Game of Thrones has seen a lot of reunions so far in Season 8, with characters who haven't seen each other in years having meet-ups that have been both emotionally positive, as well as trying. But you might have missed one major reunion in A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, Season 8's second episode. This one didn't get its own scene like the others--instead, it took place off-screen and largely in the background.
That reunion is the one between Jon Snow and his direwolf Ghost--but nobody made a big deal of it, and you might have missed it if you blinked at the wrong moment.
Ghost pops up briefly in the episode as Jon and the rest of the fighters at Winterfell are preparing for the attack of the army of the dead. You can spot him in the background while Jon, Samwell, and Dolorous Edd are discussing the coming White Walker invasion, and what Sam is going to do during the battle. Unlike major reunions between characters like Arya and Gendry, Sansa and Theon, or Jon and Bran, Ghost returned to the show with very little fanfare, especially for someone who's been gone for a long, long time.
In fact, it's been more than a season since Ghost was on the show. Last we saw him was at Castle Black in Season 6. Ghost helped guard Jon's body after he was murdered by his Night's Watch brothers in the Season 5 finale, but we haven't seen much of him since then. The assumption was that he was hanging around Winterfell, since that's where Jon headed after Melisandre resurrected him, but Ghost didn't take part in the Battle of the Bastards. The fact that Jon didn't have a moment with Ghost adds to the assumption that the direwolf has been around as far as the story is concerned, just off-screen.
The absence of the direwolves from the show is less a story consideration and more a practical one. The creators of Game of Thrones have discussed the fact that the direwolves are a very expensive addition to the show, in terms of special effects budget and work. The show usually has to choose between dragons or other special effects and the direwolves, and the wolves tend to get the axe, story-wise.
Ghost is not the only direwolf still in circulation, either: in Season 7, Arya Stark's former direwolf, Nymeria, found Arya in the woods as she was traveling to Winterfell. It was a very brief meeting between the former companions, and Nymeria headed back into the woods with her pack of wolves soon afterward. It may well be that we've seen the last of her, and Nymeria will get to live out her days being the North's queen of wolves.
But Ghost's return probably hints that we'll be seeing more of him, at least in the third episode of the season, which promises to include the huge and involved Battle of Winterfell. And it really wouldn't be that surprising to see Nymeria show up again, as well, since we know the Starks and their direwolves have an intimate, occasionally magical connection. Hopefully the next time we see Ghost, he has a more important role in the scene than just filling in the background.
We've got plenty more Game of Thrones coverage this and every week. Check out our review of Episode 2 (and one of the premiere episode), and get a look at how the show just fulfilled two major fan character ships. Here's a quick rundown of what Arya might have asked Gendry to make, the meaning behind the crossbow Qyburn gave to Bronn in Episode 1, and a theory about Cersei's pregnancy. We've also got plenty of speculation and theories and a look at all the Easter eggs in the premiere episode and all its parallels to Season 1.