Amid all of the relatively bloodless events in "Blood of My Blood," the return of Ned Stark's younger brother, Benjen, stands out -- not only because he came into the mix swinging a bitchin' flaming ball-and-chain flail, but also because his long-awaited reappearance answers some lingering geeky questions and leaves us with a few more. So, as we dig into who (and what), exactly, Benjen is, let's first back up and answer the basic question.
Back with a Benjen-ce: who is Benjen Stark again?
Benjen, the brother of Brandon and Eddard Stark, and the youngest son of noted Affleck-Garner marriage enthusiast Lord Rickard Stark of House Stark, joined the Night's Watch for reasons that George R.R. Martin has yet to explain, but probably had something to do with Ned inheriting Winterfell after their father and brother's deaths at the hand of Mad King Aerys Targaryen II and a realization that he would have been bored just being a nobleman and purchasing swords he wasn't ever going to use at the outlet stores in Crofter's Village.
We last saw Benjen, the First Ranger of the Night's Watch, in episode three of the season one, after he'd welcomed his biggest fan, Jon Snow, as a new recruit. Talking with his bastard nephew on the Wall, Benjen tells Jon that he's going ranging east of Craster's Keep in the Haunted Forest, which sounds like the correct place to go looking for undead things. "There've been disturbing reports," says Benjen. "Reports I don't want to believe."
Jon begs to go, too, on the grounds that he had just beat up on a bunch of thieves and chubby people in training, but Benjen tells him that he hasn’t earned anything, that his hair isn't nearly luxurious or long enough, and that he hasn't even been killed by mutineers and been brought back to life by a red priestess yet. Then Benjen goes and bitches out quippy tourist Tyrion Lannister, and when Tyrion tells him that he thinks the only difference between the brothers of the Night's Watch and the wildlings is that when the Wall was built, the wildlings were on the wrong side of it, Benjen keeps up the foreshadowing: "It's not the wildlings giving me sleepless nights."
Nor should they have been. Of course, Benjen disappears, the rangers he was with are found dead (then turn to wights and have to be burned), his horse comes back at some point with a look that's like, "Will someone please sell me to a nectarine orchard outside of Highgarden?," and then Benjen doesn't show up again until episode six of the sixth season, when he's fire-thrashing every dead thing trying to kill Bran. But he isn't exactly the same handsome-haired uncle.