Ned (Sean Bean) makes a fateful decision; Robb takes a prized prisoner; Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) finds her reign imperiled.
There’s a change to the opening credits in this episode: the Twins, also called the Crossing, of House Frey are depicted. Two identical towerkeeps connected by a long bridge, it’s quite impressive, although somewhat different from the description in the novel (most notably, the Water Tower in the middle of the bridge is not present).
We return to King’s Landing to have Varys visiting Eddard in the cells again, Stark’s beard having grown somewhat showing the passage of time. Varys brings Eddard more wine, telling him that Sansa begged for Eddard’s life. Eddard wonders if Varys laughed with the others, but Varys says Ned wrongs him. He explains that when he was a boy, before he was castrated, he traveled with mummers through the Free Cities. He learned to play roles, and his public face is yet another role. Ned wonders if Varys will free him, Varys replies he could ... but he won’t; he’s no hero. He wants peace more than anything, and informs Ned that Robb is marching south with an army of northmen. Boys have been conquerors before, Varys notes… but Cersei is most afraid of Stannis, a proven battle commander, stern and utterly without mercy. Ned insists Stannis is the true heir to Robert. Varys urges Ned to serve the realm by confessing his treason, telling Robb to stop fighting, and declare Joffrey the true king; in return, Varys believes Ned will be allowed to take the black. Ned will not trade his honor for a few more years, however; he grew up with soldiers, and has made his peace with death long ago. Varys calls that a pity… and reminds Ned that Sansa’s life might also hang in the balance.
A raven flies out the window from one of the castles of the Twins… and is shot down by an arrow from the bow of Theon Greyjoy. Bringing its message to Robb and Lady Catelyn, it appears to be nothing more than a birthday greeting from Lord Walder to his grand-niece Walda. The northmen have been shooting down the ravens to prevent the Freys communicating with the Lannisters. Despite Lord Frey being a Tully bannerman, nothing can be expected of him—he is purely self-interested, it’s revealed. Robb insists they must cross the Trident, and he must do it now, before the Lannister army under Tywin arrives. Catelyn notes the Freys have held the Twins for 600 years, and they’ve never failed to extract a toll. Robb says Ned would do whatever was needed to cross, and he can’t have any other man do it for him; Catelyn says she’ll do it, despite the danger, trusting to the fact that Lord Frey has known her from girlhood.
In audience, Catelyn is courteous to the aged Lord Walder, attended on by his latest wife and his great number of descendants. Irascible and discourteous, he sends his children, grandchildren, bastards, grandbastards, and more away to speak privately with Catelyn. Lord Frey notes that Hoster has not attended his wedding, or the two before it, because the Tullys have never respected the Freys. Lord Hoster refused to wed any of children to Frey’s offspring. As Lord Walder warms himself by the fire, he bargains with Catelyn. He’s confident that Robb poses no threat—if the 20,000 northmen try to cross, they’ll be unable to take the Crossing before Tywin arrives. Catelyn reminds him he swore oaths to Lord Hoster… and he agrees, but as he recalls, he’s also sworn oaths to the crown and the Starks are rebels. Walder suggests if he had sense, he’d hand the Starks to the Lannisters. Catelyn asks why he doesn’t, and he suggests that all the Great Houses are the same to him, and asks Catelyn to give him a good reason why he should do anything at all.
At Castle Black, Lord Commander Mormont asks after Jon’s hand, which is bandaged from the burn he received. Soon, Jon responds, and Mormont says that’s good, as he’ll be able to use the gift he gives him: his ancestral sword Longclaw, carried by the Mormonts for five centuries, made of Valyrian steel. The bear pommel was melted away in the fire, but Mormont had a new one made with a wolf’s head to bestow it on Jon. It was intended for his son Jorah, but when he broke the king’s laws and fled, he had the grace at least to leave the sword behind. Jon’s misadventure with Thorne isn’t forgotten, but Mormont owes him and Ghost a debt for saving his life. The question of Ser Alliser is brought up, and Jon promises he’ll apologize to him… but Mormont reveals he’s sent Thorne to King’s Landing to display the hand from the wight, to tell King Joffrey of the danger and to put a “thousand leagues” between him and Jon. When Jon leaves Mormont’s chamber, everyone at Castle Black seems to have known that he was going to receive the sword. Jon joins Sam, who hesitates to share with him some news: a raven arrived with news that Robb had marched to war to rescue their father.
