Ned looks to a book for clues to the death of his predecessor, and uncovers one of King Robert’s (Mark Addy) bastards. Robert and his guests witness a tournament honoring Ned. Jon takes measures to protect Samwell (John Bradley) from further abuse at Castle Black; a frustrated Viserys clashes with Daenerys in Vaes Dothrak; Sansa (Sophie Turner) imagines her future as a queen, while Arya envisions a far different future. Catelyn rallies her husband’s allies to make a point, while Tyrion finds himself caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
To discuss this episode in detail, visit the A Song of Ice and Fire forum!
Bran stands in the yard of Winterfell, with a bow and arrow, just as we met him the first time except for the fact that he’s all alone. Or almost all alone, as a crow squawks and flies into the crypts of Winterfell. Bran follows, in eerie silence, and enters the dark hall. There he sees the crow, sitting on a carved wolf’s head. It looks at him with three eyes.
Bran awakens from his dream suddenly, and the first thing he does is check if he can walk. Old Nan is there, watching over him. Theon Greyjoy enters, and Bran’s direwolf growls at him before Theon reveals that there’s visitors and that Robb wants Bran to be present. The visitor? Tyrion Lannister, accompanied by Yoren of the Night’s Watch. In the great hall at Winterfell, Robb sits on his father’s high seat, and offers hospitality to Yoren … but not to the Imp. He’s rude to Lannister, even as Bran is brought in by the giant stablehand named Hodor, and Tyrion asks him if he remembers anything. In the end, Tyrion provides a gift to Bran, a special saddle design that will let him ride despite being crippled.
Though Robb relents and offers him hospitality, Tyrion refuses it and departs. Theon Greyjoy follows after him, and they trade some barbed words. We learn that Theon’s uncles burned the fleet in Lannisport during Balon’s rebellion, and that Tyrion saw sailors burn to death. He notes the Greyjoys lost, and when Theon counters they had been outnumbered ten to one, Tyrion concludes it was a stupid war to have started. He notices Lady Catelyn was not present, and infers that she is not in Winterfell. Tossing a coin to Greyjoy, he tells him that he’ll stand for the fee for Greyjoy’s next “visit” with Ros… and that he’ll try not to exhaust her.
At Castle Black, Jon is getting along well with most of the recruits, when a fat young man enters. He introduces himself as Samwell Tarly of Horn Hill. Ser Alliser sets Rast to fight him, and Samwell immediately falls and yields, nearly crying. When he refuses to get up, Thorne has Rast beat him until “Ser Piggy” gets up. Jon intervenes, angering Thorne, who sets Grenn, Pypar, and Rast against Jon. Grenn and Pyp – now Jon’s friends – do not want to face him, but they do… and he pummels all three, taking a blow on the back from Rast but otherwise wiping the floor with them.
Thorne leaves in disgust, and Samwell comes to Jon, asking if he’s hurt. Jon tries to tell him that he shouldn’t be at the Wall if he won’t fight, and Grenn wonders why he wouldn’t get up. Samwell – Sam, as his mother called him – says that he’s a coward. He apologizes for having caused trouble, and leaves. Grenn worries that their being seen speaking with a self-avowed coward means that they’ll be considered cowards too. Pypar jokes that Grenn’s too stupid to be a coward, and Grenn gives chase.
On Essos, the Dothraki approach Vaes Dothrak, and pass beneath the Horse Gate. The khal and his bloodriders race ahead, leaving Viserys to complain about the Dothraki being savages and that Drogo has led them the wrong way to fulfill his promises. Daenerys tells him he should not insult her people, and he rides off angrily. Along with Ser Jorah, she wonders if the Dothraki are capable of defeating the armies of the Seven Kingdoms. Jorah says Robert would be foolish enough to meet them in open battle, but his advisors are different sorts of men, like Lord Stark. She mentions Lord Stark wanted Jorah’s head for selling men into slavery, and Ser Jorah says he needed money because he had an expensive wife. She now lives elsewhere, with another man.
