Arriving at King’s Landing after his long journey, Ned (Sean Bean) is shocked to learn of the Crown’s profligacy from his new advisors. At Castle Black, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) impresses Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) at the expense of greener recruits. Suspicious that the Lannisters had a hand in Bran’s fall, Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) covertly follows her husband to King’s Landing, where she is intercepted by Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen), aka “Littlefinger,” a shrewd longtime ally and brothel owner. Cersei (Lena Headey) and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) ponder the implications of Bran’s (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) recovery; Arya (Maisie Williams) studies swordsmanship. On the road to Vaes Dothrak, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) finds herself at odds with Viserys (Harry Lloyd).
We begin the episode with Ned arriving in King’s Landing with his daughters. This is our first, close look at the city, and we can tell it’s Mediterranean to the hilt (thanks to filming in Malta): there are some sort of palms flanking the gate, it’s dry and dusty, and so on. A steward comes out (played by Robert Sterne, a casting associate of Nina Gold’s who Gethiny Anthony praised for his skill as an actor), telling Ned that the small council has been called to meet, but that the king won’t be present. On the other hand, Grand Maester Pycelle (pronounced, erroneously, “my-ster” rather than “may-ster”; you’ll see some actors waver between the two at times) and other members of the council will be there.
The steward suggests Ned should change to something more appropriate ... and Sean Bean does what Sean Bean does best, fixing the man with a gruff, hard stare until he swallows and leads the way. It’s a hot, tired Ned, one who has had to contend with an angry, grieving Sansa (who hardly looks at him). Ned enters the throne room of the Red Keep, first, only to find Jaime Lannister sitting on the dais of the Iron Throne.It’s another verbal fencing match between the two lords. Jaime was there with 500 other men when Ned’s father and brother were murdered, we learn, but no one dared say anything. But when he killed Aerys, he said it felt like justice, remembering their screams. Ned will have none of it, doubting that justice for the Starks was nothing like Jaime’s foremost concern: “You served Aerys well, when serving was safe.”
At the small council, Ned is introduced to the king’s councilors: the Master of Coin, Petyr Baelish (who has a history with Catelyn, and with Ned’s dead brother Brandon), the Master of Whisperers Varys, Grand Maester Pycelle, and the king’s youngest brother Renly. The Hand is informed that the king has driven the realm deep into debt—half of that debt owed to the Lannisters—and means to run up more debt by hosting a grand tourney in Ned’s honor. Ned insists it won’t happen, and that he’ll talk to the king.
The scene shifts to something that would have been a Cersei chapter, if there were Cersei chapters, as she talks with her son Joffrey. She informs him a king can rewrite the truth to suit him. Joffrey goes on about disliking Sansa and hating the Starks, and how he’d crush them if they make a false step. Cersei tries to teach him about politics, but it’s not clear he’s really listening. He wants a royal army, entirely under his control, profesionally trained. He thinks he could crush the North—with northern soldiers—and Cersei reminds him that winter would make that fruitless. She finishes by agreeing with him that the Starks may need dealing with, and informs him that anyone who is not a Lannister is an enemey.
When we return to the Starks, it’s at breakfast. Arya is still stewing over what happened at the river. She argues with Sansa and is sent off, while Ned tries to have a quiet moment with Sansa, to have a reconciliation. He gives her a doll… and she claims that she hasn’t played with dolls since she was 8. She asks to be excused, still nursing her grievances, as Ned remarks wearily to Septa Mordane, “War is easier than daughters.”
Arya, in her room, takes out Needle. But then Ned arrives, and sees the sword when she lets him in. He informs her of the dangers they’re facing, and how they must stick together. As far as the sword goes, he lets her keep it, even though she refuses to say how she got it or who gave it to her. At the end, he tells her that if she wants to carry a sword, she’ll have to learn how to use it.
And then … Winterfell, and a crow at the window, and Old Nan saying, “Crows are all liars” as the crippled Bran looks from his bed. Old Nan offers to tell Bran stories about Ser Duncan the Tall, his favorites, but he says his favorite stories were the scary ones. And so she scares him. When Robb enters, she insists that she was just telling the little lord what he wanted to hear. Robb and Bran talk, with Robb asking if he remembers anything; he’d seen Bran climb a thousand times, and he never fell, not once. But Bran just says that he did fall. They discuss his injury, and the fact that he’s paralyzed for life. Bran wishes he were dead, and repeats the wish even when Robb angrily tells him not to talk that way.
Back at King’s Landing, a glimpse at a monumental structure representing the Great Sept of Baelor, and Catelyn and Ser Rodrik enter a gate on horse back. They’re stopped by two guards, who give Catelyn a message, revealing who sent them. Arriving at a brothel, Petyr Baelish greets them, and Catelyn rages at him; she throws his missive at his face. He apologizes about the location, but insists no one will look for her there. Varys enters, and is revealed as Littlefinger’s source for the information that she had arrived. They discuss the Valyrian steel knife ... and Littlefinger reveals it belonged to him, once, until Tyrion Lannister won it from him at the last tourney.
At the Wall, Jon is cutting through the recruits like a hot knife through butter. Ser Alliser Thorne, the knight overseeing their training, is acerbic and harsh. Jon Snow storms off after Thorne belittles him, mocking him as “Lord Snow”. Tyrion Lannister watches from a distance with Lord Commander Mormont, and remarks that Thorne is a bad man to have a trainer. Mormont says he’s what he has, and he does what’s needed. Then he reveals word has arrived from Winterfell, both good and bad, for Jon. He gives the message to Tyrion.
