(Spoiler Alert: Contains details from latest episode of “Game of Thrones”)
The “Game of Thrones” episode “Blood of My Blood” provided more questions than answers, but it also added two scenes to the growing list of evidence from this season that proves several fan theories.
The first was the flashback scene at the start of the episode, which featured King Aerys’ cries of “Burn them all!” amid Bran’s rapid-fire visions of the past. This made a direct connection between Bran’s third-eye powers and the madness that led to the fall of Aerys and the Targaryens.
The other came at the end of the episode, when Bran and Meera were saved by a mysterious cloaked figure that turned out to be none other than Bran’s long-lost uncle, Benjen Stark. Since he would not be heir to Winterfell as he was not the firstborn son, Benjen did what many younger brothers in great houses did: traveled to The Wall to take the black.
By the start of the series, Benjen had risen quickly through The Night’s Watch to become First Ranger and was seen as one of the few remaining bright spots in that diminished institution.
But when Jon Snow decided to follow in his uncle’s footsteps, he discovered upon his arrival at Castle Black that Benjen had gone north of The Wall to investigate the disappearance of several of his comrades, only to disappear himself. Now, dozens of episodes later, he’s back. What’s more, his return may prove a fan theory that George R.R. Martin shot down in his books.
In Martin’s third book, “A Storm of Swords,” Samwell Tarly and Gilly are on the run from wights when they are rescued by a mysterious warrior with icy cold hands and wearing a Night’s Watch cloak. It’s revealed that he’s an ally of the Three-Eyed Raven, and he later helps Bran and his crew reach the Raven beyond the Wall. The warrior is given the nickname “Coldhands,” and he explains that his hands are so icy because he is one of the living dead.
In this week’s episode, Benjen reveals to Bran that he was sent to help him at the behest of the Raven, just like Coldhands. Also like Coldhands, Benjen has been brought back from the dead, though he explains how this is possible in greater detail.
He was dealt a fatal blow by the White Walkers while patrolling beyond the Wall, but was brought back by the Children of the Forest when they stabbed him with a piece of dragonglass. Benjen’s not a wight, but neither is he truly alive. All this seems to point to the conclusion that Coldhands and Benjen are the same person.
The twist is that George R.R. Martin seems to have denied this theory in his books, at least privately. Back in January 2015, a Reddit user on the “Song of Ice and Fire” subreddit mentioned that he took a visit to Texas A&M University to look at the manuscript for Martin’s most recent book, “A Dance With Dragons.” In the margins, Martin’s editor asked if Coldhands was Benjen, to which Martin simply replied in red ink, “NO.”
It may be possible that Martin has different plans for Benjen and Coldhands in his next book, “The Winds of Winter.” In the meantime, David Benioff, D.B. Weiss and the “Game of Thrones” writers seem to be once again taking liberties as they go off the beaten path set by the books.
Considering how they already took a different stance on Daenerys’ resistance to fire than Martin did, it wouldn’t be surprising if they did it again here with the most mysterious member of House Stark.