Meera’s impressive upper-body strength notwithstanding, it was always looking a bit dire having her drag Bran out into the frozen wasteland after last week’s episode, with nowhere to go, no allies, and the recurring threat of the dead looming.
Luckily, they are saved by a mysterious cloaked figure on a horse, who mows down the wights with a flaming ball-and-chain. He takes his hood down, revealing himself to be none other than Bran’s long-lost uncle Benjen.
This is massive news for two reasons. One: it seemingly confirms that the book character “Coldhands”, a cloaked figure who guides Sam and Gilly, and later Bran and co North of the Wall and Benjen Stark are the same person. This has since been confirmed by the show producers, although confusingly, George RR Martin debunked Benjen being Coldhands in the books. Keep up.
Fans simply assumed Coldhands been cut from the show after he didn’t appear in Season Three and Four, but it’s clear the show knew bringing him back at this point in the story would make the most sense narratively. There’s also the fact that books can conceal a character’s true identity better than a TV show, and this reveal definitely paid off.
Benjen reveals to Bran and Meera that he was stabbed by a White Walker with a dagger of ice, but before the magic could take hold of him, the Children of the Forest saved him by stabbing him in the heart with a shard of dragonglass.
His face is mottled and tinged blue from the cold and he seems stuck somewhere between being very alive and being a bit dead, as he explains that Bran is now the Three-Eyed Raven, and he has to be ready for when the Night’s King descends on Westeros.
Tellingly, Bran’s latest vision saw a glimpse of the Mad King Aerys bottling Wildfire and threatening to burn the city to the ground. This is the same King that Jaime Lannister stabbed in the back, though unbeknownst to the public he did it to prevent him incinerating King’s Landing. There’s a popular theory Bran’s attempts to intervene in the past are what drive the King mad in the first place, so the placement of this scene is interesting.