or Davos,” van Houten explained. “Here’s someone who, like her, has a long-term vision, who has that sarcastic sort of confidence. They both know how to get what they want in sneaky ways.” Understanding doesn’t beget friendliness, however, as Varys told her to never return and in turn she coldly predicted his death in Westeros, a prophecy van Houten entirely believes, despite Mel’s spotty track-record: “I think he’s not gonna make it. But that’s my personal thought. Some things, terrible things, have to happen in these last seasons! It’ll probably be one of those where he’ll try run from it, but he’ll get it in the end.”

Carice van Houten as Melisandre and Conleth Hill as Varys in "The Queen's Justice"

Carice van Houten as Melisandre and Conleth Hill as Varys in “The Queen’s Justice”

“Well, her eyesight isn’t great”, Carice quipped, regarding Melisandre’s less than stellar track-record. Stannis wasn’t the Son of Fire after all, an error for which Stannis paid with his life, as well as his wife Selyse’s and, of course, their daughter Shireen’s. For many of us, the sacrifice of the little stag was one of the most difficult scenes to watch in the history of Game of Thrones, but it remains Carice’s favorite: “I think that was probably my favorite scene of the whole series,” she said, before admitting it was “fucking awful. That poor child! And [Kerry Ingram] was such a lovely girl with a lot of humor. We had a lot of fun backstage. But it was also an iconic scene.”

With Stannis out of the way, Melisandre is now placing her bets on Jon… and Daenerys. Lately, you may have noticed she isn’t as fanatically sure of herself as she once was: where before she was “a fanatic, someone who had a really strong vision of the future and was not prepared to let it go,” now things have changed and “it’s not about her anymore. She’s made huge mistakes and is aware of it. She refers to how ‘prophecies are dangerous things,’ so she’s learned from her mistakes. She’s more careful. And she’s regained a little bit of her faith after bringing Jon Snow back from the dead.”

Melisandre underwent a transformation following Stannis’ defeat and the resurrection, and the result is a more tridimensional character, not so dependant on mystery to remain interesting. Van Houten found new inspiration for this more “sensitive and vulnerable” version of the Red Woman in her first child, who she just had given birth to little more than a month before filming. Of course, this affected her greatly:

Carice was “crying on set” due to the distance from her baby, but in a way this helped: “The good news was that my character has become more vulnerable, more transparent, more human. I could use my own emotional tools, my own shit. I was relieved when I was able to show some tears, show some doubts and fear and vulnerability.”

Carice van Houten. Photo: Wendelien Daan / ELLE

Carice van Houten. Photo: Wendelien Daan / ELLE

For more about sharing predictions with Nikolaj Coster Waldau, Melisandre as an old woman and Carice’s own theories about the red ruby choker, read the interview at ELLE.

63 responses

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    1. She will, of course, return. She still has that Arya interaction, which I suppose might be the death she predicted for herself.

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    2. I really disliked Mel in earlier seasons, as long as she hung around with Stannis. But quite remarkably, she completely grew on me as soon as Stannis was dead and gone and she became vulnerable and unsure of herself and humble. From Season 6 onwards, she has really grown on me. I think it’s significant she is going to Volantis, the city with the main Red Temple. I believe she will have something to bring back from there – some knowledge, and then to die in Westeros at Arya’s hand.
      I must also say, that Bran’s weir wood network is a far more reliable network for accessing information than the poor, fuzzy, fire channel that Mel uses. Or perhaps, she is just not as good a user of it as other Red priestesses, like Kinvara.

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    3. D’Arcy,

      Yup:
      “We will meet again”
      +
      “I will return to Westeros to die” =

      Arya gives the “The Gift” to the Red Witch.

      I just hope Gendry returns, and tells Arya “that crazy bit*h put leeches on my Johnson!” before Arya skewers Mel with Needle.

      I wonder though: will Arya meet up with glamorous Mel or geezer Mel?

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    4. She still has to meet Arya.

