Game of Thrones Season Opener Brings In The Set Up Man

Old fashioned baseball used to have a pitcher called The Set Up Man. The Set Up Man came on in the eighth inning to “set up” The Closer, who would come in one inning later to end the game. It was a thankless role because no one came to the park hoping to see The Set Up Man. They all wanted to see the flame-thrower at the end of the bullpen. If you saw The Closer, you saw the win.

Game of Thrones’ final season premiered with an episode—Winterfell, they called it—that ably played the role of The Set Up Man. It wasn’t exciting, and it was only for a brief moment in the crypt dramatic. But it did it’s job like an eighth inning reliever, and now the pieces are in place for the final season to really get underway.

Everyone to Winterfell

In a nice callback to season one, season eight began with a boy climbing the walls of Winterfell to watch a royal procession roll toward the gates. Instead of fat King Robert bringing a nest of Lannisters, this procession had Queen Daenerys bringing dragons, the Unsullied and the man who left as King in the North. Here they all are now, ready to fight the undead army. And quarrel a little internally. But mostly fight the undead army.

Golden Company to Kings Landing

Euron completed his quest for Cersei, delivering a flotilla of ships from the Golden Company to pay her bed’s fare. He may think he pulled the strings here, but we all know Cersei is the one in control. She knows exactly what she needs, and now she has it in 10,000 sellswords brought by a fool who thinks Cersei Lannister lets events dictate her and not the other way around.

Stashing the Greyjoys

Family reunions are complicated on Game of Thrones. Good for Yara Greyjoy for knocking over her neutered brother Theon for leaving her captive to evil uncle Euron. Now they’re headed to reclaim the Iron Islands, where no doubt the story will find them when it needs them most.

So there we have it. The final season is set up with Westeros split as it was when we first saw it: The honorable north and the scheming south with the Greyjoys off to the side. But The Closer is jogging in from his bullpen beyond the wall, and he’s got a dragon throwing ice-cold fire.

As Ned warned Cat in that very first episode, “Winter is coming.”

The secret is out

I don’t like when shows delay the inevitable, so I’m glad Thrones decided to clue in Jon to his real parentage right away. Having it linger over his relationship with Dany would have been artificial suspense. This show is better than that. And I like that they did it front of Lynna’s place in the crypt (the episode’s second callback to the series premiere). Now we’ll see how it complicates his position with Dany (pun…intended) , which is already being stressed by his sister’s need to keep the north together.

Snap reactions

No one could feasibly believe Dany’s claim to Sansa that the north is beautiful, but you have to compliment your hosts no matter how ugly you find their couch. The dynamic between these two will be crucial to the final season. The budding distrust was thick as Valyrian steel when Sansa asked what dragons eat and Dany responded smugly saying, “Whatever they want.” I can see Sansa coming to trust her, and Sansa’s trust won’t come easy. What will Dany have to pay for it?

Bran is the guy you knew freshman year who wouldn’t drink at parties. Is this what being the Three-Eyed Raven does to a man? Dany’s not even put up her feet in Winterfell and he’s already like, “Dead dragon comin’.” F*ckin’ shoot a beer and loosen up, man.

I mentioned last season how character reunions gave us a way to measure the way each changed since they parted. We saw two of them tonight. Tyrion and Sansa reuniting for the first time since Joffrey’s death in season three might be the best example. Tyrion is much more mellow and recognizes the virtue in power for more than buying whores and fine wine. Sansa has gone the opposite direction, having been burned by life at every turn since fleeing for her life from Kings Landing.

Jon and Arya’s reunion was one of warrior equals. Longclaw spilled far more blood than Needle, but both wielders respect each other for the paths they traveled. This was my favourite scene of the episode.

Speaking of the scene with Sansa and Tyrion, do you think he felt a twinge of doubt when Sansa questioned whether Cersei’s army was really coming? She doesn’t trust anyone. Trusting his sister might be something Tyrion comes to regret.

Why was Cersei so hung up on getting some elephants?

Bronn is going to have an interesting choice to make. Is he loyal to money or is he loyal to battle? My money is on battle.

There’s got to be some foreshadowing to Lord Varys reminding Tyrion and Ser Davos that “Nothing lasts” while standing on the walls of Winterfell.

Remember when people came to Minnesota for the Super Bowl and didn’t bring coats? That’s what I’m picturing with the Unsullied in the north.

How did Dany forget about dragon food? That’s like a parent forgetting to stop at McDonald’s on a road trip. MOMMMMM!

After waiting impatiently for a year and a half, Thrones fans deserved a little something and the show delivered with Jon’s first time captaining a dragon.

How will the dragons react when they see their undead brother?

I will be seriously annoyed if Jamie manages to hide more than a day or two in Winterfell. And even more annoyed if stupid Bran helps keep him secret.

Is Dany killing Sam’s family going to be a problem? It sure seemed like it. Maybe happy Sam won’t be happy after all as he tries to drive a wedge between Dany and Jon.

What’s that thing Arya wants built???

 

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