As Robb Stark and his northern army continue the war against the Lannisters, Tyrion arrives in King’s Landing to counsel Joffrey and temper the young king’s excesses. On the island of Dragonstone, Stannis Baratheon plots an invasion to claim his late brother’s throne, allying himself with the fiery Melisandre, a strange priestess of a stranger god. Across the sea, Daenerys, her three young dragons and khalasar trek through the Red Waste in search of allies, or water. In the North, Bran presides over a threadbare Winterfell, while beyond the Wall, Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch must shelter with a devious wildling.
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Opening on a scene of violence—the Hound smashing a nameless knight off a wall at King’s Landing, which turns out to be part of a competition—the episode quickly establishes the priorities of King Joffrey’s court. The fact that the knight the Hound was fighting sems to have been killed or knocked unconscious with no one trying to see to him speaks volumes. When Ser Dontos Hollard is called to fight next, it’s discovered that he’s quite drunk and ill-prepared. Joffrey offers Ser Dontos a cup of wine, or even two, for his nameday celebration… and then offers his fill. Unwitting Ser Dontos accepts happily enough, only to have Ser Meryn and other men seize him and force him to his knees as they start to force him to drink from a cask of wine, pouring so much wine down him that he’ll choke to death. Sansa, seeing this, intervenes by telling Joffrey that he can’t do it. Sharply questioning her, she tells him that it’s bad luck, a fact she seems to have made up on the spot—but the Hound concurs, warning Joffrey that it’s said that what a man sows on his nameday he’ll reap for the rest of the year. With a peevish annoyance, Joffrey decides to have Dontos—whom he calls a fool—killed tomorrow instead, which leads Sansa to praise Joffrey for his cleverness and suggest instead that Ser Dontos should be made his new fool; the humiliation over the rest of his days will be much more amusing than his death.
Just then, Tyrion Lannister—in the same mud-covered armor he had at the Green Fork—arrives, accompanied by Bronn and several wildling clansmen. He finds a welcome greeting from his niece and nephew Myrcella and Tommen, but Joffrey is much colder. Tyrion subtly mocks the young king, while avoiding his own jibes. When he offers Sansa a sincere condolence for the loss of her father, Joffrey angrily questions Tyrion, saying that Eddard Stark was a traitor. Sansa speaks up when prompted, to dully repeat that Eddard was dead and she is loyal and loving to her true king Joffrey. Tyrion can see that saying such things has become rote for her, a way for her to survive and escape abuse. Draining his cup, he takes his leave of Joffrey… and reveals he means to see the small council. Joffrey questions him, but Tyrion leaves without giving him an answer.
Cersei is now Queen Regent and oversees the meeting of the council, discussing the situation with the various councillors, including the fact that the Conclave of the Citadel has sent out the white ravens that signify that summer has ended and that it is now autumn. This is the end of the longest summer in living memory. Varys warns that the peasants say that a long summer means a long winter. Littlefinger warns that they have grain to last five years, but after that there’ll be trouble, especially with so many crowding the city. Cersei turns to Lord Janos Slynt, who commands the City Watch, and demands that they turn away smallfolk from the gates. Tyrion’s welcome is an unpleasant surprise for Cersei. She demands to know why he is present, and eventually he reveals that Lord Tywin has appointed him as acting Hand of the King. Cersei demands the other councillors leave her alone with Tyrion, and she begins to question him. He quickly turns the tables, letting her know that they might be able to get Ser Jaime back… only to discover that Arya Stark has slipped through Cersei’s fingers.
Far away in windy Winterfell, young Bran is forced to sit through long court sessions, listening to petitions from old knights and lords, complaining about petty things… and not quite seeming to realize that the North is in a fight for survival. Later, the camera shifts to the perspective of Bran’s direwolf, Summer, as he walks through the godswood and sees his own reflection in the inky black waters of the pool at it’s heart. As Summer sees his reflection, Bran awakens. Bran is carried by Hodor into the godswood with Osha accompanying them. They talk of the red comet blazing through the sky, and what it portends. As Osha helps him lie down next to the pool so that he can see his reflection in it, she tells him that those who argue that it means victory for Robb or victory for Lannister are wrong, and that it means dragons. Bran insists the last dragons have died centuries ago.
