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'Game of Thrones': Melisandre actress on that premiere shock

Carice van Houten reacts to The Red Woman’s twist ending

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HBO

Note: This post contains a revelation from the end of the Game of Thrones season 6 premiere….

Now you know why the season 6 premiere of Game of Thrones is titled “The Red Woman.”

The hugely anticipated return of the HBO drama concluded with a jaw-dropping revelation when Melisandre (Carice van Houten) removed her mysterious necklace. In the final moments of the hour, the sorceress disrobed and set aside the gold- and red-jeweled necklace she’s (almost) always worn on Thrones until this point. Fans were then stunned to see the real Melisandre for the first time — very old, and possibly ancient.

There have been hints about Melisandre’s age before. Actress van Houten was once indirectly quoted back in season 2 as saying the character is 400 years old. In another interview, she noted the character is well over 100 years old. But showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss only told Houten for certain about her character’s age while shooting last season.

“I was really happy when I read that we were going to reveal that this year,” Houten told EW. “I don’t think a lot of people will see that coming. It makes her immediately more vulnerable, but also more wise and even more mysterious. There’s also a vulnerability in her age.”

RELATED: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6 First Look

Van Houten says the revelation helps put into context her character pushing to sacrifice Shireen last season in order to potentially save Stannis and his army. The idea of killing one child is trivial to Melisandre because she’s lived long enough to see people of all ages perish in many wars. The Red Woman thinks in terms of what will save thousands, not one.

“That’s why she was able to say, ‘This is just a small war, it’s all relative compared to the big war were going to face,'” van Houten says. “[Her age] makes everything even more meta. Definitely, that’s where all that stuff comes from.”

The necklace twist, along with the disaster with Shireen last year, also suggests Melisandre’s powers might be far more limited than she’s led others to believe.

“She has no idea how she does it,” van Houten says of Melisandre’s magical abilities. “A magic necklace? Wow.”

RELATED: 17 Biggest Changes from Game of Thrones Books to TV

Previously, van Houten told EW that her character would be going in a different direction in season 6. “It’s changing and I really like it. We see her from a really different side of her now. We see somebody whose whole belief system is tumbling down. She’s completely confused, and I really like to play that. After all the security and strength and pride, now we see something completely different. I’ve been really waiting for this moment.”

For more, check out our interview with “The Red Woman” director Jeremy Podeswa for his thoughts on Melisandre’s age and how the stunning visual effect was achieved. 

EW has its GoT recap for “The Red Woman” up. Also, we have an interview with Gwendoline Christie on Brienne’s rousing return

Also, the first official episode of our new Game of Thrones podcast is now live: “How Old Is Melisandre, Anyway?” We talk about The Red Woman’s accessorizing, stabby Sand Snakes, the future of Jon Snow’s decomposing corpse and more. Subscribe to the podcast right here, or just listen to the new episode below: