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Game of Thrones showrunners explain 'there was never really much debate' about leaving out Lady Stoneheart

By Jacob Oller
Michelle Fairley as Catelyn Stark Game of Thrones

Not only is Lady Stoneheart one of the most shocking and spooky creations in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, the character is a fan favorite beyond her twisty introduction. So why in the world did she not make the cut when HBO turned the series into Game of Thrones? It's something Martin's taken issue with before, calling Lady Stoneheart "the change I most wish I could make" to Game of Thrones.

But the reasoning behind her absence has been a bit of a mystery until now.

Showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss spoke to James Hibberd for his making-of book Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon and listed out a few reasons why the spoilery character couldn't have been in their show. For those that haven't caught up on Martin's always-surprising fantasy stories, be warned that spoilers are coming.

Lady Stoneheart is Catelyn Stark back from the dead. The Red Wedding may have ended her life, but it couldn't end her quest for revenge. Her surprise appearance at the end of A Storm of Swords is known to have caused whooping and hollering among readers who never expected to see the Stark matriarch again. When she turned up again in A Feast for Crows, readers really had their interests piqued. But that didn't necessarily translate to good TV.

“There was never really much debate about [including Lady Stoneheart],” Benioff said. “There is that one great scene.”

“That was the only debate,” Weiss said. “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...” Then there were all the reasons not to bring Catelyn back as an undead badass. It undermined the power of the Red Wedding, which became a defining moment for the TV show even moreso than the novels, simply because it was so unforgiving.

“Catelyn’s last moment was so fantastic, and [Michelle Fairley] is such a great actress, to bring her back as a zombie who doesn’t speak felt like diminishing returns,” Benioff said. And there was the fact that they had another back-from-the-dead Stark on the way.

“We knew we had Jon Snow’s resurrection coming up,” Benioff explained. “Too many resurrections start to diminish the impact of characters’ dying. We wanted to keep our powder dry for that.” And it's not like Jon's short trip to the land of the dead was particularly beloved by fans, either. So better not to press the issue. Especially when Martin himself was using Lady Stoneheart to lay the groundwork for something that didn't make it into the show either.

“Part of the reason we didn’t want to put [Stoneheart] in had to do with things coming up in George’s books that we don’t want to spoil [by discussing them],” Benioff said. Perhaps a hint towards The Winds of Winter? When last fans saw Lady Stoneheart, she was giving Brienne a mission: kill Jaime Lannister. That certainly didn't pan out in the show, but perhaps the books have a different fate for the pair.

Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon hits stores on Oct. 6.