Major spoilers if you haven’t caught tonight’s episode of Game of Thrones “Blood of my Blood.” Feel free to check out one of our other articles.
For whatever reason, a lot of long lost characters have appeared or are expected to appear during Season 6 of Game of Thrones. During Sunday’s episode, we saw the exciting return of one of these characters. Benjen Stark, who disappeared soon after convincing Jon Snow to join the Night’s Watch during Season 1, made his big return during “Blood of my Blood.”
Benjen’s appearance during Episode 6 was mostly exciting because it has been so long since we learned he had gone missing on the wrong side of the Wall. Earlier in the series, a ranging party was sent after him, but they came up empty-handed. This meant that Jon Snow had hope that his uncle was still alive, although there was an equally good chance he had died and even potentially become a White Walker, as the dead tend to do in that part of the continent. News of Benjen was also the reason Olly was able to trick Snow into coming into the yard where he was stabbed at the end of Season 5.
In the most recent episode of the series, Bran and Meera were attempting to escape the White Walkers. They were too slow and it seemed as if they would succumb. Then, a mysterious figure—who obviously turned out to be Benjen—saved them with fire, a fast horse and some sick fighting skills.
Once they were safely away from the White Walkers, Benjen was mostly used for exposition. We learned that he, like Bran and others, were saved by the Children of the Forest. His story was actually pretty tumultuous, though. It involved him nearly dying north of the Wall and slowly turning into a White Walker. The Children of the Forest used dragonglass to pierce into his heart and the act essentially reversed the process the Children of the Forest used to make the White Walkers in the first place.
Unfortunately, for fans of characters from the book series, it seems as if Benjen Stark may act as a stand-in for Coldhands, a mysterious figure who helped out Sam and Gilly in the books in the time after Samwell killed a White Walker. In the novels, Coldhands is pretty mysterious, but he wears a black coat that looks similar to the men in the Night’s Watch. He also refers to Sam as "brother." He later helps to lead Bran’s party to the cave of the Three-Eyed Raven. Fans have long made connections between Benjen and Colhands, but George R.R. Martin has stated that Coldhands is not Uncle Benjen--at least in his book series.
While Game of Thrones has diverged from the books and will continue to do so until the end of its run, it looks like Uncle Benjen is more likely a stand-in for Coldhands than the character himself. It's not uncommon for Game of Thrones to tighten up a plot by using fewer characters, and if you ask me, this was an easy way to solve the mystery of Benjen Stark while also giving fans at least a version of sorts of a beloved character.
Since Benjen seems super fond of exposition, it's likely we'll get some more backstory in the time to come. For now, you can catch new episodes of HBO's Game of Thrones on Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET. In addition, you can also check out what we know about the upcoming episodes.