Lady Catelyn returns from the Twins, having concluded negotiations with Lord Walder and bringing the terms to Robb, who stands in a tent with Theon, the Greatjon, and other northmen. Lord Walder stipulates that one of his get be made squire to Robb, eventually to be knighted by him, that Arya will be betrothed to his son Waldryn, which Robb remarks Arya won’t like. Finally, Lord Walder desires that Robb will marry one of his daughters after the fighting i done, whichever he prefers. Robb asks if Catelyn’s seen them, as Theon laughs to himself. Catelyn says he did, and when he asks what they were like, she starts to say that one was at least passable in appearance. It’s the only way to cross, however, and so Robb consents. We then see the northern army crossing… and then splitting into two forces.
At Castle Black, Maester Aemon chops pieces of meat with which to feed the ravens, with Jon’s assistance. The maester wishes to speak to Jon. He asks him if he understands why the members of the Watch swear to neither wed nro to have children, and explains that it’s so that the men of the Watch will not love and feel bound to anyone; only the Wall and its defense for the sake of the realm should matter. Aemon asks Jon what his father would do, if he had to choose between honor and the love of another, and Jon says his father would do what was right. Aemon says Ned must be 1 in 10,000, then, because men are human and fallible; honor comes easy when there’s no cost… but in every man’s life, when it’s no longer easy and he must choose. Jon grows angry at being lectured, but Aemon explains that he knows what he’s going through. Jon insists no one knows what it’s like. The maester reveals that the gods tested his vows when he was old when the news arrived from the south: the ruin of his House, the death of his family, all while he was blind and frail. When he learned that his brother’s son had died, and his son in turn, and even the little children… Jon asks who Aemon is. The maester reveals that his father was Maekar I, and his brother Aegon ruled after him when Aemon refused the throne. He is Aemon Targaryen, the last Targaryen in the Seven Kingdoms. He tells Jon he won’t tell him to stay or go… but whatever choice he makes, he’ll have to live with it, as Aemon has lived with his.
Far away in Essos, in a red wasteland, the Dothraki ride… and Khal Drogo is clearly very ill, a blanket covering him. Incapacitated by illness, he falls from the saddle delirious. Daenerys calls a halt, while the Dothraki look down at their fallen khal. Qotho notes prosaically that Drogo fell, and that a khal who cannot ride is no khal. Daenerys says the Dothraki will make camp there, and Qotho argues with her, saying it’s no place for an encampment, and that he’ll take no orders from her. She insists he does as she commands, or Drogo will learn why when he is better.
In the Lannister camp, Ser Kevan reports to Tywin that the scouts report that Robb Stark moves south in strength, Frey levies in tow. Tywin allows that Robb has a certain “provincial” courage. Tyrion arrives belatedly, and Tywin informs him that he hopes the clansmen will be as fierce as promised, or he’ll have wasted good steel on them. The foibles of the tribes are discussed, including the fact that Shagga insisted on recieving not one but two heavy, double-sided axes. Tywin reveals tha the wildlings and Tyrion will be placed in the vanguard, in the front lines of the army. When Ser Kevan remarks they’re ferocious, Tyrion reveals that a Moon Brother stabbed a Stone Crow over a sausage the night before, and in response three Stone Crows opened his throat. Bronn prevented Shagga from chopping off the dead man’s manhood, but Shagga refuses to pay blood money to the Moon Brother chieftain, Ulf. Tywin blames their lack of discipline on their commander, Tyrion. Tyrion leaves angrily, claiming he lost his appetite.
In his tent, he finds a camp follower in his room. He wonders how Bronn found such a pretty woman at such a late hour, and Bronn reveals he took him from some knight three tents down. Tyrion expects his chances of living long enough for the knight to retaliate for losing his camp follower are slim, as they’ll be in the vanguard the next day. Bronn goes off to find one for himself. Tyrion discovers the woman is named Shae. She asks who named Tyrion, if his mother named him, and he reveals that his mother died birthing him. She asks if that’s why she’s there, to talk about their mothers. When Tyrion asks what accent she has, she replies, “Foreign.” Tyrion reveals he wants her to serve him and share his bed, to stay faithful to him as long as they’re together, and to bed him as if it’s his last night of life (which it may well be). In return, she’ll be safe, have the pleasure of his company, and a great deal of gold. When he asks if she accepts the proposal, her response is to take off her dress and begin to kiss and fondle him.
In the Dothraki camp, a delirious Drogo insists he must ride. Daenerys calls on Jorah, and insists to him that Drogo is very strong. Jorah suspects the illness is very grave, and he pulls off his dressing to reveal that his wound has mortified, and Drogo will not last the night. Daenerys refuses to accept it. Jorah insists they must flee quickly, perhaps to the port in Asshai. Daenerys wonders why she must run, because she is khaleesi and her son will become khal, but Jorah reminds her that the Dothraki do not follow Westerosi custom—they follow strength. The warriors will fight among themselves, and the new khal will not want a rival. Qotho brings the maegi, Mirri Maz Duur, at Daenerys’s command. She informs Daenerys of the gravity of the wound, and Qotho blames her for Drogo dying. Daenerys commands him not to hurt her, and he responds angrily that the Dothraki may hurt her, too, because she allowed the witch to touch Drogo. Jorah reminds him she is the khaleesi, to which Qotho replies that when Drogo dies, she is nothing. A furious Daenerys says she’s still the blood of the dragon, to which Qotho replies that the dragons are all dead. He leaves, and Daenerys tells Jorah he should wear his armor, to which Jorah agrees.
