The Seductive Power Of Faith And Violence Are Beautifully Explored In ‘The Incendiaries’


Talking with R.O. Kwon about her debut novel

Every novel requires its reader to take a leap of faith; we are asked to engage with a world created for its pages, one which might feel strikingly similar to our own, but which is wholly the invention of its author. And when that faith is rewarded, when the world created is as devastating, entrancing, infuriating, and invigorating as the one that exists in real life, there's nothing quite like it.

Such is the case in R.O. Kwon's wonderful debut novel, The Incendiaries, which centers around the stories of three people brought together at a tiny liberal arts college in upstate New York. There is Will, a student whose loss of his fundamentalist Christian faith has left him feeling a level of grief he's trying to make sense of; Phoebe, whose struggle over her role in her mother's sudden death has left her searching for a sense of purpose; and John Leal, a charismatic cult leader who uses his experience in a North Korean prison to draw people into his inner circle. Will and Phoebe find some sense of relief from their respective traumas in the arms of one another, but their relationship is threatened by the sanctuary John Leal offers Phoebe. Kwon is adept and quietly stunning in her exploration of issues of belief, identity, and displacement. She makes clear the ways in which our search for answers to intractable problems can lead us to extreme places and to violent ends.

Recently, I spoke with Kwon over the phone about the genesis of this novel, what it was like to grapple with the difficult topic of faith, and how pain can bring people together, even as it tears them apart. Read our Q&A, below.

How did you know this was the story you wanted to tell?
I really wanted to write something that conveyed both how devastating it was to lose my faith—because I grew up deeply Christian—but also how wonderful it was to really fall into it. One of the hardest things about losing my faith was how alone I felt, both in terms of my family and my friends, who are all religious, and in terms of the books I was reading. As a bookish, introverted human, I was used to feeling at times misunderstood by my family and friends, but I could always find myself and my life reflected in books—and I couldn't in this one instance. Later, I was able to find a few more books that grappled with this [topic], but I really wanted to write this for the 17-year-old girl I was, who felt that she was alone. So that was the first genesis. 

A second came two years into the book, because for two years it was just a book about a woman, Phoebe, just sort of wandering around meditating on the nature of this absent God [laughs]. And then I sort of dropped all that, and I was very briefly volunteering at a Planned Parenthood, and it occurred to me that that's one of the ways in which division in faith and division in belief make themselves most visible, and in some cases devastatingly visible, and at that point that was when the cult and the abortion clinic aspects came into the book. 

There was a really interesting article in n+1 a while ago ["The Two Cultures of Life," by Kristin Dombek] that talked about how anti-abortion sentiments and veganism share a visceral connection, even though their adherents are usually thought to come from opposite sides of the philosophical spectrum. It's fascinating because of how it explores radicalism and extremism, and the internal consistencies and inconsistencies within certain philosophies, and what leads people down paths of fanaticism. This is kind of a digression, talking about this article, but I think it's also instructive to think about how seemingly regular people become extremists and what thought process they use to justify their actions.
I think that it's part of what's so hard about... I have my own political beliefs, which are firmly on the side of abortion as health care and as a right—outlawing it does absolutely nothing except hurt women, especially more marginalized women. But when I was deeply Christian, I was... I don't even like this term "pro-life," I was anti-abortion, and so I haven't forgotten what it used to feel like to believe that. On the other hand, something I do firmly believe is that if one believes so strongly that life begins at conception and that human life is so valuable that the fetus' life outweighs the life of the woman carrying the fetus, then I sure as fuck hope that that person is going to also have strong pro-life beliefs in terms of prenatal care, gun laws, capital punishment, health care for all, and Medicaid. And I think the ways in which abortion has been taken up as a central cause is clearly so skewed and so strange. 

It is so fascinating how it's sometimes the one issue where non-violence is preached by people who are fine with violence as performed by anyone other than women. Faith leads us to real logical inconsistencies. How did it feel to write about faith? Did writing this book make you think about aspects of your own experience that you hadn't really considered before?
In some ways, writing this book kept me so close to the God in whom I had completely stopped believing in and no longer believe in. I was reading the Bible so much. I was reading a lot of religious thinkers, reading books by saints. I actually played with the idea of going to divinity schools just because I wanted to read even more religious texts in a more structured way. And so I was extending my understanding of religion and of Christianity and what other people have said about Christianity. I think, in terms of my own relationship to my faith, that's gone, I don't think that changed very much. I think the only thing that did change is any hope that I'd had that I would just, like, feel better about it or that the grief would end at some point. I think that's gone. I think I just started to accept that that's going to stay with me.

