Six weeks after giving birth to her first child, actress Carice van Houten was in Spain, playing Melisandre, speaking High Valyrian and trying to convince the Mother of Dragons to make a key ally.
“It’s funny because I just had a baby six weeks before, so it was a really weird transition,” van Houten said in an interview with IndieWire. “To come from that little bubble, my little baby bubble, into this ‘Game of Thrones’ world and the first time to work again — [Melisandre had] gone through so much development in one season, it almost feels like I’m a different character. I can play her differently now a little bit.”
When we first met the red priestess, she was so devoted to R’llhor, aka the Lord of Light, that she didn’t have time to suffer fools who wrung their hands over sacrificing loved ones in the name of her god. So strong was her belief that Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) would be the future king of Westeros and the prophesied warrior Azor Ahai that she gave birth to his assassinating shadow baby and then later burned his only daughter Shireen (Kerry Ingram) alive in sacrifice. But Stannis was killed, never having won the kingdom and never becoming the “prince who was promised.”
Melisandre’s confidence was shaken to say the least, and even when she was called upon to resurrect Jon Snow (Kit Harington) using her powers, she didn’t expect it to work. Even after succeeding, Melisandre wasn’t as full of fire and fervor as she once was.
“I think she didn’t expect to bring Jon Snow back, so that definitely has brought some of her faith back in the Lord of Light,” said van Houten. “But I guess she’s also aware of how she can be wrong. So I don’t think she’s gonna ever come back like she was in Season 2.”
In fact, Melisandre seemed subdued when meeting with Daenerys. “It’s more self-awareness, it’s more humbleness, there’s more doubt. There’s more human kind of feelings in general,” van Houten said. “She’s more transparent I guess, the way she speaks about the fact that prophecies are dangerous. She would never have said that before. She just feels wiser and more broken as well.”
One of the dangers of prophecies of course is that the clues can be misconstrued, especially when it comes to translations. As court interpreter Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) pointed out in Sunday’s episode, the High Valyrian word for “prince” is not gender-specific, and therefore the one who was promised could be female. This is one reason why Melisandre met with Daenerys, believing she might be the warrior reborn.
“I think she wants to believe [the prophecy] still and still takes her strength from that, but is aware how fragile that is,” said van Houten. “How she’s not been right and how she not always has read the Lord of Light’s signs in the right way I guess.”
Part of the prophecy is that this savior will wake dragons from stone, which could be interpreted as Daenerys hatching dragons from old eggs that were long thought to have been petrified. The fact that Dany has also displayed a leader’s sensibilities by freeing the slaves in Meereen also went a long way in convincing Melisandre, who was once sold into slavery herself long ago.
“At this point, Melisandre is on a mission and really determined to put the right people together in order to save us from a terrible thing,” said van Houten. “I think she respects Daenerys and she knows that she has a role to play.”
Looking ahead, Melisandre isn’t necessarily going to abandon Dragonstone quite yet. “She did what she had to do and she wants to make sure that’s actually going to happen,” van Houten said. “She wants to be there, to see that it’s actually going to happen, to witness it from a distance literally.”
Jon Snow and Daenerys’ meeting would be the fulfillment of fans’ wishes since the show began — actually, since the book series began over 20 years ago. Now that the TV series has surpassed the events of the books that have been released, the show can explore far more territory.
In fact, there’s another meeting that “Game of Thrones” could make happen before the event occurs in the books. In Season 4, when Melisandre buys off the bastard Gentry (Joe Demise) from the Brotherhood Without Banners, she sees Arya Stark (Maisie Williams). While looking into the girl’s eyes, she predicted that Arya would kill many people and that they would meet again someday.
“I’d love to do something else with Maisie,” said van Houten. “I think that the writers didn’t write that for nothing. I’m pretty sure that they will meet again.”
“Game of Thrones” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.