They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. But what if that's just the definition of good, perseverant reporting? This is what I've tried to tell myself every night, for the last 300 nights, as I've slowly rebuilt my hope of seeing the one A Song of Ice and Fire plot point Game of Thrones watchers have never stopped waiting for.
It's been a long, cold year.
[SPOILERS FOR GAME OF THRONES AND A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE]
Twelve months ago, I nearly threw my back out trying to prove that Lady Stoneheart (the undead, bananas version of Catelyn Stark) would make an appearance in the season five finale. Much like Jake Gyllenhaal's Robert Graysmith in the 2007 film Zodiac, I was disheartened when my thorough investigation and confident conclusions did not produce the results I wanted — but it didn't mean that I was wrong. This time I'm right.
Well, I was always right, but now the world will know it. I am just like Jake-Robert. Let me walk you through my body of research.
The Brotherhood without Banners
The impromptu reintroduction of the Brotherhood without Banners was odd. The Brotherhood hadn't appeared since season three, then returned for the ostensibly unmotivated murder of dozens of civilians. They were sent by Ned Stark in season one to protect the common people in the Riverlands, and they reemphasized this purpose to Arya multiple times in season three. They even state it again just before they slaughter a bunch of random people. For anyone who hasn't read A Song of Ice and Fire, this action is completely illogical (even for a show with magical leaf grenades).
In the books, however, the Brotherhood is corrupted by Lady Stoneheart's lust for revenge. She sends them around the Riverlands, killing anyone with a passing association with the Lannisters, Freys, or Boltons. They don't just decide that's the best thing to do of their own accord! Since the Brotherhood doesn't bother to take anything from Septon Ray's compound, it's safe to assume that they saw the Hound, recognized him, and concluded that the group was affiliated with the Lannisters. Lady Stoneheart is vital to giving these characters that motive.
Obviously this in itself is not sufficient evidence that zombie Cat will show up. As we've seen in Ellaria Sand, The Waif, and all of the Northern lords thus far, the showrunners aren't taking that much care with writing motives. Luckily this is just the beginning of my presentation.
Lemoncloak aka "Lem"
Lem is among the Brotherhood members that we saw in episode seven. He's a big deal because he's the guy in the books who introduces the Freys (and readers) to Lady Stoneheart. "She don't speak. You bloody bastards cut her throat too deep for that," he says, "but she remembers."
This line gets most of its weight from the reveal, but some of the additional kick comes from its similarity to the rallying cry of the North's remaining Stark supporters: "the North remembers." We've already had a couple callbacks to "the North remembers," in the form of sassy-pants Lyanna Mormont, who defies Stannis Baratheon by writing that her family "knows no king but the King in the North, whose name is Stark." An elderly woman who offered to help Sansa escape from her marriage to Ramsay also invoked "the North remembers." Lady Stoneheart would make the third, and most resonant mention. I am thrilled just thinking about it. I love the rule of threes, and the LSH bit would just be a bonus.
The actor who plays Lem has also been teasing fans of the books on Twitter for the last few days, confirming that he'll appear in episode eight and indicating (sort of rudely) that he knows what everyone is really waiting for.
Game of Thrones is on a tight schedule — there is a ton of plot to pack into every episode and we're embroiled in more stories than ever this year. So, it's safe to say that anything that's included is there for a reason. Bran saw Catelyn's murder at the Red Wedding in his vision in episode six.Walder Frey, the orchestrator of the Red Wedding, is back — and talking about the Red Wedding. The Blackfish recently reminded Jaime of his oath to Catelyn. None of this context is especially necessary to setting up why Jaime and the Blackfish are facing off — the Tully's tenancy issues are a product of the Red Wedding, but would make sense even if you had forgotten about it. The only potential plot point that wouldn't make sense without a refresher is Lady Stoneheart's personal revenge campaign, and why free-wheeling, oath-breaking Jaime is on her hit list.
The year of the Starks
Thematically, the season seems to be coalescing around the difference between justice and revenge. Sansa and Jon marching to Winterfell to take back their home from Ramsay is justice; Cersei unleashing the Mountain on all of her enemies in King's Landing is revenge.
Lady Stoneheart embodying the indiscriminate revenge that her remaining family has been able to rise above would be a poignant way to invert the season's biggest feel-good moment — Jon and Sansa's reunion. Sure, it'd be nice to see mom again, but probably not if she's just a zombie husk of her former self, incapable of talking except to croak out orders for the violent deaths of randos. The Starks have always been Game of Thrones' biggest punching bag.
Brienne's "friend turned foe"
Episode titles and synopses have been leaking from HBO all season, and there hasn't been a false leak yet. The season finale synopsis contains the phrase "Brienne meets a friend turned foe." We know this doesn't refer to Jaime, as new HBO photos confirm that she'll meet him in episode eight. So, who else? Brienne has almost no friends.
poor brienne only had two friends to begin with
In the books, Lady Stoneheart is furious to find Brienne wearing Lannister armor and carrying Jaime's sword. She orders her to kill Jaime (for his failure to find and protect Sansa and Arya) or be hanged herself. Because of the way timelines have shifted and stretched to fit the show, there's still room for this to play out similarly to the way it did in the books. Brienne has found and vowed to protect Sansa, but Sansa isn't going with her to the Riverlands, so there's not going to be a way to prove it. Plus, she let Arya get away from her completely. Jaime's plot was rerouted nonsensically to Dorne, and he's only just made it back to exactly where we left him in the books — hanging out in the Riverlands, flailing around in his attempts to negotiate with Brynden Tully.
This is non-textual, but I also think he's being terribly boring this season, and I wouldn't really mind if Brienne were forced to kill him.
Some oft-cited words from Game of Thrones showrunner, David Benioff
From an interview he gave to Entertainment Weekly last spring:
"People will complain about things because they don't know what's coming up ahead. ‘Why haven't we seen this guy?' And I think it will be easier once everything is out and it's 70 hours. Not that people shouldn't complain — that's why God invented the Internet-but I think we'd be better able to have that argument later. Sometimes we're going in a different order or telling a different story. We think the story will all make sense at the end. "
Every time I read these words I feel a tiny well of hype pool in my stomach, then a single tear run down my cheek as I remember that there is nothing David likes better than to troll. This is how Jake-Robert felt when he was trapped in the maybe-Zodiac-Killer's basement and he was damp.
Thoros of Myr
In the style of all procedural dramas, I have saved the best evidence for last. Thoros of Myr, a Brotherhood member we last saw resurrecting Beric Dondarrion in season three, has been more-or-less confirmed as a returning character for this season. His acting agency announced in April that he would appear on "the eagerly awaited season six of Game of Thrones." There is no conceivable storyline for him to be involved in other than the resurrection of Catelyn Stark.
I recently picked Catelyn up in a late-season fantasy league trade, so I sure hope I'm not wrong again!