One thing that was so interesting in the book was to see the ways in which a personal relationship, primarily a romantic one, can become its own intense type of devotion and almost its own little religion. How do you think personal relationships work in relation to religious devotion? I think it's an interesting thing, the way they can displace each other, or alternately, a shared devotion to something else can strengthen a personal bond. 
One way I was thinking about this is that people who have different faiths, or you know no real faith at all, we exist on such different... these are such different worldviews. Like the rest of my family quite literally believes that they'll live forever. A lot of Christians, including my family, quite literally believe that an all-powerful God knows everything that you do and talks directly to them. And even though I've lived on both sides of that spectrum, it's still almost inconceivable to me. That difference feels so huge in terms of how one goes about one's life, like how one thinks about one's mortality, how one thinks about love. And that was really interesting with this book, trying to show that divide and to show what one side can be to people who haven't experienced both. I think it can be really hard for... like when I was really Christian, a lot of pastors, and certainly priests, would put an emphasis on finding a partner who believes what you do because it's so difficult to be deeply Christian and to be partnered with somebody who's not. That's something that I heard a lot when I was growing up. 

Partnerships can be premised on other commonalities, though, like another thing that Will and Phoebe share is an understanding of loss, and of pain, which is also a specific kind of intimacy. And in sharing pain, that hurt becomes its own kind of bridge to communicate, which is something that I think is utilized in a place like a cult, where people who have been hurt can bond with one another. Is pain, maybe, the ultimate bridge in communication?
I'm not sure that I would say the ultimate bridge, but it can be a really powerful bridge. Because I do think that, sometimes, shared pain can really divide people, too. I think a lot about the statistic that parents who lose a child, more than 50 percent of them split up in the next few years after that. But, at least in my own experience, over the years, since I lost my faith, I do sometimes feel an instant rapport with people who've lost their faith, who used to really believe in something and then left it. It's meant so much to hear from people like that, from readers who've read early copies, to say that I've articulated something that they've been feeling. So, personally, that's meant a lot to me. But, I think, pain is a very powerful bridge; I don't know if it's always a successful bridge. 

I think that it's just an interesting way that people get close to each other sometimes, but it's not really the best ultimate foundation for intimacy. But, it's still definitely one shortcut. [laughsWhat were the most difficult parts of the book to write?
I felt very conscious writing the section that took place in North Korea. I felt very conscious of the fact that I've never been to North Korea, and that there's only so much I can learn about North Korea by reading books, by reading non-fiction about the place. Like people have asked, "How did you know you were getting it right?" I knew there was no getting it right. It feels that there's a real responsibility in trying to depict a place that almost no one can know very much about. It's different than if it were a more accessible place. So I really wanted to depict that, rather than trying to assert any kind of knowledge. So walking that line was something I was very conscious of.

Did you always know exactly how the narrative would play out? Were there any changes along the way? Or was it pretty much always leading to the same conclusion? 
After the first two years, once I restarted the novel and started reimagining what it could be, those first two pages of the novel and that scene it sets with the cult on a rooftop watching a bombed building fall, that was there. But other than that, almost everything came as a surprise to me. I really wish I could know a story ahead of time, but I'm not really a top-down writer. I sort of follow what feels right in the moment, and I just keep going through it until it feels more and more right to me. But, so much of it—almost all of it—came as a surprise. Whole characters came as surprises. I'm a very intuitive writer. I wish I was a little less intuitive. There seems to be no other way to work for me. 

The Incendiaries is available for purchase here.

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Dragonfire can't melt steel memes

I'm not quite ready to talk about the amount of time I wasted hoping Game of Thrones would live up to its drawn out hype with the series finale, but I am ready to dive into all the memery that came out of the disappointment. And I'm not alone: Maisie Williams—aka Arya Stark—summed up what we were all thinking in one single tweet: "just here for the memes."