At Vaes Dothrak, Viserys bathes in milk with Doreah, the pleasure slave. She asks him about dragons, saying she wished for nothing more in the world than to see one. When Viserys remarks that after years in a pleasure house, she’d be happy to look at the sky, she says she’s seen many things: a man from Asshai with a dragonglass dagger, a man who changed his face as other men change clothes, a pirate who wore his weight in gold and had ships with brightly colored sails of silk. When she asks about dragons again, Viserys says they are all dead, but in King’s Landing he learned the names of the dragon skulls. As he names them, they become more passionate… until she asks what happened to them. When Viserys says he didn’t know, but supposed they were smashed up at Robert’s command, she says it’s sad, and it ruins his mood. When he asks her if he bought her to make him sad, she starts to say she was bought to teach Daenerys… and Viserys reveals that he didn’t buy her to please Khal Drogo, he bought her to please him, and makes her continue.
In King’s Landing, Sansa and Septa Mordane are in the throne room. Mordane assures Sansa that one day she will be queen and will give Joffrey an heir and the lords of Westeros will gather to see the little prince. Sansa insists on discovering what would happen if she only gave birth to daughters, and Mordane conceeds that in that case, Joffrey’s younger brother would likely inherit the crown. Sansa says Joffrey hates her. Mordane tries to distract her, quizzing her on the history of the Iron Throne and the Red Keep, and Sansa asks if this was where he grandfather and uncle were murdered. Mordane allows that it was, but says Sansa should speak to Ned about this. Sansa refuses, saying she’ll never forgive him.
At the small council, we are introduced to Janos Slynt, commander of the City Watch. He complains of the increase in crime due to the tourney. Renly suggests that the crown may need to find a new commander, if the old one is unable to carry out his duties. Ned insists that Littlefinger find money to pay for more guards, while he gives twenty of his own household guard to Slynt to use for the duration. As the council ends, Eddard asks to speak with Grand Maester Pycelle about Jon Arryn, and the maester reveals that Jon Arryn asked after a certain book. Eddard collects the book, a ponderous genealogical tome, and learns of the swiftness of Arryn’s death. His last words were, “The seed is strong,” but Pycelle says that last words are often as meaningful as first words. Pycelle puts it down to a fever… but then the possibility of poison is mentioned. Pycelle notes it’s a weapon of cravens, women, and eunuchs… and reminds Eddard that Lord Varys is in fact a eunuch, but Eddard already knew this.
Returning to his chambers with the book, Ned finds Arya balancing on one foot at the top of a flight of stairs. She reveals that Syrio has put her up to it, and that soon she will be chasing cats, to train her speed and nimbleness. Ned seems uncertain about his earlier decision to hire Forel. Arya asks if Bran will now join them, now that he’s awake, but Eddard says that Bran will have to gain his strength. Though he can never be a knight of the Kingsguard, as Arya reminds him, he tells her that he could still hold a holdfast, or sit on the king’s councils, or raise castles like Brandon the Builder. When Arya asks if she could build castles, Eddard tells her that she’ll wed a high lord and rule his castle, and her sons will be knights and lords and princes. Arya responds: “No. That’s not me.” She gets up and resumes her balancing exercise.
On top of the Wall, Samwell joins Jon Snow. He’s afraid of heights, among other things. He reveals that as his eighteenth nameday approached, his father called for him, and revealed that he had no intention f a soft, craven young man like Samwell inheriting his seat of Horn Hill. Lord Tarly tells him he must depart and take the black… or that one day there’ll be a hunt, and some “accident” will befall Samwell, or so he’ll tell Sam’s mother afterward. After a moment of introspection, Jon offers that certainly matters can’t get worse than that.
