Because Game of Thrones Season 6 ended with a newly returned Benjen Stark heading off alone to an unknown fate, it seemed unlikely that he’d be back for Season 7. After all, Game of Thrones left Gendry hanging for four whole seasons after he departed alone. But Joseph Mawle, who plays Benjen, has been spotted on the Game of Thrones Season 7 set — which is an intriguing sign for the future.

Of all the Game of Thrones characters to return after a long absence in Season 6 — Sandor Clegane; Edmure Tully — Benjen Stark was the most mysterious. While Sandor and Edmure were more or less the same, give or take a hippie commune and imprisonment, Benjen’s very state of being was changed. After dying and being saved by the Children, he exists in a liminal state. The show combined him with the book character Coldhands to make him an undead guide and protector to Bran Stark and Meera Reed.

When we last saw Benjen, he ditched Bran and Meera because the magic that enables him to live renders him unable to travel beyond the wall. His presence in Season 7 is thus a big question mark, both because we’re in a territory beyond the books and because, as a chimera of Coldhands and Benjen, he’s his own character on the show.

But there is one plot development he could have a hand in: telling Jon Snow who his real mother is. Recall that, before Benjen’s mysterious five-season-long disappearance, nephew and uncle were close.

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Benjen and Jon
Benjen and Jon 

Although the revelation about Jon’s true parentage changes his relationship with his other family members — Ned Stark is his uncle, his “siblings” are really his cousins — Benjen is the only one where nothing will change. They’re still uncle and nephew, and both can now bond over their brushes with death. Assuming Benjen knows that Lyanna is Jon’s real mother, he’s a far more credible source than Bran saying, “I saw it in a magic tree vision!”

In the event that Benjen is not the one to tell Jon of his true mother, his return could also mean we’ll find out more about the Children or dragonglass in Season 7. Either way, Benjen is a character who brings knowledge and revelations. His continued presence on the show paves the way for more in Season 7 — though whether they’ll be of a human or a magical variety remains to be seen.

Photos via HBO