Incensed over news of Daenerys’ alliance with the Dothrakis, Robert orders a preemptive strike on the Targaryens that drives a wedge in his relationship with Ned. A captive Tyrion helps Catelyn, but receives a cold reception at the Eyrie from her sister, John Arryn’s widow Lysa (Kate Dickie). Sansa is charmed by the dashing Ser Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones), aka the Knight of Flowers. Arya overhears a plot against her father.
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Before the show even starts, there’s something new featured in the opening credits: the Eyrie, in the Vale of Arryn. Interpreted for the show, it features a huge dome surrounded by seven slender towers.
The show opens on Ned Stark visiting the tourney grounds, and the tent in which silent sisters tend on the body of Ser Hugh of the Vale. Ser Barristan Selmy, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, reveals to Ned that he stood vigil for the dead young knight, as he had no one else. Eddard wonders how it came to be that he faced the Mountain, and Barristan indicates lots are drawn; Lord Stark implies that he suspects the drawing may have been rigged. Leaving the tent, the two talk about having fought on the opposite side of the war, and Ned indicates he was fortunate not to have met Barristan on the field; Catelyn would have been left a widow. Lord Rickard Stark was said to have called Barristan the best swordsman he had ever seen, but Ser Barristan says Eddard is too modest, and that he had seen him cut down a dozen great knights. He begins to commiserate about what the Mad King did to his father and brother, and Eddard pushes on to wondering about Ser Hugh. Barristan notes that Robert intends to joust, something Ned thinks ridiculous, but Barristan is sure Robert will insist.
Visiting Robert in his tent, where his squire Lancel is trying and failing to get his breastplate on, Eddard bluntly tells the king that he’s grown too fat for his armor. Robert glares… and then laughs, but he harrasses Lancel and then sends him after “the breastplate stretcher”. Eddard convinces Robert that no one will dare harm the king in the lists, and Robert complains about having gotten fat and about being surrounded by Lannisters, which he blames on Jon Arryn for having convinced him to marry Cersei Lannister. Ned becomes apprehensive about these matters. Ultimately, Robert accepts he can’t joust, and leaves—after getting into his proper garments—to at least watch the proceedings.
Eddard joins his daughter Sansa—Arya is at her “dancing lessons”—when the handsome Ser Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers (see our interview with actor Finn Jones), rides up to her place in the stands and gives her a single red rose. Sansa’s overwhelmed by the dashing gesture… but Ser Loras glances to Lord Renly, a look that’s returned before Renly prompts him with a gesture to ride on. Renly and Littlefinger wager 100 gold dragons on the result, with Renly backing Ser Loras. They trade jibes, with Littlefinger wondering what he’ll buy with his 100 gold dragons… and Renly suggests he might buy a friend. Sansa’s afraid for Ser Loras, as he’s to face Ser Gregor Clegane (see
Eddard joins his daughter Sansa—Arya is at her “dancing lessons”—when the handsome Ser Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers (see our interview with actor Conan Stevens, who killed Ser Hugh on the previous day’s jousting, but Eddard swears nothing will happen. Clegane’s horse is acting wildly, causing trouble for the knight, and when the two tilt for the first time, the wild horse leads Clegane to immediately be defeated.
As Ser Loras reaps the praise of the crowds for his flawless victory, and Littlefinger wonders aloud when Renly will “have” his friend (clearly indicating Ser Loras), Clegane throws down his helm and calls for his sword. He severs his stallion’s head with a single, brutal blow, and then attacks Ser Loras, knocking the young knight from the saddle. Before he can kill him, his brother Sandor Clegane intervenes, blocking his blow and pushing him away. The two stare at one another… and then the Mountain attacks the Hound, and the two trade blows, hammering away at one another until the king roars for them to put down their arms. Sandor kneels, Gregor’s last blow sweeping over his head. The Mountain throws down his sword and stalks off, with Robert telling the Kingsguard to leave him alone. Ser Loras thanks the Hound, and lifts up his hand as the crowd cheers the scarred, fearsome warrior.
