So, Who Is Benjen Stark Again? A Guide To GOT's Latest Reappearance

Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
On Sunday night's Game of Thrones episode, we were reintroduced to a long-lost character by the name of Benjen Stark, who sweeps in on horseback to save Bran and Meera from a pack of wights. If you had no idea who this man was, though, don't worry — we haven't seen his face since early on in season 1. And he looked quite a bit different back then. So if you pushed his character out of mind in order to make room for the 8,000 other people on Game of Thrones, fear not. Here is your primer to everything Benjen Stark — past, present, and future.
Who is Benjen Stark?
Benjen is the younger brother of Ned Stark and the uncle to the Stark children. He joined the Night's Watch as a young man and eventually became First Ranger.
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When's the last time we saw him?
We first met Benjen Stark in the series premiere, at a welcoming feast for King Robert in Winterfell. His nephew Jon Snow tells him he's been thinking of joining the Night's Watch, and Benjen is more or less supportive. The two leave for the Wall. Then, in episode 3, Benjen heads north on a solo scouting mission, mainly to find out if there's any truth to the White Walker rumblings. He never comes back. Later in the season, Benjen's horse is found at Castle Black. A search party fails to find him.
Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
Where the hell has he been? (And why is he so weird looking now?)
The answers to these go hand in hand. Benjen tells Bran and Meera that he was killed by a White Walker, but brought back by the Children of the Forest and their magical dragonglass. Not brought back to life, exactly. Just...back. He was saved from becoming a White Walker or wight, but he's not exactly human, either. That's probably why his face looks rather, uh, weathered, and his hands are black and dead-looking. The other popular activity north of the Wall? Chilling out with the Three-Eyed Raven, whom Benjen seems to know a lot about.
Was he in the books?
Short answer: Yes. In the books, a mysterious character known only as Coldhands shows up. He wears a Night's Watch cloak and has black hands. Among other random noble acts, Coldhands guides Bran and company to the Three-Eyed Raven. It's been theorized by fans that Coldhands is the undead reincarnation of Benjen.
But George R.R. Martin has actually debunked the fan theory that Coldhands and Benjen Stark are the same person. So, how are we so certain they are indeed one and the same? If you tuned in for the "Inside the Episode" segment, you would've heard one of the showrunners refer to the character as "Coldhands Benjen." So for the purposes of the show, at least, Coldhands is Benjen and vice versa.
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Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
Why is he back now?
Basically, it looks like he's here to be Bran's hero. Benjen tells his nephew that he is indeed the Three-Eyed Raven now. Bran's uncle seems to know all about the Three-Eyed Raven, his prophecies, and Bran's powerful purpose. And he appears willing to help the boy — who still feels unready to assume the grand title — fulfill his destiny. He's a fierce fighter who, as an undead being, is likely pretty hard to kill. And he knows that a shard of dragonglass to the heart will kill a White Walker. We're glad you're back, Benjen.
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