After Daenerys had almost as lackluster a death as Cersei, dying with a quick stab wound, it was pretty clear that it would all be downhill. But hey, at least she's reunited with her BFFs Missandei and Jorah in the afterlife.

That opened up the question of who exactly would be king or queen of the seven kingdoms. Poor precious Samwell thinks we should try democracy, but it's not Game of Popular Vote, it's Game of Thrones.

Apparently, everyone at this point had totally forgotten about the fact that Jon Snow actually was a Targaryen, and the rightful heir to the throne. All the characters who, up until this point in the season, had been obsessed with this fact totally pretended it never happened, and never considered him for the new ruler because he... killed the mad queen.

So what do they do? Choose the one person who always said they never wanted throne and that he never even wanted anything: Bran Stark. Arya didn't save everyone's ass from the Night King to be disrespected like this!

And, with all his pre-existing knowledge and newfound power, Bran still just chilled in his chair. Arya is going into uncharted waters, no idea what danger lies ahead? Nah, don't share the information you have on it. Jon is sent off to the Watchers on the Wall just as his younger brother gains absolute power? Forget about pardoning him, Bran doesn't care.

And who would've guessed that Ser Brienne of Tarth would just go and become a blogger, writing anonymous glowing messages about the dude that screwed her over. I'm not a huge fan of the editorial decisions she made while finishing Jaime's story, but I am a fan of the memes made out of the scene.

And back to Jon Snow: All this potential, all this hype on his real name, and once he kills Dany he's shipped off to the Night's Watch like a sad, discarded puppy. There's not even a real reason for the Night's Watch anymore, so he's basically just being sent off to be out of sight, out of mind, for the rest of time.

But hey, at least they finally made right with Ghost. The goodest boy in all of the Seven... or, rather, Six Kingdoms deserved all the pats, and he finally got them when he was reunited with Jon in the North. It almost made me forget all the nonsense that happened throughout the rest of the episode... almost.

Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

Our favorite collections from 2019's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia

It's hard not to love Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, an annual exhibition of some of the best in resort dressing, that has Sydney's various cityscapes and beaches serving as its backdrop. For five days, we hopped all over the Australian city to check out the Resort 2020 collections from some of Australia's most established designers and emerging newcomers through an assortment of runway shows, presentations, and parties. The result? An extravagant display of beach-ready fashion, elevated streetwear, and signature Australian style.

For those of you not familiar with the resort season—sometimes referred to as cruise or holiday—it's the in-between seasonal offerings of summer garb that typically hits stores in time for the winter months (you know, right about when we're ready to take those vacations we've been dreaming about). And while we're gearing up to head into summer over in America, these collections also serve as the perfect inspiration for warm-weather dressing—even if we won't be seeing them hit stores until much later this year.

From Aussie staples like Double Rainbouu and Alice McCall to emerging brands like P.E Nation, we rounded up the best Aussie collections we saw this week. Take a closer look at each of them, below.


Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia kicked off with a bang, the bang being Aje and its glorious Bloomscape collection. Whimsical pieces inspired by the native flora and natural landscape of Australia made their way down the runway, from billowing, sculptural dresses with hand-painted floral prints to rugged, masculine tailoring inspired by the soil, the trees, and the nation's rocky wonders.

Alice McCall

Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

Alice McCall has been a longtime favorite in the U.S., known for its whimsical and quirky pieces that never skimp on sequins, feathers, and tulle. For Resort 2020, McCall was inspired by the treasures once found in her mother's "dress-up box" of the late '70s, creating her own take on vintage silhouettes but modernizing them and making them new. The result? Romantic, feminine, and glitzy pieces that are sure to turn heads.

Hansen and Gretel

Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

Good news for anyone who's into the whole sea nymph thing: This trend is not going anywhere, anytime soon, according to label Hansen and Gretel. The Aussie brand's Resort 2020 collection, Venus, celebrated femininity and womanhood while nodding to this very trend with seashell knit crop tops, slinky slips, pastel summer knits, and plenty of shimmery pearlescent fabrics.