      I took for granted the fact that Varys would survive the show, so now I’m interested to see what his end will be. In the books his end is pretty clear, but the show changed his arc considerably.

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    5. I absolutely loved the Mel and Varys scene. He attempts to threaten her not to return, and with just a hint amusement, she completely unnerves him. “Oh, I’ll return dear Spider.” I want to know what the voice said!

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    6. D’Arcy,

      I really hope not. I would be utterly stupid for them to have Arya kill Mel at this point, especially since she removed her from her list.

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    7. Very sad that Mel is seemingly gone until the final season.

      I hope her role in the final batch of episodes will be important and memorable. I would be a shame for her character to sort of just fizzle out.

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    8. I didn’t expect Mel to interact with Jon or Davos on Dragonstone but I thought she would be the one to inform Dany and Tyrion about Jon’s resurrection before she left. Now I’m back to wondering how/if they find out?

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    9. I just wonder, what’s left for her to do at this point? What can she reveal that Bran can’t reveal? Is she just going to return for a single episode next season to be killed by Arya? That can’t be her full arc next season, can it? What is she going to do in Volantis?

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    10. I see a lot of people are still simply assuming that Arya will kill Melisandre when they see each other again. While they will inevitably reunite, I don’t think this is a foregone conclusion–even if it is likely. There certainly has to be some greater reason they had those two characters meet so early that they would be able to recognize each other later on, beyond Gendry substituting for Edric Storm, though. Arya’s motives for (temporarily) putting Melisandre on the list in the show were always a bit shaky in comparison to everyone else she listed–while the list consists of murderers and traitors who have committed crimes against her and her family, Arya was not capable of knowing anything about Melisandre’s nature at the time, all she knew was that she was taking Gendry away. Curiously the decision to include Mel on the list a bit more selfish than Arya’s usual motivation.

      It’s also an odd detail that even back when Mel was on Arya’s list, unlike the others, Arya never knew her name. She simply referred to her as “the Red Woman,” which becomes more interesting when you take into account the whole Faceless Man ethos about names. The only other character she didn’t know the proper name of (The Hound) is now officially off the list.

      Of course, Arya has left the House of Black and White and can quite easily kill Melisandre of her own free will out of leftover anger from the Gendry incident…but Melisandre is also responsible for Jon’s resurrection. Arya doesn’t know, but in a world where Arya did know that, she would never dream of killing Melisandre, and the repercussions of her doing so could be massive–especially when it seems like there are consequences to Jon’s resurrection that have yet to be revealed.

      If she can’t let go of the past and does given into the revenge impulse that so often drives her and kills Melisandre, in some way or another Arya could end up quite poetically and tragically screwing over the person she loves most.

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    11. Sam the Slayer,

      I’m thinking there had to be a reason why Mel was the one to show up at Dragonstone. In light of Carice’s recent (at time of filming) giving birth, if Mel’s function was simply to be an info dump to introduce Jon Snow as “another who has a part to play” and prompt Dany to invite him for a visit, they could’ve had the Kinvara actress do that. (And I would like to see Kinvara again, especially after the way she spooked the usually unflappable Varys.)

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    12. Azor Asshaiwhen you take into account the whole Faceless Man ethos about names

      Not sure what you mean.. Jaqen asked for a name, Arya said “I don’t know his name. They call him the Tickler.” Jaqen responded “That is enough.”

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    13. Azor Asshai,

      Is there any doubt that if Melisandre had realized that the tomboy who called her a witch was really Arya Stark aka princess to the KitN, she would’ve taken Arya along with Gendry for a 2-for-1 BBQ?

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    14. Sam the Slayer:
      I just wonder, what’s left for her to do at this point? What can she reveal that Bran can’t reveal? Is she just going to return for a single episode next season to be killed by Arya? That can’t be her full arc next season, can it? What is she going to do in Volantis?