In the gardens of the Red Keep, Littlefinger questions Lord Stark about his discretion, and that of his men. He points out that there are spies everywhere – a young boy is one of Varys’s little birds, a groundskeeper is one of Cersei’s, and a septa … is one of his. He asks if Ned has anyone he trusts absolutely, and Eddard says he has. Littlefinger is dubious, but suggests Ned send this paragon to speak with Jon Arryn’s former squire, Hugh of the Vale, who is now a knight, and he also notes that Jon Arryn visited a certain armorer in the city. When Ned apologizes for having had misgivings about Littlefinger, Baelish tells him that distrusting him was the wisest thing he had done since he got off his horse.
Jory approaches Ser Hugh of the Vale, who dismisses him because he is not a knight. Later, Jory and Eddard are on the Street of Steel, and meet with the armorer Tobho Mott. Ned discovers that Lord Arryn asked after an apprentice, Gendry, and Eddard has him brought forward. He learns the stubborn young man had been questioned about his mother, and what he recalled of her. Eddard stops and stares at him, and then departs after telling Mott that if Gendry ever wants to swing a sword instead of making one, he should send him to him. Meeting Jory outside, he wonders what Lord Arryn wanted with one of Robert’s bastard sons.
As the king debauches himself with a number of women in his private apartments, Ser Jaime is forced to stand guard outside, hearing everything. Jory comes to deliver a message from Eddard to Robert, but Jaime interrupts him, asking how many women he thinks are in the room. He reveals that Robert does this often, forcing him to listen as he dishonors Cersei. When Jory attempts to persist in his task, Jaime rebuffs him. Jory reveals they fought together once, but Jaime doubts it, not remembering him; Jory says it was on Pyke, and that’s where he got the scar on his eye, from one of the Greyjoys who nearly blinded him. They remember watching a man named Thoros of Myr being the first through the breach with his flaming sword. As they talk, women in various states of undress occasionally leave the king’s apartment.
Jaime recalls seeing Theon Greyjoy at Winterfell, and says it was like seeing a shark on a mountaintop. Jory says Theon’s a good lad, but Jaime doubts it. After that, Jory asks if Jaime will deliver the message . . . and Jaime says he doesn’t run errands for Lord Stark. Jory leaves, the message undelivered.
At Castle Black, Jon has his friends stop making jokes about Jon, and says that they’re all in it together and most protect him. Rast refuses, saying he plans to carve some bacon out of “Lord Piggy”. Later that night, Jon, Grenn, and Pypar gag and hold Rast down. Jon tells him he’ll not harm Samwell… and Ghost, standing above him, snarls at him. Rast, terrified, says nothing as they leave. The next day, he refuses to do more than disarm Samwell. Thorne has Grenn fight next, and after prompting Samwell to hit him, Grenn feigns being hit very hard and yields. Disgusted, Thorne grabs Jon and tells the others that when they’re out beyond the Wall, do they want a man at their back, or a sniveling boy? He leaves angrily.
At Vaes Dothrak, an enraged Viserys drags Doreah by her hair and throws her at Daenerys’s feet, screaming that he’ll not be commanded. She had sent Doreah to invite him to eat with her. She sends Irri and Doreah away, when Viserys notices Dothraki-style garments that she had had made for him and was offering as a gift. He grabs her and throws her down, screaming that she’s woken the dragon, trying to command him and dress him in Dothraki rags. Defending herself, she grabs the medallion belt he threw down and hits him with it. Rising, she tells him that she is a khaleesi, wife of the great khal, and that she carries his child … and if he ever thinks to raise his hand to her again, it will be the last time he has hands.
Samwell and Jon clean a table in the common hall, and Samwell complains of the officers sneaking off to Mole’s Town to bed prostitutes. He says the vows of celibacy are ridiculous. Jon is amused that Samwell cares so much, but Sam says that just because he’s fat it doesn’t mean he doesn’t like girls …. though they may not have liked him as much. He admits he’s a virgin, while he imagines Jon must have had much more experience, but Jon reveals he’s a virgin as well. There was one time, with a beautiful, naked girl, a whore named Ros. He describes her to a very impressed Samwell, who wonders if Jon didn’t know “where to put it”. But that’s not it: Jon is a bastard, he doesn’t know who his mother was, and he doesn’t want to father a bastard of his own.
