Warning: Spoilers ahead for season 8, episode 4 — "The Last of the Starks" — of Game of Thrones.
Think keeping up with the Kardashians is exhausting? Try keeping up with the direwolves of Winterfell. In the first season of Game of Thrones, Ned Stark's (Sean Bean) six children were given direwolves as protectors and pals. Since then, the Stark kids have gone on dramatic journeys — and so have their direwolves. There have been joyful greetings, prolonged separations, and more than one miraculous saving (direwolves may be cuddly, but they are fierce).
In season 8, episode 4, it's time for another goodbye — one that may have major ramifications for a character's fate.
Before heading off to King's Landing to fight for Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), Jon Snow (Kit Harington) gives his direwolf, Ghost, to Tormund Giantsband (Kristofer Hivju). Tormund's returning to the Northern corners of the world where the Free Folk roam. In doing so, Jon protects Ghost – but he's also giving up an essential part of himself, because he knows what may await him in King's Landing.
As he gets ready to face the next war in King's Landing, Jon has to leave a part of himself behind. His Stark roots. Ghost represents Jon's time in the North, bridging the gap between the Night's Watch and the Free Folk. Like Jon, direwolves thrive in the cold weather of Winterfell and beyond.
But Jon's not only a Stark. At this point, Jon's destiny hinges on the other side of his bloodline. Jon's mother is Lyanna Stark, Ned's sister. His true father was Rhaegar Targaryen, King Aerys II's son — which makes Jon the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. While Jon aims to support Daenerys, his very bloodline makes him a threat to her claim on the throne. Now that his secret is out and steadily spreading, he's in danger from both queens, Daenerys and Cersei (Lena Headey). And, as Sansa reminds Jon, the men of their family don't fare well in the capital — even their grandfather and uncle were brutally murdered there.
Essentially, King's Landing is a hotbed of danger (and warm temperatures). It's no place for a direwolf. And it's also no place for a man who can't accept the tugs of destiny. When Jon sends Ghost away, he's also banishing the part of himself that longs for the North, longs for a quieter life. He chooses duty (King's Landing) over desire (the wild, wild North with Tormund).
Since Ghost is linked to Jon's spirit, Jon is severing an essential part of himself by exiling Ghost. Perhaps it's out of the desire to protect Ghost from what Jon will become in King's Landing. Someone unrecognizable.
Who knows what fate awaits Jon in King's Landing? Bloodshed, certainly. Violence. Collisions with Cersei. Jon may not make it out alive — but at least there will be a part of him, roaming free.
Realistically, we don't know if that's our final encounter with Ghost. What makes direwolves special is their attachment to their human companions. Jon sends Ghost away — but that doesn't mean Ghost will listen. We'll keep our eyes out for another reappearance. Jon can't deny his Stark side, just as Ghost can't deny his connection takes Jon, no matter how far south it takes him.