Having agreed to become the King’s Hand, Ned leaves Winterfell with daughters Sansa and Arya, while Catelyn stays behind in Winterfell. Jon Snow heads north to join the brotherhood of the Night’s Watch. Tyrion decides to forego the trip south with his family, instead joining Jon in the entourage heading to the Wall. Viserys bides his time in hopes of winning back the throne, while Daenerys focuses her attention on learning how to please her new husband, Drogo.
On the continent of Essos, Daenerys Targaryen and Ser Jorah Mormont ride with the Dothraki. Daenerys has had it hard, finding both the pace and the food hard to stomach. Ser Jorah encourages her, and mentions in passing stories of the grasses in the Dothraki sea and beyond, including the ghost grass beyond Asshai. At the Dothraki encampment, Daenerys has to be helped by her servants—our first glimpse at Irri, Jhiqui, and Doreah—due to the strain of the travel. Ser Jorah and Viserys speak, with Jorah revealing he fled Lord Stark’s justice because he had sold poachers to a passing Tyroshi slaver. Viserys promises that no one would be punished for such a thing when he is king.
In Winterfell, Tyrion sleeps off a hangover in a kennel. His nephew Prince Joffrey and Joffrey’s sworn shield, Sandor Clegane, are watching him. Tyrion commands Joffrey to appear at the bedchamber of the comatose Bran Stark to give his condolences to Starks. When Joffrey refuses, Tyrion slaps him—more than once—until he obeys. The Hound reminds Tyrion that the prince will not forget that. Tyrion departs for breakfast, where he joins his siblings and his younger niece and nephew, Princess Myrcella and Prince Tommen. There, Tyrion reveals that Maester Luwin believes that Bran’s odds of surviving are improving, which leaves the Lannister twins discomfited.. Cersei also questions Tyrion’s desire to go and see the Wall, and in the course of his response she notes the children do not need to hear his lewd talk. Jaime questions which side Tyrion supports, but the Imp tells him that he loves his family.
Cersei later visits Catelyn Stark, who has been left haggard by the tragedy of Bran’s fall. She has sat vigil by his bedside ceaselessly. Cersei offers her a tragedy of her own: the loss of her first-born child, taken by a fever. The child’s hair was fine and black, she says. The two women briefly bond as mothers who have suffered losses. Cersei departs. In the yard of Winterfell, the blacksmith is making a slender sword as Jon watches. Ser Jaime approaches, speaking with Jon in a condescending fashion about his never having killed a man before or his intention of joining the Night’s Watch. He reminds Jon that his place in the Night’s Watch only lasts a lifetime.
Jon takes the sword with him to say farewell to Arya. She is packing with the “help” of Nymeria. Jon gives her the sword, and gives Arya the first lesson: “Stick them with the pointy end.” She reminds him she knows which end to use. The two part, after she names her sword, calling it Needle. Next, Jon visits Bran in his bed. Catelyn is brusque, but lets him approach to tell Bran that he’s leaving, and that he’ll be a man of the Night’s Watch soon, and will be sure to visit again after that. Ned arrives in the chamber, just as Catelyn tells Jon that he’s said enough and she wants him to leave. He does so, after kissing Bran goodbye. Ned comes to his wife, and she tells him that he should not go, that she needs him and does not believe she can manage without him under the circumstances. But he has no choice: he’s promised to go with Robert, and duty and honor makes its demands. Catelyn is left weeping.
Robb and Jon speak in the castle yard, and these two brothers—of a similar age—say farewell to one another. Finally, Jon and Eddard make a final parting outside of Winterfell, at the crossroad. As Ned prepares to go south and Jon prepares to go north with Benjen and Tyrion Lannister, Jon asks his father about his mother, whether she knows about him and where he’s going. Ned tells him that when they see each other again, Ned will tell him about his mother. “I promise,” he says, seeming overcome with emotion for a moment. And then the two go their separate ways.
Some time later, Ned and Robert breakfast together and talk of the old days. It seems Robert and Ned had a few opportunities to sow their wild oats, so to speak, in their younger days. Robert asks after Jon’s mother, and Ned names her: Wylla. He refuses to discuss her further, and the two instead turn to news of the realm. Robert reveals that Daenerys has married Khal Drogo, and is inclined to send assassins to deal with the potential Targaryen threat. Ned dissuades him, reminding him that the Dothraki are on the other side of the narrow sea and are unlikely to appear. And if they do, Robert and he will throw them back into the sea. Robert gives the matter up grudgingly. However, he warns Ned that he has a feeling that a war is coming, though he does not know when or even who will be the enemy.
Among the Dothraki, Khal Drogo visits Daenerys after drinking with his warriors. It is a rough and unpleasant scene, as he is rough and Daenerys is clearly in pain. However, her dragon eggs are in her sight, and at some point something… changes. Her expression changes, and the pain of Drogo’s coupling appears to fade as the sound of flames and a vaguely bestial noise close the scene. Back in Westeros, Jon Snow and Tyrion pause in their journey to the Wall. Tyrion reveals why he reads as much as he does, while indicating his skepticism of the Night’s Watch’s purpose, and emphasizing to Jon that his new sworn brothers will include the scum of Westeros. Despite this, the two seem to be forming a friendship.