Mirri thanks Daenerys for saving her, but Mirri says that Drogo is beyond a healer’s skills. Daenerys insists, and offers her her freedom. When she asks if magic can do it, Mirri admits there’s a spell, but there are those who say death is cleaner. Daenerys tells her to do it, to save Drogo, whatever the price. Mirri says that only death can pay for life, and when Daenerys asks if it will require her death, Mirri says no—she asks for Drogo’s horse to be brought into the tent. Mirri prepares her spell, as Rakharo insists that blood magic is forbidden. She tells everyone else to leave, and that no one must enter the tent when the spell starts, because the “dead will dance here tonight.” Mirri cuts cuts stallion’s throat, spraying Daenerys with blood. Dany leaves, as the maegi begins to sing her spell. Outside, the Dothraki look on nervously. Jorah in his armor asks what Dany has done. An inhuman scream comes from the tent, as Qotho arrives and insists this must not be.
Rakharo tries to stop him as Qotho threatens to push forward. Qotho elbows him in the face and throws Daenerys to the ground, walking to the tent with arakh in hand until Ser Jorah challenges him. The bloodrider has the better of Jorah at first, cutting him on the face and knocking him to the ground, but then tries to strike at Jorah’s armored torso. The knight locks the blade in place with his armored arm. As Qotho tries to pull the weapon free, Jorah kills him instantly with a blow to the face. Daenerys, in obvious pain, reveals that her child is coming, the shock of falling and what’s happening with Drogo combining to bring on the early onset of the birth. With the midwives refusing to help Daenerys because they say she is cursed, Rakharo tells Jorah that Mirri Maz Duur stated she could deliver babies; Daenerys never informed him that the tent must be kept empty.
Tyrion is in his tent, playing a game with Shae as Bronn watches, involving holding a candle up to their arms to see who’s the first to pull away; it’s Tyrion. He asks Shae if she’s immune to pain, and she replies she’s used to it. Tyrion calls for a new game, but rejects Bronn’s suggestion of a Braavosi knife game which involves the risk of losing fingers (“Not if you win,” Bronn notes). Tyrion proposes a drinking game: he attempts to use his wits to state facts about the pasts of the other two, and if he’s right, they drink, and if he’s wrong, he drinks; he assures them he’ll know if they lie. Shae wants nothing to do with it, so Tyrion starts with Bronn. He correctly guesses that Bronn’s father beat him, to which Bronn adds that his mother hit harder. Tyrion guesses Bronn killed his first man before he was 12, and Bronn says he’s wrong—it was a woman, who attacked him first. Tyrion also correctly guesses that Bronn has been north of the Wall, though he only explains this as having to do with work. Finally, Tyrion guesses that Bronn once loved a woman years ago, it turned out badly, and he has never let himself love again. “Oh wait, that’s me,” Tyrion remarks, and drinks.
Insisting Shae play, Tyrion guesses her mother was a whore, her father left the family when she was young, and that Shae became a whore to find a better life. Shae tells him he’s wrong each and every time, leaving Tyrion perplexed. Shae adds that she never wants to hear him speak of her mother and father… or she’ll carve his eyes out from his head. Then Shae takes over the game, but asks him who Tyrion loved. Bronn reveals he’s heard from Lannister soldiers that Tyrion was once wed. Shae insists he inform them, even when Tyrion claims it’s a very unpleasant story. Tyrion reveals he was 16 when a young girl sprang onto the road he and Jaime were riding on, chased by rapers. As Jaime went after them, Tyrion took her to an inn and fed her. She was an orphan named Tysha… and somehow he found himself in her bed. By morning, he was so in love that she asked him to marry her, and arranged it with money and the aid of a drunk septon. It lasted a fortnight, after which the sobered-up septon informed Tywin.
Tywin had Jaime reveal the truth: Tysha was a whore that Jaime had hired, arranging the whole thing for Tyrion’s benefit. Then Tywin gave Tysha to his garrison, each man paying her silver, making Tyrion watch. Bronn says that he’d have killed the man who did that to him. Shae adds that he should have known she was a whore, insisting a girl who was nearly raped doesn’t invite a man into her bed two hours later. Tyrion pleads youth and stupidity… and Shae says he’s still young and stupid, before climbing on top of him. Bronn excuses himself. Early next morning, the Lannister camp is active. As Tyrion sleeps on the floor with Shae, Bronn drops a pile of armor next to him, waking him. The Starks have stolen a march on them and are only a mile north. Tyrion asks for a squire, but has none. He asks Shae to weep for him if he dies, and she asks how he’ll know if she does, being dead; “I’ll know” he replies.
