(Warning -- Major Book Spoilers Ahead!)
When the credits rolled at the end of the season four "Game of Thrones" finale, many devoted fans of "A Song of Ice and Fire," the book series that serves as the show's source material, probably found themselves furiously hitting that replay button. Was it something we missed?
No, no it was not. The producers very intentionally left out the Lady Stoneheart -- also known as the vengeful, zombie-fied, Frey and Lannister-slaughtering resurrected corpse of Catelyn Stark -- reveal that shocked ASoIaF fans to their core back when "A Storm of Swords" came out 14 years ago, and it looks like the decision to cut this game-changing character is one they're going to stick with.
"Yeah, the character’s dead. She's dead," actress Michelle Fairley told Entertainment Weekly. "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 a brilliant show."
Fairley has a very solid point -- the show has already benefited from cutting some extraneous plot lines and sprucing up others -- but the Stoneheart character was such a big deal for the books that it's impossible to deny that her (terrifying) presence will be missed. Also, leaving out Stoneheart, who was revived by Ser Beric Dondarrion and his Brotherhood Without Banners days after the Red Wedding, could have major implications for other characters' story lines -- and they're good story lines, this time around.
In "A Feast For Crows," the book that will mostly serve as the source material for "Game of Thrones' " fifth season, Brienne of Tarth's (Gwendoline Christie) fate once again becomes entwined with Catelyn's (or at least a version of Catelyn) when she meets Stoneheart in the Riverlands, which is where most of the Lannister and Frey slaughtering had been taking place.
Stoneheart offers to let Brienne go if she agrees to kill Jaime Lannister, but she refuses -- and while book four ends with Brienne's fate hanging in the balance, book five, "A Dance With Dragons," very heavily suggests that Brienne took Stoneheart's deal and decided to go after Jaime. (She tells Jaime that she found Sansa Stark, but her story lacks credibility since she also claims that Sansa is in danger from The Hound. Who is dead.)
Basically, cutting Stoneheart out of this equation opens up a whole new world of possibilities. The show already drastically changed Brienne's path by having her give up on the search for Sansa and instead focus on Arya, and this latest development leaves Brienne's future development even more uncertain than it was before.
Of course she could still intersect with the Brotherhood Without Banners, who have already appeared on the show, but the whole Jaime death deal makes about zero sense with Dondarrion at the helm. The Lightning Lord isn't a huge fan of the lion clan for sure, but the unquenchable thirst for Lannister blood makes a lot more sense when it's coming from Catelyn.
Also, why would Brienne ever make a deal (if that is, indeed, what she did) like that with Dondarrion? She has no allegiance to that man, but she did swear fealty to Catelyn Stark when the woman was still alive.
So, yeah, we have absolutely no idea what they're going to do with Brienne, Podrick, and Jaime now, though we're sure they'll meet up again eventually. And hey, the changes to these characters' stories could be for the better (the decision to have Brienne interact with The Hound and Arya certainly was), so you really never know.
But Stoneheart also added a level of merciless justice to the books that seemed completely appropriate and thematically necessary for the time. The peaceful age ruled by honor-obsessed families like the Starks was long gone, and the recent death of Tywin Lannister signaled the end of a Westeros ruled by ruthless pragmatism, which at least made some sort of sense.
The newfound importance of characters like Ramsay Snow, Cersei 2.0, and Littlefinger rang in the age of pure and utter chaos in the Seven Kingdoms, but the decaying ghost of Lady Stark returning to enact her brutal revenge at least made it seem like the scales were occasionally being tipped in the right direction.
Is she absolutely horrible? Sure, but at least she was the Dexter Morgan of Westeros in that she only went after those who (she thought) were the actual bad guys, and her many murders made it seem like proper comeuppance was an actual possibility in the bleak world of "Game of Thrones." It's still likely that they'll have a character like Dondarrion take on the Stoneheart tasks instead, but it's a whole lot more powerful when the hate is spewing from the corpse of one of the most just, loving, and honorable ghosts of Westeros' past.
Lady Stoneheart, we are sad to see you go.
What do you think, fellow "Thrones" fans? Do you agree with the decision to leave out Stoneheart? Any predictions on what her absence might mean for Brienne and Jaime? Should Dondarrion do her dirty deeds instead? Let us know in the comments!