The red comet is also in the sky above the red waste, where the remnant of the khalasar travels. The black-and-red dragon refuses to eat the meat Daenerys gives him—Viserys never told her anything useful about dragons, Daenerys says when questioned by Drogo—and Daenerys places him in a wicker cage, with two more cages for the other dragons, all carried by a horse. Daenerys’s silver horse, her wedding gift from Drogo, collapses and dies. She speaks with Ser Jorah about the waste and where they can go to find safety. He does not know the waste… but he knows that Daenerys will be killed if she turns back, or attempts to go to the Lhazreen people in the west. She calls on her bloodriders—Rakharo, Aggo, and Kovarro—and sends them each in an eastern direction to find whatever they can. They take the last three horses they have. She speaks with Rakharo before he goes, saying that he has never failed her, and he says in the Common Tongue that it would be a bad time to start. The scene closes as she looks to the comet in the sky…
And we see it no about the Haunted Forest, as the men of the Watch reach Craster’s keep. Jon, Grenn, and Samwell learn about Craster from Dolorous Edd, who informs them that the women they see are all his wives… and all of them are his daughters. They give him more daughters, that he marries as well. Jon wonders where the sons are, but no one knows. He enters the hall to find Craster speaking with Mormont, speaking about Benjen Stark and hte fact that he never appeared at Craster’s Keep as he had planned to do. Craster complains about a lack of wine from the southerners. Jon Snow objects to being called a southerner, and Craster—saying he’s prettier than half of his daughters—points out that they’re all southerners that come from south of the Wall. Craster warns that if he sees Jon speaking to his daughters, he’ll do something about it, but Mormont promises nothing like that will happen and has Jon sit down. Mormont reveals six wildling villages are abandoned, and wonders where they’ve gone.
Craster calls for more wine, and reveals the other wildlings have run off to Mance Rayder, a former member of the Night’s Watch who has now called himself King beyond the Wall, a title he’s given himself for years according to Mormont. Admiring an ax belonging to a ranger, Mormont gives it to Craster as a gift and that prompts Craster to reveal Mance is raising a huge army to march south against the Wall. Mormont tries to urge Craster to go south and seek shelter at the Wall, to protect his women, and Craster has his daughter/wife Gilly speak and repeat that they’re content with their husband and that they’d rather live free than die a slave. Craster grudgingly allows the men of the Watch to rest under his roof, but warns the men of the Watch that any one who lays a hand on one of his wives will lose his hand… and that if he sees Jon making eyes at any of the women, he might gouge his eyes out.
Leaving the hall, Mormont angrily reminds Jon Snow that he’s the Lord Commander and that Jon is his steward. Mormont asks if Jon wants to lead one day. Jon nods, and Mormont tells him that he needs to learn how to follow.
Waves crash against a dark shore, and an old maester runs across the beach beneath the black stone of a statue shaped like a dragon. A firey ritual is taking place, with men and women gathered around statues of the Seven that have been set alight. A red-haired priestess with a strange accent, Melisandre of Asshai, speaks of a prophecy of the end of the long summer leading to a darkness on the world, with stars bleeding, the seas freezing, and the dead rising in the NNorth. The maester, Cressen, stops besides Ser Davos Seaworth and urges him that they need to stop her, but Davos tells him that then is not the time. Cressen goes forward to rail against the burning of the gods of their fathers and ancestors… but no one moves or says anything. Melisandre tells him that he smells of fear and piss and old bones. She dares him to stop her, but he can do nothing.
Melisandre announces that the ancient books reveal that a warrior will draw a burning sword and that that sword will be Lightbringer. Stannis Baratheon steps forward and pulls the burning sword from where it’s been thrust into one of the statues as the crowd cheers and chants: “Lord, cast Your light upon us.” Then Melisandre repeats the words, “For the night is dark and full of terrors.” He drives the sword into the sand and then leaves, but pauses and as an afterthought gestures for his wife to walk with him. The crowd departs, and Davos and Cressen fall to talk about the fools and fanatics who are misguiding Stannis. Cressen insists that Stannis trusts Davos, and if he says the truth, he’d listen. Davos picks up the sword—now no longer burning—and examines it, then carries it off without a reply.