Bronn tells Tyrion to stay low. Joining the tribesmen of the Vale, Tyrion names the Stone Crows, Moon Brothers, Burned Men, Black Ears, and Painted Dogs and promises them that their dominion over the Vale begins that day. The tribesmen take up the cry, “Halfman! Halfman!” Tyrion points the way to battle, and the men suddenly run off yelling and hollering, Tyrion running with them ... and getting hit in the head by an errant maul from one of the tribesmen. Hes knocked unconscious and nearly trampled as the tribesmen hurry on, not noticing that he’s no longer with him. Later, Tyrion is on a stretcher as Bronn tells him he’s a terrible warrior. Tyrion marvels that he’s alive. The Lannisters won the battle, it transpires, and the tribesmen are busily killing wounded and taking trophies and prizes (from living and dead alike). Lord Tywin arrives and notes Tyrion is wounded. Tywin says the scouts were wrong, that there were only 2,000 northmen, not 20,000. But Robb was not present, Tywin reveals: he was with his other 18,000 men.
Amidst trees, Catelyn insists on staying as Ser Rodrik tells her they should go. Suddenly horsemen come out of a forest, and at their head is Robb, having successfully won a battle. Catelyn weeps with joy, seeing her son alive and victorious. Jaime Lannister is captured and thrown down before Catelyn. Lannister would offer his sword, but has lost it. When Catelyn says she wants her husband and daughters, he says he seems to have lost them as well. Theon says that they should behead the Kingslayer and send his head to Lord Tywin, after having killed ten of their men. Ser Jaime offers to settle matters with Robb in a single combat, with the weapon of Robb’s choosing. Robb admits that if he did it that way, Jaime would win, and the Greatjon leads Ser Jaime away as the northmen cheer. Robb reveals that he sent 2,000 men to die, referencing the small force sent south to face Lord Tywin in the field. Theon reassures him that the bards will sing songs about their sacrifice. “Aye, but the dead won’t hear them,” Robb replies. He then delivers a speech to his men, reminding them that his father and sisters are still held captive, and the North is not yet free of those who want them on their knees; the war is far from over.
In King’s Landing, bells ring as Arya stalks and then catches a pigeon. She tries to trade it for a pastry, but the baker refuses. Everyone is moving towards the Sept of Baelor, because the Hand of the King is being taken there. Arya follows. A great crowd has gathered in the square before the sept, and Arya clambers on top of an old statue of King Baelor to see better. Just then, Lord Eddard is brought out by guards, as the crowd yells angrily at him for his alleged treason and betrayal of the dead King Robert. Looking out at the sea of faces, Ned spots the child kneeling at the base of the statue, and recognizes his daughter. As the guards lead him on to a great stone platform, he passes Yoren of the Night’s Watch. “Baelor,” he mumbles, and as Yoren looks confused, Eddard ignores the guards dragging him along and says again, “Baelor!” and looks toward the statue. Yoren follows his gaze… and sees Arya. Eddard is dragged onward, where King Joffrey, Queen Cersei, their counselors, and others await; Sansa is among them, trying to contain her emotion and smiling bravely at her father.
Eddard confesses that he betrayed Robert and his son, having attempted to seize the throne for himself. A rock is thrown from the crowd, striking him in the head. Ned calls on the High Septon and the gods to bear witness to his admission that Joffrey is the one, true king. Grand Maester Pycelle speaks then, stating that the gods are just, but Baelor also taught that they were merciful. He looks to King Joffrey. The young king says that Queen Cersei desires that Eddard be allowed to take the black, and Sansa has begged mercy… but they are women, and Joffrey will never let treason go unpunished. Joffrey orders the King’s Justice, Ser Ilyn Payne, to bring him his head. Sansa, Cersei, Varys, and others try to stop Joffrey, but he will not listen. Janos Slynt has his gold cloaks force Eddard to his knees, as Arya climbs off the statue and tries to rush to her father’s aid, gripping Needle’s hilt. Payne unsheathes his sword: Ice, Eddard’s own ancestral blade, as Yoren grabs hold of Arya in the crowd and tells her not to look. Sansa screams, begging for them to stop, as Payne moves over Ned. Yoren forces Arya to look at him.
Everything goes quiet, as Ned looks out at the jeering crowd, and at the statue—now empty of his daughter—and then he bends his neck. The sword comes down, and birds are flying in the sky as it passes through his neck.