In 48 days, Game of Thrones will finally return. And 35 days after that, Thrones will end. In less time than it seemingly took Littlefinger to zip around to every corner of Westeros, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will deliver a conclusion to the story George R.R. Martin first introduced 23 years ago—and in that precious time they’ll have to answer half a hundred pressing questions: Who will live? Who will die? Who will tell Jon he’s doing it with his aunt?
Separate from those series-shaping questions are countless smaller but still crucial details that the show may or may not explore in the final season. These are Thrones’ loose ends: the characters, places, events, prophecies, and more that the story has made audiences wonder about over the past seven seasons but the show has yet to wrap up. In the run-up to the final season’s April 14 premiere, we’ll be digging through these loose ends, looking at why they matter and how they could affect the endgame as we count down to Thrones’ long-awaited conclusion.
The Loose End
While the name Lady Stoneheart is ubiquitous enough that even show-watchers are likely to know who she is, I’d like to take this opportunity to warn those who HAVE NOT heard of her to STOP RIGHT HERE.
DON’T READ ANY FURTHER.
Are we good? OK.
In the books, as in the show, Catelyn Stark perished at the Twins with her son and numerous other Stark supporters at the Red Wedding. House Frey was sworn to the Tullys of Riverrun. Walder Frey, the Lord of the Crossing, had long resented the relationship. Cat, daughter of the late Hoster Tully, Frey’s liege lord, was treated with particular savagery. She had been dead for a day and a night when, in a perversion of the Tully funeral rites, the Freys stripped her body naked and dumped her into the Green Fork of the Trident River.
In the show, Cat has never been heard from again, but in the books her body was found floating, days later, by Arya’s direwolf Nymeria. Arya, like the rest of her siblings, has a talent for warging and, despite being separated from Nymeria for years, still shares a magical connection with the animal, which manifests when Arya is asleep. In Arya’s dreams, she sees through Nymeria’s eyes, smells through her snout, feels the hunger roiling inside her belly.
One night, after the massacre at the Twins, Arya fell asleep thinking of her mother and slipped into Nymeria’s consciousness. The direwolf was stalking the banks of the Green Fork. Her pack was there, too, feasting on the corpses of the Stark loyalists choking the shallows. Nymeria caught Cat’s scent, saw her pale body floating downstream, and dragged her from the water before being chased away by a group of men on horseback. It was the Brotherhood Without Banners—the outlaw group led by Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr that was featured prominently in Season 3.
Thoros, the Red Priest, refused to give Cat the kiss of life, saying that she had been dead too long. So Beric Dondarrion—raised from death six times by the Lord of Light—knelt and breathed the last kiss into Cat’s body. The Lord’s fire left Beric, and his body fell still. In his place, Lady Stoneheart rose.
Why This Loose End Matters
To be fair, it would have mattered more three seasons ago.
Book readers have been anticipating the possible appearance of Lady Stoneheart since “The Rains of Castamere,” the blood-soaked, abdomen-perforating, guttural-scream-inducing ninth episode of Season 3. By the end of that season, House Stark had, for all intents and purposes, been eliminated as a force in the realm. Lord Eddard was long dead; Robb, his queen, unborn heir, and bannermen joined Ned after the Red Wedding; Sansa was a prisoner; Arya was a fugitive; Bran had crossed the Wall in search of the Three-Eyed Raven; Jon, as a member of the Watch and a bastard, could not take up the Stark banner and, anyway, had just been shot with an arrow three times by his wildling girlfriend. In “Two Swords,” the Season 4 premiere, Tywin Lannister applies the symbolic coup de grace when he has Ice, the Stark family Valyrian broadsword, melted down and reforged into two new swords.
At that time, with Northern revenge seemingly far out of reach, Lady Stoneheart rampaging grimly through the Riverlands lynching Freys and Lannisters and the occasional Bolton might have provided some thrills.
Now, with only six episodes left to decide the political future of Westeros, determine the fate of the known world, and tie up myriad other #LooseEnds, shoehorning undead Cat Stark into the mix would seem just a bit extra. That said:
How Season 8 Could Address It
Well, where is the Brotherhood Without Banners? Thoros died during Season 7’s mission to capture a wight, and Beric was last seen at the Wall with Tormund Giantsbane in the season finale when Viserion, with the Night King upon his back, brought it down. His fate is unknown. The rest of the group hasn’t been seen since Season 6, when Lem Lemoncloak and his men put a small religious community to the torch, inadvertently giving the Hound a reason to pick up the sword once again. With the Riverlands devastated by the War of the Five Kings and central control basically an open question, it’s possible that Lady Stoneheart and the Brotherhood could be haunting the region without news reaching the wider realm. If that’s the case, with the forces of humanity gathered at Winterfell, Stoneheart and the Brotherhood could answer the call as well.
Think of the reunions! Cat and Jon could finally heal the rift in their relationship by commiserating over what it’s like to be resurrected by the Lord of the Light! Arya and Sansa would be like, “Holy shit, what the fuck!” Brienne would be face to face with the woman whom she nearly failed! Jaime, who threw Cat’s son from a window, would have to explain why it’s all good now!
All that said, Lady Stoneheart popping up at this point in the series seems like a long shot. Neither Beric nor Thoros mentioned breathing the kiss of life into Cat Stark, despite ample opportunity to do so. I can’t imagine them just keeping that to themselves. And Beric, if he did breath the kiss of life into Catelyn, should be dead! Sadly, the most telling reason we likely won’t see her is that you can’t place a bet for Lady Stoneheart/Cat Stark to be sitting on the Iron Throne at OddsShark or any other online gambling establishment that I’ve seen.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.