Season four of Game of Thrones was arguably the best season yet of HBO’s mega-popular fantasy epic, breaking all sorts of viewing records along the way to becoming the all-time most popular show on HBO. But if you ask fans of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series about how they feel the season concluded, they’ll likely mention one glaring omission: Lady Stoneheart.
[Potential Season Five Game of Thrones Spoilers Ahead]
For those who haven’t read the A Song of Ice and Fire book series, Catelyn Stark’s journey does not end with the “Red Wedding,” despite the fact that she was undoubtedly killed in the shocking wedding massacre. After being thrown in a river, Catelyn’s body is dragged from the river by a direwolf, likely Arya Stark’s, and is eventually found by the Brotherhood Without Banners. Beric Dondarrion then gives his life to resurrect Catelyn who later goes on to lead the Brotherhood Without Banners under the name Lady Stoneheart. Her mission? Vengeance to all those who have wronged her. Her omission from the final episodes of season four was slightly disappointing to fans of the book series, but the general consensus had been that Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were simply waiting to introduce her in the fifth season. Now, it appears that the Lady Stoneheart arc will be the first major storyline to be cut from the television series, which is likely to see an increasing number of changes from its source material as it enters it’s second half. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Michelle Fairley, who plays Catelyn Stark, seemed to confirm that Lady Stoneheart won’t be making an appearance in the TV series despite some major concerns from fans of the books. “Yeah, the character’s dead. She’s dead,” Fairley said, implying that “dead” meant the character was done from the show entirely. “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,” she continued. “They have got to keep it dramatic and exciting, and extraneous stuff along the way gets lost in order to maintain the quality of brilliant show.” While it’s possible that this is all some sort of elaborate plan to make sure the surprises keeping coming in Game of Thrones, it’s much more likely that the Lady Stoneheart will simply be the first major omission from a TV series that simply doesn’t have the necessary screen-time to include every storyline in the book series. With A Song of Ice and Fire currently running 4,273 pages with two books to go and a trend of increasing page counts, it makes sense that this is the time for Benioff and Weiss to start deciding what to leave on the cutting room floor if they truly intend to complete Game of Thrones in seven seasons. But the question for many readers is what the change means for a series in which the final two books haven’t even been released yet. Lady Stoneheart is featured prominently enough to impact the story arcs of several characters, including Brienne, Podrick, and Jaime, leading many fans of the books to wonder how much the series will deviate from the source material if the recent news is true. However, it should be noted that unlike many television or film adaptations, Martin has remained close to the HBO series, going as far as to outline to Benioff and Weiss where the next two novels project to go — including the series’ climactic final battle. Having worked in television in the ’80s and ’90s, along with having penned four episodes of Game of Thrones, Martin has proven that he is far more understanding of the needs of television production and what it means to successfully make the transition from page to screen. With that in mind, it makes sense that if Lady Stoneheart really won’t be featured in Game of Thrones, Benioff and Weiss have likely held lengthy dialogues with Martin, including where the character is set to go in the final two novels.