In the chamber of the Painted Table—carved at the command of Aegon the Conqeror three centuries before—Stannis dictates a letter to Matthos Seaworth, Davos’s son, while Cressen, Melisandre, and some of his other lords and councillors are present. Stannis is curt, making several corrections—insisting Jaime Lannister be named the Kingslayer, and then requires that his title as a knight be added—and it appears to be a letter meant for every corner of the realm to inform men of the truth of Joffrey Baratheon’s parentage. Stannis says that he’ll not the same mistake as Eddard Stark, making sure that no one can claim ignorance when they choose whom to follow. Davos argues that the Lannisters are the true enemy, and that if Stannis joined forces with Renly—who already has Highgarden supporting him—they could destroy them, but Stannis refuses to ally with his brothe when he wrongfully claims the crown that by right belongs to him. Davos then proposes they ally with King Robb, but Stannis refuses an alliance with him as well. Joffrey, Renly, and Robb Stark are thieves—they’ll bend the knee or he will destroy them.
Maester Cressen quietly removes a small crystal from a secret chamber in one of the rings of his chain, and drops it into a cup of wine. He stands and offers to make peace with Melisandre, admitting that it was time to honor the one true god. He offers to drink with Melisandre, and drinks first. She takes the cup and drinks deeply as the poison begins to take effect in Cressen—his nose begins to bleed, then his mouth, and he collapses in a pool of blood. Melisandre is unaffected, and looks down on him as he is dying: “The night is dark and full of terror, old man, but the fire burns them all away.”
In Robb’s camp, the young Stark king moves to see Jaime Lannister where he is imprisoned. Ser Jaime is in a cage, sitting down with his hands tied behind a post. Jaime tries to insult him, wondering why he keeps Jaime so close. Robb tells him that he knows Tywin will threaten any bannerman who holds Jaime. Then Jaime attempts to insult him by calling him boy… only to have the sound of an approaching direwolf draw Jaime’s attention, as Robb tells him that the Kingslayer insults himself: defeated by a boy, held captive by a boy, perhaps killed by a boy. Grey Wind enters, standing waist-high on Robb, huge and terrifying. Robb reveals that he has a letter from Stannis stating the truth of Joffrey’s birth. Jaime attempts to argue that’s convenient for Stannis, but Robb knows that it’s true, that Eddard was killed for that secret, that Bran was nearly killed for the same reason. Robb will send terms to the Lannisters. Jaime doubts Lord Tywin will negotitate. Robb leaves, but not before he lets Grey Wind prowl close and very nearly bite Ser Jaime before veering off, leaving the Kingslayer shaken.
In King’s Landing, Shae has been installed in the Hand’s former chambers by Tyrion. However, no one knows she is there, and he insists she stays hidden. Shae insists she loves being there in the city, with all of its scents. As they lie in bed—Ned Stark’s old bed—and they kiss. The scene cuts to Littlefinger walking alone in a hall, when Queen Cersei—escorted by four Lannister guards—approaches him and asks for a favor, asking him to try and find Arya Stark. He suggests that Cersei talk to Varys, though he suggests that it’s hard to trust a eunuch. Cersei notes the mockingbird sigil of his house, that he’s created for himself, which she considers appropriate for a self-made man with “so many songs to sing.” Cersei tells of having heard the song about a boy of modest means who fell in love with the eldest daughter of the family he lived with, but she loved another. Littlefinger responds with veiled knowledge of Cersei’s incest with Jaime. He says that prominent families forget a simple truth: “Knowledge is power.”
Cersei pauses… then has her guards seize Littlefinger, and to cut his throat. AT the last moment she stops them, and gives them various commands to show their absolute obedience. She tells Littlefinger that “power is power”, and insists he take time away from his whores and coins to find Arya Stark. She sweeps away, leaving him with a hand to his neck, rubbing at it.
