Game Of Thrones Showrunners Explain Why They Left Out One Of The Books' Most Exciting Characters
Despite fans' hopes and expectations, Lady Stoneheart never appeared in HBO's Game of Thrones adaptation. Here's why.
Game of Thrones delivered its most significant, iconic shock toward the end of its third season back in 2013 when Robb Stark, his mother Catelyn, and his wife Talisa were killed by a rival family at an event that came to be known in-fiction as the "Red Wedding." It rocked fans who read the original scene in the 2000 novel A Storm of Swords--fans who then looked forward to show-only people's minds being blown once the scene finally aired. And with some minor tweaks, Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss mostly succeeded in translating the gut-wrenching event to television.
One major change related to the show's version of the Red Wedding only became evident long afterward, as it grew more and more clear that one iconic character would not be adapted from the source material to the screen. In the novels, you see, Catelyn Stark doesn't stay dead. Like other characters in the series, she's resurrected by Red Magic--think priests of R'hllor like Melisandre and Beric Dondarrion's friend Thoros. (If this is all starting to sound like nonsensical trivia, don't worry, we're getting to a point.)
In the books, fire zombie Catelyn--also known as Lady Stoneheart--goes on a tear through the Riverlands lynching any and all "enemies" (as she very loosely defines them) and perpetrators of the Red Wedding, including any members of the rival Frey family she can get her hands on. She hasn't appeared much in the currently published books, but fans hope she'll play a more prominent role in future material. In a series where justice is so rarely served, some readers find it cathartic to have an undead agent of pure vengeance floating around on the fringes. So it was extremely disappointing to a lot of people when the show ultimately chose to leave Lady Stoneheart in the realm of the written word.
Well, it may not take the sting away, but David and Dan have finally explained exactly why they never brought actress Michelle Fairley back looking bloated from river water, half-rotted, with wounds that never heal, and a ragged throat scar that renders her barely able to speak.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly's James Hibberd for his upcoming book about the series Fire Cannot Kill A Dragon, the duo acknowledged one reason why fans love Stoneheart. "The scene where she first shows up is one of the best 'holy s***' moments in the books. I think that scene is where the public response came from," said Weiss.
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They said there are three reasons they left Stoneheart out. "Part of the reason we didn’t want to put it in had to do with things coming up in George’s books that we don’t want to spoil [by discussing them]," Benioff offered as one.
Second, they didn't want to cheapen Jon Snow's resurrection later in the series. "Too many resurrections start to diminish the impact of characters dying. We wanted to keep our powder dry for that," Benioff said.
Lastly, they didn't want to cheapen the Red Wedding itself. As Hibberd writes, "The third reason was that the Red Wedding was one of the show’s most powerful moments, a dramatic home run as executed by director David Nutter and the show’s cast that had exactly the impact that the team had long hoped. The showrunners felt bringing back a form of Catelyn Stark might weaken what was accomplished by the scene, and that a silent undead version of Catelyn seemed beneath the dignity of actress Michelle Fairley--who was already supernaturally haunting as a doomed human in her final minutes."
The fact that David and Dan apparently thought resurrecting Catelyn Stark would cheapen the Red Wedding might be interpreted as a loose critique of Martin's original plot in the books, if you're into reading between the lines--which, to be fair, David and Dan infamously are not (see: the well-circulated quote "Themes are for eighth-grade book reports"). Anyway, based on the reception to Game of Thrones' final season and the information that's come out afterward about maybe why it turned out the way it did, the showrunners criticizing the books, even vaguely, is probably not a great idea. Oh well--at least we'll get to (maybe) read the next book, The Winds of Winter, someday soon.