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Game of Thrones’ eighth and final season has contained plenty of heartbreaking moments and unexpected plot developments. But one choice made by Jon Snow in episode four, “The Last of the Starks,” left fans on social media particularly saddened — and questioning what that choice might mean for the show’s final two episodes.
It’s no secret that Jon has been struggling to process the news that his father and mother were Lyanna Stark (Ned Stark’s sister) and Rhaegar Targaryen (Daenerys’s older brother) — meaning he’s not a bastard at all, but a legitimate Targaryen heir to the iron throne.
And in “The Last of the Starks,” his secret seemed to put him in even sharper conflict with himself and his family — even though he’s still half-Stark, just as he was before.
Jon chose to give up his beloved family pet — causing many fans to question his characterization
One of the most surprising moments of the episode came when Jon, apparently still grappling with the duties that accompany his allegiance to Daenerys, abruptly gave his faithful direwolf, Ghost, to Tormund, who was heading north to try to rebuild the Night’s Watch. “A direwolf has no place in the South,” he told Tormund — though it’s unclear whether he was casting his own destination of King’s Landing as “the South” or whether he was agreeing with Tormund, who’d just described Winterfell itself as “the South,” from his much more northern perspective. (Direwolves are rarely found as far south in Westeros as Winterfell, which makes the choice of House Stark to use direwolves as its family sigil feel very significant — a way of suggesting that the animals have an unnatural, perhaps even magical, connection to the house.)
If Jon was referring to King’s Landing, then it seems possible that he was attempting to ensure Ghost’s permanent safety, far away from the coming battle with Cersei Lannister. But if he meant that direwolves have no place in Winterfell, where each of the Stark children raised their direwolf pups, the moment feels much sadder and more symbolic.
“The Last of the Starks” seemed to depict Jon as a man trying to distance himself in as many ways as possible from his long-held ties to the Stark clan. And indeed, the scene hardly read as an unfortunate sacrifice that Jon was upset to have to make; to many fans, it instead came off as an inexplicably cold exile of a loyal companion.
Ghost has remained by Jon’s side through thick and thin, since Game of Thrones’ very first episode, when each Stark sibling was gifted with a direwolf pup. In season six, Ghost notably slept beside Jon’s body before Melisandre brought Jon back to life. And though we haven’t seen much of him onscreen, he seems to have been faithfully guarding Winterfell through most of the last two seasons. Most recently, he apparently lost an ear during the Battle of Winterfell after charging into the fight alongside Ser Jorah and the Dothraki warriors.
Jon’s abrupt decision to give Ghost away, then, struck many fans as disloyal and ungrateful. But even more painful were the particulars of his departure. Though Jon bid a sad farewell to Tormund and his best friend Sam, when the time came to say goodbye to Ghost, Jon simply turned and walked away — leaving his old companion looking genuinely broken-hearted:
*even hugs Gilly who he doesn’t know very well*
— Fardeen (@Fardeen_02) May 6, 2019
Many Game of Thrones fans were distraught; others were outraged by what seemed to be Jon’s abrupt callousness. On social media, Ghost quickly became the subject of an outpouring of anger:
I might be madder about Ghost than literally anything else YOU DO NOT ABANDON YOUR CGI DOGGO EVER #GameofThrones
— Melissa Anelli (@melissaanelli) May 6, 2019
YOU SHOULD NEVER MAKE AN ANIMAL LOOK LIKE THIS EVER. EVER pic.twitter.com/qaxrpUa7wz
— Melissa Anelli (@melissaanelli) May 6, 2019
One notable response came from a saddened Meredith Salenger, who played Natty Gann in the 1985 children’s classic The Journey of Natty Gann. On Twitter, Salenger reminded people of Natty’s tear-jerking, hug-filled farewell to her own beloved companion, Wolf:
— Meredith Salenger (@MeredthSalenger) May 6, 2019
Even if Jon is symbolically turning away from the Starks and toward the Targaryens, his treatment of Ghost sucks
Plenty of fans criticized Game of Thrones for having Jon make such an out-of-character decision, particularly given that his loyalty to his family has always been one of his most emphasized character traits. While many fans grasped that maybe he was trying to show new loyalty to Dany and the Targaryens, they weren’t buying it.
And, again, he’s still a Stark!
Yeah. That whole Ghost/Jon was shite. Just tossing him to the wildlings with no proper goodbye. You really have denounced your Stark origins for this Aegon Targaryen shit. Yet, you don’t want the throne
— Wonje (NRM) ♀️ (@Wonje32) May 6, 2019
GOT S8E4 SPOILERS
The fact they had Jon leave Ghost behind to signify he was no longer a Stark is such bs. his mother was lyanna stark and he was raised with the stark family. suddenly finding out he was half targaryen doesn’t erase his roots.
— gio aarvatar the last archmage (@diokeeper) May 6, 2019
Others felt Jon had betrayed a friend for dubious reasons, like the chance to shag his aunt and ride her only remaining dragon:
— Robb Stark (@KingRobbStarkk) May 6, 2019
Amid all the anger at Jon, lots of people paid tribute to Ghost, who is unquestionably a very good doggo:
All Hail Ghost, of House Stark, First of his name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, Son of Jon, The Khal of the Great Ice Sea, The One-Eared, Breaker of HEARTS #GameofThrones pic.twitter.com/DqjkZVgH6r
— Beth Moore (@BethMoo05271000) May 6, 2019
Ned Stark: “You will train them yourselves, you will feed them yourselves, and if they die, you will bury them yourselves.”
Not give them away after they risked their lives protecting you over, and over, and over again.
— Dogs BaseBall & Tattoos (@KennyPowersYank) May 6, 2019
And in the wake of Euron Greyjoy killing Rhaegal, one of Dany’s two remaining dragons, at least some fans were left wishing for a hard reset — and a chance to give the animals their due:
— GoT Things (@GoTthings_) May 6, 2019
With only two episodes to go in Game of Thrones’ run, fans are bracing for more drama either way. And there’s still potential for more moments involving the show’s animal companions. We can’t say for sure whether we’ll see Ghost again, of course, but Arya’s wolf Nymeria is presumably still hanging around Westeros somewhere. Maybe it’s time for Nymeria and Arya to meet up again and assuage Jon’s cruel goodbye with a joyous reunion.
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