With a return to King’s Landing, we finally have Ned receiving the news from Bran … and Littlefinger rather archly indicating that Catelyn is in King’s Landing. We cut to the brothel, where a very angry Eddard shoves Littlefinger up against a wall, hand around his throat, in a scene we’ve glimpsed in trailers; Bean’s delivery of Ned’s, “You’re a very funny man,” line is certainly menacing! Catelyn stops him from attacking Littlefinger any further, popping her head out the balcony above to reveal that she is, in fact, there.
And then to the Wall again, where the recruits Jon had just humiliated attack him. Tyrion arrives in the nick of time before anything permanent happens, and not-so-subtly threatens them, claiming his sister the queen could see their heads taken of on his say-so. Rast runs, while Pypar and Grenn duck off to a side. Speaking with Jon, Tyrion informs him that the boys he’s training with have not had the benefit of his years of training under a castle’s master-at-arms. Pypar is on the Wall because he stole a wheel of cheese when he and his sister hadn’t eaten in three days, while Grenn had been an abandoned orphan. He then tells Jon that Bran has woken.
When we go back to the brothel in King’s Landing, Littlefinger is dissuading the Starks from believing the dagger alone is proof—Tyrion can just claim he lost it or it was stolen from him. He offers to help Eddard gather more proof, and Catelyn tells Ned that she trusts Petyr entirely.
Jaime and Cersei have received the news of Bran’s regaining consciousness. Cersei seems angry that Jaime ever did such a thing, throwing the boy from the tower, and is afraid of what will happen if he speaks. Jaime tries to calm her. She’ll have none of it, though, and slaps him after a quip too many. He grabs her and holds her, and swears to her that he’ll kill everyone who threatens them.
Later, a drunk King Robert discusses his first kill with Ser Barristan Selmy, the Lord Commander of the Kingsguad. Barristan killed a Tyroshi. Robert killed a Tarly boy at Summerhall, and remarks how the boy asked him to wait at the last moment, and then soiled himself as he died; no one ever tells you that, Robert remarks. He sends his squire, Lancel, to get more wine—he hates his squire, clearly—and sends him to also fetch Jaime. Robert asks Jaime who was the first man he killed, excepting old men. Jaime killed an outlaw, and he and Barristan remark on some shared history. Robert then asks about the Mad King, and if he had any last words. “Burn them all,” Jaime says; he had been repeating the words for hours.
At the Dothraki sea, Dany stops the khalasar to walk among willows, and perhaps to give the tired slaves—who have to walk on foot—a rest. Viserys rages at being commanded by the khaleesi to stop. She tries to reason with him, but he holds his sword at her throat… and her ko, Rakharo, uses his whip to pull him down. He suggests killing him, but Daenerys says no. He suggests at least cutting off his ear, to teach him a lesson, but again Daenerys says no; Irri shrugs at his bewilderment. Viserys orders Jorah Mormont to kill Rakharo… but Jorah ignores him, and leaves with Daenerys. When Viserys moves to remount his horse, Rakharo refuses, and tells him that he will be walking.
When we come back to the Wall, Jon si being put in his place by Benjen. He claims he’s ready to go ranging. Benjen says no, on the Wall, a man has to earn his place. But he’ll be back from ranging in time, he promises. He leaves Jon looking forlornly off the Wall, and goes back down to Castle Black. There, a fellow ranger, Yoren, is trading stories with Tyrion. Benjen doesn’t like the fact that Lannister seems to mock their purpose. He tells him that he knows there’s great dangers there, that he’s been there and he knows what he knows. He “goes below”—passing under the Wall—and Yoren says he’ll be out there for a month or two. Tyrion and Yoren determine to travel south together, as Yoren is a recruiter for the Watch.
Back on the Dothraki sea, Jorah and Rakharo are speaking about the different ways they fight. Rakharo calls armor “steel dresses”, and says his father taught him that armor makes a man weak and slow. Irri enters, commanding Rakharo to find rabbits, and when there are no rabbits, ducks, and then suggests dog. Jorah says Dany won’t want to have dog. Irri than informs him that Daenerys is pregnant. He says he’ll have the boys kill a goat, and then says that he needs to ride to Qohor. Rakharo says that they will continue on to Vaes Dothrak. Later, we see Dany with Drogo, telling him that she’s sure it will be a boy.
A brief return to the Wall, with Jon getting along with the recruits. Tyrion sees him, than returns to the mess hall, where he speaks with Lord Commander Mormont and the aged, blind Maester Aemon. Aemon and Mormont warn of the dangers beyond the Wall, and plead for Tyrion to get his sister Cersei to user her influence to send them support. Later, he goes atop the Wall to urinate off its side (as he promised in the previous episode), and takes his leave of Jon. Jon asks him to see Bran, and to tell him he’ll see him as soon as he can. They part as friends.
And then … the last of the new characters is introduced, and one we know a lot of fans were waiting for: Syrio Forel. A curly-haired, dark, short man, he has a strange accent. Arya doesn’t know what to make of him. He calls her “boy”, and tells her that he’s her dancing master. But by dancing, he means the waterdance, the bravo’s dance, a way of fighting with swords that will suit her. Eventually, they begin to spar. Eddard enters, and watches them, smiling ... but then the clack of swords becomes the clash of steel, and the sound of men shouting, and his smile fades. He’s remembering old battles, or perhaps fearing future ones.
[HBO has posted a brief recap of the episode.]