Is Benjen Stark about to return to Game of Thrones?

(Potential spoilers below.)  

Season 6 of Game of Thrones has been one of returns: Jon Snow returning from the dead, Bran Stark returning from puberty, and there’s a great deal of speculation that The Hound will return, too. But it looks like another long-lost character may be returning in the next episode, “Blood of My Blood.” I’m talking about Benjen Stark.

We last saw Benjen in Season 1, when he left Castle Black to verify reports about the return of the White Walkers. The two rangers who went with him were later found dead and Benjen’s horse returned to Castle Black without a rider. Book readers have long suspected that Coldhands, the strange wight who helps Bran reach the Three-Eyed Raven, is Benjen, but Coldhands has not been a part of the show—one of many magical side characters cut by Benioff and Weiss. But there is evidence to suggest that Benjen is coming back, though it’s not clear if he’ll be back as himself, Coldhands, or something else entirely. 

First, there’s a practical need for him at this point. Without Hodor and Summer, Bran and Meera can’t move very quickly or really defend themselves, which means they need help. The Wildlings are south of the Wall and the Night’s Watch doesn’t seem to be sending out patrols, so there’s only one unaccounted-for character left: Benjen Stark. 

Second, the IMDB page of Joseph Mawle, who plays Benjen Stark, lists him as being in “Blood of My Blood” as “Brother Beyond the Wall.” That’s not “Coldhands,” but it’s not “Benjen Stark” either, which suggests that Game of Thrones may treat him as a Coldhands-esque enigma, even if they don’t take it all the way. That said, IMDB is incredibly unreliable in a Wikipedia-like way, so take all of that with a grain of salt. 

Third, we got a glimpse of a fire mace–wielding rider striking a wight north of the Wall in one of the early trailers for this season. This is almost certainly the person coming to Meera and Bran’s aid. We’ll find out next week if it’s Benjen/Coldhands, but all of the evidence out there suggests it is.