I know, I know: We have this conversation almost every year when the season finale of Game Of Thrones rolls around. First, viewers thought Lady Stoneheart would show up in the Season 3 finale, fresh off the outrage of the Red Wedding and ready to wreak vengeance on some unsuspecting Freys. Then, when that didn't happen, viewers were sure she would make her debut in the Season 4 finale. And now, a year later, I'm doing the same thing again and expecting a different result. (Isn't that the definition of insanity?) But this time I'm POSITIVE: Lady Stoneheart is totally going to appear in the Game Of Thrones Season 5 finale, you guys.
(Obviously, at this point you either know who Lady Stoneheart is or you know well enough to not click on any article with her name in the title. But, unless there's still some confusion around the issue, let me just say: SPOILER ALERT!)
Despite producers' insistence she won't appear in the series, I'm convinced there have been a few subtle hints scattered throughout Season 5 that sustained my hope we would eventually see the resurrected corpse of Catelyn Stark, who is so memorably introduced in the epilogue of George R. R. Martin's novel, A Storm Of Swords — but as the Season 5 finale approaches, this trickle of hints has grown into a veritable deluge. Of course, some of these hints are so vague that I acknowledge there's a possibility I'm projecting my desire to see Lady Stoneheart upon them. But if you, like me, enjoy over-analyzing your favorite TV shows, then follow me once more down the rabbit hole:
The Episode Title
The Season 5 finale is titled "Mother's Mercy" — which, yes, may not at first seem like it has much to do with Lady Stoneheart. It admittedly is likely more directly related to Cersei's storyline, in which the High Sparrow has offered the Queen the "mother's mercy" if she confesses to her crimes. But showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have been clever with their episode titles in the past, making sure they ripple down through many layers of plot. Last Sunday's "The Dance Of Dragons" related to both Shireen's book and the literal appearance of a dragon. The Season 4 finale, "The Children," referenced the Children of the Forest (who rescued Bran and co.) as well as Tyrion's relationship with his father and Dany's relationship with her dragons.
So, by that logic, "Mother's Mercy" is bound to have more than one meaning here — yet, none of the other storylines seem to have much to do with mothers (unless you count Jon Snow and the continued mystery of his parentage). However, in A Feast For Crows, it's revealed that one of Lady Stoneheart's aliases, along with The Silent Sister and The Hangwoman, is... Mother Merciless. This is either a big fat clue or some expert trolling by Benioff and Weiss.
The very first shot in the promo for the Season 5 finale is the above landscape. What's so special about it? A couple of things: First of all, the shadowy mass in the upper right corner appears to be Moat Cailin from a distance. This is the swampy home of the Reed family, which was held by the Ironborn before Ramsay tasked Theon with retaking it for him last season. Earlier this year, we saw it again as Littlefinger and Sansa passed it on their way to Winterfell.
The second thing to notice, as eagle-eyed viewers have pointed out, is that there appears to be a figure standing on the cliff on the left-hand side of the frame. Who is this person? And why is Moat Cailin being shown in the promo for the finale? No characters that we know on the show are presently at this particular location. But, seeing as how the castle is currently being held by Bolton bannermen and their Frey allies, it would be an attractive target for someone seeking retribution for the events of the Red Wedding.
Lastly, the distant figure seems to be standing in almost precisely the same spot where Sansa stood earlier this season when she heard Littlefinger's master plan and agreed to marry Ramsay in her quest for vengeance against the Boltons and their role in the deaths of her mother and brother. Like mother, like daughter?
This one is admittedly a bit of a stretch, but bear with me: For two season finales in a row now, the tune on the Game Of Thrones soundtrack that shared the episode's title have been the final tracks in their respective hours, leading into the closing credits. Assuming that "Mother's Mercy" is similarly the Season 5 finale's final track, it's certainly a... creepy way to end the episode. Notice that the track's real melody doesn't really kick in until almost the one-minute mark, as though the screen has just faded to black — and when the melody does finally materialize, it's a distorted version of "The Rains Of Castamere," aka the Lannister theme song, aka the song that served as the signal for the Red Wedding to begin.
The Season 6 Casting
In A Song Of Ice And Fire, Lady Stoneheart spends all of her time cavorting around the riverlands, hanging Freys left and right. In A Feast For Crows, there are two other characters who spend the bulk of their time in the same geographic region, both of whom the show sent to drastically different corners of Westeros instead: Jaime and Brienne. Of course, Season 5 saw Jaime travel to Dorne and Brienne follow Sansa to Winterfell, so book-readers figured the entire riverlands plot was cut. But, recent casting announcements for Season 6 cast doubt on that assumption.
