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‘Game of Thrones’: Is Melisandre a Hero?

Is Melisandre a hero or a villain in Game of Thrones?

Killing children and giving birth to demonic shadow assassins usually would be a clear indication of the latter, but the Red Woman is a complicated being. To fully answer this question, wefirst must have a deep understanding of the Red Woman’s history, beliefs, actions, and motives.

Let’s take a look into the flames, shall we?

Melisandre’s History & Beliefs

Before she was not-so-casually seducing men and burning children around Westeros, Melisandre was once a slave from the mysterious city of Asshai, which is located south of the Shadowlands in the south-eastern potion of Essos. She was sold to the Red Temple, subsequently becoming a Red Priestess of R’hllor, a shadowbinder, and the Lord of Light’s biggest fangirl.

Followers of the Lord of Light believe that the earth is dictated by two gods: R’hllor, who is the god of heat, life, and light, and the Great Other, who is the god of ice and death. The two gods are eternally fighting for control of the fate of the world, but, according to prophecy, this struggle will end when the messianic Azor Ahai returns wielding Lightbringer – a flaming sword – and raises dragons from stone.

There are some specific qualifications that Azor Ahai must meet, and these qualifications have been reiterated by Melisandre and other characters throughout the series:

  1. Azor Azai will be born again amidst salt and smoke
  2. Azor Ahai will be able to wake dragons out of stone

“When the red star bleeds and the Darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst salt and smoke to wake dragons out of Stone” -Melisandre

Azor Ahai

Contrary to popular opinion, Melisandre does firmly believe that Stannis Baratheon is Azor Ahai. Or at least she did before Stannis’ head rolled down the snowy hills of Winterfell.

It’s unclear how Melisandre came to this conclusion, but it is possible that she saw a vision of Dragonstone (Stannis’ stronghold) in the flames and put two and two together. Who better to wake dragons out of stone than the Lord of Dragonstone, afterall?

Melisandre, believing that her subsequent visions have further proven Stannis to be Azor Ahai, went to incredible lengths to ensure that Stannis met all of the Azor Ahai qualifications, the most notable example of which occurred in Dragonstone during season 2.

As part of a strange ceremony for the Lord of Light, the Red Woman burned statues of the Seven (the commonly worshipped gods of Westeros) whilst reciting the legend of Lightbringer. She prompted Stannis forward, who then drew a flaming sword from one of the statues and thrust it into the earth. Melisandre declared the sword to be Lightbringer, and because smoke (the fire) and salt (the ocean) were present, she publicly declared Stannis to be Azor Ahai reborn.

The Murder of Renly & the Sacrifice of Shireen

Melisandre looked into the flames and saw great victory for Stannis on the battlefield, but his army was not nearly large enough to accomplish such a feat, so Melisandre took up the task of getting her Lord some more troops.

She seduced Stannis with the promise of a son and had sex with him to receive his seed. After what was the shortest and strangest pregnancy ever, Melisandre eventually gave birth to a creepy shadow which immediately flew off to assassinate Stannis’ brother, Renly. With Renly dead, Stannis was able to take full control of his brother’s army, which was quickly utilized, and quickly defeated at Blackwater. Oops.

Killing your baby daddy’s (or shadow daddy’s) brother usually cannot be described as a kindred act, but it’s very clear that Melisandre sacrificed Renly solely to further Stannis on his path to unite the Seven Kingdoms and lead the inevitable fight against the greatest threat to their existence: the White Walkers.

Sacrifice one life to help protect the life of millions? That’s a no-brainer for Melisandre.

But because that sacrifice didn’t exactly play out the way Melisandre had literally visioned, she questioned the Lord of Light’s happiness, and not her interpretation of her visions (which are often skewed). So she attempted to appease the Lord of Light by burning detractors of R’hllor within Stannis’ camp as further sacrifices, but that didn’t seem to be enough.

Melisandre theorized that she needed to spill king’s blood in order to secure a victory for Stannis at Winterfell and elsewhere, so she kidnapped (well, bought) the bastard of Robert Baratheon, Gendry, with the intention of sacrificing him. But because Davos managed to save Gendry and help him escape, Melisandre was “forced” to sacrifice the next closest person with king’s blood in their veins: Shireen.

