Curtain Call: Carice Van Houten

Melisandre

“The Long Night” was dark and full of terrors, but Melisandre was instrumental in burning them all away. Whatever your feelings about the mysterious red priestess, she certainly knew how to make an entrance – and an exit. From her stunning introduction in season two on the windswept beaches of Dragonstone, to her poetic death as dawn broke over Winterfell, Carice Van Houten made a powerful and unforgettable impression.

Funnily enough, Van Houten was almost cast as another character – Cersei Lannister. She was initially approached to audition for our favorite villainous queen but had to decline as she was filming the movie Intruders at the time. Fortunately she was able to join the series for season two in the role of Melisandre instead, and I think we can all agree it worked out for the best in both cases.

Playing a challenging character like Melisandre wasn’t easy, and Van Houten has admitted it “was a struggle in the beginning. The things I’d done before, in film or theater, were tragicomic roles where the focus was on human flaws, fears and doubts. This confident, religious, extreme character seemed to lack all of that. So I really had to work hard.”

melisandre

The beauty of Van Houten’s performance, however, is that despite her confidence and intimidating presence, Melisandre did have fears and doubts beneath the surface. She was able to express them beautifully in season six when all hope seemed lost. Despite her terrible sacrifice of Shireen a season earlier, Stannis was defeated and killed – and mankind’s other great hope to defeat the long night had just been brutally murdered by his Night’s Watch brothers.

It was an interesting time for Van Houten, who went from receiving death threats by fans after burning Shireen to receiving marriage proposals for resurrecting Jon Snow. While the audience may take the show a little too seriously at times, she revels in the impact her character has made. In an interview with The Guardian, she recounted a story of telling a fan “the night is dark and full of terrors” when the girl couldn’t quite place how she knew Van Houten. “[She] almost screamed – not just because she recognized someone from TV, but as if she really thought I was scary. Which was fun!”

Scary she may have been, but no one could deny that Melisandre’s focus was on the greater good – despite the sometimes horrific acts she committed. It is fitting then, that her last act was to help defeat the threat she’d been warning against since the beginning. Van Houten gave an inspired, understated performance during the battle of Winterfell, and the final shot of her walking out into the snow, removing her glamour, and falling peacefully to the ground as her incredibly advanced age overcame her was one of the most moving of the episode. Her long night is now at an end.

Besides Game of Thrones, Carice Van Houten is best known for her lead roles in the highly successful Dutch film Black Book, the Jesse Owens biopic Race, and playing opposite Tom Cruise in Valkyrie. An accomplished singer as well, Van Houten provided vocals for the Black Book soundtrack and has released two albums of her own. Her next project is the upcoming movie Domino, in which she stars with her husband, Guy Pearce, and fellow Game of Thrones castmate Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Hopefully Van Houten will continue to grace our screens with her magnetic presence for years to come.

Carice van Houten

76 responses

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    1. She was simply fantastic! She made Melisandre scary some of the time, mysterious most of the time, seemingly fragile and unsure a few times, and gorgeous all of the time. 🙂 Every time Melisandre pulled off her clothes it seemed so confident and natural that I somewhat imagine Carice doing that in front of people all the time in real life. Ha!

      * oh, and ASNAWP!!

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    2. I’ve always loved Melisandre. She was really misunderstood for so long and glad she got to go out the way she did. And Carice did an excellent job with her character.

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    3. Loved all the mystery surrounding Melisandre. The character could have veered into something ridiculous but Carice always had a playful thing going on in her performance to balance the more sinister aspects. She was able to walk that tightrope avoiding outright villain status even after Shireen which is quite a feat. I’m glad they gave her such a beautiful poetic ending with that gorgeous final shot.

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    4. “As finishing touch, God created the Dutch”

      That definitely goes true for Carice van Houten. She did an amazing job with Melisandre and just a wonderful actress all around.

      And now her watch is ended.

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    5. She was excellent in the role. She managed to nail Melissadre’s complexity as a character and gave her life, making her as mysterious, magical and human too! Thank you Carice and all the very best for the future!
      😊

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    6. Arguably the most perfectly played final scene a female character has had in this show, (maybe Diana Rigg excepted.)

      That it was Davos alone who witnessed her true self and final moments made it all the more poignant.

      May the Lord of Light bless her and all she does from here; Carice made the character unforgettable.

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    7. I guess we’ll just figure out everything on our own regarding Mel’s backstory, Kinvara, the Red Priestesses, and the Lord of Light. Wouldn’t want that to fall on the showrunners.

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    8. Carys really nailed the role of Melisandre.

      And now that we can reflect on Mel’s entire arc it becomes really clear just how commited she was to her cause and her life’s purpose. Even though she often got things wrong. Even though she did terrible, unforgivable things. Even though thousands died because of her actions and her mistakes. She stood by her convictions and she delivered in the end.

