This week’s Game of Thrones was absolutely full of surprises, from the death of Daenerys’ dragon Viserion and his subsequent rebirth as a wight to the sad passing of longstanding character Thoros of Myr (Paul Kaye).
But the perhaps the moment that caught fans the most off guard was the unexpected return of Benjen Stark (Joseph Mawle), the uncle of Jon Snow (Kit Harington) who vanished from the series in season one only to return as a half-undead warrior to saved his other nephew Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) last year.
And in Beyond the Wall he rode to the rescue once again, throwing Jon onto his horse and fighting off the wight army in a short scene that some fans complained didn’t give much time to his character.
But according to one of the showrunners, that was sort of the whole point.
“The thing with Coldhands is that it all has to work in a pretty compressed time frame because there just isn’t time,” series co-creator David Benioff explained in HBO’s Inside the Episode video. “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].”
And while Benjen’s fate seems a LITTLE ambiguous in the final episode (you see him start to be swamped by wights as Jon rides away), Benioff seemed to confirm that we had indeed seen the last of the former First Ranger.
“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,” Benioff explained. “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.”
Sad times – but we still hold out hope. If there’s one thing Jon Snow has taught us, it’s that you can’t keep a good Stark down.
Game of Thrones Season 7 premieres on Mondays on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV at 2am, repeated at 9pm