Lee Mathew

Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

Lee Mathews Resort 2020 runway show was a special one: a celebration of the brand's 20th year. And, with that came a retrospective collection taking inspiration from the brand's archives over the past two decades. The collection presented the perfect mix of feminine and tomboyish pieces, mixed and matched and layered with extravagance. Ruffled, tulle skirts were paired with tailored shirting, while in-your-face prints such as polka dots, brush strokes, and bold stripes were used throughout, showing up on flowing silk dresses and structured, oversized shirting and separates.

Bondi Born

Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

Resort 2020 saw Bondi Born, the ever-chic sustainable swimwear line based in Sydney, debut its first full resort capsule collection. The brand saw its sustainably produced fabrics take the form of knotted and bow-adorned swimwear, breezy seaside dresses and separates, and clean, simple eveningwear—all stunningly timeless, surpassing fashion trends and to be worn for seasons to come.

Double Rainbouu

Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

In just a few short years, everybody's favorite Hawaiian shirt brand Double Rainbouu has grown beyond its playful shirting assortment with apparel, accessories, and more. For Resort 2020, design duo Mike Nolan and Toby Jones were inspired by the hippie travelers of the '60s and '70s, and a utopia where all creatures live together harmoniously. Set in Sydney's gorgeous Chinese Garden of Friendship, the brand's show featured model "tourists" who wore worldly prints, hippie tie-dyes, and plenty of linen alongside colorful zebra prints, sporty polos, chambray jumpsuits, and classic hoodies, making for a playfully diverse, yet wearable, collection.

P.E Nation

Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

This season saw emerging Aussie label P.E. Nation present its first solo runway show, Physical Education, for Resort 2020. The brand took its signature spin on sporty '90s activewear and elevated it, incorporating bold, oversized silhouettes, denim, and all of the bold neons we covet. Bonus? The brand announced a killer new collab with Speedo, presenting its vintage-inspired swimwear at the very end of the show. Even bigger bonus? The brand's been upping its sustainability efforts, debuting its first-ever recycled active set, using recycled yarns and organic cotton. It will also be moving to biodegradable packaging by July.

Leo & Lin

Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

One of our favorite collection this season came courtesy of Leo & Lin. Celebrating the designer's love of history, the romantic "Imperial" collection was a nod at both ancient Rome and the Victorian era, which saw sweeping, bulb-sleeved and high-necked floral dresses and suiting walking alongside flowing, draped Roman-inspired frocks. A modern flair was also sprinkled in, seen in the form of vinyl trench coats and fishnet fabrics.

Ten Pieces

Photos via Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia/Getty Images

One of the most buzzed about shows this season was Ten Pieces, the contemporary sportswear collection born from the collaboration between founders Maurice Terzini and Lucy Hinckfuss and designer Allan Marshall. For Resort 2020, Terzini was inspired by his time as a teen in Italy in the late '70s and the disco freak era. A bit punky, a bit hippie, and set in the drained pool of Sydney's iconic Icebergs Club with Bondi Beach as its backdrop, the collection's sporty streetwear pieces—unisex, and meant to be mixed, matched, and layered to its wearer's delight—felt more apt for the beach than a bustling city.

Photo by Ari Perilstein/Getty Images for ASCAP

"It makes my ears fucking steam out of my head"

Billie Eilish isn't taking Alabama's abortion ban lightly. Speaking to Variety, the singer said that she has "no words for the bitches in the fucking White House." She continued: "Honestly, I can't even look at my phone," because the news is always so distressing.

Eilish doesn't call out any legislators specifically, but she doesn't have to in order to get her point across, namely, that it's outrageous that people don't get to have control over their own bodies. "It's so unbelievable," Eilish said. "It makes me, like, red. It makes my ears fucking steam out of my head. Women should say, should do, and feel, and be exactly what they want."

"There should be nobody else telling them how to live their life, how to do shit…" she continued. "It just makes me so mad that if I start talking about it, I won't stop." Eilish did conclude though with this simple, powerful statement: "Men should not make women's choices—that's all I have to say."

If you want to help the people who will be affected by the restrictive abortion bans that the "bitches in the fucking White House" are doing nothing about, these organizations could use your help.

Asset 7

We talk to the pop star about her past, present, and future—and why she spoke out against R. Kelly

JoJo has been through it. Any casual music listener who lived through the 2000s knows what I'm talking about. The singer shot to instant stardom in 2004 with iconic hit "Leave (Get Out)" and released two albums, a self-titled debut and The High Road, which ended up being a fitting description of the journey she was forced to take.

