While sitting down to write the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones season seven, showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff clearly couldn't have cared less about our tear ducts. Not only is one of Daenerys's beloved dragons killed off (and then resurrected), "Beyond the Wall" also features the reappearance and subsequent death of the mysterious Benjen Stark.
Toward the end of the episode, he arrives just in time to save Jon Snow from the army of wights, taking out a ton of the ice zombies with his flaming flail before being overcome by a large pack that jumps on top of him. In the books, Benjen is more of an important figure in Bran's story (if you subscribe to the theory that he and Coldhands are one and the same), but it initially appeared that his true purpose in the TV adaptation was to help Jon Snow fulfill his destiny (i.e. not die) (again). Although their extremely brief reunion and Benjen's subsequent sacrifice are touching, his miraculous timing definitely struck a few Game of Thrones fans as being pretty unrealistic. Sure, the half-dead former Night's Watch member has been roaming around beyond the Wall, but he manages to time his arrival to the White Walker battle to this exact moment?
In addition to GOT director Alan Taylor's recent comments about how the timeline of the show doesn't necessarily add up, Reddit user ProbablyAPun seems to have figured out how, exactly, Benjen knows when and where to save his nephew, and it all goes back to Benjen's season six episode with Bran Stark.
As you might recall, Benjen also comes to the aid of Bran and Meera just in the nick of time, when he saves them from the horde of wights hot on their trail in "Blood of My Blood." He reveals to the two of them that the Three Eyed Raven sent for him, which echoes a similar connection that Coldhands has to the Three Eyed Raven in the book (he's basically a walking vessel for the ancient figure and is almost always surrounded by a flock of ravens, which seem to carry messages for him). Now, though we haven't seen Benjen since season six, ProbablyAPun's theory proposes that he's been keeping tabs on the Starks all along through some sort of "supernatural communication" with Bran.
The parameters of Bran's powers are still murky at this point, but it would certainly be a great nod to Coldhands and Bran's relationship in the books if they have indeed been communicating this way.