Stannis was enraged and disgusted by the idea (no duh, right?), but Melisandre, convinced that this was the only way to ensure victory for Stannis, managed to change his mind, and Shireen was sacrificed on a pyre.

Melisandre’s Remorse

The Red Woman’s faith in her abilities and the Lord of Light began to waver during the season 5 finale and the season 6 premiere.

After Shireen was killed, half of Stannis’ army deserted and Selyse, who was Melisandre’s most devout follower and arguably her closest friend, committed suicide. Upon hearing this horrible news, Melisandre’s confident aura vanished away and was replaced with one of immense disappointment and sorrow. It appeared that she had finally realized the error of her ways, the error of her visions.

giphy

She fled to Castle Black, where she greeted Davos and Jon Snow with a face painted with shame and disbelief.

That shame and disbelief intensified after Jon Snow’s brutal murder, as Melisandre had seen a vision of Jon Snow fighting in Winterfell through the flames – a vision that is clearly now impossible.

She was still wallowing in her sorrow and feeling disillusioned with her abilities when her true form was revealed, which allowed us to finally see the Red Woman for what she really is: frail and weak, inside and out.

Final Verdict

Let’s just say that if the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions, then the Red Woman likely has her own freeway leading into the flames.

Melisandre is one of the only characters on Game of Thrones who isn’t concerned with the fight for the Iron Throne. Instead, she is far more concerned with the threat that the White Walkers pose, and she is willing to go to any length (including murder) to ensure that man reigns victorious after the inevitable battle between the living and the dead.

But Melisandre’s recent efforts, as good intentioned as they may have been, were far too hasty. She was too eager to believe that Stannis is Azor Ahai, and she was overconfident about her powers of foresight. She set herself (and the Baratheon family) up for failure as a result, and she does seem to be genuinely remorseful.

With that in mind, it is evident that the Red Woman is no villain, but make no mistake, she’s not exactly hero material either.

The Red Woman lacks the courageous, moral fervor that distinguishes characters like Jon Snow and Daenerys from the others. Let’s not forget that she did burn a child to death, after all.

As far as character archetypes go, Meslisandre is a clear antihero: she’s on the right team, but she doesn’t play by the right rules.

Perhaps Melisandre will eventually evolve into the hero type, but only time will tell.

Do you agree or disagree with this assessment? Let us know in this comments!

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Game of Thrones Season Finale Top Five Recap: Ep. 50, “Mother’s Mercy”

OMG it’s the season finale! That being the case, there are more than just five crazy moments in tonight’s episode, because there just has to be. I will try my best to order them from least to most outrageous but there were many that were equally outrageous.

First up is one of the most touching moments thus far this season. It starts with Jaime, Myrcella and Trystane getting ready to sail back to King’s Landing. Bronn has a flirtatious moment with Tyene one last time and Ellaria kisses Myrcella goodbye.g2 It seems her allegiance is holding firm as she has turned a new leaf. On the boat Jaime hesitantly tries to talk to Myrcella about love and how you can’t really choose who you fall in love with. He is bumbling through it adorably when Myrcella tells him she knows. She knows and is incredibly happy that he is her father. Awwwwww. Finally some honest love for Jaime and he can reciprocate and embrace being a father at long last. Then Myrcella’s nose bleeds and she collapses in his arms, apparently poisoned. Almost forgot what show I was watching. Back on the beach, we see that Ellaria’s nose also begins to bleed, meaning she put poison on her lips before she kissed Myrcella, poisoning them both. She takes the antidote from her necklace and drinks it. If what Tyene told Bronn about the poison is true, Myrcella is certainly dead.

