This is a big year for Game of Thrones, which, up until Season 6, has drawn directly from George R. R. Martin’s long-running book series. But now, the show has finally caught up with the books – and now fans of both iterations are on an (almost) equal playing field.
“Almost,” because although the show is admired for sticking so close to its source material, several notable book plotlines have been noticeably absent from their HBO counterpart – so much so that fans have doubted they’d be adapted for the television series at all.
But now, evidence is piling up that one of the most-anticipated book plotlines may be coming to the show after all…
** WARNING: SPOILERS FOR BOOKS 1-5 AND SEASONS 1-6 FOLLOW**
At the end of “A Storm of Swords,” readers learn that Catelyn Stark, who was murdered during the Red Wedding, was resurrected by Beric Dondarrion, who fans will recognize from the show’s third season. Catelyn takes up the pseudonym “Lady Stoneheart,” teams up with the Brotherhood Without Banners, and scours the Riverlands to take revenge against her Frey, Lannister, and Bolton enemies.
"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 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."
- "A Storm of Swords", Epilogue
Fans predicted “Zombie Catelyn” would make her appearance at the end of Season 4, but were dismayed when, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Game of Thrones director Alex Graves said, "...To bring back Michelle Fairley [Catelyn Stark], one of the greatest actresses around, to be a zombie for a little while – and just kill people? It is really sort of, what are we doing with that? How does it play into the whole story in a way that we’re really going to like?"
With every season that’s passed, it's become more and more likely that we will never see this plot line at all…
…Or will we?
Call me an idealist, but I believe we're going to see Catelyn return from her watery grave. And I think we're going to see it this season.
In the Season 6 episode, “The Door,” Sansa sends Brienne and Podrick to the Riverlands to broker an alliance with her uncle Brynden in Riverrun, positioning both Brienne and Podrick for the same run-in with Catelyn Stark they experience in Martin’s fourth book, “A Feast for Crows.”
In that story, Brienne and Podrick have yet to recover Sansa from her captors when they run into the Brotherhood Without Banners. When confronted about failing to rescue her daughters, Brienne and Podrick are hung by Lady Stoneheart from a tree (although Brienne is later brought back to life, for reasons unknown).
Fans foresee this chain of events occurring in one of two ways.
First, is that Brienne and Podrick are merely intercepted by the Brotherhood en route to Riverrun. Pretty simple.
But the second theory is that Littlefinger actually fed Sansa false information to lure her into a trap. In truth, Riverrun is actually held by the treacherous Walder Frey. We know, based on the trailer for this season, that the character will make a return, and considering no other characters are anywhere near the Riverlands, it’s very likely that this is how we’ll see Westeros’s most notorious sugar daddy make his return to the show.
In his EW interview, Graves did say, “How does it [introducing Lady Stoneheart] play into the whole story in a way that we’re really going to like?”
Well, while there might not have been much narrative reason to introduce the character two years ago – there is now.
Riverrun is critical to Jon and Sansa’s plans to defeat the Boltons – without them, they’ll be outnumbered on the battlefield. If Riverrun truly is a Frey stronghold, then the Brotherhood Without Banners may be a substitute for the forces they thought they’d find there. We know the Battle of Winterfell is coming, and having a guerilla army joining the fray would be a clever way to circumvent the expectations we already have for the fight.
Let it also be said that showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss are planners. Their ability to think years down the line is evidenced by Hodor’s big death and the conjunctive reveal about Bran. The introduction of Beric Dondarrion back in the third season may have served to introduce resurrection to the show, but what are the chances that his introduction alongside the Brotherhood Without Banners served so singular a purpose? I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see them connect that storyline to Season 6 with Catelyn’s revival.
There are many reasons that this popular plotline may finally be included on the show, but one thing’s for sure: If Lady Stoneheart doesn’t happen now, it might finally be time for fans to put Catelyn to rest for good.