The 'Game of Thrones' Season 6 Spoiler We've All Been Waiting For: The Return of Benjen
It would be exasperating to comb through every unanswered question in Game of Thrones. Though thankfully we got a few answers from last Sunday's episode — even if it meant we had to bid farewell to one of our favorite characters in the process.
But Hodor's sacrifice on its own may not be enough to keep Bran and Meera safe from the relentless pursuit by the wights, as seen in the next episode preview.
However, all signs point to some assistance for Bran and Meera in their journey Beyond the Wall — and it could come from an unlikely, long-lost source: Benjen Stark.
If the name isn't immediately familiar to casual fans, that's fair; Benjen hasn't been seen onscreen since early on in season one. A quick recap: Benjen is Ned Stark's brother, and was First Ranger of the Night's Watch prior to disappearing during an expedition Beyond the Wall. In both the TV series and the novels, he hasn't been heard from since.
Even without much onscreen time, his influence permeates in the Night's Watch narrative arc. It's because of Benjen's disappearance that Lord Commander Mormont heads a large expedition Beyond the Wall, and on that trip he meets his untimely death in a Night's Watch mutiny. On that same trip, Jon Snow meets his wildling lover, Ygritte — which would yield one of the show's most tragic star-crossed romances.
And when Jon was betrayed and murdered by his Night's Watch brothers, he was lured to his death by Olly with the promise that a wildling knew about the fate of his uncle.
But since Benjen's been gone for five seasons, how would he factor into the series now? As reddit user Starfishsamurai theorizes, he will rush in to save Meera and Bran from the impending wights, as seen in the first trailer for the sixth season (the person on the horse).
Additionally, the user cites a now-removed addition from IMDb, in which the same actor for Benjen, Joseph Mawle, plays a "Brother Beyond the Wall." While IMDb is not the surest of sources, it's enough to draw further speculation.
Benjen or not, it also appears that Game of Thrones is going to introduce a character from George R.R. Martin's novels: Coldhands. In the books, Coldhands helps Bran reach the cave of the Bloodraven (called the Three-Eyed Raven in the show) and assists Gilly and Sam in reaching the Wall. Obviously, these events have already happened in the show, but HBO has no problem making tweaks from the source material to fit the narrative.
Coldhands bears resemblance to members of the Night's Watch, but his actual appearance is something of an anomaly; he has characteristics of both a wight and a human, and his face is always concealed. Many fans theorize that Benjen is in fact Coldhands, but Martin himself has shot down the theory when it was asked by a book editor, and it is implied in the books that he could be centuries old.
Yet the Benjen-Coldhands theory could still hold true, and there might be a key reason for him to stay north of the Wall for an extended period of time. Reddit user Jebbatsio believes Benjen will help Bran and Meera, but can't return go back to the Wall because he has been marked by the Night's King — just as Bran was when he encountered him in a vision.
Essentially, even though the Wall is guarded by magic and should prevent the White Walkers from crossing, a marked person going through it could mean it can be destroyed by the Night's King (with the help of a special horn, maybe?) — like to the Three-Eyed Raven's cave after Bran's mistake.
Beyond that, Benjen could still serve some importance to Bran, with regard to the context of his visions. While Bran does witness the battle at the Tower of Joy, he doesn't have a chance to go inside the tower after hearing the screams of Ned and Benjen's sister, Lyanna. It's widely expected that the reveal will be that Jon Snow is Lyanna and Rhaegar Targaryen's son, and that Lyanna died giving birth to him.
Perhaps Benjen will be the catalyst for the major reveal, if Ned were to have confided the secret to his brother.
Whether it's Benjen, Coldhands, Benjen-as-Coldhands or an entirely new character, Meera and Bran might have some company on their escape from the White Walkers — though no matter who it is, they probably won't be able to replace the endearing, enduring charm of our fallen prince.