Throne Room

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.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
Jose Altuve is on a roll. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

And then there were six. Games left in the Astros’ regular season. Three vs. Tampa Bay then three vs. Philadelphia, all at Minute Maid Park. The first three are important for the Rays as they jockey for Wild Card positioning with the Blue Jays and Mariners. The second three games decide playoffs or no playoffs for the Phillies as they try to stave off the Brewers. The Astros have nothing to play for with regard to the standings but it’s still a fun finish to another fabulous season. 102-54! Matching or topping the franchise record of 107 regular season wins would be grand, but it’s not a goal they’re going to push the limits to achieve. There are a couple individual pursuits of note this final week. We’ll hit those then get to truly important stuff to be settled on before the Astros start their postseason October 11.

Crunching the numbers

Three weeks ago I wrote that Jose Altuve needed a tremendous finishing kick to get there, but that his first .300 batting average season since 2018 was within striking distance. He promptly went one for eight over his next two games, lengthening the odds against him. In 15 games since Altuve has sizzled, banging out 21 hits in 54 at bats for a .389 average. So with six games to go he’s at .297. If Altuve gets 20 more official at bats he needs eight hits.

Yordan Alvarez’s assorted maladies sure cause some indigestion. The knee history, the hands, and now an ankle roll. Yordan is still four RBI short of joining Kyle Tucker with 100+. They’d be the Astros first 100+ tandem since…just three years ago when Alex Bregman (112) and Yuli Gurriel (104) did it.

Setting the playoff rotation

The playoff schedule is stupid in spots, dictated by television. The Astros against To Be Determined in their best-of-five American League Division Series will have game one Tuesday October 11, then a day off before game two Thursday, then a day off before game three Saturday (same is true for Yankees vs. To Be Determined). That’s ridiculous, and gives longtime Astros fans Kevin Brown nightmares (see 1998 NLDS). Unless there’s a three game sweep, game four would be Sunday. Should the series go to a decisive fifth game, there is no off day between games four and five. This impacts starting pitcher planning. Obviously the Astros go Justin Verlander in game one and Framber Valdez in game two. Almost certainly Lance McCullers gets the ball in game three. Then (unless the series is a sweep) there is a decision to be made. First, with the two off days Verlander would be available on four days rest. Up 2-1 last year, after a rainout the Astros brought back McCullers on a shorter four days rest (game one was a night game, game four a day game) and Lance blew out his arm again. If up two games to one, pitching Verlander on “normal” four days rest to go for the kill would take him out of the American League Championship Series until game three, and that would be his only starting availability in the ALCS unless you’d foolishly bring him back on three days rest if there was a game seven. So, if up 2-1 the smarter play is to start Cristian Javier in game four which has Verlander ready to go in a do-or-die game five or if the Astros advance in four, game one of the American League Championship Series. If down 2-1 and you pitch Verlander, if there’s a game five it’s the guy you passed over in game four, or Framber on three days rest.

Yes, Javier in game four, over Jose Urquidy and Luis Garcia because quite simply, Javier is better. Unless Verlander or Valdez gets knocked out early, committing Javier to a bullpen role where he’d throw two or three innings vs. the six or so you’d expect out of him as a starter doesn’t make sense, definitely not with the first round schedule. Presumably Urquidy or Garcia will be on the roster for long reliever duty (carrying both would be poor roster management). The Astros have the best bullpen in the Major Leagues. Getting cute and using Javier over Ryne Stanek, Rafael Montero, or Ryan Pressly would be silly. Over Hector Neris or Bryan Abreu? Maybe. When Javier is vulnerable it’s walks and home runs that typically get him, so bringing him in in a tight seventh or eighth inning spot would be a dubious choice given the high caliber alternatives.

As for the roster, teams can change it round by round. Carrying 13 pitchers in a best-of-five with two scheduled off days is impractical. The Astros should carry Yainer Diaz or Korey Lee as a third catcher and David Hensley as an extra utility option. 12 pitchers: Verlander, Valdez, McCullers, Javier, Urquidy OR Garcia, Pressly, Montero, Stanek, Neris, Abreu, Will Smith, Hunter Brown OR Phil Maton.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome