Features and Columns · TV

Game of Thrones: Believe in Lady Stoneheart

By  · Published on June 10th, 2016

Game of Thrones: Believe in The Silent Lady

A Game of Thrones season 6 spoiler Q&A before episode 8.

Art by Martina Cecilia

We’re in the home stretch of Game of Thrones season 6, which means plenty of questions to be answered by the final three episodes. This is where we’ve found ourselves in past years, but not quite to this degree. With the show steamrolling past George R.R. Martin’s books, fans are left with very little hard truths and plenty of theories.

These are the theories we’ll explore today, as I take five of the most interesting questions we received this week from the listeners of A Storm of Spoilers and try to make sense of them. For those who haven’t caught on just yet, this means potential spoilers are coming…

Bryan asks, At this point Lady Stoneheart is a 100% sure thing, right?

As a longtime Lady Stoneheart truther, I want to be right there with you. But 100% feels a little high on this theory and I’ll tell you why. The show has ‐ as expected ‐ made season 6 about rebirth. We’ve seen Jon Snow return as expected, Daenerys go through a fiery rebirth, and most recently we saw The Hound come back to the screen and be born again into action. So if they’re setting up a late-season reveal of Undead Catelyn Stark, they’ve certainly laid the groundwork. But as of yet, we have really no indication that Michelle Fairley has been involved with the production.

Then again, that’s assuming that an appearance by Lady Stoneheart would (a) require Michelle Fairley at all or (b) require here to be on any of the outdoor Northern Ireland sets. The thing about The Silent Lady is that she’s a deformed version of Catelyn Stark, driven by a pure dose of vengeful rage. By the time the Brotherhood Without Banners found her on the riverbank outside The Twins, she had been there for a few days. Which means that her body doesn’t look so much like Ned’s late wife as it does a member of The Walking Dead. This is something that could be accomplished with a different actress and a bunch of prosthetics or CGI. Plus, if it’s just going to be a quick reveal tacked on to the end of an episode, this could be something they shot with Fairley on a sound stage at just about any point ‐ even seasons ago. Daenerys’ big nude fire moment from earlier in the season was shot on a soundstage and added in post, what’s to say that they couldn’t do the same with Lady Stoneheart?

It’s even possible that the show could already have this footage in the bank. As early as season 4, prosthetic effects supervisor Barrie Gower revealed that there was at least one great visual trick the show had held back from season 4, then season 5, which might end up in season 6. That sounds a lot like the show moving around the reveal of Lady Stoneheart.

The other thing that gives me hope ‐ and puts me at about 90% on my Stoneheart Assurance Scale ‐ is the changes the show made to the Brotherhood as seen in the latest episode. In the books, the Brotherhood is a group that protects the people against the tyranny of the crown. In this past episode, we see them threaten, then allegedly slaughter a peaceful village of people. Jason Concepcion makes an excellent point about The Brotherhood’s episode-ending massacre in his column this week at The Ringer, saying that it could be “an adaption of a similar event from A Feast for Crows ‐ the massacre at Saltpans ‐ and that this trio of murderers is simply a trio of murderers.” The other possible explanation is that the Brotherhood is under new management ‐ Stoneheart and Associates, LTD. ‐ and their mission has become a bit more brutal. Anyone even tangentially related to the Crown, even the pious followers of The Seven, is fair game. This doesn’t entirely jive with what we know of The Brotherhood under Stoneheart, but a slight misread on the part of the show could lead us down that path.

It’s always possible that Lady Stoneheart is not going to show up. The Brotherhood could be splintered into factions, some of whom are murdering smallfolk. It’s even within the realm of possibilities that The Hound just goes and murders them next week. But I want to believe, just like you, that the show wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to give us the best rebirth of them all.

Abby asks, Is Arya going to die and come back to take up the mantle of Lady Stoneheart? If not, what do you think about the Braavosi Fight Club theory?

Arya taking on the mantle of Lady Stoneheart might be one of my least favorite theories. Sorry. File this alongside the “Sansa as Lady Stoneheart” theories in the appropriate bin (trash can). We all want the Stark kids to get some revenge, but that doesn’t mean that any of them need to co-opt the Lady Stoneheart storyline. Let Sansa, Queen in the North, get her own brand of revenge with the help of Jon, Davos, and her new guilt-ridden pet Littlefinger. Let Arya do her thing, as well, whatever that ends up being.

The most Game of Thrones thing would be to cut to Arya on a slab in the next episode, her face being meticulously removed by Jaqen H’ghar. But that’s not going to happen. Some way, despite sloppy execution, Arya is going to make it out of the Waif’s murderous path and have something useful to do when she gets back to Westeros. There are many theories that explain how this will happen. I’m fond of the one put forth by my Storm of Spoilers co-host Joanna Robinson at Vanity Fair, mostly for its simplicity.

