Game of Thrones director Alan Taylor has confirmed that Benjen Stark is dead, following the season 7 episode "Beyond The Wall."
Speaking on the DVD commentary for the episode, Taylor solemnly confirms "he meets his end here."
The episode first featured the brief but triumphant return of Benjen Stark. The mysterious man, also known as Coldhands, was seen heading North in the very first season of Game of Thrones and didn't re-emerge until season six, when he aided his nephew Bran. Benjen rode to the rescue once again in "Beyond The Wall", saving another nephew, Jon Snow this time, from an onslaught of the undead. And although Benjen managed to hoist Jon onto his horse and send him back South, Benjen was faced with an oncoming army of Wights.
With the show's reputation for resurrecting characters thought to be dead, it's unwise for viewers to assume any deaths unless explicitly shown onscreen. So it make sense why so many fans were clinging onto the hope that Benjen Stark somehow survived season seven and could re-appear further down the line, no matter how desperate his situation looked in "Beyond The Wall".
Of course, this news does not mean we won't see Benjen in an undead form in the upcoming season 8. He was previously saved from becoming a Wight by having his heart pierced with dragonglass after he was stabbed by a White Walker earlier in the series. And it's unknown as to whether Benjen can still become a Wight or whether he died in the conventional manner, so it's possible he may re-emerge as an enemy of the nephew he died to save.
Fans looking forward to the final season of Game of Thrones will be anxious to hear that the finale moved the cast to tears during its table read.
"We had the read-through a while ago and at the end of it, we were all on our feet, applauding and crying," Sophie Turner told Entertainment Weekly. "We had everyone there, everyone who's had any part in this. It was amazing."
With only six episodes left until the series' end, the cast, who has been together since 2011, is getting ready to say their goodbyes and go their separate ways, but not before they defeat the Night King and his army of white walkers in the Great War.
"We closed the blinds and shut ourselves off from the rest of the world and had six hours in this room just reading it through and crying and laughing," Turner continued. "We had our emotional bit and then we thought, 'Well now we've got eight months. We've still got a while to get through!'"
While the final season of Game of Thrones isn't expected to premiere until 2019, information that Turner accidentally let slip, current and former stars of the show have been teasing what fans can expect in the send-off.
"Each of the characters this year is placed in a completely alien environment at some point in the season that they've never been placed in before," teased John Bradley, who plays Samwell Tarly. "The thrill is seeing how they react to it and how they respond... This season, I think, more than any other, is stretching these characters."
Other characters have delivered the sad news that they likely won't be returning for the final season. After being spotted on set, Khal Drogo's Jason Momoa had to break the news to fans that he wouldn't be making a surprise appearance in the final season, which he called "the greatest thing that's ever aired on TV."