g7Next up we have Sansa and her terrible plight in Winterfell. While Ramsay is away taking care of Stannis, Sansa decides it is up to her to get the message out that she needs help since Reek betrayed her last time. She cautiously makes her way to the broken tower and climbs it. As she is doing this we see Brienne is still diligently watching for the signal when Podrick informs her he has just seen Stannis’ army marching toward Winterfell. Brienne takes one last long look at the tower before heading off. A split second later the candle light appears in the tower window. Sansa succeeded, but was a little too late. Sansa quickly heads back to the castle avoiding Ramsay’s men and bumps right into Miranda and Reek. Miranda has her bow trained on Sansa and is all too happy to inform her that Ramsay has plans for Sansa’s lady parts after he is done getting a couple of heirs from them. Miranda decides Sansa doesn’t need all her other parts to give Ramsay g8what he wants and can help by removing some of them now. As she draws her bow back, Reek grabs her and tosses her off the wall into a courtyard below where it looks like her head shatters on the ground. Sansa is shocked Reek had it in him to protect her (and so am I, honestly) but there is no time to be grateful as Ramsay has just returned. Reek turns to the other side of the wall, climbs up and helps Sansa up, too. They take each other’s hand (whaaat!) and, with a last “do or die” look between them, jump outside of castle wall into what we hope is a much thicker and softer snow bank.
g9Speaking of Stannis, he is indeed marching on Winterfell. However, this is only after learning all his sellswords abandoned them despite the change in climate and warmer night which Melisandre credits to the sacrifice made to the Red God. Oh, and his wife hung herself because of that sacrifice. And then Melisandre took off on horseback. Basically everyone deserted him, but Stannis decides it is still a good idea to continue and march on Winterfell. As he is preparing for the siege, Ramsay and his men surprise him and overtake his army.  It is a pretty short battle and there doesn’t seem to be many that make it through. Stannis takes out two of the last of Ramsay’s calvary but is wounded in the process. Brienne shows up after hearing of the march from Podrick and informs Stannis of who she is. She was Kingsguard to the late Renly Baratheon and she knows it was a shadow with Stannis’ face that killed Renly. Stannis admits to the accusation and Brienne passes judgement on him. She says all the correct words you’re supposed to say when sentencing a person to death, gives Stannis the chance to have last words, which he declines, and kills him in one fluid motion. Like many GoT deaths, we don’t actually see him die per say, but we can definitely hope for it.

Next up is the trouble in Meereen. Daenerys flew off with Drogon and now they have to go find her. Good news is that Grey Worm is up and walking but he feels like a failure for not having been well enough tog5 fight for Daenerys. Daario makes perfect sense finally when he suggests he and Jorah go look for Daenerys while Grey Worm, Missandei, and Tyrion stay and run Meereen. The city will trust and listen to Grey Worm and Missandei and Tyrion is the only one with experience running a city this size so Jorah and Daario head off. Oh, and hey, there’s Varys! He has his “little birds” everywhere and will be sure to be an asset to Tyrion here in Meereen. On to Daenerys and Drogon who is terribly injured and just wants to lie there on top of a hillside and get better even though Daenerys tries to convince him to take her back to Meereen. Being the stubborn teenage dragon he is, Drogon turns his back to her after she attempts to ride him again and decides to take a nap. Frustrated, Daenerys walks off to see where she might be and if there might be some food around. As she is walking though, she is happened upon by an enormous Dothraki khalasaar! Daenerys quickly drops her ring – which I’m sure will come into play next season – before they close in on her. Looks like she’s back at square one.

g1We now check in with Arya and her quest for vengeance. Meryn Trant is actively pursuing his pedophilic and violent ways and has three young girls standing before him. He canes the first and second, satisfied with their ear and yelps of pain, but when he canes the third she makes no noise. She just stands, with her long hair covering her downturned head and takes it. He canes her again, in front this time, and again she just stands. Trant hits her once more on the head actually breaking the cane and again she makes no noise. Presented with this new challenge he sends the other two sobbing girls off and focuses on the third. Trant being the horrific person he is punches the small girl in the gut, knocking her to her knees and the wind out of her. She then stands and pushes her hair aside and stares him in the eye. The girl then tears off her face and we see Arya standing there before she lunges at Trant. She gouges his eyes out with a short knife then repeatedly stabs him in the gut. She takes him from behind, making sure he knows that she is Arya Stark and he was the first on her list for killing Sylvio Forel, and then slits his throat. (Hooray!!!) Arya returns to the House of Black and White and tries to sneak the face back into the g11Hall of Faces. Jaqen and the waif catch her and Jaqen explains that Trant’s life was not hers to take. Because she took a life that was not hers to take they must now pay a life. The Waif grabs and holds Arya as Jaqen opens a bottle the poison from the fountain outside and approaches her. Arya starts to freak out but cannot get loose and watches as Jaqen pours the poison into his own mouth and falls down dead. Arya is let go of and she is angry and upset that her friend is dead. The waif explains he was not her friend as she turns into Jaqen. The man on the floor’s face has changed also and Arya pulls off face after face before finally ending with her own face on the person lying there lifeless. Jaqen explains that the faces are as good as poison to someone who is not yet no one and Arya then begins to lose her vision. Her eyes turn white and she is now blinded.