      She realised (possibly late in the game) what her true purpose was: to put Arya on the right track in killing the NK and as a result she truly played her part in the defeat of the AOTD.

      And once she fulfilled her purpose, she stayed true to her word, and died in the snow.

      Gotta hand it to Melisandre- she truly was a misunderstood (and seemingly unappreciated) hero.

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    9. Excellent performance for the entire series. Every note/appearance on point.

      In the last episode, she brought such power to her prayer for the ditch to light.

      She had to do a lot using a made-up language (as others did with less polish!) and CGI, yet every scene was point perfect. This role could have easily become campy mumbo-jumbo – but Carice delivered with subtlety and made it work.

      Brava!

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    10. I’m also really thinking about her predictions to Stannis, which now obviously could be attributed to Jon:

      “This war has just begun. It will last for years. Thousands will die at your command. You will betray the men serving you. You will betray your family, and you will betray everything you once held dear, and it will all be worth it because you are the son of fire. You are the warrior of blood. You will sweep aside this pretender and that one. You will be king.”

      I know she made many, many mistakes. But after her last scenes I now have much more faith in the Red Woman.

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    11. Melisandre’s death was my second favorite of the episode, with Theon being my first. It was strangely beautiful. I loved what Carice did with the character, and despite Melisandre’s numerous mistakes, she came through in the end. She will be missed.

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    12. Melisandre was an interesting character. I hated her so much up until the end of Season 5. I hated what she was doing, how she was misleading Stannis, and how she always seemed so sure of herself. When her face fell after she realized Stannis was doomed, however, I started to feel a bit of sympathy for her. From then on, she gradually became a character I quite liked, from bringing Jon back, to uniting Jon & Dany, to everything she did in the Battle of Ice & Fire. It made me realize that even before, when she seemed so arrogant, she was hiding a lot of self-doubt.

      Now, has she fully redeemed herself from everything she’s done? I don’t know. I could agree with those who say she has, as well as those who say she hasn’t. That’s what makes her character so fascinating.

      And all of this was possible because of Carice. From the blind, smug fanaticism, to the self-doubt, to the pure desperation, Carice nailed every aspect of this character. Just as Melisandre fulfilled her duty in helping end the threat of the White Walkers, so did Carice in bringing this fascinating, morally grey character to life. Thank you for everything, Carice, and best of luck in the future.

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    13. Carice gave such a wonderful, multi-layered, nuanced performance throughout the series. I did not like Mel in the beginning but enjoyed the character’s transformation into one that I really cared about. Just beautiful!

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    14. I loved Red Velvet aka Evil Red Riding Hood. Carice brought such an otherworldly presence to her, it was difficult to believe she was human. I wish we had gotten to know more of her backstory other than she was a slave. She was a truly fascinating character. She will be greatly missed. I would have liked to have seen her up against Cersei!

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    15. Thanks Carice! You were magnificent as Melisandre.

      I’m actually pretty surprised it took halfway through the season to get the first curtain call.

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    16. This character might have been nothing more than a caricature in another’s hands but Carice made her so much more. Her stunning and ethereal beauty added to the presence of magic around her.

      Such a remarkable actress!

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    17. Fantastic job from day 1. I always liked Melisandre and how she put her entire being into stopping the Night King, no matter what needed to be done.

      So far, Ms. Houten got the best sendoff, and it was beautifully performed.

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    18. Carice played Melisandre perfectly. A difficult role to pull off and she nailed it every time.
      I thought initially she was an evil fanatic but then she became so much more, in so many ways and I was sorry to see her character die last week, although it made perfect sense.
      Brilliant, and beautiful actress. I hope she graces our screens many times in the future.

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    19. Carice did such an amazing job with this character. She brought power, intrigue, grace, and beauty into this role. Looking back on Mel over the years, I feel like Davos has sortof summed up the audience’s feeling on her. Always skeptical, and rightly so. Nice to see her character join the fight for the living, in an unquestionable way, in the end.

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    20. Wonderful portrayal by Carice. And that ending was perfect. Melisandre did what she was destined to do and was ready to die after that. I love how joyless and broken Carice played her ever since the end of Season 5. She never forgave herself for Shireen and Stannis.

      Next Curtain Call or I riot: The Sexy Beast with Velvety Voice Who Wore the Yellow Shirt like the Boss He Was.

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    21. I loved Melisandre because of Carice’s performance. She was mesmerizing; you could not take your eyes off her when she was on screen. Her last acts – her commitment to the Lord of Light – and her death were poetic.

      (As an aside, I’m troubled by the fact that she received death threats. I know that other actors have as well. Disgraceful!)

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    22. Love the character, love the actress, love the performance.

      She did a magnificent job, and her final moments were moving.