On the high road, Tyrion is pulled from a horse, hands bound, a hood pulled off his head. Marillion, the bard, has joined Lady Stark and can be heard extemporizing lyrics to a song about the present events. Tyrion realizes that Lady Catelyn has mislead possible pursuers, claiming she was taking him to Winterfell when in fact she turned east to follow the high road into the Vale of Arryn. He reminds those present that his father will pay a handsome reward for Tyrion’s safe return, something which seems to interested the sellsword Bronn, who’s sharpening his sword. Having already heard Lady Stark’s accusations against him, he protests his innocence. When Catelyn reminds him of the dagger, he asks her what sort of imbecile would send such a valuable blade if he wished to keep it secret? Ser Rodrik offers to quiet him…
... when a flung stone shatters Marillion’s harp, and suddenly the small group are attacked by slingers and screaming footmen, members of the wild, lawless clans of the mountains. A very bloody battle ensues, where Ser Rodrik and the sellsword Bronn prove particularly stalwart. Tyrion rushes to Lady Catelyn, who has a small knife drawn, and begs her to free him. He convinces her to do so… and immediately considers making for the horses while the defenders are occupied. He starts to do so, taking up a Bracken shield to protect himself from stones, when he sees a clansman about to attack Lady Catelyn. He leaps to her defense, knocking the man down and then smashing his face in. Surviving wildlings flee, and Bronn tells Tyrion that all he needs now is a woman. Tyrion looks to Catelyn and says he’d be willing if she was.
In Winterfell, Theon Greyjoy practices his archery as Maester Luwin works with Bran through identifying the arms, seats, and words of various houses. When he comes to the Lannisters, however, Bran refuses to say their proper words, naming other houses. He turns the conversation to the Tully words, “Family, Duty, Honor”... and wonders why his mother left, if “Family” came first. Luwin tries to assure him that Catelyn was away to protect her family, and tells Bran not to question her love for him. Bran asks how she can protect the family if she’s not with the family, and Luwin sighs, saying that sometimes Bran is too smart. He does tell Bran that he’ll be able to use a bow from horseback, using Lord Tyrion’s special saddle design.
Later, Theon is enjoying himself with Ros. He reveals he’s jealous of the Imp’s earlier attentions on Ros, but says the Greyjoys can’t be looked down on, having ruled the Iron Islands for 300 years. She reminds him he’s been a ward for a long time, and at the beck and call of the Starks. He gets angry… and she rather directly suggests returning to prior activities. But when he says he doesn’t want to pay for it, she tells him to get a wife instead.
As Arya is chasing after a cat, Varys visits Eddard… and reveals that he fully supports Eddard’s efforts to defend the realm and the king, claiming that the Lannisters had intended to kill Robert if he entered the joust. He has not previously said or done anything, stating that no one will sing songs for spiders—he’s unloved. Eddard asks after Lord Arryn, and Varys suggests the poison called the tears of Lys was used. Ned wonders who paid Ser Hugh to kill Jon, and wonders why anyone would kill Jon Arryn, and Varys reveals it’s because he had started asking questions.
Arya chases the cat down into a cellar beneath the castle, and there stops, overawed by a huge, pale dragon skull. She approaches it when she hears voices approaching, and she leaps into the skull’s jaw to hide among the teeth. Two men are speaking of the Lannisters and the Starks, of an attempt on a boy’s life and the Hand asking questions, of matters needing to slow and matters needed to hasten. One is Magister Illyrio, last seen in Pentos after arranging the marriage between Daenerys and Khal Drogo. The other? Varys, wearing a hooded cloak. Once they are out of ear shot, Arya runs.
In the throne room of the Red Keep, Littlefinger stares at the Iron Throne when Varys arrives, noting his industry: Littlefinger is always the first to arrive and the last to leave. They begin to trade veiled insults, Littlefinger focusing on the young boys Varys often uses as his “little birds”, and Varys on the various unsavory habits Littlefinger facilitates among certain nobleman and knights. They then wonder when they last saw one another. There are threats and counter-threats, with Varys suggesting it’d be dangerous if Robert learned about Littlefinger’s role in telling the Starks the origin of the dagger, when Littlefinger appears to trump Varys: he reveals that he is entirely aware that Varys met in secret with Illyrio, a Pentoshi magister, and remarks how the king might take that. Then Renly arrives, interrupting them, wondering if they’re conspiring. He tell them they’re summoned by Robert to the council. Littlefinger doesn’t know why, but Varys tells him that there has been distressing news.
