Thursday, June 26, 2014

About Lady Stoneheart and why excluding her from Game of Thrones would be the biggest mistake on the show yet.

By s. Thursday, June 26, 2014 ,
Yesterday a certain interview appeared online that shook and outraged most of the book readers of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. For yet another time this month those of us who eagerly await to see Lady Stoneheart on Game of Thrones were disappointed or - possibly - lied to. I initially wrote about this in my draft for tomorrow's Rambling Friday but I decided this issue needs a separate article. Because hopefully when we keep asking and keep shouting we will finally be heard.

For those of you who don't remember - as revealed in the epilogue of A Storm of Swords that told us of those events without actually depicting them - 3 days after Red Wedding the Brotherhood without Banners found the naked corpse of Catelyn Stark on the river bank. Their leader Beric Dondarrion gave her the kiss of life, despite Thoros of Myr protests that Catelyn has been dead for too long to bring her back. With the help of R'hllor Catelyn rose.

We first meet her in the epilogue chapter of A Storm of Swords when she is hanging one of the Freys. After Beric passed the life force to her he died - she is now the leader of the Brotherhood and hangs any Boltons and Freys she can find as a vengeance for Red Wedding. They also help the small folk, but Stoneheart is so blind with rage and deaf to pleads of mercy that she hangs anyone who is even remotely related to the crime committed at the Twins. Even the children.

If you would have told me after I read A Storm of Swords epilogue 2 years ago that there is even a slight chance that this event, let alone this character, won't make it into the series I would never believe you. This is far and away my favorite moment in the whole series and the most creepy, fascinating and mysterious storyline, from Stoneheart's horrific appearance to the splendidly morbid imagery that surrounds her. But now things are starting to look truly worrisome for her being in the show and for what will be - for me - the official nail to the coffin - I'll watch the show but I'll never enjoy it as much as I used to. The exclusion of Stoneheart means something else too - it's not really based on A Song of Ice and Fire anymore, it's just a watered down imitation.
Why I love the character:

1. I adored Catelyn Stark. What makes many of the characters in the series so compelling is that they are not perfect. They are flawed. Many people seem to hate Catelyn because of her being so cold towards Jon Snow, her husband's bastard. They tend to act as if they would be loving towards a living reminder of their spouse's infidelity. But I always loved Cat in spite of that - she was a beautiful, proud and honorable woman who would do anything to protect her children. She was also gracious and often times very kind. And so fiercely brave. And then she died. But that wasn't it.

The fact that she was brought back as something so different raises two incredible points in the story - that beautiful, proud woman who could be so loving towards her children and so reassuring towards others came back as a pale monster with rotten flesh, scarred face, brittle hair and with nothing but hatred and sadness in her heart. It's still Catelyn - only it's Catelyn stripped off everything that was noble and good about her.
by me
Another thing that truly adds to Catelyn's storyline the fact that she didn't get to have peace. She only knows sadness, heartbreak and hate. That's worse than death. To see a good character and someone who was a heroine brought back like this in an unjust an cruel way adds another layer to the tragedy of the Red Wedding. Interestingly it's also very consistent with what we know of Catelyn - as there were many hints throughout the books to what vengeful and often times hateful dark side Catelyn is harboring. When people say Red Wedding was a great chapter and yet they say that Stoneheart cheapens death and the whole event and is a 'stupid' addition, not only are they wrong, they don't understand. There is no Stoneheart without Red Wedding, the two are inseparable. Red Wedding was crime so hideous that in a twisted move of fate the Gods intervened by bringing her back, only inadvertently adding to the tragedy even more. Stoneheart's fate is worse than death. In death Ned awaits for her. Or at least peace.
2. The twist - the reveal of Lady Stoneheart is one of the most shattering things I've read. The Frey sees a hooded woman approaching him and as she lowers her hood we get a description of her that is extremely disturbing. We get fantastic lines, iconic lines in that chapter, but the one that makes you shiver with fear and shock is 'I saw her die'. I think it was then when it downed on me what was happening.  It's so chilling and morbid and bittersweet. On one hand you can sense there is something horrible happening with Catelyn and she is definitely not herself anymore. On another the Freys are getting hanged and punished for what was done at the Twins.
3. The imagery - the whole ambiance of the two chapters she is in is incredible - the hanged bodies, the creepy cave, her sitting with hood covering her face and her eyes fixed on the bronze crown Robb wore, her silently and carefully studying Oathkeeper. It would make for such splendid television.

