It is unquestionably insane to be angry at a television show. But check me into a padded room this week, I suppose. I am in a fight with Game of Thrones. (Beware to all who click here: I am about to seriously spoil anyone who hasn't read the books.)
Because, well: I really, really, really, really, really, do not agree with the elimination of Lady Stoneheart, the zombie resurrection of Catelyn Stark, from the season four finale.
For anyone to whom that is Greek: Catelyn is tossed in the river after the Red Wedding. Her body is found there by Beric Dondarrion's crew. Dondarrion, who as you may remember has survived a couple deaths of his own, gives his life to revive Catelyn. Resurrected Catelyn cannot speak because of her slit throat. But she remembers the wrong done to her family and works to avenge them under the name Lady Stoneheart.
On my Sunday nights, all I ask is that my fun D&D-derivative, quasi-serious-in-all-the-right-ways television show deliver on the thrills I expect it to. I read the books because I'm the kind of person who hates when a story ends, and I always want to know more. And mostly knowing what happens in the books never spoiled my enjoyment of the show. I have found most of the tweaks made by David Benioff, Dan Weiss and company pretty sound.
Until now. I have two basic reasons for wanting Lady Stoneheart on the show. The first is that I like zombies. Zombies, in my view, are superior to the wight-things that killed Jojen in the finale. They have emotional weight. They're not just ugly dead things, indistinguishable and easily dispatched. They're zombified forms of people—I mean character—that you've previously known and loved.
The second is that I like Michelle Fairley, the actress cast as Catelyn. The show has yet to top her anguished scream at the end of the Red Wedding for emotional oomph. (Lena Headey's upset at the Purple Wedding hardly competed, though to be fair the decks were stacked against her because everyone hated Joffrey.)
I am sure I could spin either of those reasons off into a long cultural studies-ish essay about the female body, Catelyn, women antiheroes, and the need for a rich tapestry of femininity on television. But instead I will be honest and say: I just really, really, want to watch a show which has Lady Stoneheart in it. As a fan, and someone who just wants to enjoy something.
Of course, at the moment, we don't know that Lady Stoneheart is gone from the show entirely. The season four finale director told Entertainment Weeklythat there were never any plans to film the character, and besides:
They [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] have such a challenge adapting the books into a really focused television experience. It's very hard, it's very complicated, it's much harder then they've been given credit for, I think — and they do a brilliant job. But to bring back Michelle Fairley, one of the greatest actresses around, to be a zombie for a little while — and just kill people? It is really sort of, what are we doing with that? How does it play into the whole story in a way that we're really going to like? It just didn't end up being a part of what was going to happen this season. And finally one [more] reason: In case you didn't notice, a lot happens this season … To add that in is something they opted out of. But what's funny is that it was never going to be in the season, yet it took off on the Internet like it was going to happen.
This is some awfully silly reasoning. First of all, why wouldn't you want one of the greatest actresses around on your television show playing an avenging zombie matriarch, even for just five minutes? And an avenging zombie matriarch that has some emotional gravitas and is woven into the central crime of the show, the gradual murder of the Starks — that's a plum role!
Second, I do not really buy that they could not fit it into the finale. If they needed five extra minutes of air time to do it I do not doubt that HBO would move heaven and earth to achieve that. Possibly there was a problem with getting Michelle Fairley to set to film those five minutes, but that is the only kind of logistical explanation I am prepared to accept. Assuming someone is asking me, which they aren't.
Though that director also adds, on the question of whether she's ever coming:
"As somebody who's worked deep inside the show, begged to have an answer and wants more than anybody, I have no idea," he said. "They won't tell me. They're very good at being secretive."
Well, I for one am simply going to believe they would never cut her from the show altogether. The alternative is too horrific to contemplate.