Ser Alton Lannister is before Robb, who provides terms: the Lannisters must release his sisters, must return the bones of Eddard and the remains of all of those who died in his service, and finally that Joffrey and the Queen Regent must renounce all claim to the North as a free and an independent kingdom. Ser Rodrik Cassel calls Robb the King in the North, and the others echo it. If Joffrey refuses the terms and tries to attack the North, Robb threatens to personally kill him. He insists those are his terms, and he’ll give them peace if they agree, or he’ll litter the south with Lannister dead. Alton notes Joffrey is a Baratheon and Robb responds, “Oh, is he?” Theon moves up after the others leave, and proposes that he should go to his father Lord Balon, urging an alliance against the Lannisters to gain ships that they can use against King’s Landing. Robb is uncertain, as the Greyjoys had rebelled nine years earlier and had attacked the North… but Theon insists that he can see it done, and that Lord Eddard raised him to be an honorable man.
Later, Robb informs Catelyn of this plan, but she refuses to trust Lord Greyjoy. She urges him not to do it. Robb points out that he’s a rebel, and that his father was a rebel. Catelyn insists that he should have traded Jaime for Arya and Sansa, but Robb says it’s more complicated, that his bannermen would string him up by his heels if he did such a thing. Catelyn finally insists that she’s leaving for Winterfell, not having seen Bran or Rickon for months, but Robb refuses. He tells her he’s sending Ser Rodrik north to see to them… but that he needs Catelyn to go south, to personally treat with Renly Baratheon and attempt to forge an alliance against the Lannisters. With Renly’s might, they’ll outnumber the Lannisters two to one, and with the jaws closing around them the Lannisters will have to return the girls so that Catelyn can finally go home with all of her children. After a sigh, Catelyn agrees to ride at first light. Robb kisses her brow, and promises they’ll all be together again soon. Catelyn tells him that Eddard would be proud. Robb tells her to give Renly his regards, and she corrects him: “King Renly. Now there’s a king in every corner.”
Back in King’s Landing, Cersei enters the throne room to find laborers renovating the throne room at Joffrey’s command. She asks him what he’s doing, but he insists that the throne room was raised by Targaryen conquerors and that he’ll have it looking like a place of conquerors. Cersei urges him to send men to find her, to ask Lord Tywin to lend troops to the search, but Joffrey insists a king commands rather than asks. He also blames Lord Tywin for Ser Jaime being captured. Cersei insists Jaime’s life is in danger, but Joffrey brushes it off, saying that everyone’s life is in danger during war. He adds that he’s heard a disgusting lie about uncle Jaime and his mother. Cersei suggests they’re lies to weaken Joffrey’s claim. Joffrey points out that Robert had bastards besides Joffrey, Tommen, and Myrcella. He starts to speak crudely, wondering if Robert slept with other women when he tired of Cersei, and she slaps him. The room grows quiet .... and then everyone returns to work. Joffrey warns her that what she did was punishable by death, and that she’ll never do it again, ever. Sdismisses her.
In Littlefinger’s brothel, Ros oversees a male and a female prostitute as they practice their arts. She has them wash up and get ready to work. She shows a new prostitute—Daisy—around and informs her that it’s not like Haystack Hall (from where Daisy comes), that this is a high class place. She points out that Aremca doesn’t speak to convince others that she’s exotic… but in fact she’s from Flea Bottom. Lord Slynt enters (again, Ros notes) and other gold cloaks come forward with a man in tow. They start to search the brothel, and Ros says that the establishment is owned by Lord Baelish, but Janos says they have orders from someone who doesn’t care about what Baelish thinks. Mhaegen is brought forward with her infant Barra, and the man they have nods, identifying the child. One of the gold cloaks tears the child from her breast, but can’t bring himself to use his knife. Slynt goes forward and kills the child himself as Mhaegen screams.
The gold cloaks go through the city identifying and murdering children, young men, and more infants. Tobho Mott has his face held to burning coals by gold cloaks until he informs Lord Slynt that Gendry had left to join the Night’s Watch and that he was traveling north on the kingsroad. To identify him, he shouts that Gendry took his bull’s head helmet that he had made himself. Slynt turns and orders his men to find him… and the last thing we see is Gendry and Arya together on the back of a cart, with the other recruits around them.
[HBO’s official recap video.]