Where the show screwed up already:

1. As great as RW adaptation was the aftermath of it is completely butchered. Instead of really placing the impact on the desecration of the bodies and making sure nobody ever forgets - and for example - ending the season with Robb's headless corpse with Grey Wind's head attached to it seated on a throne in Twins as mockery, the scene they did include was so rushed people didn't even register what was going on.

Add to that - the reactions from the characters about the wedding massacre were incredibly underwhelming - given how important to Brienne her oath is I cannot, cannot believe we didn't get to see her being depressed and distraught about RW and lady Catelyn's death - Jaime talking about her reaction - Since that day, Brienne had been like one half-dead. Even calling her “wench” failed to provoke any response. The strength is gone from her. The woman had dropped a rock on Robin Ryger, battled a bear with a tourney sword, bitten off Vargo Hoat’s ear, and fought Jaime to exhaustion…but she was broken now, done. And what about the people outraged all around the realm? Giving us one scene of Arya and Hound with that man and his daughter is not enough. They could still show that people are repulsed by what was done in s5 but a) I doubt they will b) considering all the filler in season 4 this time would have been better spent on showing this. How on earth do you do the adaptation of Red Wedding and not even focus on the aftermath on the show?

2. The lack of Gods' answer - in Mhysa we got the story connected to RW - the Rat Cook legend:

But where is that answer in the show? Whatever Gods are real, supernatural brought Catelyn back as a divine intervention who takes Freys down while Walder Frey witnesses as his offspring perish, one by one, much like the rat cook who was forced to devour his children.

Signs she is out:

1. The Tysha precedent - if there is anything we learned from season 4 finale is that nothing, no matter how important, relevant, necessary or iconic is sacred. More than that - not even the fact that something is already in the show cannon guarantees the series will follow the books.

In season 1 we had Tyrion mention his wife Tysha. He mentioned her again in season 3. There was even a small reference in season 4. Yet the most important scene related to Tysha from the books - the murder of Tywin and Tyrion's falling out with Jaime were drastically altered in the show. Most of the hints we have for Stoneheart are in the show but it may not amount to anything.

2. The opinions of James Hibberd, EW 'journalist' and the liaison with the show who says that she is unnecessary and Alex Graves, one of the directors, who claims that she is 'a zombie'. These two are just bouncing their opinions off each other but they are close to the showrunners.

3. What Michelle Fairley said - not so much the fact she said that Cat is dead (because technically she is dead) but saying this - "You respect the writers’ decision. I knew the arc, and that was it. They can’t stick to the books 100 percent. It’s impossible—they only have 10 hours per season. They have got to keep it dramatic and exciting, and extraneous stuff along the way gets lost in order to maintain the quality of brilliant show"- it just seems to me like something that a person who thought she will return would say to the press after the showrunners called her to say 'oh by the way we won't be doing that' and threw the word 'extraneous' at her - especially since Michelle has always stated just how much she would love playing vengeful Catelyn.

4. 'We don't have enough time" argument - there are 2 remaining published books left and 2 more to come to adapt when we only have 3 seasons left.

