The map opens just beyond the narrow sea, at King’s Landing (where we see the Baratheon stag sigil), north to Winterfell (where we see the Stark direwolf sigil), north to the Wall, then back down and east to the Dothraki Sea, and across Vaes Dothrak.
Episode 1 ended with Bran Stark falling out of a high castle window courtesy of Jaime Lannister, the incestuous twin brother of the reigning queen. So, naturally, we begin episode 2 … with the Dothraki. They are marching across a vast wasteland and Daenerys (Dany) is not happy with an endless trek and nothing but horse jerky for dinner. To cheer her up, Jorah Mormont tells her the Dothraki end-of-the-world fable about dead “ghost grass” covering the world. Maybe storytelling is just not his thing. Dany’s brother Viserys is traveling with them, since he doesn’t want Drogo backing out of his deal. We learn a little more about Ser Jorah. He was banished from the seven kingdoms and is wanted by Ned Stark for trying to sell poachers he caught on his land to slavers (slavery is illegal and punishable by death) rather than turning the poachers over to the Night’s Watch.
Tyrion Lannister wakes up in Winterfell doggie day care and his nephew Joffrey Baratheon is there for the gratuitous one-liner of the morning “better looking bitches than you’re used to, Uncle.” Tyrion ignores the gibe and instead reminds his nephew of his duty and tells him to send his sympathy to Lord and Lady Stark before they all head off for King’s Landing. Joffrey tries to act cool and macho. He won’t send his sympathies, the boy meant nothing to him and he can’t stand the wailing of women. He turns to Sandor Clegane (aka The Hound) for a knowing look, gets none, and when he turns back, whap! His foot shorter uncle just slapped the hell out of him.
He looks shocked, whimpers, then gets another. Tyrion tells his nephew what is expected of him and the boy argues a third time. So he gets a third slap.
The Hound warns the Imp that the Prince won’t forget that. Tyrion seems unconcerned and merrily heads off for a good post-slapfest breakfast with his family. He talks about joining the trek up north to see the infamous wall. Jaime kids him about taking the black and Tyrion jokes, “and go celibate? The whores would go begging from Dorne to Casterly Rock.” Instead, he tells them, he wants to “stand on top of the wall and piss off the edge of the earth.”
After good-natured interplay with his younger niece and nephew – see, Tyrion can be a nice uncle if not provoked – he mentions that Bran will not die from the fall. They could have told us that at the beginning of the episode! The little girl (Myrcella) is happy to hear that, her mother Cersei, not so much. The queen tries to hide her concern with false mercy, saying how she doesn’t want the poor boy to suffer. Jamie picks up the party line and says they shouldn’t spare the boy’s life as he’ll end up a cripple, grotesque. “Give me a good clean death any day,” Jaime adds. Their diminutive brother does not take kindly to the implication that being less-than-perfect means having a life not worth living.
When Tyrion curiously says he’d love to hear what Bran had to say about his fall, Jaime questions what side Tyrion is on and Tyrion is taken aback. “You know how much I love my family.”
Speaking of loving family, Catelyn is sitting vigil over Bran as he lingers in a coma. Cersei comes by and talks about the son she lost. A black-haired beauty taken from her by a fever. Cersei says she is praying for Bran and she has tears in her eyes. But is that because she fears he’ll die or live?
Jon Snow is outside watching as a sword is being forged and Jaime Lannister comes up to tweak him a bit. Jon is an open wound – he must feel like an outsider even if he is Ned’s son and is becoming a member of the Night’s guard as much to have a place to fit in as to guard the realm from what lies beyond the wall. Jaime can’t help but poke at him, exposing and irritating Jon’s every raw nerve.
Jon has a better time saying goodbye to Arya. He presents her with a gift before he leaves, her own sword. Arya is ecstatic with her gift. Jon tells her to practice and then gives her her first lesson, “Stick’em with the pointy end.” Not bad advice.
They have a sweet embrace and Arya tells him she’ll name the sword “needle.” Sansa has her sewing needles, and Arya will have this one. After this tender goodbye, Jon goes to say farewell to Bran but is met with icy detachment by Catelyn. He focuses on Bran, tells him about his plans and his hope that Bran can someday visit him at the Wall. And how does Lady Stark, the matriarch of this old and noble family, handle Jon’s departure? With all the warmth of Cersei, she hisses, “I want you to leave.” Way to blame the child for your husband’s broken vows. Catelyn is mad at Ned for leaving again with Robert (last time he brought back a bastard child, what this time?), but she’s not talking him out of his decision.
Jon gets a kinder farewell from his brother Robb and his father and off he goes North, to join the Night’s Watch, take the black, and break girls’ hearts with his vow of chastity. Along the Kingsroad Ned and Robert talk old wild times, but Ned is tight lipped about the details of his past indiscretions. They discuss Dany Targaryen and her potential threat as the offspring of the Mad King and the new wife of the Dothraki Khal and Robert is concerned, but Ned dismisses Dany as just a child.
We switch over to see what Dany and the Dothraki (decent band name) are up to and basically Dany is on the receiving end of some unwanted rough sex from her new husband, but she goes from pain to pleasure upon the sight of her dragon eggs.
On the road to the Wall, Jon starts to learn more about just what he’s gotten himself into. The noble Night’s Watch is more like a halfway house for felons. Tyrion knows what Jon is yet to learn about the once revered group, that they’re now mostly a motley group of ex-rapers, thieves and miscreants of various persuasions. Jon still believes he’s on a noble calling to protect the world from threats north of the Wall, but Tyrion dismisses those as fables of “grumpkins and snarks.” Still, while Jaime had been insulting and demeaning to Jon, Tyrion seems to be more gently kidding in his approach.