One of the new characters being cast for next year includes "Priest," who sounds an awful lot like Septon Meribald, a character Brienne and Podrick encounter during their riverland (mis)adventures. Could that entire storyline be making an unexpected comeback? Given that Jaime seems to be returning from Dorne unscatched, both he and Brienne could conceivably head there next year, bringing Lady Stoneheart's character into focus.
The Catelyn References
Throughout Season 5, Benioff and Weiss have made sure to mention Catelyn or evoke her memory enough times that it's not super obvious, but enough to keep the character fresh in viewers' minds. (Can you remember the last time anyone mentioned Robb's name? Me neither, because the writers wouldn't have any plans to bring him back.) These references have been scattered like bread crumbs throughout the season: Sansa has been dressing more and more like her mother, wearing darker colors and frequently appearing hooded. She stared up at the tower Bran fell from in a shot deliberately evocative of Catelyn. When Myranda complimented Sansa's dress, saying that it would always Sansa remember her mother since Catelyn taught her how to sew, the Stark girl replied, "I'd rather have a mother." Be careful what you wish for, Sansa...
The timing could literally not be more perfect for a Lady Stoneheart appearance. After two season finales in a row of the character not appearing, no one will be expecting her this time around. Book-readers will have given up on her ever being included in the TV show, and non-book-readers will have long forgotten what all the hullaballoo was about a couple of years ago. Not to mention the fact that capping off their finale with a Stoneheart epilogue would be the perfect way for Benioff and Weiss to get back in their audience's good graces after recent outrage over drastic plot twists like Barristan's death, Sansa's assault, and Shireen getting burned alive.
One of the main concerns about including Lady Stoneheart in the first place was that she hasn't actually done that much in the books yet. Outside of Book three's epilogue, she only actually appeared in one scene in A Feast For Crows... and that's it. If the writers had introduced the character back in Season 3, what would they have possibly done with her between then and now? Benioff & Weiss have successfully stalled for two seasons, and now that the show is about to move into the final two years of their seven-season plan, it's the perfect time to unleash this fan-favorite character on an unsuspecting Westeros.
David Nutter, the director behind both last week's episode and this Sunday's finale, teased to Vulture that "Mother's Mercy" will be "like no season finale they’ve had before." What does he mean by that? While the ninth episodes have always contained each season's biggest WTF moment (Ned's beheading, the Red Wedding), the season finales have all generally been calmer affairs, more concerned with addressing the fallout of those events and setting up for the next season than delivering mind-blowing plot twists themselves. None of them have really ended on a gasp-inducing cliffhanger: think Daenerys crowd-surfing on the shoulders of freed slaves or Arya on a boat headed for Essos. Could what sets the Season 5 finale apart be the fact that it's going to be the first finale to end on a true cliffhanger that will leave viewers buzzing all through the hiatus? A cliffhanger like, say — Lady Stoneheart?
The Alternate Theory
It's possible that all of these hints — and all the deliberate parallels between Sansa and her mother — have been leading to something else entirely. What if Lady Stoneheart does make an appearance in the finale... but in a completely unexpected form? A fan theory that's been gaining popularity recently states that it's going to be Sansa, not Catelyn, who is resurrected into the vengeance-seeking zombie.
Referred to as "Sansaheart," this theory states that the Stark girl will likely be killed during the upcoming battle of Winterfell, perhaps while trying escape or while attempting to murder Ramsay — and that she'll subsequently be brought back to life by Melisandre. (It's interesting to note that, while Melisandre is left behind at the Wall in the books, the showrunners made a point to bring her along to Winterfell in their version of events.)
The promo for "Mother's Mercy" ends with a shot of Sansa telling someone offscreen, "If I'm going to die, let it happen while there's still some of me left." It's possible that this is both foreshadowing of her impending death, as well as a reference to the fact that, when Catelyn was brought back to life, there was so little of her left that Lady Stoneheart was but a shadow of her former self.
Will the Game Of Thrones Season 5 finale feature Lady Stoneheart, Lady Sansaheart, or neither? It's impossible to say, but I'm feeling optimistic. Either way, we'll know for sure by 10 PM this Sunday night.
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