Why Did Melisandre Die in 'Game of Thrones' After the Battle of Winterfell?

Melisandre, the Red Woman, died at the end of Game of Thrones Season 8, episode 3. Here's what you need to know about the character's long-awaited death.

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(Image credit: HBO)

How did Melisandre know she was going to die after the Battle of Winterfell?Why does Melisandre become an old woman before she dies?How old was Melisandre, exactly?

This post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8, episode 3 "The Long Night."

Game of Thrones is officially three full episodes into its final season and things are intense, to say the least. Episode 3, "The Long Night," was almost an hour and a half of pure bloodshed as the Night King, White Walkers, and Army of the Dead marched on Winterfell and slaughtered most of the humans assembled there to stop them.

By the end of the episode, things were finally looking up for the living, as Arya Stark put her super assassin skills to use and took out the Night King (and, with him, the rest of the White Walkers and the wights, too). Arya may not have realized her destiny to kill the Night King and put an end to the darkness if it weren't for Melisandre, however.

The Red Woman returned at the beginning of the episode to help light all of the Dothrakis' swords on fire and, later, to light the trench and protect Winterfell from the raging Army of the Dead. She also shared a very long, very "hey, audience, look at how important this is" look with Arya and reminisced about their brief encounter in Season 3.

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(Image credit: HBO)

For a refresher: Melisandre grabbed young Arya's face and cryptically predicted that she would close many eyes, including blue ones (like the Night King's).

"I see a darkness in you," she told Arya at the time. "And in that darkness, eyes staring back at me. Brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes. Eyes sealed shut forever. We will meet again."

Later, Melisandre encounters Arya again and sends her out on her final mission, to kill the Night King. The Night King and his army aren't the last of the episode's many (many, many) deaths, however. When the dust settles, Melisandre walks out into the snowy wilderness beyond Winterfell's walls, takes off her magical choker, and then dies.

But why? Here's what you need to know about Melisandre's death at the end of the Battle of Winterfell.

How did Melisandre know she was going to die after the Battle of Winterfell?

Back in Season 7, Melisandre predicted her own death in a conversation with Varys, revealing that she would return to Westeros just one more time—to die. So, when she sauntered up to Winterfell at the beginning of the episode, we all knew it meant nothing good for the Red Woman. And she knew it too—she assures Ser Davos (who hates her because she convinced Stannis Baratheon to murder his daughter Shireen, who had been very kind to Davos) that she'll be dead by dawn as soon as she arrives at Winterfell.

But how did she know she was going to die? Melisandre is (was—RIP) a servant of the Lord of Light and knew that her purpose was to find The Prince That Was Promised and help him (or, as it turned out, her) fulfill their destiny to defeat the darkness (aka the Night King). Presumably, Melisandre knew that she was set to fulfill that destiny during this battle—and that, if she didn't, everyone was doomed anyway.

Why does Melisandre become an old woman before she dies?

One of the biggest ongoing mysteries of Melisandre has been her age. In Season 6, we learned that Melisandre is actually very, very old, and that the red choker she wears is the key to her youthful outward appearance.

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Melisandre, sans magic necklace.

(Image credit: HBO)

With her purpose fulfilled, Melisandre was finally free to die, it seems.

How old was Melisandre, exactly?

It's still not clear just how old Melisandre actually was. In 2012, Carice van Houten, the actress who plays the Red Woman, revealed that the character was much older than she appeared.

"I don’t know how old she is, but she’s way over 100 years, so she is a wiser spirit, in a way, but it’s difficult for me to say too much because A—we want it to at least stay sort of a mystery and B—I didn’t read the books," the actress told Access Hollywood.

Oliver Ford Davies, who played Maester Cressen, elaborated in a 2013 video interview, increasing that estimate to at least 400 years old and show-runner David Benioff confirmed that the character was at least "several centuries" old.

Now, after all those hundreds of years, Melisandre is with the Lord of Light. RIP, Red Woman.

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Kayleigh Roberts
Weekend Editor

Kayleigh Roberts is a freelance writer and editor with more than 10 years of professional experience. Her byline has appeared in Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, The Atlantic, Allure, Entertainment Weekly, MTV, Bustle, Refinery29, Girls’ Life Magazine, Just Jared, and Tiger Beat, among other publications. She's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.