Spoilers follow for A Song of Ice and Fire and, potentially, for Game of Thrones.
The final episode of Game of Thrones’ fourth season aired last night and many fans were as shocked by what didn’t happen as by what did. The majority of the season was based on A Storm of Swords, the third book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. In the epilogue of that book, readers are introduced to Lady Stoneheart, the new persona of the reanimated and vengeful Catelyn Stark. Her introduction was expected by many to be a major shocker at the end of the Season 4, but she was nowhere to be found.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly Radio, Alex Graves, who directed the finale, offered some insight into Lady Stoneheart’s mysterious absence after being asked whether or not she was ever, at any point, planned to appear. Turns out Graves was as curious about that as anybody.
“It’s a great question, because it’s all I asked about last year when I was doing [the episode with Brotherhood Without Banners leader] Beric Dondarrion — who ultimately is the person who finds Catelyn and turns her into Lady Stoneheart,” Graves said. “But no, they didn’t do it. It was never on the docket to do this season — ever.”
Graves continued, explaining that the showrunners may have simply felt like the character wasn’t interesting enough to bother bringing back Michelle Fairly, the actress who played Catelyn Stark before her untimely demise at the Red Wedding.
“They [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] have such a challenge adapting the books into a really focused television experience,” Graves continued. “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 reason expectations of Lady Stoneheart’s appearance took off on the Internet is likely a combination of book-readers expectations, based on the books’ timeline of narrative events, and the fact that actress Lena Heady (Cersei Lanister) posted an image of several stones forming the shape of a heart to her Instagram page. This followed a previous post that hinted at Oberyn Martell’s demise just prior to that episode airing.
But what about future plans for Lady Stoneheart? If she was left out simply because there was already so much going on in Season 4 then surely she would appear in Season 5…right? But if the showrunners simply feel like she doesn’t add enough to the overall narrative of the series, could she be left out entirely? Graves isn’t sure.
“As somebody who’s worked deep inside the show, begged to have an answer and wants more than anybody, I have no idea,” he said. “They won’t tell me. They’re very good at being secretive.”
Showrunners Weiss and Benioff have suggested before that they have an inside track on where creator George R.R. Martin is heading with these characters in future books. If the showrunners decide to omit Lady Stoneheart entirely, does that suggest that they weren’t captivated by Martin’s future plans for her? Stoneheart has a major role to play in the near future events of the series, particularly as involves Brienne and Jaime Lannister. How would Stoneheart’s omission effect their stories going forward? Season Four already took a lot of liberties with the way things progressed through the season, though they did largely end up in the same places as the books in the end. Is this a sign that Game of Thrones has become its own entity entirely, no longer feeling the need to follow the narrative roadmap laid out by Martin’s books? Season Five may be end up being a real test of the show’s devotion to its source material.