Warning: Major spoilers for the future of “Game of Thrones”, as well as the novels the show is based on are ahead!
When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die — there is no middle ground. But you know what they say about rules; they’re meant to be broken.
Indeed, fans of the “A Song Of Ice and Fire” series thought that “Game of Thrones” would be breaking a major rule with its season four finale, by bringing a very, very dead character back to life. Sure, we saw it before with Beric Dondarrion back in season three, but the character who was rumored to be returning is considerably more recognizable than the Lightning Lord.
So, who was it that diehards expected would return from the clutches of the Stranger?
It’s not Syrio Forel. He’s really (probably) dead.
Not Ned Stark, either. But you’re getting warmer.
Not Robb Stark, but now, you’re hot…
That’s right: Catelyn Stark.
The rumor actually started a few weeks ago, if you’ve been paying attention to Lena Headey’s Instagram account:
That’s a stone heart, which is the name readers of the books know the resurrected Lady Catelyn by: she’s called Lady Stoneheart, and here, at least, is how it happens on the page:
In “A Storm of Swords,” the third novel of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, Arya Stark’s penultimate chapter focuses on her grief over the deaths of Catelyn and Robb at the hands of the Freys and Lannisters. Arya channels her emptiness through “wolf dreams” — which is essentially the same “warging” we see from Bran, except that Arya isn’t aware of her own power. During one “dream,” Arya is inside of her direwolf Nymeria, who still roams the nearby Riverlands after Arya sent her away back in “A Game of Thrones.” She sniffs out her mother’s scent, and finds Catelyn’s body floating in a river. As Nymeria, Arya pulls her mother out of the river, and leaves her on the shore — and then she wakes up, thinking nothing of it.
We don’t see or hear from Catelyn again until the book’s epilogue, told from the perspective of a drunken fool named Merrett. He’s the ninth son of Walder Frey, and he suffers from chronic headaches and a massive fear of outlaws. When we meet Merrett, he’s on his way to meet up with some of those dreaded outlaws, to pay them ransom in exchange for the safe return of his cousin Petyr. And then things go horribly wrong.
It turns out that the outlaws Merrett is meeting with are members of the Brotherhood Without Banners. They take his money and his goods, then take him to Petyr, who is already hanging from a tree. When he’s unable to provide the Brotherhood with any useful information as to the whereabouts of the Hound and Arya Stark, they string Merrett up and prepare him for hanging. He begs for his life, swearing that the Red Wedding was justified, and that no one can prove he participated in the murders anyway.
Unfortunately for Merrett, the Brotherhood has a witness — the witness. From the epilogue:
The outlaws parted as she came forward, saying no word. When she lowered her hood, something tightened inside Merrett’s chest, and for a moment he could not breathe. No. No, I saw her die. She was dead for a day and night before they stripped her naked and threw her body in the river. Raymund opened her throat from ear to ear. She was dead.
Her cloak and collar hid the gash his brother’s blade had made, but her face was even worse than he remembered. The flesh had gone pudding soft in the water and turned the color of curdled milk. Half her hair was gone and the rest had turned as white and brittle as a crone’s. Beneath her ravaged scalp, her face was shredded with skin and black blood where she had raked herself with her nails. But her eyes were the most terrible thing. Her eyes saw him, and they hated.
“She don’t speak,” said the big man in the yellow cloak. “You bloody bastards cut her throat too deep for that. But she remembers.” He turned to the dead woman and said, “What do you say, m’lady? Was he part of it?”
Lady Catelyn’s eyes never left him. She nodded.
…And by all rights, this is something that should have happened at the end of this season, as it finished adapting the entirety of the third book (and even parts of the fourth and fifth). So why didn’t it occur? It’s not like the over-sized final episode lacked for time to squeeze in another scene, so was it contract negotiations, or timing for Michelle Fairley? Is it something the creators are saving for next season?
And just what, exactly, was Lena Headey Instagramming about then?
Perhaps the world will never know…