      The Essosi red priests and priestesses are focussed on someone prophecied to “remake the world” (Kinvara, I believe, and also the Volantene Red Priestess that Tyrion saw on his travels to Meereen.) I take this to mean: change the way people live, for example, abolish slavery, integrate fringe groups into mainstream society (Wildlings, Dothraki), etc. However, Red Priests in Westeros – Mel and Thoros – are focussed on the WW threat. At some point, the two POVs of the Red priests should be integrated. I believe Mel will be the one to do that, since she is going back to Essos.

      Bran seems exclusively focussed on Westerosi issues.

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    15. Ten Bears,

      I see where you’re coming from, but bear in mind that Arya doesn’t have king’s blood in the sense that Melisandre was looking for it back then and was of no interest to her outside of her vision of the future, which was very much spur of the moment. She was seeking out someone of royal parentage who she could hopefully use to give her enough power to clarify her visions of Azor Ahai/TPTWP, to confirm whether it was in fact Stannis (who she believed it was until meeting Jon at the Wall, who she sensed something special in even before bringing him back to life) or somebody else. King in the North is not an inherited position, and of course neither of Arya’s parents ever held a title of royalty.

      Grayven Reyne,

      You’re right about Jaqen’s response to Arya asking him for the death of the Tickler–I forgot about that. Presumably “the Hound” would hypothetically have been enough as well, but there are many female Red Priests in the world, so it’s hard to imagine that “The Red Woman” alone would be able to suffice in that context.

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    16. For many of us, the sacrifice of the little stag was one of the most difficult scenes to watch in the history of Game of Thrones, but it remains Carice’s favorite: “I think that was probably my favorite scene of the whole series,” she said,

      Remember when the internet ripped Sophie a new ahole when she said filming her rape scene was fun?

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    17. It took me awhile to warm up to Melisandre but now I adore every scene that she is in. This new, cautious Mel is much more intriguing than the overly confident, threatening character of Seasons 2-3 (except of course when she is talking with Varys). I hope that she returns and plays a part in the great war that is coming.

      Carice is masterful in this role. Her scene with Davos discussing Shireen’s death was amazing.

      mau:
      So that means that Varys will betray Dany after all.

      I think so. His little speech about “blind allegiance” convinced me that he will eventually betray Dany. (But I am always wrong.)

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    18. Azor Asshai,

      She knew the Hound’s proper name, she just called him “the Hound” in her list. And don’t forget, the Mountain is still on there too (though in Season 6 she called him “Gregor Clegane”, instead of “the Mountain”, but that was the only time).

      Actually if I recall correctly, the Mountain and Cersei are the last two names.

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    19. Rygritte,

      People are unfairly harsh on actors when they say stuff like this. I mean we get incredibly immersed in it, we freak out, we feel empathy for the character, but as an actor it’s still a job.

      Sophie has always enjoyed more violent scenes, because it was a change from what she usually got to do. From an actor’s perspective, I can see how it would be enjoyable to play something terrifying and dramatic and truly traumatizing. She gets to flex her acting muscles.

      And we know that she also said she thoroughly enjoyed filming the scene where she was nearly raped in Season 2, as well as the scene where Ramsay is devoured by his dogs.

      So overall I think it’s safe to say that as an actor she enjoys filming disturbing scenes. Nothing wrong with that.

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    20. Markus Stark, I know! “Everywhere in the world, they hurt little girls.” There won’t be a peep about Carice’s comment because she isn’t Sophie & it wasn’t about rape

      before admitting it was “fucking awful.

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    21. Markus Stark,

      Yes, she is, but we’ll have to see if Arya holds true to that, completely lets go of her grudge, and manages to restrain herself when they do see each other again. Depending on the consequences of Jon’s resurrection and his situation at the time, the implications could be beyond huge. If only Arya knew what the audience knew, she would never so much as consider it…

      Granted, all we know is that they will meet again and that Melisandre will die in Westeros–which isn’t very specific. By no means is Arya guaranteed to be her killer. With any luck, she might just perish trying to prevent the Long Night, knowing that the time has finally come to end her lifelong battle against the Great Other.

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    22. Kay,

      Kinvara, introduced as the high priestess of the church of the Lord of Light, was focused on using the dragons to burn “nonbelievers” by the thousands…before getting around to “remaking the world.”

