Major spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones Season 6.
There was a moment very near the end of last night's premiere episode of Game of Thrones which made me laugh out loud. Melisandre, in a candlelit room, took off her clothes. I thought I'd seen this exact scene ten times before.
I was wrong.
In the episode's biggest OMG moment, Melisandre admired her naked body in the mirror before removing her necklace and watching as the taut, slim body of a young woman became the old, wrinkled one of a much older woman. Her red hair made way for a few strands of silver, but she was largely bald.
Stooping low with the rotten posture of a very, very old woman — possibly centuries — Melisandre hobbled into bed. Here's what Carice Van Houten had to say about it when speaking to Entertainment Weekly:
"I was really happy when I read that we were going to reveal that this year ... It makes her immediately more wise and even more mysterious. There’s also a vulnerability in her age."
But what does it actually mean?
The big reveal was shocking not just because of the timing — or the fact that Melisandre had been deceiving everybody from Stannis to Ser Davos since the beginning — but because this woman's raw sexuality has been such a massive part of her character. To see her reduced to this was weirdly sad. Everything we thought we knew about the red woman was a lie.
Well, not quite everything. If her powers were ever in doubt — she thought she saw a great victory in the flames, but the prophecy didn't favor Stannis — we know now for sure that Melisandre is channeling some dark power.
Fans have been speculating about Melisandre's age for a while now, not least because one line in A Dance With Dragons revealed that she had been practicing glamor — a branch of magic used to create an illusion — for "years beyond count." Not the subtlest of clues.
Oliver Ford Davies — who played Grand Maester Cressen in Season 2 — also casually revealed that Carice Van Houten had told him her character was "400 years old" way back in 2012.
But why would writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss chose this moment to reveal the true extent of Melisandre's powers — could it have something to do with Jon Snow? Bear in mind that the Stark bastard's corpse is currently lay on a slab watched over by Ser Davos.
Here's my theory: Melisandre will channel her innate dark magic to revive Jon Snow, but in doing so she'll lose the ability to keep the illusion of her younger body alive, and will be confined to her old, shriveled form. I could be wildly off, but there would be a certain sense of tragedy in that.
Also, one small but perhaps important detail from the books: Melisandre rarely sleeps — she simply doesn't need to. So for her to curl up in bed could be a sign that, having been tricked by the vision in the flames, she's just about ready to give up.
Game of Thrones Season 6 continues Sundays on HBO, so we'll have our answers before long. Until then, though, I want to know...