Game of Thrones showrunners explain why Lady Stoneheart wasn't in the show
It’s one of the biggest questions fans of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire saga have had over the years: Why didn’t Lady Stoneheart ever show up in Game of Thrones?
In my upcoming book Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon — the behind-the-scene tale of making Thrones from its earliest meetings to the airing of the series finale — showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss break their silence on why they left a fan-favorite book character out of the series.
Spoiler alert for those who haven’t read Martin’s novels: Lady Stoneheart is a resurrected and vengeful Catelyn Stark, who was murdered at the Red Wedding during the show’s third season. She makes two appearances in the books. The first is her shock reveal at the end of A Storm of Swords. The second is in A Feast for Crows, where Brienne of Tarth is taken captive by the Brotherhood Without Banners and brought before Lady Stoneheart, their leader, who accuses her of serving the Lannisters and orders her to kill Jaime Lannister. Lady Stoneheart's role in the books beyond this is not yet clear as there are two more novels yet to be published.
“There was never really much debate about [including Lady Stoneheart],” Benioff says in Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon. “There is that one great scene.”
“That was the only debate,” Weiss says. “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. But then...”
So, there are three reasons.
The first remains a bit vague because it involves what Martin has secretly planned for Lady Stoneheart in his story lines vs. the show’s story lines. “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 says. Given the way the story line leff off, the most obvious assumption is that this is something involving Brienne and/or Jaime, though that's far from certain.
The second reason was that even when writing season 3, the duo knew they were planning a major death and resurrection across seasons 5 and 6, and wanted it to be as shocking and suspenseful as possible. “We knew we had Jon Snow’s resurrection coming up,” Benioff says. “Too many resurrections start to diminish the impact of characters dying. We wanted to keep our powder dry for that.”
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. “Catelyn’s last moment was so fantastic, and Michelle is such a great actress, to bring her back as a zombie who doesn’t speak felt like diminishing returns,” Benioff says.
In sum: The showrunners felt the Red Wedding was the most powerful possible finish for Catelyn (and Fairley), and didn’t want to play the resurrection card too many times like other shows and movies have done, and were going off insider knowledge of upcoming story lines in Martin’s books that conflicted with what they had planned for the show.
As for Martin, the author said he pushed for the inclusion of the character and had his reasons for doing so. “Lady Stoneheart has a role in the books," the author says. "Whether it’s sufficient or interesting enough. I think it is or I wouldn’t have put her in. One of the things I wanted to show with her is that the death she suffered changes you.” In an interview with Esquire China, Martin once noted: “In the sixth book, I still continue to write her. She is an important character in the set of books. [Keeping her character] is the change I most wish I could make in the [show].”
For the entire uncensored behind-the-scenes story about the making of Thrones, Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon is available to order now.
HBO's epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin's novel series A Song of Ice and Fire.