      Such an interesting character. She often did horrific things. She was often manipulative. She was a religious extremist. But despite all of it, deep down, she had the world’s best interest at heart.

      I also love Melisandre’s chapter in A Dance with Dragons. Seeing her inner thoughts, her doubts, and her vulnerabilities was great, and I think Carice did a great job at portraying that in all her scenes after Stannis and Jon died. She was never the same again after the season 5 finale.

      Even when she accomplished incredible things like resurrecting Jon, she remained broken on some level. Shaken, insecure. Yet she still found the strength to return to help the living, and did so with one of the best displays of her power that we’ve seen.

      Great send off to a great character.

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    23. Wonderfull character she put on screen. With her amazing acting skills.

      the beauty of Mellisandre is that first you see her as the big villain, a witch without a conscience. Later we find out the heavy weight she had on her shoulders, centuries fighting an enemy, and learning the hard choices that had to be made. Even Jon showed in episode 8×03 the hard choice when he left Sam to go to the NK. Sam’s life was not more important than the defeat of evil. Mellisandre had made such choices centuries.

      I think she even hated what she did with Shireen but in her mind it was the only way to go to save the realm of man.

      Ant:
      The Wolves of Winter,

      She’s Belgian.

      She’s Dutch, born in Leiderdorp. Look at wikipedia. I know where the best actress of my country is born.

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    24. BigMac:
      Melisandre was an interesting character. I hated her so much up until the end of Season 5. I hated what she was doing, how she was misleading Stannis, and how she always seemed so sure of herself. When her face fell after she realized Stannis was doomed, however, I started to feel a bit of sympathy for her. From then on, she gradually became a character I quite liked, from bringing Jon back, to uniting Jon & Dany, to everything she did in the Battle of Ice & Fire. It made me realize that even before, when she seemed so arrogant, she was hiding a lot of self-doubt.

      Now, has she fully redeemed herself from everything she’s done? I don’t know. I could agree with those who say she has, as well as those who say she hasn’t. That’s what makes her character so fascinating.

      And all of this was possible because of Carice. From the blind, smug fanaticism, to the self-doubt, to the pure desperation, Carice nailed every aspect of this character. Just as Melisandre fulfilled her duty in helping end the threat of the White Walkers, so did Carice in bringing this fascinating, morally grey character to life. Thank you for everything, Carice, and best of luck in the future.

      Very well said.

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    25. Mr Fixit,

      Yes, this was brilliant. I love how she was never the same agin. Even after bringing back Jon. Even after they beat Ramsey,

      She remained shaken to her core by what happened with Stannis and Shireen.

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    26. I’m from the Dutch speaking part of Belgium. I already knew and even bought some of her movies. But I hadn’t recognised her playing Melisandre. Even after I read an interview with her about GOT, I still didn’t know what character she played, had to look it up on IMDB. So surprised she was playing Melisandre, because she’s so different in her other movies. Shows what a great actress she is.

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    27. Apollo,

      And now that we can reflect on Mel’s entire arc it becomes really clear just how commited she was to her cause and her life’s purpose. Even though she often got things wrong. Even though she did terrible, unforgivable things. Even though thousands died because of her actions and her mistakes. She stood by her convictions and she delivered in the end.

      Burning a child along with others is an unspeakable act no matter what the reason. God did not tell hr to do it, she interpreted the flames that way. The fact that she was able to bring Jon back speaks of her powers,but it should remind us to notice people who say a god is telling them to do something. It may be their convictions bring them to do something evil.

      That being sad, Carice pulled off this character perfectly. I believed she believed what she was saying and believe she was repenting. Im sorry she was getting death threats, really wish fans would get the differnce between a fantasy charactr and an actor!!! Looking forward to seeing her on the screen in the future. Good luck with all you decide to do!

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    28. Nick20,

      Such an interesting character. She often did horrific things. She was often manipulative. She was a religious extremist. But despite all of it, deep down, she had the world’s best interest at heart

      .

      save me from people who have the worlds best interest at heart (um remind me its been a few years; is this a time where one shoud not speak bad about the dead? If so I will shut up and ask for my post to be deleted. Just lemme know)

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    29. Great acting from Carice. Not only in S8 ep3, but throughout the series.

      Melisandre’s “The night is dark and full of terrors” will forever be a hallmark of GoT along with ‘Winter is coming’ or ‘You know nothing – Jon Snow’ 🙂

      Valar morghulis…

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    30. Young Dragon,

      That is well said!

      I just watched Episode 3 again, and am so blown away, and am so grateful really that we not only have had the fabulous books but also this stupendously excellent series.

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    31. I pictured Melisandre a little differently in the books, but Carice eventually shifted my view of her. She has a natural dignified air about her that really lent itself to an ancient and powerful religious extremist on a mission to save the world. It was tempting to get on board with Mel, even when she is doing the wrong thing.

