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Is Benjen Stark Bran And Meera's Only Hope On Game Of Thrones?

Why this long-lost Stark might return to Thrones just in time

Ned Stark's younger brother, Benjen, has been missing in action since his confusing disappearance in Season 1, when he embarked on a ranging North of the Wall and never returned. At the time, there were two likely scenarios: one, he was killed by a Wildling, or two, he was killed by a White Walker (and possibly turned into a wight).

However, on a show like Game of Thrones, it's necessary to abide by a simple principle: dead body, or it didn't happen. It would be one thing if Benjen Stark went missing and was never mentioned again, but Lord Commander Jon Snow was so quick to believe that his uncle had returned to Castle Black in the Season 5 finale that it got him killed. (Don't worry, he's alive now.) That, and the fact that Bran Stark's visions of Winterfell have all featured his uncle Benjen in some capacity, has us thinking that the First Ranger of the Night's Watch is long overdue for a comeback.

But might he turn up sooner rather than later? It's extremely likely.

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This Sunday's episode, titled "Blood of My Blood," will pick up where Meera and Bran left off -- running for their lives from the White Walkers and into the godswood. As the promo for the episode shows, Meera and Bran eventually find themselves in deep shit, until a man on horseback wielding a torch comes to their rescue. Whoever this stranger is seems to know how to kill a wight.

So, is Benjen the person who saves Bran and Meera? And if so, how could he have survived North of the Wall for so long? This is where things get predictably macabre. [Warning: book spoilers lie ahead, so if you don't want to know what went down in the books, click away now.]

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For years, book readers have theorized that Benjen Stark is the identity of an undead, hooded character named Coldhands, who makes his first appearance in George R.R. Martin's A Storm of Swords saving Samwell Tarly, Gilly, and young Sam from a horde of wights. From what we know about the enigmatic character, Coldhands is a ghostly figure who rides a great elk; he dresses like a Ranger of the Night's Watch, and he even calls Sam a "Brother." However, we never see his face. He eventually is responsible for guiding Bran, Meera, Hodor, and Jojen Reed to the Three-Eyed Raven. (However, he cannot enter the cave, seeing as he's an undead.)

There's not much else to know about Coldhands, other than the fact the Children of the Forest once stated that he "died long ago" -- a fact fans often use to refute the Benjen theory.

Now would be the perfect time for the show to introduce Coldhands. With the loss of Hodor and Summer, Bran and Meera are in serious need of reinforcements. Coldhands not only has intel on the White Walkers, but he's also able to help keep them at bay. He's their best chance of survival, and now that Bran has been marked by the Night's King, he may even be able to accompany them to Castle Black and, eventually, south of the Wall. Wouldn't it be nice for the Starks to have an undead on their side during the inevitable war to save humanity?

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Of course, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have deviated so far from Martin's text that it's entirely possible that they could skip the Coldhands story line altogether -- just as they did with fellow undead character, Lady Stoneheart -- and just introduce Benjen back into the fold. With Sansa and Jon teaming up to take back House Stark, it would be nice to see Bran and Benjen find one another. Plus, the episode is titled "Blood of My Blood," which hints at a strong familial theme.

Let's not kid ourselves here: Bran is going to need all the help he can get, undead or otherwise.

Can't get enough of Game of Thrones? Listen to this week's Game of Crones podcast, featuring MTV News pop culture writers Teo Bugbee, Leah Beckmann, and yours truly, Crystal Bell.