This season, most of the (living) Stark family has come together. There’s Jon Snow and Sansa lording over Winterfell, Arya and Sansa sharing a scene for the first time since season one, and Bran making his weirded-out sisters call him by his new name: the Three-Eyed Raven. Who’s left? With Ned, Catelyn, Robb, and Rickon all deceased, there’s only one (important) character left: Benjen Stark. Ned and Lyanna’s brother has only made a handful of appearances on Game of Thrones, but he made a triumphant return in tonight’s episode, “Beyond the Wall,” saving Jon Snow from certain death.
The last time we saw Benjen was in the season six finale, when he escorted Bran and Meera, who he previously saved with his flaming chain, to the Wall. (I bet Meera said thank you to Benjen, unlike SOMEONE else in the Stark family.) He’s unable to pass to the other side because, as he explains, “The Wall is not just ice and stone. Ancient spells were carved into its foundations. Strong magic to protect men from what lies beyond. And while it stands, the dead cannot pass. I cannot pass.” Benjen was stabbed by a White Walker and left for dead until the Children of the Forest healed him using dragonglass. (Book readers might be more familiar with his other name: Coldhands.)
Benjen’s reappearance is convenient, sure, but it also brings things full cycle. Jon Snow saw joining the Night’s Watch as an honorable calling because he wanted to be like his uncle. But Benjen tried to talk Jon out of it, telling him, “You don’t understand what you’d be giving up. We have no families, none of us ever will.” When Jon said that didn’t matter to him, though, Benjen replied, “You might, if you knew what it meant.” As Game of Thrones drops more and more hints about Jon Snow’s lineage (can facts be considered hints anymore?), it’s interesting to look back at that scene, and Benjen’s answer in particular, and wonder if he knew about Rhaegar and Lyanna.