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Welcome to Final Path, a regular feature leading up to the final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones. In every Final Path, The Hollywood Reporter‘s resident Westeros expert, Josh Wigler, will offer a character-by-character deep dive of their journey through seven seasons, as well as what can be expected in the upcoming eighth and final season. Up next: Melisandre.
“I have looked into the eye of this island — and what I saw was beautiful.”
These are not the words of Melisandre of Asshai (Carice van Houten). They are the words of John Locke of Lost. Despite coming from a very different genre heavyweight, the viewpoints of Melisandre and Locke are linked all the same. Both are fanatical, both believe in visions, both buy their own hype often at their own peril, and both know a thing or two about smoke monsters.
As one of the most mystical characters in Thrones, Melisandre’s warnings of the future have not always played out as outlined — but they have often played out in surprising fashion. As we discussed in the Final Path predictions for Varys, we expect at least one of her big predictions to come true. How about the others? Read on for our thoughts on what’s ahead for Melisandre, as well as what she has already endured on her quest for fire.
Names and Titles: The Red Woman Melisandre of Asshai, Red Priestess in service of R’hllor, the Lord of Light.
First Appearance: “The North Remembers,” the season two premiere. Melisandre is first seen on Dragonstone, burning statues of the Faith of the Seven in support of the Lord of Light. It’s a fairly tame act, considering some of Melisandre’s other fiery flourishes, but one that helps to characterize her arc all the same.
Last Appearance: “The Queen’s Justice,” season seven’s third episode. After reaching Dragonstone for the first time since season four in order to put the King in the North and the Mother of Dragons on the same page, Melisandre decides it’s time to leave Westeros for Volantis — though she claims she still has business in the Seven Kingdoms: “I have to die in this strange country.”
Best Friends: Does the Lord of Light count? More than anything, Melisandre keeps her faith as her closest company, answering to whom she views as the one true god. Outside of her religion, Melisandre has faithfully and fanatically provided service to a few mortal men, including the late king Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) and the temporarily late Jon Snow (Kit Harington). As of season seven, Melisandre appears to be a fairly big fan of Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), as well.
Worst Enemies: Aside from anyone who opposes the will of the Lord of Light, Melisandre has long been touting the Great War to come against the Night King and his army. Recent circumstances have kept her removed from the war, so her current battle is more of an existential one. In terms of human opponents, Melisandre doesn’t quite see eye-to-eye with Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), though it’s more an issue on his end than hers. There’s also the not insignificant matter of Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), who Melisandre only met once — but it was enough to land her on Arya’s kill list.
Best Kill: Melisandre’s preferred murder method involves burning men, women and children alive at the stake as sacrifice to the Lord of Light. Not cool, especially as it pertains to the deceased princess Shireen Baratheon (Kerry Ingram). Much cooler: Melisandre giving birth to a shadow monster, which she used to assassinate Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony). Fingers well and fully crossed for a return of the creature in season eight.
Worst Wound: Melisandre suffered a string of existential wounds following the needless sacrifice of Shireen, the subsequent slaughter of Stannis Baratheon and his army, and the temporary death of Jon Snow. It caused her to reevaluate her entire worldview, leading to the unforgettable scene in the season six premiere where she removes her magical amulet and reveals her ancient form for the first time.
Critical Moments: Really, it’s probably that aforementioned scene: Melisandre’s private revelation to the viewer that she is impossibly old. It means the Red Woman has seen and endured hundreds of horrors along the way, giving us reason to believe she’s as powerful as she claims. Not that we don’t already possess reasons to believe in her gifts: Melisandre birthed a shadow assassin and resurrected a man from the dead, after all. But the truth about her age is an additional clue as we start trying to game out the end for Melisandre, as she is perhaps someone already at the end of her life, or at least willing to sacrifice it for a greater good.
Unresolved Mystery: In season three, when she took Gendry (Joe Dempsie) away from the Brotherhood Without Banners, Melisandre and Arya shared a moment. The Red Woman looked into the eyes of the future Faceless Woman and made a promise: “We will see each other again.” Through seven seasons, no such reunion. Will the final season finally make good on the promise — and if it does, what’s the nature of the reunion? Drumroll, please, as that leads us nicely into our last segments…
Final Predictions: Melisandre has been missing in action since season seven’s third installment, in which she told Varys about her need to travel to Volantis. She also promised that she would return to Westeros to die — and we very much expect her to keep her word.
First things first. What’s in Volantis? If Melisandre’s entire arc has been about shoring up a champion against the forces of the dead, why is she cutting bait just as Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen both are in position to take on the Night King? There’s Jon’s threat about what happens to Melisandre if she returns to the North, sure, but as already mentioned, the Red Woman isn’t the type to put her own physical safety before her greater cause.
The fact that Melisandre both plans to leave for Volantis and return to Westeros to die suggests that she’s searching for something specific — something that can turn the tides in the war against the White Walkers. How about some fellow Red Priests and Priestesses? We have already seen how Melisandre’s magic works, both via the shadow assassin as well as with the resurrection of Jon Snow. Indeed, that last trick was wielded by another: Thoros of Myr (Paul Kaye), now deceased. If Melisandre knows the time is now to move against the Night King, maybe she wants to rally the R’hllor troops to bring some literal firepower to the war. Who knows if we’ll see the shadow monster again, but some form of huge Lord of Light fireworks? Absolutely.
Now, the whole “dying in Westeros” bit. Melisandre has foreseen her own demise in the fires; best to take her at her word, and count her as one of the least likely people to survive Game of Thrones. How will it go down? My prediction: she sustains a grave wound in battle against the White Walkers, either from a direct attack or from the great exertion required to summon a crucial spell. In either case, the Red Woman reaches the end of her rope, somewhat redeemed for her sins, surrounded by others who can attest to her effort — someone like Davos, who will have the chance to put Melisandre out of her misery.
As we’ll mention with Davos in our next Final Path, however, he’s not exactly comfortable in the realm of death. You know who is? Arya Stark. So how does Melisandre die, ultimately? Arya euthanizes the Red Woman, a mercy killing via Needle — and another name off of her list, albeit in more somber fashion than expected.
Last Hope: For us to finally glimpse Asshai through Melisandre’s eyes. Little has been made about the mysterious city other than its memorable pronunciation through the vessel of Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), and even George R.R. Martin’s materials provide scant information about the exotic land. But if Melisandre is in search of some sort of weapon or power that can help her in the great war against the White Walkers, perhaps it could come through her travels home to Asshai — perhaps even as a cold open to season eight. Powers that be, if you’re listening, it’s not too late to set the very first scene of the final season premiere in Asshai, okay? (It’s definitely too late, but not too late for last hopes!)
Catch up on the Final Path series:
1. Jon Snow
2. Daenerys Targaryen
3. Tyrion Lannister
4. Cersei Lannister
5. Jaime Lannister
6. Sansa Stark
7. Arya Stark
8. Bran Stark
9. Samwell Tarly
10. Theon Greyjoy
11. The Hound
12. Brienne of Tarth
Follow THR.com/GameOfThrones for continuing coverage. Game of Thrones returns April 14.
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