In Winterfell, Lady Catelyn remains by Bran’s bedside. Unwilling to attend to administering the household, her son Robb steps in, and attempts to convince her to spend less time fretting over Bran. When he looks outside, he sees that there is a fire in one of the buildings of the castle and runs off to see that it’s put out. After he leaves, Catelyn looks out the window… and a hooded man appears behind her. Indicating she was supposed to have been gone, and that the boy is as good as dead already, he draws forth a dagger and attacks Bran. Catelyn intervenes and is almost killed, at one point gripping the blade with both her hands to keep it from her throat. Thrown aside, Catelyn watches helplessly as the assassin makes for Bran, when Bran’s wolf appears and leaps on the man, tearing out his throat before lying on Bran’s bed.
Among the Dothraki, Daenerys has her sores attended to by her attendants. They discuss dragons, with Doreah offering a story she heard about a second moon in the sky that was a dragon’s egg. The Dothraki handmaidens doubt her, but Dany sends them off to speak with Doreah privately. She wishes to learn how to better please Khal Drogo. Doreah reveals she was sold to a pleasure house at 9 but did not touch a man until she was 12; she promises it will not take 3 years for Daenerys to learn.
As Jon Snow and Tyrion get their first glimpse of the Wall, Lady Catelyn is visiting the site of Bran’s fall. She explores the chamber beneath whose window Bran was found, and there discovers a long, golden hair. Gathering the most trustworthy members of the household, she informs them that she believes someone attempted to murder Bran because of something he saw. Ser Rodrik notes that the dagger is Valyrian steel, with a dragonbone hilt, and far too valuable for a common man to have. Catelyn shares her suspicions that the Lannisters—already implicated by her sister in the murder of Jon Arryn—were behind the attempt. Robb and Ser Rodrik offer to carry the news to Eddard, but she refuses; there must always be a Stark in Winterfell, she tells Robb. However, Catelyn allows Ser Rodrik to accompany her to King’s Landing, where she’ll inform Ned personally. Before she leaves, she kisses Bran farewell, and leaves a set of seven figures—representing each of the Seven—above his bed.
Doreah teaches Daenerys how to behave with Drogo, so that he sees she is not a slave. Daenerys is uncertain. Doreah offers the story of a Lyseni courtesan who was desired by thousands of men, but never accepted any of them, and encourages Daenerys. Daenerys turns the tables on her, receiving her praise, but then she hesitates and again doubts that Drogo will appreciate her attempt to please him, because it goes against the Dothraki way. Doreah points out that if Drogo wanted the Dothraki way, why did he marry Dany? Later that night, Drogo arrives in Daenerys’s bedchamber, and attempts to put her on all four. She stops him, and there is a brief struggle before she asks him in Dothraki that she wishes to look on his face this time. He accepts, and they make love.
At an inn, the royal party has paused. Sansa leads Lady on a leash through the camp. A silent, staring man frightens her, and the Hound explains he is the King’s Justice, Ser Ilyn Payne, who acts as Robert’s headsman. He does not speak because he spoke unwisely years ago, when Aerys ruled; the Mad King had his tongue torn out. Joffrey arrives, and sends the men away from her. He tells her to walk with him, and she leaves Lady to do so. They’re walking by a river, having wine, when they come across Arya and the butcher’s boy, Mycah, using sticks to play at swords. Joffrey mocks the boy wanting to be a knight, and takes his sword out, cutting Mycah’s face until Arya hits him in the back with her own stick. Cursing and screaming, he starts swinging at Arya while Sansa screams for them to stop and that Arya is ruining eveyrthing. Mycah runs, and Nymeria leaps on Joffrey, mauling his arm and forcing him to drop the sword. Arya takes up Joffrey’s dropped sword, and he cries and pleads for mercy. Disgusted, she throws the sword into the river and runs away with Nymeria. Sansa offers to help and comfort Joffrey, but he tells her to leave him alone.
Arya hides with Nymeria, and realizes that Nymeria will be killed for having harmed Joffrey. Arya tries to get Nymeria to run away without her, but the wolf is unwilling, and Arya has to throw a rock at her before the direwolf departs. Later that night, as Eddard and the Stark guard search for Arya at night, Jory arrives to inform him that the Lannister guards found Arya and have taken her to the inn. Returning there, Ned finds Robert sitting in judgment on the matter. Joffrey claims they set themselves on him for no reason, while Arya tells the story of his having harmed Mycah unprovoked. Robert is inclined to let the matter lie. At Cersei’s command, Sansa is brought out, and she refuses to contradict either party, instead claiming she didn’t remember and that everything happened too quickly. Again, Robert wishes to leave it at that, when Cersei notes the question of the direwolf. Nymeria has not been found, so Robert is ready to leave it at that ... when Cersei reminds him there is another direwolf.
Robert allows Cersei to have her way, and advises Eddard that a direwolf is no pet for a child, and that Sansa would be happier with a dog. As Sansa and Arya realize that they mean to kill Lady, Sansa pleads, saying Lady is good and hasn’t hurt anyone, as does Arya. Ned asks Robert if that is truly his command; Robert stares at Ned and then leaves without a word. Cersei calls for Ser Ilyn to do the honors, but Eddard says the wolf is of the North, and deserves better than a butcher, so he will put her down himself. Jory takes the girls away, while Ned walks out to where Lady is chained. As he does so, the Hound passes with Mycah’s body slung over the back of his horse. Ned is shocked at the death of the boy, and Sandor Clegane informs him that Mycah ran, but not very fast. As he kneels by Lady, Ned pats and strokes the direwolf, struggling with what he has to do. In the moments as he prepares himself, we briefly see Bran’s bedchamber, and then we see his direwolf lying next to him, troubled in its sleep, as more of Bran is revealed. Ned cuts Lady’s throat…
... and Bran’s eyes open.
[HBO has posted a brief recap of the episode.]