The Braavosi Fight Club theory ‐ a popular Reddit theory that posits the Waif as Arya’s Tyler Durden, part of her Unitarian Murder Church advanced training ‐ is fun, but let’s not give the show too much credit. That sounds like something GRRM might try with ample space in his books, but the show needs to stick to the plan: Efficiency is Coming.

The most likely answer is that Arya wanted the Waif to find her and even though it didn’t go perfectly, she is luring her rival into a trap.

John asks, Should I be as upset as I am about Yara’s therapy talk with Theon? Also, is Yara a lesbian, because they never really set that up.

There’s been a lot of chatter about Yara’s behavior in the brothel on the Long Bridge of Volantis this week, mostly on Twitter and mostly directed at episode writer Bryan Cogman. He’s the unfortunate soul who was tasked with writing Sansa and Ramsay’s wedding night and now this sequence, becoming a social justice punching bag. As much as I’ve criticized his episodes in the past for playing fast and loose with logic or shredding GRRM’s beautiful dialog, I don’t think it’s fair to criticize the writer for Yara’s behavior. And as much as I’m for looking at Game of Thrones through the lens of our own social constructs, we have to always remember the most important question: is this action in-character?

For Yara, all of this is in character. She’s a pirate, a reaver, and a leader of the salty men of the Iron Islands. Their entire culture, like the vikings of our world, is built around strength and fortitude. So while her pep talk with Theon is ghastly in a modern sense, it is very accurate to how Yara would do it. She’s not a trained therapist, as show creator David Benioff explained in the “Inside the Episode” segment that followed “The Broken Man.” The entire sequence didn’t make me feel comfortable or safe, but it did feel true to the characters involved.

As to Yara’s sexuality, this is something that the books haven’t explored. Asha (as she’s named in GRRM’s text) refutes a marriage proposal from Tristifer Botley, but we never get close enough to really know her preferences. The interpretation I have is that Yara isn’t all that dissimilar from Oberyn Martell, a sort of pansexual enjoyer of life’s finer things. She’s a warrior who spends most of her time at sea, it’s not illogical to think that she’s open to any number of things in her time off. To say that the show has reduced her to “the butch lesbian warrior” misses the potential for nuance. It’s not a perfect bit of representation, but the show is mired in its own quest for efficiency. I, for one, choose to assume positive intent in the show’s characterization of a swarthy pirate making use of what little shore leave she has left.

Kyle asks, Which was a bigger waste of casting, Ian McShane or Mark Gatiss?

Neither! As much as I would love to see Gatiss return, his character Tycho Nestoris really doesn’t go anywhere in the books. At the end of A Dance with Dragons, the Iron Bank’s number one operator is in Stannis’ camp outside Winterfell. And we all know how that is probably going to end.

What purpose would the Iron Bank serve at this point? With Arya probably exiting Braavos by the end of this season, we may never go back there. Does the Iron Bank have an interest in the wars of Westeros? Yes and no. Stannis is gone and King’s Landing has fallen to the Faith, who aren’t exactly in a position to pay back the Crown’s debt. If anything, the Iron Bank might send an assassin to take care of Cersei (hello, new Arya theory!), but it’s not like they are going to send an army to take Westeros back by force.

Gatiss’ performance served its purpose, as did McShane’s. They were both around very briefly as mechanisms for the moving of pieces around the map of Earthyros. Like Jonathan Pryce as The High Sparrow or Iwan Rhoen as Ramsay Bolton, we will miss them when they are eventually gone, but they were always just temporary pieces to this much grander puzzle.

Calvin asks, Is Syrio Forell about to make his big return?

Fans and Redditors have latched on to a new theory in the past few days and I think I’m in love with it, mostly because I can feel Joanna Robinson’s eyes rolling as I type this. Based on a single production still from the next episode that shows the Waif (Faye Marsay) standing in front of a corridor and a shadowy figure, fans have begun to buzz about the return of Syrio Forell, Arya’s waterdancing instructor who is long-believed to be dead.

This illustration shows the depth of this conspiracy:

Like Lady Stoneheart, the return of Syrio (something that doesn’t happen in the books) would fit with the season’s commitment to rebirth and resurrection. But it would certainly be out of left field. There are many longstanding theories that Jaqen H’ghar (and his counterpart The Kindly Man in the books) are really Syrio in disguise, but it’s always felt like wishful thinking. Even Syrio actor Miltos Yeolemou has taken to Twitter to fan the flames on this one:

I want this to be true, as well, but it’s hard to imagine the show going there with such limited setup. At least with Lady Stoneheart, we have had the Brotherhood all along and every Frey in the Riverlands can’t go one scene without talking about how they cut Catelyn’s throat. The Syrio arc was closed last season when Arya put Ser Meryn Trant down. Would that be an all-time Game of Thrones twist? Absolutely. Do I think it’s going to happen? Let’s say that I’m about 30% on this one.

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Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)