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    32. ash:
      Nick20,

      .

      save me from people who have the worlds best interest at heart (um remind me its been a few years; is this a time where one shoud not speak bad about the dead? If so I will shut up andask for my post to be deleted. Just lemme know)

      As far as I’m concerned, speaking ill of the dead is fine. I see no reason to change what I think about someone based on whether they’re currently alive or not.

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    33. Carice is a lovely woman who always brought an interesting twist to Melisandre. Love her chemistry with Liam Cunningham, and I appreciate the pathos she brought to the very end- unexpected maybe, sometimes. She’s gifted and I’ll be happy to see her in more things in the future.

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    34. What a perfect performance in her final episode! Her expression when you thought the fire might not start in time, the scene with Arya, her last moments, just beautifully done. I didn’t always like Mel, but I’ve always liked Carice. Her voice and almost ethereal beauty suited the character as well. The best part about her character, to me, was that she could be wrong. Obvious power and ability, but not infallible.

      I’ll miss Carice and Liam taking the piss of each other, love those two in interviews and on panels! I didn’t know that she and Guy had gotten married, congrats to them. 🙂

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    35. Sue the Fury:
      Nick20,

      Curtain Calls are not an appropriate place to trash a character. Please chill. House rules.

      I didn’t trash her. I praised the character and the actress. I said she was interesting and that I loved her. Are you sure you meant to respond to me and not someone else ?

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    36. Sue the Fury:

      This is what I said :

      “Love the character, love the actress, love the performance.

      She did a magnificent job, and her final moments were moving.

      Such an interesting character. She often did horrific things. She was often manipulative. She was a religious extremist. But despite all of it, deep down, she had the world’s best interest at heart.

      I also love Melisandre’s chapter in A Dance with Dragons. Seeing her inner thoughts, her doubts, and her vulnerabilities was great, and I think Carice did a great job at portraying that in all her scenes after Stannis and Jon died. She was never the same again after the season 5 finale.

      Even when she accomplished incredible things like resurrecting Jon, she remained broken on some level. Shaken, insecure. Yet she still found the strength to return to help the living, and did so with one of the best displays of her power that we’ve seen.

      Great send off to a great character.”

      Don’t believe that qualifies as trashing.

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    37. Pigeon: Her expression when you thought the fire might not start in time

      That expression was awesome. Even when doing amazing things she still doubts herself a little, ever since what happened with Stannis.

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    38. Melisandre got both the Best Entrance and (so far!) Best Exit of any character. Carice made the best of both, especially the exit. “Yeah, I just helped save the world, and now I’m totally gone” stride away from Davos sold it perfectly. In her final moments, we saw (no words to hear!) the truth of her many claims to be nothing more than a complete servant to the Lord of Light.

      Her final scene was the final scene to one of the finest episodes ever put on television. Carice had to carry it, almost alone, and she did so to absolute perfection.

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    39. I’m gonna miss her theme music. It was so haunting and beautiful. She was fantastic as The Red Woman.

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    40. When I first met Melisandre, she was beautiful, dangerous, out of this world – poison had not effect on her! The character was intriguing and, although I didn’t like Melisandre, I love Carice. She is sweet, but funny in her interviews and knows how to be different in any part she plays. People who saw her in Black Book, Race and Brimstone know what I’m talking about.
      Prior to Jon Snow’s assassination, Melisandre could be seen as the usual religious fanatic, but doubts and maybe remorse added new touches to her character. They even changed her face and posture – the beautiful and vibrant woman looked broken.
      The Winterfell battle was a great opportunity for Carice to play both sides of Melisandre: determined to fulfill her mission, but also uncertain of her powers. It was something sad in the way she took off her necklace, tired, contented, sure that she had no reason to live any longer.

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    41. Pigeon,

      As far as I know Carice and Guy are not married, but have been a couple for years and raise their son together.
      Have you watched Brimstone? Maybe after both starring in that film, Carice doesn’t want to marry Guy! Just kidding!

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    42. Great stuff

      Nailed the role as I perceived it

      And she did really well in being over-confident at the start, then depressed later and after that awkward when Ser Davos confronted her over Shireen

      It was interesting how we were encouraged to be suspicious of her through Davos given the circumstances of Renly killing, and especially Gendry and the leeches using bloodmagic against Robb. At the end though we were actually almost sympathetic for her given she knew she had been so wrong yet that was her path. A bit like Theon in some respects

      It was interesting to note how the look and hairstyle etc adjusted from the start compared to the end

      Her character had some good music too her as well

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    43. That’s precisely what I said. She did unspeakable things to Shireen. She made mistakes.

      So did Shireen’s Mother. So did her Father. Come to think of it, so did Theon. But all for the greater good, as we can see with hindsight (and Bran with greensight).