Signs she is in:

1. the inclusion of Brotherhood without Banners and resurrections
argument against - they are there to set up another resurrection. I've seen some people talk about how this may be why Melisandre went there. But what, did she learn how to do that just because she touched Beric?
argument for - we don't know if the above even happens

2. the exclusion of scratches on Cat's face
against - they simply didn't think it would work on TV, point against that - they pulled off Oberyn's death almost exactly the same as in the books
for - whenever there is a horrific facial injury in the books they tend to downplay it on the show because that would create a big problem for make up department in future scenes

3. We saw what was done to Robb's body and they didn't show us Cat
against - Sansa mentions it, to put the matter to rest
for - Sansa mentions it, to set up the BwB story about finding Catelyn

4. The Rat Cook story being featured on the show
against - The Tysha precedent
for - there need to be repercussions with supernatural involved for this to make sense and not become yet another hollow scene, we saw nothing happening to the Freys so far

5. Catelyn was mentioned in 8 out of 10 episodes in season 4
against - it's a coincidence
for - they are trying to make sure the audience remembers her
6. The whole story arc with Brienne swearing an oath to Catelyn and vowing to find her daughters
against - it may not need LS to appear, gutting the book story in effect, but maybe being the only way given the time constraints. The oath was already pledged and it's hard to tell what will happen with Brienne and Jaime in Winds of Winter.
for - it seems to be the most important part of Brienne's story and so far even with all the alterations we are practically at the exact place in the story where Brienne is about to meet Stoneheart. Also - her relationship with lady Catelyn is what started her connection to Jaime. It's also what may kill one (or both?) of them.

7. The Oathkeeper
against - they had Oathkeeper being the reason why the fight started between Brienne and Hound, there were many moments this season where Brienne book story was altered to have very similar end results as those in the book - she bites another person's ear in the book etc.
for - it's the sword made out of Ned's Ice which is a nice touch given how Catelyn gets to see it, it's also what gets Stoneheart to mistrust Brienne further. However in the show they actually had Brienne come face to face with the Stark girls which seems like even a better reason for Stonheart to be furious if she finds out about Brienne letting them get away

8. Catelyn appearing catatonic right before her death, her howl breaking into the kind of noise Stoneheart makes when trying to speak - a change from what happened in the books where she went mad and laughed
against - it's just a creative choice
for - this is essentially Lady Stoneheart without make up from the moment she cuts the girl's throat to the moment she is killed

9. Bran's creepy dream in season 3
against - it may be just a dream
for - Catelyn is incredibly pale and manic in the dream, when she appears she looks very threatening

10. Ramin Djawadi's Oathkeeper track
against - another coincidence
for - it's a track that sounds very threatening and saddening - its melancholic part played both during the scene in which Brienne swears an oath to Catelyn in season 2 and during her goodbye with Jaime in season 4 - both storylines are very connected in the books and come together in the end, whatever that end may be (the last thing we know is that Brienne is presumably taking Jaime to Stoneheart)

Here comes the frustration:

1. We have Hibberd and Graves openly calling the character a zombie (which she is not) and the whole arc unnecessary and basically suggesting the fans were being stupid for expecting her in finale; the very comments that she is a zombie where it's clearly not the case show that the people so closely connected to the show have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. Graves stated that Stoneheart wasn't even a part of conversation while discussing what would be in season 4. How can David Benioff and D.B. Weiss claim they are fans of the books and couldn't wait to adapt Red Wedding when they don't even discuss including the repercussions of that event? It doesn't make any sense.

2. Poor Michelle Fairley is either forced to lie or she really is never returning to the role she loved playing and now she has to answer all the questions the journalists are asking her

3. Given the nature of the story arc it would be in best interest to reveal her as soon as they can because people are getting spoiled - that ship has sailed. Twice. (more on that later)

4. The argument that 'she may not be important in future books so we cut her' is just ridiculous - first of all this is one of the very few story arcs which is guaranteed to work very well on screen - the imagery, the horror vibe - second of all I refuse to believe Martin would bring back a major characrer from beyond and just get rid of her after she makes few appearances. Yes, she was only in 2 chapters so far but Martin tends to procrastinate, what exactly did Daenerys do in these 2 last books? She sat on the throne in Meereen and shat herself. Literally.
the most famous fanart depicting Lady Stoneheart
5. The gigantic outrage in fanbase. There have been omissions before but I've never seen anything like it. Ever since the premiere of season 3, and that was over a year ago, every single day on every single board there were people asking when will we see her. When we didn't see her in season 3 finale (some including myself thought they may actually show the resurrection) people were upset. But we went 'they will definitely show her in season 4'.