In the meantime, Arya exits a tunnel by the seaside, where fishermen are at work. Somehow, the cellars beneath the Red Keep lead to this. She tries to enter the castle again, but is stopped by guards, who think she’s a street urchin and a boy. She convincs them otherwise. In her father’s chamber, he berates her for disappearing, but she tries to tell him—in a very garbled way—of what she overheard. Even when she mentions that Lord Stark has found a certain boy, which piques his interest, chance conspires against Ned’s attention: Yoren of the Night’s Watch arrives and urgently requires Eddard’s time. Yoren sees Arya and assumes she’s Lord Stark’s son, but she protests that she’s a girl. Eddard sends her off with Jory, who assures her that her father has many guards and there’s no danger. Yoren reveals he raced to King’s Landing, because Benjen Stark is his brother as much as Ned’s; he informs Eddard of Tyrion having been seized by Catelyn.
At the Vale, Ser Vardis Egan and a troop of the Arryn house guard intercept Lady Catelyn and the survivors from her company. Egan notes that Tyrion is not much of a prisoner, no longer being bound, and he and Bronn seem to get on famously. As they’re lead to the Eyrie and get their first glimpse of it—a formidable castle high on top of a limestone mountain, with a smaller castle guarding its single approach—Tyrion notes that it’s said the castle is impregnable, and the sellsword replies, “Give me ten good men and some climbing spikes, and I’ll impregnate the bitch.” Tyrion likes the sound of that.
The small council is in session, called because news has just arrived from Varys’s paid spy—none other than Jorah Mormont—that Daenerys is pregnant. Robert is angered, angered by the fact that both Jon Arryn and now Eddard insisted he ignore the problem of the remaining Targaryens. He means to ignore it no longer. The other councillors—Renly, Littlefinger, Grand Maester Pycelle, and Varys—are all in favor of arranging for her assassination. Eddard refuses, and when Robert threatens to find another Hand who will fix his seal to the order, Eddard takes off his badge of office and throws it on the table, stating that he thought Robert was a better man. He leaves, and Robert shouts after him that he had best be gone within a few hours, or his head will decorate a spike on a wall.
Littlefinger seeks Eddard out, telling him that the king went on at some length about him after he left; the word “treason” was mentioned. However, Littlefinger says that he can show Eddard to the last person Jon Arryn questioned before he died. Eddard departs with Littlefinger, Jory, and a small company of guardsmen. Meanwhile, in the Eyrie, Tyrion and Catelyn are in the High Hall of the Eyrie. A circular chamber beneath the great dome, stairs lead up to the weirwood chair in which little Lord Robin Arryn sits with his mother, Lysa Arryn. A severe woman, she is greatly angered that Catelyn brought the Imp to the Vale—her warning to the Starks was meant to tell them to keep well away of the Lannisters, not bring them into her home. Robin Arryn, a boy of eight or ten years, still nurses at her breast, and is hysterically angry when Tyrion threatens that his brother will avenge him if anything happens to him.
Lysa accuses Tyrion not only of attempting to kill Bran, but also of personally killing Jon Arryn. Tyrion replies, “Oh, did I kill him too? I’ve been a very busy man.” Robin would like to “see the bad man fly”, but Catelyn insists that Tyrion is her prisoner and cannot be harmed. Lysa has Ser Vardis turn Tyrion over to Mord, the gaoler… who throws him into one of the sky cells, a cell open on one side to show the Vale of Arryn many hundreds of feet below. Catelyn realizes that something Tyrion warned her of earlier is true: her sister is mad, perhaps with fear, but mad none the less.
