Why 'Game Of Thrones' Didn't Include Lady Stoneheart, According To The Showrunners

George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels contain dozens of jaw-dropping moments, many of which were adapted into HBO's Game of Thrones. But for years, fans have wondered why one major reveal – the existence of a character called Lady Stoneheart – was not included in the show. Now, more than a year after the controversial final season, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have given three reasons why they didn't incorporate her into the action.

I started reading A Song of Ice and Fire just after beginning Game of Thrones, so I saw almost all of the story's biggest moments play out on screen before I read them. But one of my favorite reading moments of the past decade occurred when I reached the Lady Stoneheart reveal in A Storm of Swords, precisely because it was such a huge divergence from what had happened on the show. All this is to say that if you'd like to experience that surprise for yourself, I encourage you to read the books before finishing this article.

Spoilers for the books lie ahead.

In Martin's novels, Lady Stoneheart is an undead version of Catelyn Stark, who is murdered at the Red Wedding and dumped into a nearby river. Days later (after her body has begun to rot and fester), she's resurrected by Beric Dondarrion and becomes the leader of the Brotherhood Without Banners, enacting brutal vengeance on anyone who was involved with orchestrating or executing the events of the Red Wedding. Since Catelyn's throat was slit, Lady Stoneheart practically can't speak. She's a terrifying, mostly silent figure hellbent on revenge, and her most recent appearance in the books left readers on a diabolical cliffhanger that's been dangling since 2011.

EW has an excerpt from an upcoming book called Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon, which follows the behind-the-scenes details of Game of Thrones, and Benioff explained that "there was never really much debate" about including Lady Stoneheart in the show. He acknowledges that there's "that one great scene" of her in the books, and Weiss agrees. "That was the only debate," he said. "The scene where she first shows up is one of the best 'holy s—' moments in the books."

But there are three reasons they ultimately decided not to include her. "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 said.

Second, the showrunners feared that including Stoneheart when Jon Snow's resurrection was coming up might be leaning a bit too much on the resurrection angle.  "We knew we had Jon Snow's resurrection coming up," Benioff said. "Too many resurrections start to diminish the impact of characters dying. We wanted to keep our powder dry for that."

And finally, actress Michelle Fairley gave such a powerful, stunning performance during the Red Wedding episode, breaking hearts with her primal screams and her matter-of-fact assassination in the final seconds, that the showrunners didn't want to take away from that memorable final impression. "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."
Part of me agrees that seeing this character brought back to life would lessen the impact of death in Game of Thrones. But man, Lady Stoneheart's appearances are so incredible in the existing books that a bigger part of me would have loved to have seen her incorporated into that visual world.