And now it's hell - major news sites are writing articles about the lack of her reveal in finale, adding fanart to them, effectively spoiling non book readers. People on fansites and boards are disappointed, some vowing not to watch the show again. The exclusion of Stoneheart from finale was bad enough but now we have different interviews from all those people showing up over and over again, which only adds fuel to the fire because there really is no definite way of knowing if she is cut.

We have Hibberd and Graves' misguided and ill informed opinions thrown at us along with Fairley being asked about either something that is a disappointment or a big secret for her. Even if it's all a fogscreen and she is indeed in the show and what they are doing is desperately trying to cover that up, in the process they are bringing the attention to the character - spoiling her identity to non book readers and pissing off book readers in the process.

6. It's yet another insult to Martin and to the book readers in the fanbase to even suggest that 'not enough time' is an issue here - they have time to have Tyrion talk about beetles for 5 minutes. They have time for pointless Missandai/Grey Worm romance. They have time for random whores in Molestown. They have time for Yara running away from dogs. They have time for countless brothel scenes. But they don't have time for a character so many of us are looking forward to? Character tying 3 major story lines together? Character that has been with us for 3 whole seasons?

7. We know from leaks Jaime goes to Dorne next season, in yet another deviation from the books. We also know he gets a 'jet pack' and comes back fast. There is still hope that during that time Brienne will get even closer to that Feast for Crows chapter with her and Stoneheart and in the middle of tthe season Stoneheart will appear.  But where we are now, while the level of appropriate uncertainty was achieved - nobody has any idea what will happen - there is also, at least for the fan writing this, a rapidly growing contempt for the people behind the show. This whole situation right here shows just how little people involved in the show understand about the plot and how little they know of fans' expectations. Not to mention openly insulting the fans and the author's work is just unacceptable.

What we can do now is sign this. And hope that if she is cut, she comes for them instead:


  1. Seven hells, this is really the most awesome thing that may or not happen in the history of television and they slaughtered it for thousands (if not millions). If they don't include her I hope the ratings drop as a protest.

    1. Indeed, it just incomprehensible for me to consider cutting that part of the story. Stoneheart is a continuation of Catelyn and the Red Wedding

  2. 100% agreed. This latest travesty is the final straw for me - the showrunners have completely misused and disrespected Catelyn as a character, but ignoring and dismissing the Stoneheart arc just emphasizes their lack of understanding/caring of the nuances of not only the characters and storylines, but also the development and interconnectedness of the various plots and relationships. Maybe if they had given Cat the time of day when she was still alive, they'd recognize the Stoneheart turn for the tragedy and complicated story that it is. It's really sad, but I'm done with the show.

    On another note, that last image is simply delightful. Do you have a source for it?

    1. I still hope this is all a desperate attempt to make everyone believe she is not in the show and still include her and have a big shock for both groups, both non book readers and fans of the books. Because what will they do with Brienne? I'm at loss here.

      I found it on tumblr :)

  3. Excellent post. I wish D&D would actually see this, because I guarantee the majority of the fandom feels the same. I couldn't disagree with James Hibberd and Alex Graves more. And I'm really glad that Hibberd's fellow EW colleagues disagreed with him so openly as well. They obviously don't understand Stoneheart if they think she's "just a zombie."

    I'm still going to hold out hope for her in future seasons. Like you pointed out, I don't think GRRM would bring her back if she wasn't important to the narrative somehow. We already know she's going to be important to Jaime and Brienne.

