The following story contains spoilers about episode 2 of Game of Thrones‘ seventh season, “Stormborn”
The longest-absent “character” on Game of Thrones returned Sunday night: Nymeria the direwolf, last seen in the second episode of the show’s first season, briefly reunited with her long-lost companion, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams). The scene finally answers one of the show’s oldest mysteries, with Arya stumbling upon Nymeria in the Riverlands and sharing a few moments of mutual contemplation — with Arya not entirely certain if the wolf really was her one-time pet (it was).
“Ever since the show got rid of Nymeria, it’s one of the questions I’ve been tweeted the most,” Williams tells EW (follow her here). “It’s even nicer that they don’t live happily ever after. Nymeria has created her own world and created her own pack and isn’t ready to be Arya’s pet. To be someone’s pet would reverse everything she’s learned. So they almost just regard each other and go their separate ways.”
The episode’s writer, GoT co-executive producer Bryan Cogman, also had insight on the poignant scene.
“So much of this season is swinging back to season 1,” Cogman says. “Since we last had Arya in the Riverlands she’s had all these crazy adventures. In a television show that’s all about Nymeria the Wolf, she’s had adventures too. She’s gathered this pack of wolves and is now doing the Old Gods’ work herself. Arya and Nymeria do and don’t have the connection they’ve always had. In the end, they’re both lone wolves. They can’t go back to the way things were. And that might be foreshadowing for Arya too.”
The direwolves of Game of Thrones have just as difficult of a journey over the past several years as the Starks. Arya forced herself to chase off Nymeria to save the direwolf from being executed for biting Joffrey in season 1. Her move prompted Robert Baratheon to order Ned Stark to kill Sansa’s direwolf, Lady, instead of Nymeria. Robb Stark’s Grey Wind was killed during The Red Wedding in season 3 along with his master. Bran’s direwolf, Summer, was overwhelmed by Wights in season 6, helping Bran escape. Rickon’s Shaggydog was beheaded by the Umbers in season 6, who then brought Rickon to Ramsay Bolton (who eventually shot down the youngest Stark with an arrow). Only Jon Snow and Ghost remain together.
RELATED: EW’s Game of Thrones Weekly podcast dissects ‘Stormborn’
One reason we haven’t seen the direwolves more often is that the producers set a high bar for visual realism on the series and ultra-large wolves are difficult to render convincingly — a naturalistic furry animal takes more time and resources to create using computer effects than a fantastical scaly dragon. The scene in Sunday’s episode was shot in Canada with some actual wolves present.
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Game of Thrones airs Sundays on HBO.