[SPOILERS AHEAD for the A Song of Ice and Fire books and Game of Thrones Seasons 1-4.]
The last three episodes in the fourth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones managed to depict multiple brutal battles, many major character deaths, and more than a few revelations. However, the season 4 finale, “The Children” - read our review - failed to unveil a book character that many fans have been anticipating since season 3: Lady Stoneheart. The character makes her first appearance in the epilogue of A Storm of Swords, the book on which most of season 3 and 4 were based, and plays a bigger role in the fourth novel, A Feast For Crows.
For non-book readers, Lady Stoneheart is the reanimated corpse of Catelyn Stark. After the Red Wedding, Catelyn’s body is recovered by the Brotherhood Without Banners and their leader, Beric Dondarrion, gives his life for hers. In A Feast For Crows, she leads the Brotherhood on a mission to exact vengeance for the suffering of her family.
During an interview about 24, EW asked Michelle Fairley, who portrayed Catelyn on Game of Thrones, about the likelihood of Lady Stoneheart joining the other magical creatures -- such as dragons, whitewalkers, the children, etc. -- in season 5. Fairley reiterated one major criticism of the Lady Stoneheart plotline within the A Song of Ice and Fire novels: it’s not imperative to the overarching narrative (not yet, anyway).
Read the full exchange:
EW: There was a lot of online conversation. I heard third-hand that you were basically told that it’s not likely to ever happen. Is that accurate?
Fairley: Yeah, the character’s dead. She’s dead.
EW: Do you have a preference at all -- do you think Catelyn’s arc should end where it ended, or would you be into the resurrection idea?
Fairley: You respect the writers’ decision. I knew the arc, and that was it. They can’t stick to the books 100 percent. It’s impossible -- they only have 10 hours per season. They have got to keep it dramatic and exciting, and extraneous stuff along the way gets lost in order to maintain the quality of the brilliant show.
As explained on the Screen Rant Underground podcast, it was unlikely Fairley would return as Lady Stoneheart in the season 4 finale for monetary reasons. Now, these new comments from the actress don’t give much hope for her return in season 5 - unless, of course, Fairley is better at the “game” than her character, Catelyn, was.
Additionally, after “The Children” aired - to HBO’s best ratings since The Sopranos - EW interviewed the episode’s director, Alex Graves, who said Lady Stoneheart was never planned to be included in the fourth season.
Read Graves’ full quote:
They [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] have such a challenge adapting the books into a really focused television experience. It’s very hard, it’s very complicated, it’s much harder than they’ve been given credit for, I think -- and they do a brilliant job. But to bring back Michelle Fairley, one of the greatest actresses around, to be a zombie for a little while -- and just kill people? It is really sort of, what are we doing with that? How does it play into the whole story in a way that we’re really going to like? It just didn’t end up being a part of what was going to happen this season. And finally one [more] reason: In case you didn’t notice, a lot happens this season … To add that in is something they opted out of. But what’s funny is that it was never going to be in the season, yet it took off on the Internet like it was going to happen.
The idea of Lady Stoneheart on Game of Thrones is appealing - who wouldn’t want to see a vengeful zombie wreak havoc (and justice) on Westeros? Lady Stoneheart's revenge storyline sounds exceptionally exciting on paper, but so far in A Song of Ice and Fire it hasn't proved to be an important part of the story and more or less acts as a branch moving farther away from the central themes rather than intersecting.
Whether or not Lady Stoneheart's plot will pay off over the course of the books, however, remains to be seen when the final two, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, are released. But, in terms of Game of Thrones, both Graves and Fairley make sound points that Lady Stoneheart may not be able to fit into the show in terms of time and story structure.
As Benioff and Weiss mentioned while talking about the fourth season finale, the tenth episode is usually “clean-up” but “The Children” had just as many, if not more, revelations than the preceding episode, “The Watchers on the Wall”. Running an extra 15-20 minutes longer than a typical Game of Thrones episode, it’s clear that “The Children” had enough going on without the addition of Lady Stoneheart.
Still, Graves said the showrunners didn’t give him a definitive answer as to whether or not Lady Stoneheart would appear in season 5. Though Fairley’s perspective on the status of her character seems set in stone (pun intended), it’s possible the Benioff and Weiss are keeping Lady Stoneheart under wraps for now.
Game of Thrones will return for season 5 in 2015 on HBO.