What follows is spoilers for as-yet unmade episodes of Game of Thrones. It will discuss the unadapted books A Feast For Crows and A Dance With Dragons.
You've been warned.
So where the hell was Lady Stoneheart? For many fans the appearance of Lady Stoneheart - the vengeance-driven zombie version of Catelyn Stark - was an anticipated moment, one we thought for sure would leave the world buzzing for the year between now and the premiere of season five. So what the hell?
It's possible that Lady Stoneheart won't be in the show at all. She wouldn't be the first zombie cut from the series - Coldhands never made it into the show, and I spent the whole skeleton battle expecting him to pop up and save the day. The show does seem insistent on following the story of the zombie Mountain, though, so it isn't just that they want to keep all the undead north of the Wall. And many readers dislike the character, although it's possible they simply dislike her weird, ugly and bizarrely tedious role in the next two novels. Her stuff with Brienne is actually infuriating, in my opinion.
Which means losing Lady Stoneheart would change Brienne's story in major ways in the next few seasons. There's evidence that her story is being changed; in the books Brienne's sword is identified as being from the Lannisters by Lady Stoneheart, and that happened this week. Also the books has Brienne fighting a Hound impersonator - but she fought the actual Hound on the show, making that kind of redundant.
At the same time the show may have simply decided they weren't sure Lady Stoneheart would show up next year. They have two books to adapt yet, but the books take place simultaneously, meaning there's a lot of ground to potentially cover before Stoneheart even does anything of note. Why have her pop up this episode if she won't actually be involved in the story until 2016? Maybe we'll get her as the end of season five cameo.
Or perhaps the reasoning is more practical - while they intend to have Lady Stoneheart on the show they would rather not cement her design in a cameo at the very end of this season, and are saving her for the season five cold open, when they can give her more care and attention. Or maybe they just couldn't make Michelle Fairley's schedule work, so they cut the cameo.
It's hard to guess exactly what David Benioff and DB Weiss are doing; they likely won't tell us until it becomes impossible to keep it secret. This is one of the weird pitfalls of adapting a current serialized fiction - what they leave out gives us a good sense of which characters or locations aren't very important in the long run. Of course being A Song of Ice And Fire reader means luxuriating in things that aren't very important in the long run - the series is like a bunch of digressions that ocassionally come together to form a narrative - so this shouldn't be a big deal for us.