The time to return to Westeros for one final season has come — for the cast at least. According to Watchers on the Wall, Game of Thrones Season 8 filming is set to begin soon. Fans on a plane to Belfast snapped a photo with Maisie Williams, which suggests that the rest of the cast will be making their way back to the show's home base in the coming days as well. While it's an exciting time for anyone who lives for Game of Thrones spoilers, the start of filming is bittersweet this season. This truly is the beginning of the end for HBO's mega-hit fantasy show.
Before you get too forlorn, it's important to remember there are still an undetermined amount of months standing between fans and the final six episodes. Despite having a shorter season, the budget for Game of Thrones has reportedly increased, and so has the amount of work that goes into it. As the White Walkers descend on Westeros, shooting the show is only going to become a more intricate process. For that reason, new episodes may not air until 2019.
Right now, the cast is no doubt preparing for a chillier climate, as stars like Emilia Clarke and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau head north for filming after spending most of the series in warmer locales like Spain. In August, Coster-Waldau revealed to Collider that Season 8 was set to begin filming in October, so Williams is sure to be joined by her castmates soon enough.
It's hard to say if Williams' early arrival means Arya will be first up in terms of filming. The actor may have planned on arriving early, or some of her other castmates may have arrived in Belfast before her. Just the thought that Arya could once again kick off the season is a tantalizing one. It's going to be hard for the show to top the Season 7 opener that found Arya serving up justice to House Frey, but Game of Thrones has never shied away from a challenge.
After Season 7's Wall-toppling ending, the possibilities for how the final season will begin are endless. The show could immediately return to the remnants of Castle Black (and reveal the fate of fan favorite Tormund) or it could begin as the first season did with a White Walker attack — the potential for symmetry has to be alluring for series creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff. At long last, winter is truly here for the characters, and it wouldn't hurt to begin the season with a moment that will remind viewers that the stakes are officially sky high.
One thing is certain, the show has the budget to do almost anything it wants. According to Variety, HBO has reportedly offered up $15 million per episode for the final season. That combined with the news that two of the show's most famed directors — Miguel Sapochnik and David Nutter — will be guiding the majority of Season 8 should be enough to have fans hyped. All the pieces are in place for Game of Thrones to have the epic sendoff it deserves, and now that it has been confirmed that filming will be underway soon, it won't be long before fans are given a few hints of what's to come.
As the actors return to the set, photos will almost certainly be leaked. And that's a small way for Game of Thrones devotees to get glimpse inside the filming process. Just don't expect to hear a peep about the ending until the final season airs. Reportedly, Weiss and Benioff will film multiple endings to preserve the surprise — which is exactly how it should be. After following Jon, Daenerys, Arya, and the rest of the characters this far, there's no harm in waiting to see how the final leg of their journeys plays out when Season 8 of Game of Thrones actually premieres.