The ‘Game of Thrones’ Finale and Lady Stoneheart: Why It’s Okay HBO Omitted One of the Book’s Biggest Moments
Sunday’s ‘Game of Thrones‘ season 4 finale was an exceptional episode of television and easily one of the show’s finest hours, but you wouldn’t know it from what some of the books’ fans had to say. Many flocked to social media after the episode ended to point out a certain moment from author George R.R. Martin’s ‘A Storm of Swords’ that did not make the leap to the screen, that of “Lady Stoneheart.”
Here’s the truth: while this was one of the biggest moments of the books, it was for the best that it was cut from this season, at least for the time being.
[WARNING: We're going to delve straight into book spoilers. If you haven't read the original novels or don't want to be spoiled about one of the biggest developments in the entire series, turn back now.]
In the epilogue chapter of ‘A Storm of Swords,’ we’re treated to one last final shock. We learn that members of the Frey family (who conspired to kill Robb Stark and his bannermen at the Red Wedding) are being hunted down across the Riverlands by the Brotherhood Without Banners, who are doing so under the direction of a new leader named Lady Stoneheart. And then we learn that Lady Stoneheart is none other than Catelyn Stark, revived by the same power that resurrected Beric Dondarrion, and who’s ready for some hardcore revenge against those who destroyed her family.
Everyone assumed that season 4 would end with this huge reveal — and it didn’t help that Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister) teased her “stone heart” on Instagram — so yeah, some understandably found the “Arya is on a boat” final shot disappointing. While we agree Lady Stoneheart would have been a shocking finish that would’ve had people talking around their water coolers, it wouldn’t have been the right ending.
The Lady Stoneheart reveal works on the page because it occurs at the end of the same novel in which Catelyn was killed. She never leaves our mind and her death still hurts. There are about 400 pages between her murder and her resurrection, while onscreen, we haven’t seen her since last season. ‘Game of Thrones’ season 4 was never about Catelyn; it’s been about everyone else. Tossing her at the end of the season would have been just plain disrespectful. To make her return as memorable as the books, it’s going to need some build-up.
And that’s why we think it was really cut. Imagine Lady Stoneheart being a major player in season 5. Imagine Brienne and Podrick wandering the countryside for the first half of the season, learning of dead Freys and a more brutal Brotherhood. Imagine Lady Stoneheart being the center of a season-long mystery instead of a sudden reveal. Isn’t that so much more satisfying? In any case, it would give the delightful duo of Brienne and Pod something to do, since they’re just about out of book material after this season.
Lady Stoneheart will show up, and, at this point, we should trust showrunners David Benioff and D.W. Weiss to know the right time to introduce her. As we’ve written about before, some of the best stuff on the show comes from their deviations from the books. We think HBO could do enthralling things with this plot thread that George R.R. Martin himself did not.