We also learn more about Tyrion and his family. His father Tywin had been hand of the previous king…until his brother Jaime killed the king (hence Jaime’s obvious if well-deserved nickname, The Kingslayer). Recognizing his own physical limitations, Tyrion arms himself with knowledge which is why if his nose isn’t in some whore or goblet of wine, it’s in a book. This is how he honors his house.
Back to Catelyn standing vigil over Bran. Maester Luwin comes by to discuss business, but she’s in no mood. Robb to the rescue! He pointedly reminds Catelyn that she has other children beside Bran, but she’s not really interested in doing anything else but wait for Bran to wake. A fire outside the castle draws Robb out of the room, but Catelyn stays. Suddenly, some creepy guy comes and tries to kill Bran. Catelyn fights back fiercely, but it is Bran’s direwolf who ultimately saves the day.
Dany is being tended by her handmaidens and they chat about dragons, which of course leads to discussions about how to satisfy your husband without having him rape you. Dany was intrigued by the idea that men talk when they are happy and satisfied, so it looks like her goal is to enhance the relationship to gain her husband’s confidence.
Jon’s, and our, first sight of the wall is upon us. It is a huge, stark and desolate structure, all icy crags and sheer lines that extend as far as the eye can see. But still more warm and inviting than Catelyn.
Back at Winterfell, Catelyn goes CSI: Westeros, trying to reenact Bran’s fall, looking for clues. It’s obvious now, with the attempted assassination of the boy, that this was not an ordinary fall. She calls together her team and tells them of her suspicions. Master-at-arms Rodrik Cassel (long braided sideburns guy) inspects the dagger that was used to attack her and says it is Valyrian steel, which is too expensive for an ordinary criminal. They all agree that it seems the Lannisters (with their vast wealth) would be behind this, though they still don’t know why. Theon Greyjoy is all ready to team up with Robb to go to war against the Lannisters, but Maester Luwin urges caution.
It is decided that Catelyn will travel the Kingsroad (what a coincidence, everyone’s on the road they named this episode after!) to tell Ned about her suspicions and Braidburns will accompany her. She tells Robb he must stay back home because there must always be a Stark in Winterfell (and technically she is a Tully, just a Stark by marriage). She puts some weird arts and crafts thing (with some possible religious significance to “the seven” to whom she’s been praying) over his bed and says goodbye to Bran.
From that we go to Dany’s sex lessons on how not to make love like a slave. She’s concerned he won’t like it, but her fears are quickly put to rest as Drogo like quite a bit.
Sansa is out walking her pet direwolf when she keeps bumping into scary looking men, including the royal executioner Ser Illyn Payne who we are told is not too talkative since the Mad King had his tongue pulled out with hot pincers. Another scary man, the Hound, may look fierce but he is rather nonthreatening to her. Joffrey comes up and shoos the Hound away to protect his lady, and the two go off for a nice walk.
Joffrey and Sansa come upon Arya who is play-fencing with a ginger friend of hers – the butcher’s boy. They’re having fun laughing and playing alongside a stream, then the fun stops. Joffrey pulls out his real sword and challenges the butcher’s boy to fight for real with his wooden, play sword. Things take a terrible turn – Joffrey starts to hurt the boy, Arya defends him by attacking Joffrey, Joffrey fights back and threatens her, then Arya’s direwolf Nymeria comes to the rescue and chews up Joffrey, all while Sansa whines about how they are ruining everything. Arya looks ready to kill Joffrey, but as he whimpers for mercy, she just throws away his sword rather than impaling him (much to our disappointment). But Joffrey is royally pissed and going to take out his anger on someone.
Arya sends her direwolf away to protect her and stays in hiding. She is eventually found (Jory Cassel tells her father, who’s been out looking for her, that the Lannisters found her). She is in front of the King and surrounded by Cersei and others who are taking Joffrey’s side. Her sister is brought in to tell what she saw and she is confused about what to do – align with Joffrey and become queen one day, side with Arya and lose her prince. She doesn’t exactly stab Arya in the back, she instead feigns amnesia about the whole affair. It looks like each side will punish their own child, Arya dodging a bullet, but Cersei will have none of this tit-for-tat. She wants someone to suffer, anyone but her darling Joffrey, so she sees to it that the Stark children pay with the life of their direwolf. Since Nymeria can’t be located, it is Sansa’s sweet Lady who must die.
But there is still a price to be paid and we find out who paid and with what when we see the Hound coming back with the body of the butcher’s boy.
In a drawn-out scene, Ned reluctantly kill Sansa’s direwolf and then the scene abruptly switches and we see Bran waking suddenly. Duh duh duh.
Jaime: But even if the boy lives, he would be a cripple, a grotesque. Give me a good, clean death any day.
Tyrion: Speaking for the grotesques, I have to disagree. Death is so final, yet life is full of possibilities. I hope the boy does wake. I’d be very interested to hear what he has to say.
Jaime: My dear brother, there are times you make me wonder whose side you’re on.
Tyrion: My dear brother, you wound me. You know how much I love my family.
Jon: First lesson – Stick ’em with the pointy end.
Arya: I know which end to use.
Tyrion: Everything’s better with some wine in the belly.
Tyrion: A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone. That’s why I read so much, Jon Snow.
Robert: I swear, if I weren’t your king, you’d have hit me already.
Ned: The worst thing about your coronation, I’ll never get to hit you again.
The Hound (about the Butcher’s boy): He ran. Not very fast.