Later in the day, in King’s Landing, Ser Loras Tyrell and Lord Renly Baratheon share an intimate moment, putting rest to any doubts whatsoever that they are lovers. Loras is shaving Renly’s chest, because he prefers the look. Renly reveals himself to resent the way his brothers condescend to him, claiming he’s not “tough” enough, and that his lack of experience in warfare means he’s not worth taking seriously. It’s true, he vomited when a squire’s eye was knocked out of its socket during the melee, but that was certainly disgusting. Renly may have an aversion to blood, but it doesn’t make him any less of a man, and he says that not everyone has Loras’s gift with a sword. Loras replies, “It isn’t a gift. No one gave it to me,” and notes he’s trained every day of his life since he could swing a stick. They then speak of the order to assassinate Daenerys, which Renly states was necessary, if ugly; he claims Robert went on about the killing in a way that suggested he lusted for the deaths of the last Targaryens. Renly notes Robert wants to go hunting, and Renly hates such excursions, but Robert loves his killing, and because he was once good at it, that’s why he’s king.
When it comes down to it, Loras believes Renly should be king, and he would not mind a war, never having fought in one before. Loras says the Tyrells have a great deal of wealth—not as much as the Lannisters, Renly replies, and Loras notes that both have much more than Renly has. Renly replies that he’s fourth in line, and Loras notes that Joffrey is a monster, Tommen only 8, and Stannis has the personality of a lobster. Renly is reticent, however, and Loras stabs him with the blade he’s using, forcing him to look at his own blood. He tells Renly that if he becomes king, he had better get used to the sight of it. Loras insists that Renly would be the best king: he’s kind and he’s charming and he thinks; Robert just likes his killing, and he was once good with it, which is why he has a crown. The scene ends with Loras unlacing Renly’s trousers, and proving his devotion.
Cersei visits Robert in his chamber, asking how his marriage to the Hand ended up. Robert is weary, and Cersei asks if it was worth losing Lord Stark? They talk about the Dothraki, and Cersei’s arguments for why they shouldn’t be feared are apparently echoing her father. Even if they crossed, their lack of siege weapons would mean Robert could hold the castles of the Seven Kingdoms against them. But Robert disagrees—the Dothraki would be one people under Khal Drogo, not many little armies controlled by many individual lords who all jostle for rank and glory, and if he tried to hide in the castles, how long before his smallfolk decided that they’d rather have Viserys as king because Robert was a craven who did not protect them?
Robert wonders what holds the realm together, and Cersei replies it’s their marriage. She soon asks him, “What was she like?” Robert grows silent, and notes she’s never asked him about her before. Cersei explains that naming Lyanna Stark was something she couldn’t do for a long time. Robert admits that he no longer remembers what she looks like; all he knows is that she was the one thing he wanted, and someone took him from her, and not even the Seven Kingdoms could fill the hole that was left behind. Cersei says she once felt something for Robert, for quite awhile even after their first son was lost. She asks Robert if there was ever a time that their relationship could have worked.
Robert says no. He asks her how that makes Cersei feel, and she says she feels nothing.
In the brothel, Eddard speaks with a young prostitute carrying an infant. It’s plain that this child—said to have his black hair—is Robert’s latest bastard. She asks that Eddard tell Robert that she only wants him, that he was kind to her. Eddard promises she’ll want for nothing. He leaves to find Littlefinger lounging with some of the women in the brothel. Littlefinger suggests that perhaps Lord Arryn was asking after Robert’s bastards to see that they were taken care of, on Robert’s orders, but Eddard seems dubious. He leaves with Jory and two guards… and finds a troop of Lannister guards awaiting them, led by Ser Jaime. Jaime has heard of Tyrion’s abduction, and wants him returned. Jory warns him that Eddard is Hand of the King, but Ser Jaime notes that he’s the former Hand, and isn’t concerned… But when Ned notes that if he’s harmed, Tyrion won’t be safe, Jaime sees the point. He has his men kill Eddard’s men, to teach him a lesson.
The two guards are killed instantly by thrown spears. Eddard and Jory fight and kill several Lannister guards, and Jory attacks the Kingslayer. Jaime blocks the blow while drawing his dagger, which he immediately thrusts through Jory’s eye and out the back of his head. Jory crumples, boneless, and Eddard rushes at Ser Jaime. They fight, Eddard with grim anger, Jaime with apparent joy at the contest. They pull apart, and one of the Lannister guards attempts to help his master by shoving his spear into the back of Eddard’s leg. Ned falls… and Jaime approaches the guardsman and hits him with the pommel of his sword. He leaves Eddard there on the ground as the infant cries. He demands his brother’s return before departing with his surviving guardsmen, and Eddard collapses.