Game of Thrones season 8 spoilers below.
The Last of the Starks, episode 4 of Game of Thrones' final season, has endured a fair amount of scandal. Spoilers from the episode leaked hours before it aired, and an anachronistic coffee cup was accidentally left in a shot of Winterfell's medieval hall.
But the most upsetting scandal of all occurred within the episode's 78-minute runtime. Just before he departs for King's Landing, Jon Snow asks Tormund Giantsbane if he'll take Ghost, Jon's direwolf, with him up north. Sweet Ghost will be happier up there, Jon reckons.
Jon hugs Tormund goodbye. He hugs Samwell Tarly goodbye. Did Ghost get a hug? No. Jon just briefly gives him a solemn look before leaving. Just to recap, that dog has been Jon's sidekick since season 1, and has stood by him through life and death. So fans were understandably confused and, frankly, riotous. But the episode's director, David Nutter, has his reasons.
"Since the direwolves are kind of CG creations, we felt it best to keep it as simple as possible," Nutter told the Huffington Post. When the New York Times asked Nutter if it was a "CGI issue" that restricted the pat we all wanted to see, Nutter responded, "Very much so."
Having never tried to tame a wolf, film it, enlarge it in post-production and render it onscreen, I personally will reserve judgment. But many fans of the show didn't find Nutter's explanation sufficient.
The direwolves being difficult to maneuver due to intense post-processing and CGI makes sense. It would explain Ghost's absence in recent episodes, which is conspicuous enough that fans were relieved to see him in a few weeks back in episode 2, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.
Back in 2016, Miguel Sapochnik, director of the illustrious Battle of the Bastards episode, told Business Insider that Ghost was meant to be part of Jon's clash with Ramsay Bolton. But in practice Ghost was "an incredibly time-consuming and expensive character to bring to life."
This rough cut of a deleted scene from season 6 gives an indication of how complicated the process can be:
The Stark family discovering six direwolves was one of the first scenes in the first episode of Game of Thrones. Each Stark child got one. Lady, Sansa Stark's pet, was the first to die, at the order of Cersei in season 1. Robb Stark's direwolf, Grey Wind, died during the Red Wedding. Both of these are among the saddest scenes in the show's history. Rickon Stark's Shaggydog survived until season 6 before being beheaded. Bran Stark's direwolf, Summer, was killed by White Walkers later that season.
Ghost is no longer an onscreen character, but fret not. He's happily living with Tormund now, creating a relationship that should absolutely be turned into a three-season spinoff show -- perhaps called Tormund and The Hound. The only other living direwolf is Nymeria, who we briefly saw in season 7. Nymeria is Arya Stark's direwolf, and as such is more into roaming about and doing her own thing than being anyone's pet.
If Jon and Ghost's farewell wasn't wholesome enough for you, just remember that Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa Stark, adopted her direwolf in real life. Yes, I agree, Sansa should sit on the Iron Throne.