      Like I’ve said before, the only chapter of the Church of R’hllor that’s focusing on rescuing humanity is Thoros and His Merry Men (including my dark horse candidate for Warrior of Light, Sandor Clegane.)

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    23. Here’s what Kinvara told Tyrion and Varys: Excerpts from S6e5 –

      (Introduction by assistant in High Valyrian):

      “You stand in the presence of Kinvara, High Priestess of the Red Temple of Volantis, the Flame of Truth, the Light of Wisdom, the First Servant of the Lord of Light.”
      ———-

      Kinvara (to Tyrion and Varys):
      “Daenerys Stormborn is the one who was promised. From the fire she was reborn to remake the world.”
      …..

      Kinvara: “Her dragons are fire made flesh, a gift from the Lord of Light. ”
      ***
      “The dragons will purify nonbelievers by the thousands, burning their sins and flesh away. ”

      Tyrion: “Ideally we’d avoid purifying too many nonbelievers. The Mother of Dragons has followers of many different faiths.”

      ****
      Kinvara: …..Daenerys has been sent to lead the people against the darkness in this war and in the great war still to come.

      ***

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    24. Problem is who would Varys betray Dany for in the show? And why? It’s clear who that possibly would be in the books but he is not part of the show. I suppose Varys could switch to Jon Snow, but unless Jon and Dany are enemies would Dany care? Would it even be a difference? I guess it could be for Cersei but that doesn’t make much sense. She knows he played a part in aiding Tyrion after the death of Tywin.

      Unless there is some late stage plot twist where Varys serves the White Walkers or something, I struggle to see where a betrayal of Dany would come in. There isn’t much left to betray her for.

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    25. orange,

      It is pretty hard to imagine, especially at this point, considering the absence of that storyline from the books. The only way I could see that happening is if Varys (being the true Targaryen loyalist that he is in the show) somehow learns of Jon’s parentage and decides that he would rather push a male Targaryen (with a traditionally stronger claim) over Dany, rather than supporting both of them. Much like the show’s justification for him supporting Viserys over Dany in the first place.

      If he does attempt any kind of betrayal in order to prolong his life, however, it will probably play out much like the fates of Cersei’s children. By trying to avoid it, he’ll only make sure that Melisandre’s words come true (which I think we can all very much expect them to).

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    26. I just love Carice.

      I don’t see Varys dying on the show particularly, just at some point perhaps sooner than he intended.

      If Arya kills Melisandre, it will be at Mel’s request.

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    27. Azor Asshai,

      I hope the Night King kills her after she uses her powers to deal a devastating blow to his army. She is the woman who brought back his nemesis, after all, and who united the forces of Dany and Jon.

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    28. Don;t forget that Varys abhors anyone associated with magic. What do you call Dany and Jon being there now to challenge for the throne, if not magic? How do you think Cersei has been ahead of Dany in her plotting. I think Varys is a spy working with Qyburn to keep Cersei on the throne. She may be a tyrant, but magic didn’t put her there.

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    29. Tyson:
      Didn’t Mel tell Arya they’d meet again back in season 3? Hopefully the showrunners didn’t forget about that.

      An out for the showrunners is that Mel and Arya could meet again well after the events of ASOIAF. I rather think this is it for Carice and Mel as far as the show.

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    30. Ten Bears:
      Kay,

      Kinvara, introduced as the high priestess of the church of the Lord of Light, was focused on using the dragons to burn “nonbelievers” by the thousands…before getting around to “remaking the world.”

      Like I’ve said before, the only chapter of the Church of R’hllor that’s focusing on rescuing humanity is Thoros and His Merry Men (including my dark horse candidate for Warrior of Light, Sandor Clegane.)

