Game of Thrones producers reveal the fate of Benjen Stark
Okay, everyone. It's now been about three days since that episode of Game of Thrones (or even longer, if you couldn't resist watching the leak). I think our aching hearts have healed to the point where we can talk about Game of Thrones season seven episode six, entitled Beyond the Wall.
Of course, the main talking points from the penultimate episode of the penultimate season of the HBO fantasy epic revolve around the budding relationship between Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen and the Night King's Olympic-standard javelin-throwing arm, not to mention the emotional fallout and wider implications of having a White Walker dragon terrorising Westeros fairly soon.
However, I would like to focus on a character return that's been oft-forgotten amidst the drama and grandiose action of the previous episode. Cast your minds, if you will, back toward the end of the episode.
Daenerys' dragon Viserion has been tragically struck down, slain by a ice javelin throw that was literally deadly accurate, forcing the rest of the characters to flee on Drogon before Jon Snow can be rescued. Jon is surrounded on all sides by wights, fighting them off valiantly in the freezing cold.
All hope seems lost, but at the 11th hour, Jon's uncle Benjen "Coldhands" Stark rides through the fog, and helps the King of the North onto his horse, sending it back home before he himself can get back on it. "There's no time," he says to Jon's protests, and the last we see of the half-undead warrior is the flash of some kind of swinging lamp weapon as he's overwhelmed by hundreds of wights.
Reflecting on the episode in the HBO special Inside the Episode, Game of Thrones showrunner and co-creator David Benioff talked about Benjen's appearance in Beyond the Wall - which some fans think was too short to do the character justice.
"The thing with Coldhands is that it all has to work in a pretty compressed time frame because there just isn’t time. We need the emotional connection. Coldhands has to somehow convince [Jon] very quickly to do what I say, and the easiest way for him to do that is to show his face. Jon kind of has to respect the decision because he just did the same thing [letting Dany fly away without him]."
If you're anything like me, the conclusion you're making with Uncle Benjen's character is probably along the lines of "this lamp-swinging madman is very, very dead". Benioff seemed to confirm that this could be the character's final appearance in Game of Thrones.
"For Coldhands, it’s almost kind of a relief in a way because he’s been trapped in this kind of purgatory state between life and death for quite some time and, like so many in the show, waiting to find out what his purpose is. Why is he still alive when he should be dead? For him, it seems like he found his purpose in these last two seasons by saving first Bran and now Jon."
A heroic exit, for sure, and while David Benioff's words here sound pretty ominous for Uncle Benjen's character, we all know by now that anything can happen in Game of Thrones. Will Coldhands survive this latest, attack, ensuring that we don't have to endure the death of yet another character named Uncle Ben? We'll find out this Sunday, August 27, for the final episode of Game of Thrones.