Samwell jokes that Jon really didn’t know “where to put it”, and the two start roughhousing when Thorne enters. He sneers at their laughing, and tells them of the horrors that they may see when they’re passed on as rangers, and have to go ranging. It’s been ten years since the last winter. Thorne went out with some other men, and they were snowbound for six months. They ate their horses, and in time they ate one another as one by one they weakened and died. He is haunted by what he saw… but he says that Samwell would have fed them for many days. In the end, all these boys will be passed on… but the vast majority will die like flies when winter comes.
At night in Vaes Dothrak, Daenerys speaks with Jorah about what happened. Daenerys says that she woke the dragon, and Jorah says that it’s Rhaegar who was the last dragon. He asks her if she wants Viserys to sit the throne, and she replies that Illyrio swears the common people pray for his return; Jorah responds they pray for rain and health and a summer that never ends. Jorah, for his part, prays for home; Dany prays the same. She’s come to realize that Viserys will never be able to lead them home.
At the tourney, Littlefinger joins Sansa, Arya, and Septa Mordane. Arya impertinently asks why he’ called Littlefinger, and he explains he was very small as a boy, and that he comes from a little spit of land called the Fingers. As a drunken Robert calls for the tourney to start and Cersei leaves her seat in disgust, the contestants ride up: Ser Hugh of the Vale and Ser Gregor Clegane, called the Mountain. Elder brother to Sandor Clegane, Littlefinger tells Sansa the story of the Hound and the Mountain: a 6-7 year old Sandor was caught by Gregor (already big, already with a reputation) playing with one of his toys. He said nothing, merely picked up his brother and pushed his face into a brazier, which is how Sandor got his scar. Littlefinger says that she shouldn’t tell, and Sansa swears she won’t. Littlefinger tells her that if the Hound learned she knew the story, nothing would save her from his wrath.
The joust continues. There’s an inconclusive first pass. The knights charge at one another again. This time, Clegane’ lance strikes at Ser Hugh’s neck and splinters. A shard pierces Ser Hugh’s armor and he falls. Blood pumps from Ser Hugh’s throat, and he dies. Sansa watches, transfixed.
In Ned’s chamber, the queen enters to speak with Eddard. She wants to put the business with the direwolves behind them, an example of the extremes parents will go for their children. She wonders what Ned thinks he can do – Robert will never change, will never give up his irresponsible ways. She tells him that Ned is a follower, not a leader, that that was Brandon. He’s merely a solider… and Eddard notes that he’s been trained to kill his enemies. Cersei looks at him, and informs him that she was trained to do the same, as well.
Elsewhere, at the same inn at the crossing where Lady died, Catelyn and Ser Rodrik are pausing to refresh themselves. A braggart of a singer joins them, annoying Ser Rodrik. Then someone else arrives: Tyrion Lannister, accompanied by Yoren and two guards. Rodrik and Catelyn try to make themselves inconspicuous. There’s no room at the inn… but an unnamed sellsword, who we’ll see together, takes Tyrion’s offer of a gold coin to give Tyrion his own room. The singer, Marillion, calls Tyrion’s attention to himself, offering to sing of Tywin’s victory at King’s Landing. Tyrion says nothing is likelier to make him ill…. and then he notices Catelyn. He approaches, wondering why she’s there.
She rises, and as the innkeeper Masha Heddle realizes she’s Lady Stark, she curtsies. Catelyn reminds her that she was Catelyn Tully, the last time she was here. She begins to identify and speak with knights and men-at-arms: a knight in the service of the Whents of Harrenhal, another serving Lord Bracken, yet another following Lord Frey, who’s about marry his latest wife on his 90th nameday. Tyrion is amused by the last, but does not understand what Catelyn is doing. She then accuses Tyrion of having conspired to murder her son, and calls on her father’s loyal bannermen to seize Tyrion so that he can await justice. A dozen swords are drawn, ringing Tyrion around, while his men are held at swordspoint.
[HBO has posted a brief recapof the episode.]