      The way I see it, as unspeakable as those acts were, they resulted in those characters being where they needed to be when the time was right, as Bran himself said:

      If Mel hadn’t done that awful thing she wouldn’t have been banished, she wouldn’t have gone to Dragonstone to unite fire and ice, gone to Volantis to perhaps recharge and returned to set Arya on her path.

      And if Theon hadn’t burned those kids, perhaps Bran would’ve been found and killed (no 3ER), he wouldn’t have become Reek, he wouldn’t have freed Sansa and he wouldn’t have acted to protect and save Bran at the end of his life.

      So really, all of the “unspeakable acts” (including Jaime pushing Bran) have in some way contributed to saving mankind. That’s why I love this story.

      And the more I think on it, the more I’m inclined to believe it’s Bran who was putting all these wheels in motion the whole time.

      ash,

      Burning a child along with others is an unspeakable act no matter what the reason. God did not tell hr to do it, she interpreted the flames that way.

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    44. A huge thank you to Carice van Houten for her magnificent portrayal of Melisandre.

      Compare her posture, facial expressions, her voice in the early seasons to those after she nearly lost her faith after Stannis’s (and Jon’s) death. She never really recovered but carried on regardless.

      Carice perfectly pulled off the religious fanatic with supernatural powers, so sure of herself, so arrogant, so manipulative. Carice even made her a bit playful (OK, a tiny bit) at times. Carice made us scared of Melisandre. She even made us hate Melisandre.

      But Carice’s best acting comes after Melisandre’s crisis of faith. To turn this character, a powerful “instrument of god” into a fallible human person, to show her self-doubt and frailty like Carice did, yet still trying to project her former powerful priestess persona at times of need is a hallmark of superb acting. Carice made us, if not exactly love her, at least sympathise with her on some level.

      Melisandre’s introduction, burning the seven gods on the beach in her Rholler religious fervour was powerful, and Carice right away established the character (with some help from Maester Cressen and Ser Davos that we’re not really supposed to like this fire priestess).

      Melisandre’s death scene was one of the best, most beautiful in GoT – is she the only character besides Maester Aemon to die of old age? – and Carice carried the important scene in the rising dawn so perfectly.

      Compare the two. Introduction: dark; fires burning, powerful, arrogant priestess (colour scheme yellow, orange, red, black). End: dawn; fires have died down, an old woman whose work is done (colour scheme: soft light blues, greys of dawn, darker greys and black on the ground.)

      I also loved how Davos tilted his head, watching her go. He’s seen more miracles and “miracles” performed by the Red Woman than anyone, but in the end, our honest everyman from Fleabottom remains doubtful, doesn’t know what to think. Liam Cunnigham and Carice van Houten had wonderful chemistry.

      Melisandre was a memorable character in the series, and Carice van Houten made her so.

      I wish Carice all the best in all her future endeavours. I’m getting curious about that movie with her, Guy Pearce and NCW!

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    45. Oh, and one more thing. Carice van Houten provided one of my favourite pictures of S8E3. The close up of her face when the fires in the trench finally went up. The fire in her eyes. She didn’t look triumphant, more like surprised and scared.

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    46. Ryan,

      I wonder why they introduced Kinvara just that one time. Maybe we’ll see her again but probably not. I was just remembering how she told Tyrion and Varys Dany will burn away all the people sins and flesh or something like that. Kinda creepy message.

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    47. Mango,
      “This role could have easily become campy mumbo-jumbo – but Carice delivered with subtlety and made it work.”

      So true. I can’t picture her as Cercei cause she fit this role perfectly.

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    48. talvikorppi:
      Oh, and one more thing. Carice van Houten provided one of my favourite pictures of S8E3. The close up of her face when the fires in the trench finally went up. The fire in her eyes. She didn’t look triumphant, more like surprised and scared.

      This is extremely well done. Of so many good things in Ep 3, this stood out.

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    49. Carice is a great actress and brought so many layers to an already complex and complicated character. I’ve always admired her for delivering long speeches in a made-up tongue like she was a native speaker. And she has an amazing voice!
      I wish Carice only the best in all her future endeavors.

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    50. I have always loved Carice van Houten’s performance as Melisandre. Initially my fondness for her came from recognising her Dutch accent – it reminded me of home and made me feel attached to her character, despite early-Mel being a lot less likeable than end-game Mel. I experienced the same thing with Michael Huisman’s Daario. As the seasons have gone on though, I have become more and more impressed with Carice’s portrayal and always enjoyed her scenes. After Mel burned Shireen, I never could have imagined being happy to see her again, yet as she rode up before the great battle, I cheered. Her motherly discussion with Arya was subtle and beautifully played and as she walked out into the snow at the end, I was very sad to see her go.

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    51. The night WAS dark and full of terrors (though Ice Spiders got sidetracked somewhere along the way south, I guess). But then Melisandre brought light.