      But the unnamed Red Priestess in Volantis (S05, E03) (played by Rila Fukushima) did not mention anything about dragons burning people. She was not approached by Varys or Tyrion to spread a political message; she was simply preaching to slaves. Her message was that the “savior” would end some general misery in the world – slavery, cure for stone men, etc.
      Here it is:
      Lord, cast your light upon us, for the night is dark and full of terrors.
      I was once as you are now, bought and sold, scoured and branded.
      The Lord of Light hears your voice, he hears the king as he hears the slave, he hears the Stone Men in their misery.
      He has sent you a savior.
      From the fire she was reborn, to remake the world – the Dragon Queen!

      So, yes, I can’t agree with you that Thoros is the only one who wants to rescue humanity. Thoros, as far as I know, has not bothered about slavery or stone men. In my personal opinion, if the WWs were defeated, but slavery lived on in Planetos, it would be a very unhappy ending as far as I am concerned. So my point stands, Red Priests in Essos and Westeros, seem to focus on different but highly necessary things that need to happen.

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    31. Markus Stark: Actually if I recall correctly, the Mountain and Cersei are the last two names.

      I believe Ser Ilyn Payne is also on her list…or at least was…but was probably removed script wise since the actor died (or was at least seriously cancer stricken…not sure if he actually passed away).

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    32. Tamwell Sarly: I believe Ser Ilyn Payne is also on her list…or at least was…but was probably removed script wise since the actor died (or was at least seriously cancer stricken…not sure if he actually passed away).

      Wilko Johnson is very much alive and touring with his band.

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    33. We all have to die somewhere. And if Varys serves Dany in Westeros that’s likely the place he’ll be when he does. Melisandre didn’t say when.

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    34. Why in seven hells would Arya kill Melisandre?

      Melisandre has done nothing to hurt the Starks, if anything they’re in her debt for bringing back a member of their family.

      Frankly I reckon Arya’s arc is coming to an end. She’ll come back and become part of the pack again, that’s her story.

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    35. Mel is one of my favorite characters in the books… don’t judge me I just really find her intriguing and I always felt like she was so much more than first meets the eye… I mean I felt like she was concerned about the fate of the world and was a good person or had the potential to become one, of course I also loved the mysteries about her..

      It was clear that her interests were somewhat shifting to Jon and now in the series we see it was true. She definitely saw something, something more hiding under his ice…

      You have to agree, her sole chapter in ADWD is super interesting, her inner monologues, etc… the parallels with the servant of the Great Other!

      Oh gods, if only they put out the Mel/Ghost interaction on screen! One of my favorite excerpts… her eyes and ghost’s eyes were red, but not the same, Jon having no clue what to think, etc..

      On the show I love her beyond measure. She’s gorgeous and yes she’s ruthless and all but it was amazing that her character really did evolve and get such an arc, my heart feels happy that I wasn’t wrong about her. I’m kinda satisfied with her role completed, but I feel like she will have at least one final scene in s8…

      As much as I don’t want to see her die I think her fate was sealed before it even started… its clear now with certain knowledge of her age.

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    36. Varys has always been my favourite character. I have always believed that everything he does is ‘for the realm’. I am pleased he has made it so far, but I do expect him to die before the end. I just hope he makes it to the next season and keeps serving the realm.

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    37. Tamwell Sarly:

      He wasn’t on her list in Seasons 5 and 6, this much I know for certain as I checked earlier. She says her list in 5.02 and 6.03.

      He was on her list in episode 4.05 though.

      I think the show just wrote that part out due to the actor’s health concerns. Though he is still alive.

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    38. Why is everyone assuming that Varys will die in the show? Mel only said that he would die in Westeros (far away from where he was born, like her). He could die of old age.

      The show ending will not be : one person on the iron throne and everyone else dead. (Unless it’s Littlefinger or the Night King of course…)

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    39. orange:
      Problem is who would Varys betray Dany for in the show? And why? It’s clear who that possibly would be in the books but he is not part of the show. I suppose Varys could switch to Jon Snow, but unless Jon and Dany are enemies would Dany care? Would it even be a difference? I guess it could be for Cersei but that doesn’t make much sense. She knows he played a part in aiding Tyrion after the death of Tywin.

