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Why Game of Thrones fans are outraged over the show’s treatment of Ghost

Jon’s treatment of his loyal direwolf on season 8, episode 4, may be symbolic, but it won him no fans.

Ghost the direwolf in “Game of Thrones.”
Ghost the direwolf bids farewell to Jon Snow in Game of Thrones, Season 8, episode 4, “The Last of the Starks.”
Helen Sloan/HBO
Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

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:

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:

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:

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!

Others felt Jon had betrayed a friend for dubious reasons, like the chance to shag his aunt and ride her only remaining dragon:

Amid all the anger at Jon, lots of people paid tribute to Ghost, who is unquestionably a very good doggo:

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:

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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