      Carice did a great job and created a multifaceted character from a no doubt difficult role. I certainly loved her character, heck I wish we got more of Melisandre and Kinvara.
      Consider me enthralled, I would almost fall for R’hllor just because of Carice van Houten’s Melisandre.

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    52. She was outright amazing. Even though the number of her appearances isn’t that high, she really had a dynamic journey as a character and truly a significant development through the story. If I borrow my own words from my review of latest episode regarding her final moments.

      And then a lone figure on the horse appeared, a person who we haven’t seen in a long time, a person in such need for a closure. Yes, Melisandre returned just like she promised, one last time before she’s allowed to die. In my eyes, she has always been interesting character with a very dark journey overall. She comitted so many dark acts, crossed the moral line so often and yet every moment of her only made me want to get to know more about her and her role in the story. When she departed for Volantis and made a promise to return one last time, I was thinking what on Earth can she do regarding story except die? I never paid much attention to that story point but I’m glad I was proven wrong.

      And the final well-earned closure goes to lady Melisandre. She promised to fight one last time before she dies. She fulfilled her purpose in this episode and was finally allowed to die. After the battle, she wandered onto the field, took off her necklace, the source of her life force, and died peacefully. I remember Melisandre saying many seasons ago how she’s been fighting for a long time… and living for hundreds of years and not being able to die was indeed a fight. Whoever she was before becoming a priestess, the final piece of the puzzle came into place with this episode… she was alive for so long because she had a purpose to fulfil. It makes me wonder if it was even possible to physically kill her prior to this episode. What if the Lord of Light didn’t allow her to die in first place? In any way, she went out in a way she always wished to… peacefully with her purpose being fulfilled. She was an intriguing character for me and her death was incredibly effective closure for her in my case.

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    53. People have gushed more over Theon, but it was good to see Melisandre get a “redemption” arc. It’s appallingly rare to see this in a female character.

      I’ll miss the character: apart from the intrigue she inspired, she’s almost old enough for me to consider her good looking!!!!

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    54. Carice van Houten has a kind of timeless quality about her, which made her perfect to play Lady Melisandre. Whether it was through the uncompromising intensity of her stare or the enigmatic nature of her smile, she excelled at projecting a supernatural confidence that drew its power from somewhere beyond the mortal realm. She never raised her voice, and yet she was always in control, always in command, always eerily unsettling, bordering on terrifying. It seemed like nothing could shake her, nothing could sway her, nothing could stop her … until the day that the Red Woman made her greatest mistake and lost her faith. And then … she became something else, an ancient and tired acolyte of a god who had forsaken her, wracked by all-too-relatable doubt, fear, and guilt. Finally, after her faith was renewed and rewarded, she gave us yet another new version of the Red Woman – still guided by faith and a sense of renewed purpose, but now humbled and shorn of the absolute certainty that had made her such a formidably callous force. She was far more aware of the cost of her actions and the human cost of the sacrifices that she had once demanded so freely. It’s one of the most elegant and significant evolutions of any character on the show, and Carice handled it all beautifully.

      More than perhaps any other character in the show, Melisandre is the one who brought magic into the forefront of the story, to the point that even those who insisted that Game of Thrones was purely a political drama with dragons had to acknowledge the existence of greater and more mysterious forces within this world. From her first signature scene, when she fearlessly drinks the poison offered to her by Maester Cressen, to the birth of the shadow monster, to her prophecy-laden scene with Arya – which now stands as perhaps one of the single most important scenes in the history of the show – the Red Woman had to sell both skeptics and believers on the concept of magic as a real and truly potent force. It’s hard to understate just how difficult that task was, and it’s a testament to her immense talent that Carice made it look effortless.

      Melisandre’s death in “this strange country” was inevitable, but as with any great moment in any story, it’s all about the “how” rather than the what and the when. And the sight of the Red Woman stripping off her glamour and walking out of the castle to die in the rising light of the dawn is perhaps one of the most understated and poetic in the series.

      The Night is Dark and Full of Terrors, but it was always a little brighter when Carice was around. I’ll miss her, but I’ll be eager to see her grace our screens again soon, whenever that may be. Until then … Hen syndrorro, oños. Hen ñuqir, perzys. Hen morghot, glaeson. (“From darkness, light. From ashes, fire. From death, life.”)

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    55. While Carice was really amazing in this role, and made Melisandre a complex character in a credible way, I must admit I am not quite satisfied with the closure the showrunners gave her.

      Melisandre’s arc was aiming at a redemption, and a strong, powerful one at that. She set a stage to a big self sacrifice, and made us (or maybe I should really say “me”) expect a lot more from her. But it never happened.

