The Lannisters press their advantage over the Starks; Robb (Richard Madden) rallies his father’s northern allies and heads south to war.
Hard on the heels of the last episode, the scene shows Lannister guardsmen attacking and brutally killing Stark guards in the Tower of the Hand. Blissfully unaware of what has transpired, Sansa and Septa Mordane wonder why Arya has not presented herself because they’re due to leave that very day. The reason? Arya and Syrio practice together, with the “dancing master” telling her what he’s going to do next, keeping her prepared… until he lies, and she fails to realize it until he disarms her. She complains that he lied, but he responds that she may have heard him say that, but his eyes gave away the true direction of his attack. “Watching is not seeing”, he notes, when she complains. They begin to resume when a door crashes open, and Ser Meryn Trant of the Kingsguard and five Lannister guards appear, claiming Eddard sent them to fetch Arya. She begins to go, but Syrio stops her, wondering why the Hand would send such men.
In the meantime, hearing the noise of battle, Septa Mordane sends Arya running for her room. As Sansa disappears from sight, Lannister guards with bloody swords appear at the entrance to the hall, and Septa Mordane walks towards them. In the chamber with Arya and Syrio, the waterdancer strikes down a rude Lannister guard… and then prepares to fight the rest. He tells Arya to leave, but she stays put as he fights the four remaining guards… and reveals just how skilled a former First Sword to the Sealord of Braavos really is, using the men against one another, striking and moving swiftly. With all five men down, Ser Meryn himself draws his sword. Arya begs Syrio to run with her, but he refuses, replying that the First Sword does not run. Trant manages to catch Syrio’s wooden practice sword and cuts it in half with a blow. Forel asks Arya what they say to the god of death: “Not today.” She finally runs, preparing to face Trant, still holding the remaining part of his broken sword.
Arya flees and does not see what follows. In the halls of the Red Keep, she hears men fighting and dying up some steps, and goes the other way, repeating like a mantra, “Not today. Not today.” Her sister Sansa is running, too, to her chambers… only for the Hound to come across her. Smiling with menace, Clegane frightens Sansa, who swears she’ll tell her father (he grins), and then she’ll tell the queen. He laughs, “Who do you think sent me?” Shortly after, Arya finds herself in the stable, picking through a chest of her belongings that was being prepared to be sent away with her, when a stableboy comes across her. Recognizing her, he means to grab hold of her and turn her in for a reward, but a frightened Arya tries to scare him away with Needle which she found in the chest… and ends up stabbing him through the stomach. She runs.
In the black cells beneath the Red Keep, Varys appears as Eddard sits chained to a wall. The Spider offers Eddard wine, and seeing that Lord Stark mistrusts him, he takes a drink first. Varys informs him that Arya has escaped the castle and he cannot find her, while Sansa is held and remains betrothed to Joffrey; all the rest of Eddard’s household are dead. Varys wonders what madness brought Ned to tell Cersei that he knew her secret. “The madness of mercy,” Ned replies, because he wanted to save the children. Varys tells Ned that his mercy killed Robert—the wine slowed him down, the boar did the deed, but it was Cersei’s doing because of what Ned told her. But Ned says he can’t die, because Tyrion is held… only to have Varys inform him that Cersei doesn’t care about Tyrion, and in any case Tyrion has slipped through Cat’s fingers. If that’s true, Eddard says, Varys might as well cut his throat and be done with it. “Not today, my lord,” Varys replies. As he turns to go, Eddard asks him who Varys serves: “The realm, my lord. Someone must.”
At Castle Black, a sledge is brought with two bodies discovered near the weirwood north of the Wall. The bodies are identified: Othor and Jafer Flowers, men who accompanied Benjen in his ranging beyond the Wall. Samwell notices that the bodies have no scent of rot. It’s suggested that they be burned after the wildling fashion, but Lord Commander Mormont wants Maester Aemon to examine them first. Mormont also compliments Samwell for being clever. A man of the Watch informs him that there’s a letter from King’s Landing, and soon after the Lord Commander calls Jon to speak with him. He informs him of the letter’s content: the king is dead, Lord Eddard is accused of treason. Jon gets up to leave, very troubled by all this news, and Mormont seems to know what he’s thinking when he tells him that those matters aren’t for him to deal with, that his duty is on the Wall.