g10Okay, gather your emotions and prepare. We next come to Cersei, still looking fabulously terrible in her cell as she is once again prodded to “confess.” Looks like she has reached her breaking point, or she is just being Cersei and trying to find the next manipulative way out of this predicament, and agrees to talk to the High Sparrow about the “Mother’s Mercy.” Cersei confesses to fornication with her cousin but still adamantly denies that her children belong to anyone other than Robert (keep the lie alive?). The High Sparrow agrees to allow her to return to the Red Keep for confessing, but she will still undergo a trial for the accusations about her and her children and she also must atone before being set free. Cersei is taken and sprayed down before her hair is completely shorn off and she is taken outside in rags to stand before the entire city. The High Sparrow announces her confession and that she must atone for her lying and fornication. Cersei is then stripped of her rags and she is forced to walk from the temple to the castle naked while a nun walks behind her yelling “shame” and ringing a bell. Cersei is literally going on a “walk of shame.” Now, Cersei is probably one of the more hated characters ever as she is manipulative and horrifically mean to animals and kids and pretty much anyone that’s not one of her kids. This walk that Cersei must endure seems neverending and includes people throwing excrement and food at her, spitting on her, calling her every terrible name in the book, flashing their breasts and penises to her as she walks barefoot, naked, and bleeding through the city. It is the only time Cersei appears truly vulnerable and she breaks down and begins sobbing as she nears the castle gates. I will leave the discussion of whether she “deserves” this up to you. Once inside the castle it is only Qyburn that wraps her up and is sympathetic to her plight. He has a new addition to the Kingsguard and this “mountain” of a man-thing comes in and scoops Cersei up in it’s arms. Qyburn, now a Game of Thrones Dr. Frankenstein, explains the “man’s” silence by saying he has vowed not to speak until all of Cersei’s enemies are dead. As Cersei is being carried off we see that calculating and vengeful look return to Cersei’s eyes.

Lastly, we come to Jon Snow. He returned with the wildlings last week and now has sent them on to the fieldsg3 to be farmers and everyone except Sam hates him. Sam is worried for his and Gilly’s safety and talks Jon into sending him off to train to be a maester. The most adorable and funny conversation this whole episode happens here when Jon and Sam talk about sex. Sam and Gilly leave with little Sam and Davos finally arrives. Melisandre is not far behind to arrive back at Castle Black after having ditched Stannis. Melisandre makes it clear Stannis’ army did not fare well and Davos asks about Shireen. Melisandre’s face gives him his answer without going into the detail that Melisandre is to blame for Shireen’s death, and she disappears without a word. Later, Jon is in his quarters when Olly comes in with great news: one of the wildlings reports having met Jon’s uncle Benjen and says he is still alive. Woo-hoo! I knew there was a reason they brought up Benjen on the “previously on” at the beginning of the show. Jon heads outside to where the wildling is and when the crowd around the wildling parts to let him through he is face to face with a wooden cross with the word “TRAITOR” written across it. Jon is surrounded by Ser Alliser and his other brothers in the Night’s Watch and they are angry. Ser Alliser leans into Jon, driving a dagger into his stomach and declares, “For the Watch.” The others follow suit, each one delivering a stab into Jon’s stomach and proclaiming, “For the Watch.” Finally, Olly comes up and he and Jon stare intently at each other as Jon’s eyes well up and Olly finally jams his own dagger into Jon. Jon collapses as blood pools around him and the scene cuts to black so you can see your own horrified sobbing visage staring back.

Yet again our hearts are of no concern!!! Yet again we do not actually see the life leave him and I cling to the hope that this is not the end of Jon Snow. Then I remember what show I am watching… Any other show and I’d say Jon is certainly not dead, that Melisandre will bring him back or he jumped into Ghost before dying (all purely speculation and HOPE) but with this show, those conjectures are less likely than the probability that he is actually dead.

Let us know what you think will come about in Season 6 (as this season overtook the pacing and plot lines from the most recent book in the series) and your thoughts on each character’s various fates here at the end of this season.

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