      First, she left for Volantis for mysterious reasons, and when told to better stay there, she responds that she has “to die in this strange country”. It had some prophetic tinge, like there must be a reason for her to die, she has to make a contribution that matters, that makes a difference between a loss and a victory. What was she doing in Volantis? Why couldn’t she just stay and linger around Winterfell in disguise? Her voyage to Volantis had to serve a purpose. Did she learn something new there, like this new magic she applied in this episode? I don’t find it likely, she was already quite powerful and could do stronger kind of magic than lighting some fire. That part was left completely unanswered.

      But okay, that’s a minor point. A bigger point is that nothing she does in this episode really makes a difference in the end.

      She lights the Dothraki swords, which was visually cool, but it didn’t help the living – it actually helped the dead. It gave some false hope to poor Dothraki who felt more confident about their charge into the unknown, but even with their swords on fire, they were all dead within the following minute. The only way this particular act of Melisandre helped is that it made us perceive the magnitude of the undead threat by showing us visually how quickly they all died.

      Similar with the trench she lit – it has only stopped the wights for a few moments, and then minutes later they breached it anyway.

      None of these two actions really made any difference. They were both amazingly satisfying in the moment they occurred because they seemed as if they are going to make a difference, but in the end, they didn’t. These actions contributed to the visual glory of the episode, but none to the story.

      Think of the scene when Melisandre faced Jon, after Davos accuses her of murdering Shireen – she understands her mistakes, she also takes responsibility for them, but she also says to Jon that “you know I can help you win that war”. She doesn’t care about her life, she begs Jon not to spare her, she begs her to let her contribute in a meaningful way.

      I expected her contribution to be something she and only she could do, something that turns the tide of the war, or the battle, something that makes real sense not in the moment it occurs, but in the overall context of the “great war”, something that does help the living defeat the dead.

      More than anything, these two actions by themselves didn’t contribute at all to her redemption arc. You don’t get redeemed because you pulled two magic tricks that ultimately failed.

      Yes, she does give a hint to Arya, and make something click in Arya’s head so she rushes towards what we soon figure out was Godswood, but that hint alone doesn’t really do anything particularly relevant for Melisandre’s character. It could have been anything to trigger Arya to do that run. I don’t find this act of Melisandre something that concludes her redemption arc in a satisfying way.

      And then, when everything is over – she surives. There was no particular reason why she would now *have* to die. She said “I have to die in this strange country” not in a way “I’m going to die here in some way or other” but decidedly, echoing some kind of inevitability to her death.

      In my opinion, her character craved a self-sacrifice, something huge she and only she could do that makes a difference. Yet, she wanders away and dies. Not because she *had* to, but because she decided it’s time to die now. Her death wasn’t inevitable, not in a way she prophesized in the previous season. Nothing that matches the power of the words she used last season to foreshadow her return.

      Maybe it’s only expectations – but I did expect her character to die a meaningful death that would redeem her. Instead, she simply dies, not really redeemed. And it’s a pity, and I feel it’s a major injustice made to her character by D&D.

      Her final scene was visually powerful and metaphoric, yes, but it just didn’t feel a satisfactory conclusion Melisandre deserved. Imagine Jon dying by falling off the dragon, or maybe Daenerys dying in a childbirth. That’s how Mel’s death felt to me. Incomplete and meaningless.

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    56. priests… when i think of this word, i always think of something i once read in a book of B. Traven about indigenous people of midmurica: their languages started with describing things that are describable with short words. “god” was one of the first words they found a name for, and following Traven, the word for “god” had one or two syllables, so it’s pretty old.
      the younger and more complex the thing to be described was, the more syllables the word for it had. because the description just added all the attributes of the object described to the original word. (my bad english might fuck this up now, but i hope someone with better language skills and knowledge of Traven’s books about midmurica saves me…)

      in the example of the people Traven wrote about, the word for “god” had one or two syllables – the word for “priest” had more than fifty. lots of time must have passed until these interpretors of the almighty whatever have become part of these early cultures and their thesaurus. with the priest’s growing power came of course the risk of being spanked for obvious misinterpreting of the will of the allmighty dontknow.

      and right THIS is what i saw in Carice’s outstanding performance at any time. the knowledge of just being the translator (and Mel carried that knowledge for how many years? pre-Aegon-the-conqueror-years maybe?), and the pressure of any kind of audience wanting answers to questions that may be – well… a bit simplified. a constellation that just must breed mistakes. just read the news any day 🙁

      she did not have the best audience in Stannis. he followed her advice, sure. or do i have to say his dick followed her misinterpreting? when betting on the grammar king went wrong, opposite to many proclaimers of the word she was capable of doubting her translation. and she got the opportunity to offer better translations to people more worthy of it. i wish we had more religious fanatics in our times who could just go half this way! a pope would do for the beginning.

      i loved the switch from the priestess encouraging one power mad Stannis with a boner to her encouraging all of the Dothraki and the Unsullied. i loved the way she sent Arya on the mission she, Mel, had been anticipating for how many hundreds of years? and i especially loved the connection the writers made to the priests of our times, be they on wootube or in holy houses.

      the character of Melisandre should actually leave us with loads of questions on how far would we go for beliefs or interpretations of divine will, and Carice’s performance should be educational canon on this.