In King’s Landing, Sansa sits across from the Queen and three of the small council: Varys, Grand Maester Pycelle, and Littlefinger. Pycelle thinks traitor’s blood cannot be trusted. Cersei says Sansa is innocent of her father’s crimes… but only Sansa, and Robb, can save his life. She convinces Sansa to write to Robb, calling on him to come to King’s Landing to bend the knee and swear fealty to Joffrey. Much later, the letter arrives by raven from Winterfell, where Maester Luwin presents it to Robb. Robb refuses the command, and says the only choice is to call the banners. When Luwin asks if he should call for all of them, Robb confirms it, saying they’ve all sworn to defend Lord Eddard. As Luwin departs, Theon asks Robb if he’s afraid. Robb shows that his hand is shaking… and Theon says that’s good, because it’d be stupid to be unafraid. All the ravens of Winterfell are unleashed.
The message arrives at the Eyrie, as well. When Catelyn is allowed to see it (“as a courtesy”, according to Lysa), she’s angered by the fact that her sister insists on staying in the Eyrie and doing nothing while her brother-in-law lies imprisoned. Robin demands to be fed, but Lysa tells him only after he has a bath, and then informs Catelyn that her knights will remain in the Vale, to defend their lord. Catelyn is left with no choice but to leave on her own, with Ser Rodrik. Tyrion Lannister and Bronn, at that very moment, are walking among the foothills of the Vale, where Bronn tells his erstwhile employer that he should take his food and leave him to die because of the way he’s making noise by whistling. The hill tribes are all about, we’re told. Tyrion says that Bronn follows him because he knows Tyrion will pay him well, and that’s why Bronn will stay with him. Bronn admits it, but won’t be his toady… and Tyrion doesn’t mind, being more interested in his ability to kill than his friendship. Tyrion adds that if every anyone tries to have Bronn sell him out, Tyrion will beat their price.
At night, beside a fire where a goat is roasting, Bronn and Tyrion awaken as tribesmen—outfitted in rough furs and horned helmets, with crude weapons—come across them. Their leader is Shagga son of Dolf of the Stone Crows, a grim-looking man. He laughs, however, when Tyrion responds to his question as to how he’d rather die: Tyrion would prefer in bed, at the age of 80, with a woman pleasuring him. Shagga tells his men to grab hold of “the Halfman” and to kill Bronn, but Tyrion stops them, and offers better weapons and armor. Shagga cuts his face with his ax, which Tyrion had just denigrated, and Tyrion gives him his golden ring. Tyrion promises that he’ll give the tribes more than just trinkets—he’ll give them the Vale of Arryn. The lords of the Vale want Tyrion dead, and they’ve always spat on the hill tribes… so they should make common cause.
At Castle Black, Jon and the other new brothers of the Watch are working in the mess hall. Ser Alliser Thorne comes up and maliciously tells Jon that he’s not only a bastard, but a traitor’s bastard. Unable to control himself, Jon tries to swing at Thorne with a knife, but his friends stop him. Thorne threatens that Jon will hang, but Lord Commander Mormont only confines him to quarters to start. Later that night, Ghost starts to grow anxious, and Jon realizes something’s wrong, that someone’s moving outside his cell. He arms himself and follows Ghost to Mormont’s chambers. He enters, calling for the Lord Commander… and the door is shut behind him, locking out Ghost. The door’s closer? The reanimated corpse of Othor, powerful and unstoppable. It does not respond to multiple stab wounds, neither cries out nor bleeds when it’s arm is chopped off, and only falls when a sword is pushed through its chest and out of its back. Mormont comes in from another chamber, holding a lantern, not understanding what’s happening. Then the body starts moving again, pulling out the sword (a puff of dust showing that its blood is completely dried up) and starting forward again. Snow grabs the lantern from Mormont bare-handed, burning himself, and throws it at the wight, which immediately begins to burn as Jon hurries Mormont out of the room.
Fires burn in Essos, as well, as the Dothraki butcher, pillage, and enslave the “Lamb Men”, the Lhazreen people. Daenerys finds their brutal methods harsh, but does not directly question them as Rakharo explains that the Lhazreen will make good slaves, which they will give as a gift to the slavers who will give them gifts in return. Drogo intends to purchase passage across the narrow sea by such methods. However, when Daenerys sees a Lhazreen woman being assaulted, she asks it to be stopped. Rakharo thinks the noise the woman makes is the problem, and offers to cut out her tongue, but Daenerys does not want the women abused. She sends Rakharo to fetch the woman, and all the others, whom she puts under her protection. Later, in the despoiled temple of the Great Shepherd, Drogo holds court beside a pile of heads. A warrior, Mago, complains that Daenerys has taken his spoils from him. An argument ensues, one in which Drogo states that Daenerys’s insistence is sparked by the son she carries, the Stallion who Mounts the World.
