We've been patiently waiting for the Stark direwolves to make an appearance. In season 7 of Game of Thrones, we saw Arya (Maisie Williams) reunite briefly with Nymeria, only for the wolf boss to slink away with her new pack. As for Ghost? Jon Snow's (Kit Harington) plush white wolf never journeyed with him south to Dragonstone.
There's a good reason for the MIA pups: it's incredibly expensive to render the computer-generated wolves in a lifelike way. "A naturalistic furry animal takes more time and resources to create using computer effects than a fantastical scaly dragon,"James Hibberd wrote in Entertainment Weekly. And considering how much dragon action we got in season 7, it makes sense that the producers had to cut resources somewhere.
Game of Thrones, however, is pulling out all the stops for their final season. As HBO's flagship show, they are sparing no expenses to make sure season is as dazzling as fan expect. And it comes with a hefty budget: Variety reports that HBO spends an excess of $15 million per episode, and that number is expected to grow. Their budget dwarfs other TV shows, who are somewhere in the neighbourhood of $2-$5 million per episode.
With such a healthy budget (as, as Variety notes, multiple revenue streams), Game of Thrones could conceivably have plenty of money to spend on rendering direwolves. The wolves were introduced as puppies in the very first episode of the show, and we've grown up with them just as much as the characters. Lady, Shaggydog, and Grey Wind may all have met their end, but Nymeria and Ghost are still very much alive. In the book series, Nymeria even becomes the queen bee of a wolf pack thousands strong, and Arya has dreams of seeing through Nymeria's eyes. Whatever ideas George R. R. Martin has for the direwolves, it seems clear they also have a part to play in the Great War.