    I think Michelle Fairley is lying. The cast of The Walking Dead blatantly lie in interviews all the time, so seeing Fairley do it, while disappointing, is probably just her trying not to further spoil anything.

    1. Thank you! I just cannot believe fans think she is unnecessary let alone people who are supposed to be plugged into the matrix. No way would Martin pull this if she didn't matter in the end.

      They referred to Brienne's oath so much, given how she is just letting Stark kids escape her there have to be some climax to this storyline on the show

      It's just such a clusterfuck. I wish they'd answer with simple 'I can't comment' or 'I don't know'

  4. This LS drama is what now brings attention to the show. No-one would even be thinking about the show right now giving how season 4 ended. What is going on right now is a terrible PR. I truly hate what they are doing and honestly, I think she is cut. They are just making the fuzz to keep us waiting.
    I agree with your whole article, that there were hints but in my opinion no actual build up has been made (now fans created bigger build up for her appearance than the whole season 4), if they have mentioned something about BwB wherabouts that would've been the biggest hint.
    What I cannot understand is why showmakers are underestimating her so much. The North remebers right? And I think the fans should see that the North does remeber.
    They should begin season 5 with an epilogue in which we see the Frey hanging scene, to me this is the only way it can be done. But I think it's highly unlikely and in such case it's no longer an adaptaion of the books, hell, it's not even an inspiration, it's a fanfic story.
    So go ahead Lady Stoneheart we have two more people that need to be hanged.
    FYI, I've signed the petition, the more we speak of it and the bigger the outrage is, the biggest the chance is that we actually will be heard.

    1. It's actually the fault of Graves flapping his trap and EW hack journalist trolling for comments asking Michelle questions about LS. D&D said nothing. It's the people from their entourage doing this. The lack of professionalism is almost funny.

      I really really hope the North Remembers will be featured HEAVILY in season 5. Because so far their depiction of the aftermath of RW is basically non existent.

      I hope this is all just a ruse, but honestly it's telling seeing what kind of people showrunners surround themselves with.

  5. Thank you for writing this post, mostly because I agree with almost all of it and more so that it's more understanding and balanced then any other article I've read in this whole hellhole cluster fuck debacle - because that's what it's become, and I feel for anyone that's trying to google Catelyn Stark without been bombarded with at least three articles stating that she is Stoneheart and that it's 'CONFIRMED' she's not coming back. But then, since all of those articles are using the same Michelle and Graves quotes I wonder if someone from HBO has gone round and said something for them to all be so excited with their caps lock confirm.

    But the media debacle has just frustrated me, because it could have been avoided if Graves hadn't spoken out - and that only felt like a comment he made to try and get another contract that he's probably not getting because he made that comment - since the press only started corner Michelle and other actors for quotes on it after he made his comment. I just hope no one uses a quote from Lena in a panel at a comic con as their next source because this feels like how it's going to end up.

    I just hope this lack of professionalism doesn't range too high up in the hierarchy of the show runners, because if anything this is making me loose faith in them more than anything to do with the storyline, the themes and representation of the last season.

    1. What did Lena say? I know she and Michelle usually behave as if LS was truly in the series.

      I'd like to think Graves is not getting the job because of this. He is not returning next season, he is a good director but his comments made on many subjects - Jaime, Cersei, Hound, Stoneheart - have been absolutely disgusting and unacceptable. I also hope James Hibberd from EW loses his connection as liaison with the show for the crap he pulled not in one but TWO articles and harassing the actress who is most likely under strict contract.

      Had she said the words 'I'm not returning' I'd treat it as confirmation but she didn't. All of this is an unfortunate situation where indeed people will tune in next season if only to see if she is in or out but unfortunately tons of non book readers are getting spoiled about what I truly consider one of the greatest plot twists not just in this book but of all time.

