On Sunday, we returned to Westeros to see Jon Snow (Kit Harington) taking up the mantle of King in the North with no problems — well, except for Sansa (Sophie Turner) questioning his every move publicly. But other than that, he’s looking pretty good for a guy who was stabbed multiple times, left to bleed out in the snow, and then brought back to life through divine or magical intervention.
But he shouldn’t be.
That is to say that resurrection by R’hllor, a.k.a. Red God, a.k.a. the Lord of Light, isn’t perfect. Just ask Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer), who’s been revived several times but isn’t looking all that fresh. That’s because resurrection via Red God does not mean complete recovery from the physical injuries that had led to your death. This is no Whovian regeneration. Most obviously, Beric is still missing an eye from one of his many deaths, has a scar on his forehead, and — in the books at least — shows evidence on the skin of his neck from being hung.
Since Jon Snow’s backstabbers were kind enough to shank him in his torso, his injuries aren’t visible unless he suddenly finds himself shirtless. Nevertheless, whether we see them or not, those many fatal stab wounds should slow him down a little and make him a bit stiff. Let’s see how his sword-work or sparring sessions go down. With the looming battle against the White Walkers and possibly Cersei’s forces, he’ll need to figure out how to compensate for his injuries.
In a recent Time interview, George R.R. Martin called Beric and Jon fire wights, which is not something we had considered before since they seem so different from the zombie-like creatures we’ve known as wights in the first place. But these ice wights, reanimated by White Walkers, are truly mindless, whereas those brought back by R’hllor at least seem to have retained some humanity depending on the extent of their injuries.
One example of a Red God fire wight who lost most of her humanity is Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley), who in the books became Lady Stoneheart. She’s unable to speak easily because her throat was slit, her skin is all soft and bloated from having her corpse thrown in a river, and she’s lost half of her hair. But she is also driven by vengeance, and that means going after any Freys, Boltons, or Lannisters, whether they were involved with the Red Wedding or not. There’s a reason why this twisted woman is know as Lady Stoneheart: The warm woman we once knew as Catelyn Stark no longer exists.
Despite the popularity of the character, “Game of Thrones” showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have cut her from the show, which has disappointed book fans and Martin himself. In the same Time interview, he cited the omission of Lady Stoneheart as one major change Martin “argued against.” There has never been any explicit explanation why the character was dropped, but we can see a number of reasons why this may have happened. Perhaps Michelle Fairley wanted to move on (she’s now on Starz’s “The White Princess,” a historical drama with events that inspired the “Game of Thrones” novels), maybe the amount of prosthetics for the character were off-putting, or perhaps the showrunners didn’t want to sully Catelyn’s memory by changing her into a vengeance monster.
The most obvious reason, though, would be to pursue other characters more. In last year’s finale and in the Season 7 premiere, we’ve seen Arya (Maisie Williams) take on the role of a minor character, Lord Wyman Manderly, who had three Freys killed, put into pies, and then served at Ramsay Bolton’s wedding. “The best pie you have ever tasted, my lords. Wash it down with Arbor gold and savor every bite. I know I shall,” he said, which also references the Arbor gold wine that Arya has poisoned in order to kill the Freys en masse at a celebration in the premiere. This was right after she had served Walder Frey (David Bradley) his own sons in a meat pie. In eliminating the Freys wholesale, Arya has effectively taken on the role of Lady Stoneheart. It’s a smart move by “Game of Thrones” since Arya has been on a revenge journey anyway: It shows just how much the war has changed her.
Selfishly, we’re relieved that Lady Stoneheart won’t be around. Her blind vengeance targeted even innocent men, and one of her victims was poor Podrick Payne. We very much prefer the live one (Daniel Portman) on the show, who’s helped to humanize Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and thrilled three whores enough that they returned his fee.
“Game of Thrones” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.