Throne Room

5 thoughts on Game of Thrones season 8, episode 1

5 thoughts on Game of Thrones season 8, episode 1
HBO

Since enough people asked for this, we will recap each episode of the final season of Game of Thrones. Starting next week, these will be posted shortly after the show. But since we just decided to do it today, this one is a little late.

Warning: Spoilers follow. If you have not watched it yet, proceed at your own risk.

As Dany would say, "shall we begin?"

1) An old school episode

Sunday's show was a contrast to Season 7, where everything moved way too fast. It was more of an old school Thrones episode, with a lot of character interaction. I honestly believe this is when Thrones is at its best. While primarily a setup for later episodes, it featured some strong interactions between Jon and Sansa, Jon and Arya, Sansa and Tyrion, Jon and Bran, and Sam and Dany, Euron and Cersei. It was emotional and well done.

2) Sansa might be the smartest of all

Arya even told Jon that. She is the only one not fooled by Cersei, and is even critical of Tyrion for believing his sister. She is emerging as a strong leader, and a practical one. If someone other than Cersei is to sit on the Iron Throne at the end, Sansa will be a big reason. She gets it and her character evolution is one of the most impressive on the show. She learned her lessons from Lord Baelish well.

3) And the not so good...

The flying dragon love scene was useless. It was an obvious attempt to pander to fans who have been wanting to see it. But it did not serve to move the story. We already know Jon is a Targaryen, a reveal that happened last season. He finds out himself later in the episode, when Sam tells him. This could complicate the Jon and Dany relationship. Sam is loyal to a fault to Jon, but the way she killed his father and brother clearly is going to be an issue going forward.

4) Cersei continues to outsmart everyone

She has always been one step ahead of everyone. Her calculating nature has time and time again beaten her enemies. She is single-minded, and is playing the game at the highest level. She even enlists Bron to kill Jamie and Tyrion if the white walkers fail to do it. (Hard to believe he would). She has played this perfectly; if the Night King's army weakens the Jon/Dany alliance, Cersei will be prepared. From a strategy perspective, she is always a step ahead...Unless the Night King outplays everyone by skipping Winterfell and going straight to King's Landing. But there seems to be no indication of that.

5) Bran awareness

Bran's character continues to be vague and unlikeable. But the last scene when he sees Jamie - who tossed Bran out of the tower and crippled him in season 1 - was powerful, even with no words spoken. The previews for episode 2 indicate Dany is not happy with Jamie killing her father, and I suspect Bran will say Jamie has a part to play. Bran would likely not be the three-eyed raven if he had not been tossed out of the tower, and it appears those two will wind up intertwined again. Still, Bran, along with Gendry and anyone named Greyjoy...just not all that interesting.

The wrap-up

I liked the episode. It sets things up nicely for the final five episodes. The five most interesting characters remain The Night King, Jon, Sansa, Tyrion and Arya. The Night King's message - an impaled child on a wall with a flesh version of the pattern we have seen before - was the only wow moment, but the interaction between characters throughout was classic Thrones.

Expect more action in episode 2.

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The Astros rotation looks like a strength moving forward. Composite Getty Image.

The Houston Astros are coming off a much-needed series win over the White Sox, but have a quick turnaround as they host the Orioles on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

The 'Stros dropped the first game of the series with Framber Valdez on the mound, but were able to rebound with Hunter Brown and Spencer Arrighetti starting the final two games.

Brown was brilliant once again, and Arrighetti bounced back after a disastrous start against the Tigers over the weekend. Despite all the injures to the Astros staff this season, their young pitchers are stepping up when they need them the most.

Brown has six consecutive quality starts and is beginning to show signs that he can be the top of the rotation pitcher the club always hoped he could develop into.

Arrighetti has stepped in and shown that he belongs in the big leagues, and has provided innings Houston desperately requires with so many pitchers on the injured list.

Speaking of which, with Justin Verlander on the IL, Double A prospect Jake Bloss will make the start for Houston on Friday night. Bloss has quickly progressed through the farm system, having been drafted just a year ago.

We'll see how he performs in his MLB debut, but the club seems to have a lot of quality pitching options moving forward, especially with Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers scheduled to return in late July and early August respectively.

And as we look at the Astros rotation moving forward, perhaps they will go back to a six-man rotation during certain stretches in the second half of the season.

Which could prove to be vital to the team's success. As good as Ronel Blanco has been, he's never pitched as many innings as he'll be asked to pitch this year. Same goes for Arrighetti. And let's face it, sending Verlander out to pitch on four days rest consistently at 41 years old doesn't sound like a wise decision. He's already been on the IL twice this year.

While some see Garcia and McCullers as wild cards to help the team this season, Astros GM Dana Brown doesn't see it that way. He told the Astros flagship station this week that he's counting on those guys to make big contributions when they return. And he's counting on their postseason experience should they get there.

Keep in mind, Garcia has a 3.61 career ERA and has been durable outside the Tommy John surgery. And McCullers has always been good, it's just the health that causes concern.

Garcia is also an example of how a player can skip Double A and Triple A and have success right away in the big leagues. Hopefully, Bloss can follow in his footsteps, since he's bypassing Triple A to make his first start.

So what's the short and long-term outlook for the Astros rotation? And should we expect Verlander to return in 2025?

Be sure to watch the video above as we address those questions and much more!

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