      6/5 stars, end of. i’ll miss her, btw.

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    57. Ant,

      No she’s not. She’s Dutch; lived in Amsterdam for years -pretty sure she still does or at least has an apartment here-. I know because I used to see her out and about when she was still beginner-level famous 🙂

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    58. Full marks to Carice, she seems a lovely person and interacts with fans on social media. She did a fantastic job playing a very grey character, who was not out right evil but capable of doing evil deeds driven by her faith.

      I for one felt her ending was fitting and well done.

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    59. Well, I’m indebted to this show for, among other things, introducing me to my new all-time favorite actress. Carice may rightly be a Dutch national treasure and swimming in awards there, but it’s high time she gets proper global recognition. There could have been no better portrayal of Melisandre, doing greater justice to the role–but as I check off as much of her filmography as I possibly can (including 20 films so far), I’m repeatedly struck by her immense talents and versatility. Just sensational! Phenomenal. And her gorgeous singing? Forget about it. Unfair how overpowered she is in every category—talents, beauty, adorable sweetness, etc…gah. Can’t wait for Domino (with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) at the end of the month, and I look forward to all future projects of hers. The world needs to be blessed by witnessing the extent of her powers. 😉

      Originally she was offered the role of Cersei, but prior commitments prevented her from accepting. That’s curious. It would’ve been interesting to see her approach to that part. Would she have perhaps succeeded in making me feel sympathetic towards Cersei? I’m unsure she could’ve pulled off the [female-dog] face as well as Lena does, at any rate. xD Mel was difficult enough for her.
      And she IS excellent at speaking High Valyrian!

      So exactly how old IS Melly? 300? 800? 1000 or even more? The GoT prequel I most want is one that includes a Melisandre-backstory plot (especially since Carice is up for playing her as an adult!) She was told early on that the character was ancient, but wondered for a long time whether they’d ever return to that and what significance it would have. Mel didn’t necessarily start out as one of my favorite characters, but she certainly became one somewhere along the line as I intuited an understanding of what she was about. (Recently wrote practically a whole bloody essay about her, her wonderful contributions to the Battle of Winterfell, and that beautifully poignant exit.) She’s such a fascinating, complicated character, and I knew that she’d prove heroic in the end. That’s what she always wanted–not actually to be a hero herself, but to aid them in, essentially, guarding the realms of men.
      I loved all the people who died in that episode (well, except for the Night King, though I still wish he’d been taken down an episode or two later.) But Melisandre’s beautiful sendoff hit me the hardest. I can hear R’hllor saying at long last, “Well done. You can come home now.”

      Re: Mediumsizedfolk’s comment: I can see what you’re saying, and generally agree that there could/should have been…just, more.
      But I can’t see how the Dothraki charge would help the dead; however many wights they killed before going down, it would have been far fewer and far more disastrous without the flames (what WERE they thinking??) One does have to assume that she was powering up in Volantis, or perhaps trying to recruit reinforcements who never showed up…all that support for Daenerys over there, and not a single other “warrior of light” comes to help out when the s^&* hits the fan?!?! Really?! I was expecting more episodes for the Long Night and more going on during it, frankly. I suppose it just couldn’t be done cost-wise, and we had to get back to less-actiony-but-still-exciting stuff. Still. I waited and waited for the scene that was “spoiled” last year by a supposedly reliable source, of Meli taking on the Night King and turning wights against him. If that was made up, or mistaken, I’ll be ticked. If it was a deleted/unused scene, I hope to see the thing asap and edit it in myself, assuming it could only have been a very painful cut. >p

      Lighting the trench bought them crucial time. And it wasn’t her fault; they designed the trench, it was their plan (which would’ve failed horribly if not for Mel.)
      The scene with Arya was cool, but ultimately I still find Arya-killing-the-NK to be flimsy. Still, Mel was the impetus for her to do so, which means we actually have her to thank. (Could she have put on a White Walker glamour to do the deed herself or something?) I liked the poetic way she passed on, because it’s kind of how I hoped she would. Her long life’s purpose fulfilled, R’hllor is finally calling her back. She showed up early on to do her part, and she closed it out. Walking willingly into the overdue rest for which she’s been ready a long time. Heading straight into her beloved Lord’s embrace. The weight of the world has lifted from her shoulders at long last, and she can finally sleep, after all this time spent fighting with darkness. No more need to fear the dreams. This time, she can go home. And I hope she and all the beloved deceased find peace.

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