Soon after, Blackground Records refrained from releasing JoJo's third album, resulting in a near decade-long period when she could only put out infrequent singles and mixtapes. She filed a lawsuit against the label in 2013, claiming that her contract was no longer valid under New York law, and when she was freed, her albums were taken off iTunes and streaming services, denying JoJo and her collaborators future earnings and disabling fans from accessing their beloved music. She was finally able to release her third album, Mad Love, in 2016, but there was still a huge part of her career that virtually disappeared—until she took matters into her own hands.

Late last year—on her 28th birthday, no less—JoJo surprised us by revealing that she re-recorded her first two albums and released them online for fans to enjoy once again. It was both the end of a chapter that needed to be closed long ago, and one of the most powerful moves by an artist in the music industry, especially a woman like JoJo who has dealt with a level of power struggles and politics we could only imagine. Below, she opens up about the process of this remarkable venture, her newfound freedom, and her next step.

How did you decide that re-recording these two albums was the right move?
My options were pretty limited. Since I had gotten out of that contract with Blackground, I just realized that I didn't want to reopen anything by trying to have any interaction with them. So I saw what my legal options were and that was to completely recreate these albums and basically cover myself.

How long did that process take? Take me through the process of basically putting everything back together.
My managers and I had been talking about it because we saw it in my comments on Twitter and Instagram a lot, and I just hate feeling helpless. When I saw that there was this demand from my fans of wanting to listen to the first two albums, we called my lawyer and saw what could be done legally from that perspective, and then we just started to brainstorm as to how we could recreate the tracks. I came to the conclusion that what my fans wanted was the nostalgia of the first two albums, of how they found it in 2004 and 2006, so we tried to keep it pretty true to that. The process took, I would say, nine months, from the first phone call to calling my musical directors and have them start the recreation of the tracks, sending them the YouTube link so they could refer back to the original songs, because that's what we had. I didn't have a physical copy of the first two albums.

Were there any songs that you were especially emotional about or ones you connected with when you revisited them?
I definitely got emotional re-cutting a lot of them, particularly "Keep On Keeping On," which I wrote when I was 12. That was one of the first songs that I ever recorded that I had written completely by myself. Just to go back and take in the lyrics that I had written then, it's just still a message that I need to hear. It was just emotional being like, Damn, my little 12-year-old self was an old soul. It was emotional redoing all of them for different reasons because I remembered those sessions so vividly. Especially with remaking "Leave (Get Out)," "Too Little, Too Late," and "Baby It's You," I was definitely freaking myself out with trying to stay true to them but also realizing that I'm a grown person now. I was intimidated by having to hit some of the notes that I hit when I was 12 and 14, like on "Too Little, Too Late," because I'm a different singer, your voice changes as you grow. That made me a little bit anxious [but] I just did it.

You recently spoke out about R. Kelly on Twitter and said you heard stories when you were younger and that people you worked with were also working with him. How did hearing this affect you at such a young age?
To be honest, the way that it was being spoken about in the studio normalized it. I'm looking back on it and realizing how perverse the stories that I was hearing were, about how he'd always have young girls around, how he'd be waiting outside of high schools or he'd be hanging out at the McDonald's. I didn't realize since I was so, so young how very much fucked up that is. He really was just in plain sight being a predator. I was such a huge fan of his. I mean his music is incredible, but at this point, there's just no fucking way to separate him from his crime, and it's just wild. It's just wild that he got away with it for so long, but I think we're in a new era of accountability and transparency and I just think it's definitely about time. But in my comment section, it was like, "Okay, so if you've heard these stories, then why didn't you come forward or say something?" I was a kid when I heard these stories, and I certainly didn't know what to do. I didn't even know how to follow that thought all the way through.

I wanted to talk about the new album you're currently working on. Is there a the direction you're going for?
I want to go back to what comes naturally to me which is R&B, but I think I could care less about genres. I just want to make dope music and release it, whether it's all in one album, one song at a time, however that may be. I'm being super choosy and making a bunch of songs and then narrowing it down from there. I've never been more excited about the music that I'm making. It feels really great, and I think a part of that has to do with closing that chapter of the first two albums, with anything that I did from that time of my career. Now I can move forward and just really be challenged and keep growing and breaking myself down and putting myself back together with the help of my collaborators. It's interesting.

