Before you start, no really, it isn't Jon Snow. It also isn't Stannis, Ned, Joffrey, King Robert, Barristan Selmy, or the old Northern woman who warned Sansa last season. Kit Harrington recently confirmed that everyone's favourite mop haired bastard will be returning to HBO's ice and fire epic, but in the worst kept secret ever, this is hardly news. But back to the story at hand, there is another Stark who just HAS to return to Game of Thrones, and here is what that return could mean for Westeros.
Ok, ready?... You sure?...
None other than Catelyn Stark. That's right, the Stark matriarch simply has to return to her beloved kids and save the family name from ruin. Scattered all over the map (where is Rickon?), the Stark kids need their mommy back.
Where is Catelyn Stark now?
Simply put... DEAD. Killed alongside her son Robb in season three's infamous Red Wedding scene. However, in George R.R. Martin's books, the late Mrs. Stark is already well and truly back (well in some form). In the third novel, A Storm of Swords, a waterlogged Catelyn Stark is dragged from the river by Arya Stark's direwolf, then resurrected by Lord Beric Dondarrion and his band of merry men. Slightly zombiefied and with a gash across her throat, Stark (now named Lady Stoneheart) sets out on her own personal quest to kill anyone with allegiances to House Lannister or Frey.
Could she come back?
So what are the clues? Well a confirmed return to Riverrun and the Riverlands this season means we are getting dangerously close to where Catelyn Stark's body was left at The Twins (a fortified Northern stronghold). Her final resting place was only mentioned in passing on the show, but the books remind us in greater detail what happened to Cat
The Freys slashed her throat from ear to ear. When we found her by the river she was three days dead. Harwin begged me to give her the kiss of life, but it had been too long. I would not do it, so Lord Beric put his lips to hers instead, and the flame of life passed from him to her. And... she rose. May the Lord of Light protect us. She rose - Thoros of Myr
Whilst it may seem like a throwaway comment, I find it too convenient that the disposal of her body was highlighted on her show. "She's dead" would have sufficed. Beric Dondarrion has also been absent since before The Red Wedding, so he is also overdue a visit. Game of Thrones may not tie off all character lines (is Gendry still rowing?) but it tends to give you a send-off in one way or another. In the books Beric sacrifices himself to bring Catelyn back, so it is a fitting send off for him too.
Returning to the scene of the crime
We already know that Catelyn's brother is returning for season six. Brynden 'Blackfish' Tully possess a rare thing in Westeros, sheer luck! He ducked out early from The Red Wedding to take a leak, and in doing so saved his own life. Tully has been missing since season three, but it was confirmed early on that The Blackfish would be back in s6.
Secondly, Walder Frey is back too. The veteran Harry Potter actor David Bradley has also been quiet since that bloody wedding, but is promised a return this year. He owns The Twins and orchestrated her demise... Perfect Stoneheart cameo time. Chances are Walder won't be around for long, as he is also due a warm helping of just desserts. What better way to send him off than with the kiss of death from Lady S?
Whilst following the books may not be at HBO's forefront (goodbye Stannis), Lady Stoneheart is a relatively large part of certain storylines. Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne spent all of last season traipsing round The North and peering at Winterfell from far away. One of season five's biggest downfalls was letting these two go to waste. In book four - A Feast for Crows, Brienne and Pod are ambushed by The Brotherhood Without Banners, now lead by Lady Stoneheart. Stoneheart tries to hang Brienne and Podrick, but releases them on one condition, Brienne must hunt down and kill Jamie Lannister.
We all know of the blossoming 'Tarthister' romance, and undoubtedly Brienne won't go through with this quest, but personally I don't see what else they can do with fan favourite Tarth; she has already lost Arya Stark and Sansa Stark efused her help. If Brienne doesn't have another scene of Hound-kicking awesomeness soon, someone is getting an angry letter. Gwendoline Christie seriously needs to amp up her screentime this season, and a Stoneheart side-quest could be just the ticket.
Season of the Stark
There always has to be a Stark in Winterfell, but what if one is already there? Hiding in plain sight, could Catelyn Stark be lurking in those catacombs which Sansa was so uncomfortable in last season? As the old lady cryptically said:
Chances are this was in reference to Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne. A more literal sense is the many houses which still have Stark allegiance, even under Roose Bolton's reign... But what if maybe, just maybe, she meant Sansa's own mother?
Season of the Stark
Finally, season six is clearly season of the Stark - they may as well write it on the promo posters. We have already been promised a Sansa and Jon Snow reunion. Rumours are flying that Jon will drop the 'Snow' from his name in favour of Stark.
Also a young Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) will be making his long anticipated return this season. After a year off (sitting under a tree beyond The Wall), Bran is back and it is anyone's guess where his storyline will take him.
Also tipped to return is Joseph Mawle's Benjen Stark (yeah we forgot him too). The brother of Ned and Jon Snow supporter hits the rumour mill of returns as much as Lady Stoneheart. If anything he is due a return more than Catelyn Stark - Uncle Benjen has been missing beyond The Wall since early season one.
It has been a bad run of luck for the plucky northern family, so could it finally be time that their luck changes? Sure a zombie mother heading up your family isn't the best role model in the world, but it beats having your genitals amputated (sorry Theon).
The Bad News
But don't get your hopes up just yet, everything is of course all hear-say. Back in 2014 Fairley seemingly sealed the fate of Lady Stoneheart and our dreams were crushed:
The character’s dead...She’s dead...I knew the arc, and that was it. They can’t stick to the books 100 percent. It’s impossible
Hmmmm, hasn't kit Harrington been saying similar lines about Jon Snow for the past year? Also with the likelihood of Benjen Stark returning (I would say more so), would David Benioff and D.B. Weiss really bring back three Starks in one season?
Is Stoneheart stone-dead?
You only have to search Catelyn Stark to be bombarded with mock-up fan images of Michelle Fairley as Lady Stoneheart and the fandom clearly want to see her appear. Way back in season four, the rumour even did the rounds that we would see her ghostly figure in a final scene. Eagerly I stayed up until 3am in anticipation of some post credits glory, but alas. All we got was Arya Stark on a boat (snore).
Fairley does make a good point, there are only 10 hours per season. Most of that has to be taken up by Jon Snow looking off into the distance, Cersei's resting bitch face and Tyrion's drunken advice. We have already seen several casualties from the book's transition onto screen. This year we will FINALLY meet Theon's pirate uncle Euron - meanwhile his book counterpart is already shacking up with Daenerys Targaryen in Meereen. Talking of Targaryens, HBO have all but done away with Aegon Targaryen, Daenerys' supposed nephew and someone with actual claim to the throne. If anything, the Aegon Targaryen plotline is one that is far more crucial than Lady Stoneheart - but we live in hope.
What is key to remember is that we are now in unknown territory. The books are up to pace with where we are (hence why Bran's story took a hiatus), and with sixth novel, The Winds of Winter, not being released until after the sixth season, all bets are off. Sure Lady Stoneheart isn't an integral part of the series and there have been no sightings of Fairley on set, but something tells me her fiery red hair will soon be emerging from the murky waters of The Twins.