      Unless there is some late stage plot twist where Varys serves the White Walkers or something, I struggle to see where a betrayal of Dany would come in. There isn’t much left to betray her for.

      If Varys is an informant for Cersei don’t think it is betrayal as much as it is thinking ahead. The Sands and the Greyjoys would be exceedingly difficult to manage because they could not of themselves maintain control of the people they are alleged to represent. One would think he might hold off on betraying the Sands to Euron until the Dornish were committed to the seige, but perhaps the opportunity would never be better and he needed something from Euron in return.

      By clearing the post-conflict world of hard to manage elements, Varys provides deniability to Daeny who could also, but need not have been, involved.

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    40. mariamb: mariamb says:

      August 1, 2017 at 8:03 pm

      It took me awhile to warm up to Melisandre but now I adore every scene that she is in. This new, cautious Mel is much more intriguing than the overly confident, threatening character of Seasons 2-3 (except of course when she is talking with Varys). I hope that she returns and plays a part in the great war that is coming.

      I agree so much!

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    41. Lord Of Lite:
      Don;t forget that Varys abhors anyone associated with magic.What do you call Dany and Jon being there now to challenge for the throne, if not magic?How do you think Cersei has been ahead of Dany in her plotting.I think Varys is a spy working with Qyburn to keep Cersei on the throne.She may be a tyrant, but magic didn’t put her there.

      Lord Of Lite,

      I don’t think this is the case, but you never know. It would just seem strange to me that Varys, who helped Tyrion escape King’s Landing, would still be working with Cersei. If Varys was working with the Lannisters then why would he help Tyrion escape at all in the first place? He’s secretly working with Cersei even though he helped her enemy escape? It doesn’t really make sense to me.

      The show established in season 6 that Qyburn has control over Varys’ little birds, or at least many of them. That, coupled with the fact that Jaime/Cersei are much better at military strategy than Dany’s crew is should explain why the Lannisters are currently winning.

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    42. Azor Asshai,

      Arya didn’t have “king’s blood” then, but she does now.

      In the books she wanted Val’s baby because he was the son of Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall. He didn’t inherit that title, just kind of took it as the leader of the Wildings.

      I would love for it to be part of Arya’s character arc that she meets Mel again, but chooses not to kill her. After Cersei and the Mountain are dead, Arya needs to tame her wolf a little!

      I hope Mel comes back again, and brings Kinvara. She was so amazing in that one little scene, I would love to see more of her!

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    43. Roberta Baratheon: I hope Mel comes back again, and brings Kinvara.

      Hmm… You know, it could be pretty cool to have an entire “army” of the goofy bastards show up and do something. Red priestesses/priests from everywhere come together; Mel, Kinvara, the one that noticed Tyrion in Volantis, the man and woman we saw speaking to crowds in Meereen, and a bunch more.

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    44. Remember when Melisandre propositioned Jon? Why did she do that? Was it just a chance for GOT to show some nudity? If it was the show’s way of showing that Jon isn’t over Ygritte, that’s fine, except it doesn’t logically explain why Melisandre would make a move on him.

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    45. orange,

      A scenario where Varys switches to Jon under the belief that he will be a better ruler with a better birthright could easily serious piss off Dany who likes to repeat every episode how Queen of the 7 kingdoms is her destiny.

      If Spoilers are to be believed

      both Tyrion and Varys will lose faith in Dany this season

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    46. As for Mel, I must admit I find it strange that she is just leaving Westeros now with only ten episodes left. Is she just going to pop up right at the death and if so, what for? Could she be some sort of Nissa Nissa (if that isn’t Dany), what else could she do? If she returns would Arya randomly kill her given their are more important matters at hand? I’m guessing she return in a few episodes time or not at all.

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    47. Such a great article, just like any with her (though it actually got a tad mixed up—her favorite scene was the aftermath of sacrificing Shireen, where at first it seems to have been successful but they then discover that it was for naught and Stannis was doomed. Due to the silent-acting aspect, and of course the shift in Mel’s character.)

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