Mago refuses Drogo’s command, and challenges him, saying that if he will be commanded by a “foreign whore”, he’s not fit to lead. Drogo lets his arakh cut him on the chest… and then promises a dire fate for Mago, refusing to burn his body, leaving the beetles to eat the eyes from his skull. He drops his daggers, fighting unarmed against the arakh-wielding warrior. Mago says Drogo will have to kill him first, and Drogo says that Mago is already dead, wrenching the blade from his hands and opening his throat, then reaching in with his fingers to tear out his tongue through the gaping wound. Daenerys rushes to Drogo’s side, concerned by the wound. Learning that one of the Lamb Women is a priestess who knows healing spells, she insists that she be allowed to treat Drogo, even though the Dothraki do not hold with maegi. Drogo permits it, and the woman—Mirri Maz Duur—moves to his side.
In Winterfell, Robb feasts his bannermen, but the belligerent Greatjon Umber is insisting that he must lead the vanguard. Robb says that Galbart Glover will lead it, and Umber says that Umbers will never march behind Glovers. He threatens to take his bannermen back home with him. Robb responds he can do that… but when Robb returns from the war, he’ll root Umber out of his seat and hang him for a traitor. The Greatjon roars, pushing out of his seat, saying he won’t be insulted by a green boy. He starts to draw a blade… when Grey Wind leaps onto the table and onto him. As he falls to the ground, he screams as the direwolf bits off two of his fingers. As the Greatjon rises holding his bloody hand, Robb tells him that his father taught him that drawing steel against a liege lord was death… but doubtless the Greatjon meant only to cut his meat for him. Umber replies, “Your meat…. is bloody tough!” and then laughs, holding his hand, and the feast hall takes up the laughter.
Later that night, Robb says farewell to Bran. The host is starting off in the middle of the night because there are Lannister spies everywhere. Robb says Bran must stay, because there must always be a Stark in Winterfell. Robb tells Bran not to be scared, and that they’ll see one another again. When he leaves, his younger brother Rickon appears, having eavesdropped. Rickon says everyone’s gone away. Bran replies that they’ll all be back soon, that Robb and their mother will bring back their father. Rickon replies, “No, they won’t,” and leaves. After, in the morning, Bran prays before the heart tree. Osha, chains clinking, comes up and talks of the old gods with him. She tells him that Robb will have no help from the old gods in the south, because they’ve cut down all the weirwoods. As they’re speaking, a naked Hodor appears, having been bathing in one of the pools in the godswood. Osha grins, looking at him, and says he has giant’s blood. Bran asks if giants are real, and she says there are giants… and worse, and insists Robb is marching the wrong way because the cold winds are rising. At Castle Black, the other is being burned, having risen in the night as well. Samwell read a book which spoke of such creatures, men touched by the White Walkers, stoppable only by fire. When the White Walkers awaken… Samwell hopes the Wall is high enough.
At Moat Cailin, Ser Rodrik and Lady Catelyn see the northmen’s encampment. She enters the camp, finding Robb planning strategy with his bannermen, as Tywin is bringing up an army from the south while in the west Jaime has driven the riverlords back. Greatjon Umber says that their numbers don’t matter, because the Kings in the North threw back armies ten times as large at Moat Cailin. Asking them to leave so she can speak with her son alone, she hugs him to her and remembers him as a squalling baby, and now he’s leading men. He says someone needed to lead the army, a Stark, and she points out that in that room were any number of battle-proven commanders with greater experience. He asks if she wants to send him away, and she says she wishes that she could… but she cannot. He notes they aren’t Starks, however. They receive the letter from Sansa—“From the queen, you mean,” Catelyn notes—and they note there’s no mention of Arya. Catelyn says their only hope is for Robb to defeat them in the field. Tywin Lannister had Prince Rhaegar’s children killed in their sleep at the end of Robert’s rebellion, and he has not become kinder—they can expect no mercy if Robb loses, that the Starks will all be killed. Robb says that makes it simple: he’ll have to win.
