This story is over 5 years old.


How 'Game of Thrones' Pulled Off Last Night's Shocking Twist

Melisandre showed her true colors last night—and it was a shocker.
Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO

This post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones Seasons 5 and 6.

Thank the old gods and the new, Game of Thrones finally returned to the small screen last night, offering up a strong Season 6 premiere. "The Red Woman" tours through Westeros and it's neighbors from top to bottom and back, setting up some chess pieces with exposition and knocking others down with exciting moments, not the least of which was Melisandre's stunning reveal at the end. The episode opens on the frozen corpse of Jon Snow, glides through the troubled Bolton patriarchy in Winterfell, the rescue of Sansa Stark and Theon Greyjoy by Brienne of Tarth and Podrick, a mournful reunion between Cersei and Jamie Lannister at King's Landing, Daenerys' walk with a Dothraki horde, a joke about Tyrion eating babies in Meereen (plus a mysterious enemy), a murderous coup in Dorne, and a sighting of Arya at beginning of a kung fu-filmworthy training montage in Bravos.


The kicker of the episode was the revelation of the true form of the titular Red Woman, played by Carice van Houten, which earned a Lannister's share of snarky comments on Twitter. We return to Castle Black with a small group of Jon Snow loyalists led by Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), holed up in a room. They're surrounded by the Men of the Watch who just murdered Snow. Davos has rarely seen eye to eye with Melisandre, but he mentions that she's the wildcard who could work in their favor. “You haven’t seen her do what I’ve seen her do,” he says. Cut to Melisandre, gazing at herself in the mirror. It looks like it could be magical. Is she preparing some new spell to smite the enemies of the Lord of Light? She removes her clothes, her iconic red necklace, and the reflection in the mirror goes Dorian Gray.

Pictured: Carice van Houten as Melisandre. Photo courtesy HBO

This effect was achieved through a clever combination of a body double and extensive facial prosthetics composited into a single shot, according to an interview Cunningham did with The Hollywood Reporter. "The remarkable shot where she's looking at you … that's Carice, from the neck up," he says. "She spent a lot of time in a head cast. There was a huge amount of work put into getting the prosthetics done." Van Houten showed Cunningham some pictures of the setup she had taken on her phone, explaining that it had taken six hours to put the setup together. We'll likely not see this version of Melisandre again, as Cunningham adds, "She only had to do it for a day."


Below the neck is a completely separate actress, Cunningham also reveals. "Of course, the old woman who came into play the full-length Melisandre … that remarkable moment at the end. The reveal at the end makes you go, 'Uh, what?'" he says, delving into Melisandre's character. "This is what I love about the show: the remarkable moment where she just climbs into bed, with this very sad look in her eyes, recognizing that there's something lost."

The Creators Project reached out to HBO for more details regarding the aging of Carice van Houten, but they responded simply, "As of now, the producers prefer not to 'break down that fourth wall.'" On the bright side, at least there's one wall we can be sure of.

Game of Thrones airs on HBO Sundays at 9 PM EST.


The 'Game of Thrones' Google Map Makes Navigating Westeros a Breeze

I Spent 4/20 at a 'Game of Thrones' Art Party

[Exclusive] How 'Game of Thrones' Built Its Biggest Dragon

How 'Game of Thrones' Keeps Topping Its Amazing VFX