Melisandre's Final Moment May Have Settled a Long-Running 'Game of Thrones' Debate
Despite providing some lackluster military aid in a moment of crisis, Melisandre mostly followed through on what she promised to do at the outset of The Battle of Winterfell. The long-awaited return of the Red Woman during "Long Night," the occasionally thrilling and often baffling third episode of the eighth season of Game of Thrones, was relatively straightforward: She came back, promised Davos she would die before dawn, and then she was gone by the time the sun came up. Say what you will about the effectiveness of lighting the Dothraki weapons on fire, she did what she said she would.
In the episode's last moment, Melisandre surveyed the carnage outside the castle walls, removed her magical necklace, and collapsed. (She clearly wasn't lying down for a nap this time.) As Davos watched on, we saw her drop the necklace to the ground, and the jewel at its center, typically a resplendent ruby red, went dark like a lantern being extinguished. For a character who has led others to brutal and grisly deaths in the past, it was a quiet, dignified ending. With the Night King defeated, her spiritual mission was complete.
It also likely added more fuel to the fire of one of the many Melisandre-related discussions in Game of Thrones fandom: Is her necklace actually the source of her power and her youth? Or is it just a symbol of her magical capabilities? With any piece of mystical jewelry, whether it's the ring in Lord of the Rings or the Infinity Gauntlet in the Avengers, there's often a desire for the object to follow specific rules and serve an exact purpose. The curiosity they inspire in viewers often goes unrewarded by the writers attempting to make these stories work.
Melisandre's necklace is no exception. Way back in the premiere of Season 6, we caught our first glimpse of the elderly version of the Red Woman when she removed the necklace and readied herself for bed, revealing that she was actually a much older woman than she appeared. Her exact age isn't known, but it's safe to assume that she's seen a few centuries pass. The implication of that scene was that the necklace functioned like a youth-giving chalice and provided her with strength, so it makes sense that abandoning it, like she does at the end of "The Long Night," would have disastrous effects on her health.
But, as many fans online pointed out soon after the reveal scene in Season 6, there was a moment in Episode 7 of Season 4 when Melisandre was shown without her necklace taking a bath. She didn't suddenly turn into the older version of herself. That's an understandable mistake: Errors happen, and it's certainly possible the necklace wasn't always identified by the writers as a type of youth-preserving shield. In an interview with Elle back in 2017, actress Carice van Houten identified it as "an oops moment."
Of course, for some corners of the internet, that explanation wasn't enough, and more elaborate explanations were invented. "The necklace could just be a catalyst/enhancer for her magic," wrote one fan on Reddit last year. "She lost her faith after Stannis lost and she couldn't keep the appearance without the necklace. Before that her faith was strong enough to keep the 'simple' appearance magic up without [the] necklace." As with most Game of Thrones theories, there's no shortage of speculation if you go looking for it.
With Melisandre now dead, it's unlikely we'll be treated to a flashback explaining the origins of the necklace in the last three episodes; there are at least a couple more pressing plot threads to resolve before the series comes to a close. Similarly, the light going out on the necklace suggests that it probably didn't retain its magic and was somehow tied to her specifically, so don't expect some other character to randomly pick it up and suddenly acquire her powers of sorcery and permanent youthfulness. It feels more likely that the necklace will die with her, taking its mysteries to the grave.