Lord Tywin’s camp is spread out before Tyrion and the clansmen as they arrive. Shagga warns Tyrion not to play him false, or he’ll chop off his manhood and—“—feed them to the goats. I know!” Tyrion finishes for him. They march into the camp, drawing stares from the Lannister soldiery. In Lord Tywin’s tent, Tyrion greets his father and his uncle, Ser Kevan, as they discuss their plans. Tyrion introduces his companions: Shagga son of Dolf of the Stone Crows, Timmet son of Timmet of the Burned Men, Chella daughter of Cheyk of the Black Ears, and the sellosword Bronn. When Tyrion stops at wondering who he’s the son of, Bronn replies, “You wouldn’t know him.” Tyrion says it was kind of Tywin to go to war for him, and reaches for the wine. Tywin grabs it away from him, and says it wasnt’ for Tyrion’s sake, but for the sake of the house’s honor. Jaime has covered himself with glory, he informs Tyrion, smashing the riverlords and besieging Riverrun. Tyrion learns that Robert is dead, that Eddard is imprisoned, and that Robb Stark is marching south. Tywin dismisses Robb, calling him a green boy.
Turning to the matter of the tribes, Tyrion informs Tywin that he’ll require a great deal of arms and armor to fulfill his promise. A scout interrupts, informing them that Ser Addam Marbrand reports that the Starks are marching nearer. Tywin commands that the army will move north to meet them. He considers the tribesmen, and then says that he’ll give them all Tyrion promised and more if they fight his enemies. They agree, but only if the Halfman rides with them, which shocks Tyrion. At a council among the northmen, Ser Rodrik argues meeting the Lannisters on ground of their choosing, while the Greatjon urges that they slip Tywin and strike west to defeat Jaime, free Riverrun, and join with the riverlords. The only way to cross the Trident is the Twins, however, held by a bannerman of Lady Catelyn’s father, Lord Walder Frey. She warns that her father called him the Late Lord Frey, because he showed up at the Battle of the Trident only after the battle was done; Lord Frey does not take his oaths very seriously.
Then a Lannister scout, captured spying on the camp, is brought to Robb. Theon tries to hide their map showing their dispositions, but the Greatjon assures him the scout won’t live long. Yet to everyone’s shock and surprise, Robb shows mercy to the scout, saying his father understand honor and courage, and he’ll do the same. Even Catelyn questions him, but Robb is adamant. He asks him how many men he counted, and the scout says he counted 20,000, perhaps more. Robb tells him he can go… but to carry a message: “Tell Lord Tywin winter is coming for him. 20,000 northerners marching south to find out if he really does shit gold.” Umber wonders if Robb is touched in the head, calling him “boy”. Robb urges him to call him boy again, a clear threat. Umber snarls and storms off.
As Eddard is kicked awake by a guard checking on him, King Joffrey holds court. Janos Slynt, Commander of the City Watch, is made Lord of Harrenhal and his sons and grandsons will inherit this seat from him. Joffrey names Tywin his Hand, as well. As Sansa arrives, men she knew at court now shun her, turning away when she greets them. Pycelle also says the council has determined that the safety of the king is of paramount importance. Queen Cersei calls Barristan to present himself to Joffrey and remove his helm. She thanks him for his long service, but it’s now time for him to put aside his armor and sword after so many years of service. Ser Barristan protests that his vows are for life, and only death can relieve them of him. Cersei asks whose death, his or his king’s? Joffrey says that Barristan is too old to protect anyone. Cersei says that Jaime will replace him as Lord Commander, drawing Barristan’s ire, calling him a man who profaned his sword with the blood of the king he swore to protect.
Varys intervenes as Cersei gets angry, informing Barristan he’ll be given a keep and servants. “A hall to die in, and men to bury me,” Barristan responds. He strips off his armor, insisting he lived as a knight and would die as one. “A naked knight,” Littlefinger quips, and the court laughs at old Ser Barristan. Selmy draws his sword, and when his former Sworn Brothers prepare to defend the king, he tells them that even now he could cut through them as easily as a knife cuts cake. He throws the weapon down, telling Joffrey to melt it down and add it to the others on the Iron Throne. He marches out, alone. Then Sansa is called forward, to plea for Eddard’s life.
Joffrey questions why he denied he was king, and she’s sure it was the milk of the poppy that he was being given, and lies from Lord Renly and Lord Stannis. Eddard was Robert’s friend and never meant to betray him or Joffrey. The king offers to grant Sansa’s plea, over Grand Maester Pycelle’s protest that treason is a “noxious weed”, but Eddard must confess treason and swear before the realm that Joffrey is the true king. The scene ends as we see a kneeling Sansa obscured by the blades of the Iron Throne.