    2. She hasn't said anything... yet. But she is scheduled to be at quite a comic cons in the next weeks and defiantly showing up at panels (cause I'm booked to see one of them) where the public can ask questions and people record them, so with this been on everyone's mind I feel this is going to be one of those things that's going to be brought up at them.

      I'd like to think that those things will happen as well, because when this subject finally 'goes away' no one is going to trust them with anything else, and the subject will be back in six months anyway - it's going to be mentioned when the hype starts for next season. And it's not like this publicity will help them at the moment, they're not trying to sell a tour experience or anything else - they're trying to film and cast season 5.

      Hopefully, they won't mention anything again until they're trying to grease the tracks for the hype train - because otherwise it's going to cause even more major spoilers for the plot twist that usurped every plot twist in history.

    3. Oh, hell. I forgot about Comic Con. Whatever they say it will be a shitstorm happening again. i just hope if anyone asks D&D directly they'll answer with 'no comment'. I also hope Lena shuts up. She acted like either an idiot or an alcoholic with that instagram picture and the 'excuse' she said on Kimmel. If she has to flap her trap she should probably stick to talking about things that won't cause fan outrage.

      I honestly never seen people - or have been as a book reader - this disappointed before. It's the very idea that they would even consider cutting such a great, major plot point that is very very worrying. It's truly crossing onto their own version of the tale instead of following what George wrote now. It's hugely disrespectful to the author.

  6. Amazing post, well done Sati! Let's all tweet it to D&D until they start to see reason! Brilliant images as well, I love the one where Catelyn has eyes like the Replicants out of Blade Runner.

    But seriously, this is so perfect because when you break it down in such a calm and logical manner, the real flaws of excluding LS become immediately obvious. No amount of caps locked keyboard mashing will make them care. But when you elucidate it so clearly, it's much more persuasive. I love it.

    1. Thank you!

      I hope they are just fooling us. Because not having this on the show would be be the dumbest thing I've ever witnessed in the show I watched. I'd honestly rather not have Oberyn than them excluding LS. The fact the whole season Freys have not been punished for what they did borders on the most atrocious example of bad writing in the series. They really need to step it up and stop replacing the book events with their poor fan fic.

  7. I avoided this post for a couple of days but I couldn't resist -- Catherine is stronger than spoilers. Very good post and oooh yes, this would be a great addition to the show, no doubt. I hope they include it. It would definitely give GoT a stronger horror vibe yeah.

    1. I really hope they are just faking us out but honestly I wish everyone involved would just answer with 'no comment'

  8. Such a bummer. Still hanging onto some hope, though. Also, those images look really cool.

    1. I'm really hoping she is in too, it's just incomprehensible to me if they cut her.

  9. The LS chapter was bad writing on the part of GRRM. Characters should stay dead. What separates aSoIaF is its realistic treatment of danger and death. This chapter undermines that, and came close to ruining the series, and definitely ruined its most powerful scene, i.e., the Red Wedding. GRRM often criticizes Tolkien's resurrecting Gandalf, which makes me wonder how he did not edit this chapter out.
    Also, it reads like a bad fan fic.

    1. You do realize characters were brought back before her, right? It absolutely does not ruin Red Wedding and since you think that you missed the entire point of her chapter altogether.

      Perhaps you should stick to something easier, comic books maybe.

  10. I only skimmed it because I am not a book reader, but this article is absolutely fantastic! Always so impressed by the fanart, too. I really hope LS will come, and come soon, because it would be a really great plot twist, even if nearly everyone knows about it already.

    1. Thanks! They screwed up so bad here. I think she is in but my God, what a twist ruined because of those idiots. This whole thing really knocked GoT several places beneath what it used to be on my top 10 for me.

  11. Thank you, your analysis is thorough and brilliant... nothing else can be added, you covered it all, all the reasons and arguments! And the gifs and tumbr images made it more powerful. Catelyn Stark is such an amazing character...