Is your attitude about freedom influenced by the music climate and streaming today? The music world has changed so much since when you debuted.
I guess, but I think, for me, freedom is more of the mental and emotional state. I do think that artists have so many more choices now, whether to be independent, or to do a joint venture like I've done with Warner Bros, or sign to a major but on their terms. I think that there is a lot more flexibility and freedom for us, much of which we've demanded and some that the industry has just had to adapt to. But even when I got off of my former label and knew that I was able to move forward and release music, for many different reasons, I still didn't feel that freedom. I think I was in such a fighter mode that I still felt like I needed to fight things, whether it was myself or... mostly myself.

It's being really hateful toward myself and dealing with a lot of that. For me, this freedom that I'm feeling is just stepping into a new perspective of not recognizing things as obstacles but knocking on them as opportunities, and I think for those who are fortunate enough to be able to get some type of control over their mind, I'm trying to try to do that and to feel as free as possible. I'm excited.

Photo courtesy of HBO.

We made it

It's finally over. We had a great run—even if the eighth season felt more like a PowerPoint presentation of the show than an actual narrative. But perhaps the most frustrating thing about the show was that it left plenty of plot threads dangling. Still, some of the conclusions that the show left us with were shocking in their own right. Let's revisit.

Spoilers ahead...

Cersei actually being dead

I didn't want to believe it, but it's true. Cersei Lannister, the ruthless Queen that everyone sought to overthrow, is dead. Last week, she and her brother-lover Jaime held each other tight in the bowels of the Red Keep as rocks and bricks fell on top of them. I thought that Jaime would die, once again protecting Cersei, and that she would survive the collapse. This would have provided an opportunity for her to be personally killed by list-obsessed Arya Stark or a power hungry Daenerys Targaryen. But no, Cersei did not survive and I was shocked to see her dead face when it was uncovered by Tyrion.

Jon killing Daenerys

Cersei wasn't the only person whose death came under unexpected circumstances. Daenerys' long, epic journey came to an end at the hands of Jon (also known as Aegon Targaryen, and her nephew-lover). Despite following Daenerys all season, Jon was convinced that she had to go after a little pep talk from Tyrion. And so, what else would a Stark do, other than carrying out a death sentence himself? Jon did it with a blade through Dany's heart. At least it wasn't in her back.

Drogon killing the Iron Throne

If there is one character my heart absolutely breaks for, it's Drogon. Daenerys' death left the dragon motherless and brotherless. He took his grief out on the thing that drove her to the very end, the Iron Throne itself. Drogon melted it into boiling liquid metal before flying away with his mother's body.

Bran becoming King

Since the beginning of the show, viewers have made wagers on who would eventually take the Iron Throne for themselves. Through most of the series, Bran, who hasn't been able to walk since the first episode, was an extremely unlikely candidate. But alas, he was the King when the show ended, and he made a comment that seemed to suggest that he'd known this was his destiny. In other words, he let everyone battle it out while he sat and minded his business, knowing it was all for him to come out on top. A shady queen feels like a more fitting title.

Arya heading "West"

I get it, Arya has already been a free spirit and non-conformist. I also understand that she sent most of Game of Thrones motivated by revenge and with no more to be served, there was little left for her in Westeros. But to send her off exploring the world also felt... odd. Arya said goodbye to her siblings, setting her intentions on sailing to see what's "west of Westeros," so that she can find out what's there. It felt way too soon to assume that she wouldn't still be needed in her homeland, but Arya never was one to stick close to home.

Jon and Ghost reuniting

At the end of the fourth episode fans were furious when Jon Snow prepared to head South with Daenerys, bidding fond farewells to friends and fellow soldiers, but not bothering to pet his direwolf. The show runners said the reason for the impersonal sendoff was that interactions with the direwolves cost too much money to pull off and there wasn't enough budget. So we were all surprised to see Jon and Ghost reunite in the final episode when Jon was once against sent to Castle Black. It was a silver lining in an otherwise dreary episode.