This character makes a shocking 'Game of Thrones' return
MANILA, Philippines – Game of Thrones returns this week under the shadow of the last episode's tragic ending. But this sixth season has some of its glimmers of hope – its bright moments, so to speak.
The sixth episode, titled "Blood of My Blood," continues in this regard albeit in a very grim situation – as expected of the show – with the looming threat of the White Walkers.
Previous episodes saw two of the remaining Starks reuniting (Sansa and Jon Snow) and reemerging (Rickon, unfortunately in the hands of dastardly Ramsay Bolton). This one sees another Stark reunion, and it comes very unexpectedly.
Click on the special orange button below to reveal what went on in "Blood of My Blood."
The show has come a long way, and it's been a while since we saw this Stark, who was right in the very first episode, actually.
It's Benjen (Joseph Mawle), Ned's brother and the erstwhile First Ranger of the Night's Watch, who vanished after going North of the Wall. He has returned, but he's not what he used to be.
He came in the nick of time, to save Bran and Meera who were being chased by a horde of wights. He was wearing the black of the Night's Watch, but his face was cloaked until he reveals himself to his nephew: undead and wight-like, but still sentient.
The Children of the Forest "had [just] stopped the [White Walkers'] magic from taking hold," he explained, with Bran adding that it's a shard of dragonglass that did the trick.
"Benjen was so important in the early episodes," showrunner David Benioff said in an "Inside the Episode" video.
"He's an important character that 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."
His co-showrunner DB Weiss also weighed in about how his return is crucial to Bran's arc: "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 a window into Bran's purpose."
Co-executive producer and "Blood of My Blood" writer Bryan Cogman also talked to Entertainment Weekly (EW) about Benjen's return as a Stark reunion: "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," he added. "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 was very satisfying to write and to shoot."
He continued about the actor playing the character: "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."
Readers of the A Song of Ice and Fire book series by George RR Martin would recognize the character as Coldhands: a wight-like figure, but benign and still intelligent. They would point out that the character should've appeared earlier, accompanying Bran and the rest to the Three-Eyed Raven's lair under the Weirwood tree. But his identity has just been revealed now.
Isaac Hempstead Wright, aka Bran Stark, said, "I think it’s much cooler to have him show up now instead of guiding Bran to the cave, because Bran already had Jojen and Meera for that." (WATCH: Isaac Hempstead Wright talks Bran Stark's return, 'GoT' deaths)
EW raised the question if Benjen's circumstances holds some hope for poor Hodor, after he sacrificed himself to buy some time for Bran and Meera. Cogman neither confirmed nor denied the possibility of his return: "As you know, I can’t comment on anything that may or may not happen in the future."
Next week's Game of Thrones episode, "The Broken Man," airs on HBO at 9am in Asia (simulcast with the US) and has an encore telecast at 9pm.