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We Finally Know The Real Reason Why Lady Stoneheart Wasn't In Game Of Thrones

At the height of its powers, HBO's Game of Thrones was a virtually unprecedented pop culture juggernaut. The show was famous for rewarding many of its most beloved characters with brutal and epic deaths, and in no episode is this more evident than in the penultimate episode of season 3, "The Rains of Castamere." 

Though it has a critic rating of a full 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, the episode also traumatized a generation of viewers with one of the most twisted weddings in TV history, the Red Wedding. Thanks to Robb Stark (Richard Madden) breaking his marriage pact to the Frey family by marrying Talisa (Oona Chaplin), Walder Frey (David Bradley) turns the backup wedding between Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey into a bloodbath by teaming up with Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) and murdering the Starks on behalf of the Lannister family. The episode famously ends with Stark matriarch Lady Catelyn's (Michelle Fairley) desperate wail after seeing her son die, a stunned silence, and a slit throat. 

It's one of the most chilling scenes in TV history, but as fans of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series know, that heartbreaking moment should not have been Catelyn Stark's last rodeo. In the books, Lady Catelyn's corpse is eventually discovered by the Brotherhood without Banners, and Beric Dondarrion (played on the show by Richard Dormer) manages to resurrect her, much as Melisandre did with Jon Snow. Unfortunately, Lady Catelyn wasn't quite her old self when she came back, arising as a silent, mutilated, monstrous maniac who lived for revenge, and became known as Lady Stoneheart. To many fans' disappointment, however, the awesome-slash-scary character never appeared on Game of Thrones – and now, we finally know why.

One magnificent scene wasn't enough for Game of Thrones' showrunners to introduce Lady Stoneheart

To people who have read Martin's A Storm of Swords, Lady Stoneheart might have seemed like a shoo-in to appear on HBO's series, given Game of Thrones' penchant for dramatic scenes and the occasional zombie. At one point, some even insisted that they spotted the resurrected Lady Catelyn in Winterfell during a season 7 sparring match between Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie). 

Showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss, it turns out, respectfully disagree with Lady Stoneheart's usefulness as a Game of Thrones character. In James Hibberd's upcoming behind-the-scenes book Fire Cannot Kill A Dragon (via Entertainment Weekly), Benioff and Weiss finally reveal why they chose to omit the popular character from the show. "There was never really much debate about [including Lady Stoneheart]. There is that one great scene," Benioff says, referring to Stoneheart's dramatic introduction in the books. "That was the only debate," Weiss agrees. "The scene where she first shows up is one of the best 'holy s***' moments in the books." He points out, however, that the character hasn't really had much to offer besides this. "I think that scene is where the public response came from. But then..."

Lady Stoneheart's story would have undermined some of Game of Thrones' biggest story beats

Ultimately, Weiss and Benioff were hesitant to bring Lady Stoneheart in for several pretty specific reasons. The first of them was that Game of Thrones and Martin's books have taken their stories in some fairly different directions, and the showrunners hint that including her as a character on Game of Thrones might have disrupted Martin's plans for her. "Part of the reason we didn't want to put [the Lady Stoneheart storyline] in had to do with things coming up in George's books that we don't want to spoil [by discussing them]," Benioff reveals.

There were also other, more practical reasons for dropping Lady Stoneheart. One of them was Jon Snow's death at the end of season 5 and his subsequent resurrection in season 6. The writers wanted to keep the back-from-the-dead storyline as fresh as possible, and having Jon's stepmom do the same thing would have muddied the waters. "Too many resurrections start to diminish the impact of characters dying," Benioff says. "We wanted to keep our powder dry for that."  

Finally, the showrunners felt that having the multifaceted Catelyn Stark return as a brooding Lady Stoneheart would hurt the Red Wedding's impact. They also think that it would have disrespected Michelle Fairley, whose final, desperate minutes on the show were as haunting as Game of Thrones gets. "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," Benioff explains.

So, there you have it: Ultimately, the Red Wedding was so powerful that it effectively killed both Catelyn Stark and Lady Stoneheart. The Lannisters send their regards.