For fans of George R.R. Martin’s novels, the biggest revelation in “Blood of My Blood” concerns the identity of a certain “Coldhands.” In the books, the mysterious Coldhands helps Bran and Meera reach the cave of the thee-eyed raven. His identity was never revealed, but fans had long speculated that it was Bran’s uncle Benjen, who in the first book (Season 1 of the show) had disappeared north of the Wall.
“Blood of My Blood” confirms that Benjen Stark is indeed Coldhands (it’s great that the show was able to get Joseph Mawle to reprise the role). Benjen explains t
hat he was killed by White Walkers, but the Children of the Forest resurrected him using the same magical dragonglass that Bran saw in one of his earlier visions. Benjen has since been working with the three-eyed raven to thwart the White Walkers.
Given that Starks have become something of an endangered species in Westeros, finding out that another one survives is a significant development in its own right. But Benjen’s story hints at a more radical possibility for Game of Thrones; namely, that the White Walkers could have a redemption arc.
Up until now, I had always expected Game of Thrones to end with an apocalyptic battle between the armies of Westeros and the White Walkers. After all, the White Walkers had been depicted as glorified Orcs. They weren’t characters with their own motives and needs so much as a force of nature that had to be stopped. Indeed, the very first scene in both the books and TV show, White Walkers slaughter a Night’s Watch patrol, so we’re led to believe that they engage in wanton violence against our protagonists.
Last week’s “The Door” gave us our first hint that the White Walkers are not intrinsically evil. In a vision of the past, Bran discovers that the Children of the Forest made the White Walkers to protect their realm from humans. No matter how terrible they have become, the White Walkers did not originate in sin. Something must have happened to turn them to evil.* This suggests that, on a spiritual level, there the possibility of goodness remains within them.
* If the White Walkers are in fact evil. I would not be too shocked if Game of Thrones ultimately depicts the humans as the villains.
“Blood of My Blood” provides the first hint that White Walker magic can be undone, at least to some extent. Benjen wasn’t saved from the White Walkers; he was killed. The White Walker magic should have started to take effect and he should have become a wight. Somehow, the Children prevented that from happening. Again, the line between White Walker and human is not so clear as previously believed.
We still don’t know much about how the magic of the Children of the Forest works. How far can the Children go? Can the Children turn a White Walker back into a human, reversing the spell they cast years ago? If so, that could have huge consequences for the show. It raises the possibility that the story won’t with an epic showdown between the White Walkers and humans after all. Perhaps, despite everything we’ve seen, there is some other way to resolve the conflict. In any event, the episode continues to open up possibilities and complicate the story in intriguing ways.**
** Once again, Ramsay Bolton does not appear in this episode.
Dom Nardi is a Contributing Writer at Legendarium Media. He has worked as a political scientist and as a consultant throughout Southeast Asia. In addition, he has published academic articles about politics in Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. You can find more of his writing at NardiViews.