Winter is coming, but not soon enough. So to help pass the time until season seven of Game of Thrones, we’re doing a weekly re-watch of the series, episode-by-episode, with the knowledge of what’s to come and—therefore—more information about the unrevealed rich history of events that took place long before the story began. Be warned, though: that means this series is full of spoilers for every season, even beyond the episode itself. So if you haven’t watched all of the show yet immediately get on that and then come back and join us for Game of Thrones Re-Throned.
Because the next best thing to watching new episodes is re-watching old ones.
Season 2, Episode 1: “The North Remembers”
Original Air Date: April 1st, 2012
Director: Alan Taylor
Written by: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Game of Thrones’ sophomore season can mean only one thing: another new accent from Littlefinger. Oh, and the introduction of Melisandre and Stannis, which is kind of a big deal.
More than any other character on the show, going back and re-watching every scene with Melisandre is far more layered and fascinating in lieu of what we know about her true age, especially when you watch her introduction here in season two’s first episode, “The North Remembers.”
I’ve long been skeptical of the value of dragons to mankind, their penchant for bringing death by fire feels like the opposite side of the same coin as the icy White Walkers. Considering the red priests and priestesses of R’hllor worship at the altar of dragons and Daenerys, Melisandre’s debut makes them feel potentially as dangerous and powerful as the White Walkers. They bring a song of ice, Melisandre brings a song of fire, and both songs are songs of death.
On the shores of Dragonstone we see Melisandre leading a burning of the seven gods, as she and her followers recite the decidedly un-hopeful line “the night is dark and full of terrors.” The scene is ominous, and that’s before we hear anyone comment on her. That honor goes to Maester Cressen, who says to Ser Davos, “We need to stop her.”
Cressen, who cares about Stannis and fears the path he is heading down, believes this woman is such a terror that he sacrifices his own life in an attempt to kill her, by poisoning his wine and taking a sip before offering it to her. He dies quickly (and painfully), but she drinks it anyway, knowing full well it is poisoned, but that it can’t harm her. She has powers normal men do not. After finishing it she looks at Cressen’s body and says, “The night is dark and full of terrors, old man, but the fire burns them all away.”
Fire, the symbol of R’hllor, will eventually take innocent and loyal men to Stannis, men whose only crime was giving good council, as well as Shireen, Stannis’s own daughter. What kind of religion is this? What kind of salvation can be found in a god that demands the life of a little girl? In this episode Joffrey orders the murder of every one of Robert’s bastards, including infants. How is Melisandre any different, or any better, than the evil Joffrey?
Yes, her god gives her strength and her god gives her power, but with it comes death and suffering for others. It isn’t any different from the White Walkers, just fire instead of ice.
Especially when her power does not include wisdom. She declares amid the fires on the shore that the savoir of the world is here.
“In the ancient books, it’s written that a warrior will draw a burning sword from the fire. And that sword shall be Lightbringer. Stannis Baratheon, warrior of light, your sword awaits you.”
Oops. Not so much.
This episode is where we first see the red comet in the sky, visible from as far as Winterfell to across the sea in the Red Waste, and we hear plenty of interpretations for what it might mean. A victory for Robb, a good omen for the Lannisters, or even a mark of Ned’s death. However it is Osha who somehow recognizes what it truly means. “The red comet means one thing, boy: dragons.”
Red for dragons; red for fire; red for death.
Melisandre’s faith will not waver for a very long time, when Shireen’s sacrifice brings ruin for Stannis and not success at the end of season five, but here she believes in her actions, that death in service to R’hllor is the only way to the death the White Walkers bring (whose return she accurately prophecies here).
But death by fire or death by ice, death by poison or death from a spear to the throat in battle, they all mean the same thing.
“We need to stop her,” was the first thing anyone ever said about Melisandre. But she is just one woman in an army of fanatics who believe that fire brings salvation, and that “salvation” is currently sailing to Westeros in the form of three dragons.
Will their mother have the wisdom to use them in service of the living, or in the service of R’hllor, because those two seem to be in direct conflict.
What did you think of this episode? Tell us in the comments below.