Bran Stark's long lost Uncle Benjen Stark (Joseph Mawle), First Ranger of the Night's Watch, returned for the first time since Season 1 when he rode in and saved Bran and Meera. What happened to him? He said a White Walker stabbed him in the gut with a sword of ice, and The Children of the Forest found him and stopped the WW's magic from taking hold by plunging a shard of dragonglass into his heart.
It sounded like Benjen was taking on the role of Coldhands, and the showrunners confirmed that after the episode aired. In the book series, Coldhands is a mysterious character with a wight's black hands from congealed blood, but the intelligence of a human; he guides Bran Stark and company North of the Wall.
Author George R.R. Martin had apparently shot down the fan theory that Coldhands was Benjen. So, in the book, the identity of Coldhands is still unknown, and book readers who watch the show were left a bit confused.
So show Coldhands = Benjen and book Coldhands = TBA orrrr GRRM lied. Lol— R'asclaat al Ghul (@blackgirl3000) May 30, 2016
I also like how the books spend so much time trying to say Coldhands isn't Benjen but the show said, "lol nah fam, it's totally him."— Tanner O'Neal (@taoneal94) May 30, 2016
The last RT was something like— JCRB's Honeypot (@JonConsRedBeard) May 30, 2016
GRR: Benjen isn't Coldhands
But the showrunners just openly called him "Coldhands Benjen" in the "Inside the Episode" video, so that's the show taking its own stand.
David Benioff: "Benjen was so important in the early episodes. He's an important character who just disappears. It's one of the mysteries that's been out there for several seasons and we've been looking forward to bringing him back."
Dan Weiss: "Coldhands Benjen obviously had a lot to do with the Three-Eyed Raven over the past several years since his disappearance and he's got a bit of window into Bran's purpose."
Benioff: "Bran had to absorb the history of the world, the entire history of the world in imagery. They talk about the Three-Eyed Raven, it's not just a title that you get. There's a part of him that's no longer Brandon Stark but is the Three-Eyed Raven and the Three-Eyed Raven is not entirely human."
Watch the full video, including those glimpses of the past (The Mad King!):
We still don't know exactly what Benjen has been doing, but co-executive producer Bryan Cogman, who wrote "Blood of My Blood," talked a little bit about the character in a Q&A with Entertainment Weekly:
And then there's the return of Benjen Stark. Perhaps no character in TV drama history has spent so much time off screen, going from the pilot to reappearing midway through season 6! Was this something you guys had always planned and what does it mean to actually gain a Stark on a show that's so notorious for killing them?
It's hard for me to talk about Benjen's return without getting into the nitty gritty of the adaptation process. But, yeah, season 6 is rife with Stark reunions! That's another thing that's been very heartening to track with the fans. The show is so sprawling and there are so many threads, but, at it's heart it's largely about this good family that was torn apart. So seeing some of them connect again (Jon, Sansa), (Benjen, Bran) was very satisfying to write and to shoot. And it was great to have Joe Mawle back with us – it must have been a trip for him to step back into the character after so long – but he's also decidedly not the Benjen of season 1, so that was fun to explore.
We'll have to wait and see how much more we can expect from Coldhands Benjen on "Game of Thrones." Read our full recap for more on "Blood of My Blood," including the promo for Episode 7.
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