Title sequence begins with King’s Landing, held by the House Baratheon whose sigil is the stag. Next to Winterfell, where we see the direwolf sigil of the House Stark. Up to the Wall and then down and east to the Vaes Dothrak.
And so we begin with Ned Stark finally arriving at King’s Landing. He is summoned to the meeting of the Small Council, the advisory group that serves the king of the seven kingdoms. Members of this group of king’s advisors include the Hand of the King, who serves in the king’s stead in his absence, as well as the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, the Grand Maester, the Maester of Coins, the Maester of Whisperers, the Maester of Laws and the Maester of Ships.
We enter the throne room and see the iron throne at the far end of the vast room. The Kingslayer Jaime Lannister is sitting on the steps in front of the throne. While everyone seems to covet the throne, it is actually quite uncomfortable having been forged out of the swords of vanquished foes. Jaime, who enjoys a good sword fight, also enjoys verbal sparring and he and Ned go at it. Jaime reminds Ned that he had witnessed his (Ned’s) father and brother murdered there in that room. They were executed – possibly burned to death – on the order of the former king, Aerys Targaryen, whom Jaime served as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. Jaime had stood by and watched the slaughter, doing nothing. But later, when the Mad King died, Jaime was there for that too and, he tells Ned, “it felt like justice.”
It was Jaime who killed the Mad King, sticking a knife in his back, though he was sworn to protect him. Hence the “Kingslayer” epithet he now carries.
At the meeting of the Small Council we meet Grand Maester Pycelle, the Master of Whisperers Lord Varys, Maester of Law Lord Renly Baratheon (the king’s youngest brother) and Master of Coins Lord Petyr Baelish (nicknamed “Littlefinger”). Renly and Ned knew each other and are old friends. Lord Baelish mentions that Ned’s wife and he were acquainted. We also learn that Lord Baelish was familiar with Ned’s brother Brandon, whom apparently wounded Lord Baelish quite extensively in a duel. This is getting juicier. Seems Baelish and Brandon had dueled over Catelyn! Interesting that she ended up with neither. Ned is familiar with Pycelle as well and mentions that he had served another king, a sore point probably as no one wants to be associated with the Mad King.
The first order of business is a tournament to be held in honor of Ned’s appointment. It’s an expensive affair and one which the treasury can’t bear as they are already greatly in debt to the Lannisters to the tune of six million – which whatever the value of their currency is a lot. Ned is questioning just what he’s gotten himself into.
At another part of the capital, Cersei is tending to Joffrey’s wounds (physical and emotional) and tries to flatter him with how bravely he fought the direwolf, but Joffrey may be mean and horrible, he’s not stupid. He knows he is not brave and he recoils as well at her suggestion that he’s just like his father, the king. As far as the “truth” of his bravery, Cersei teaches him a dangerous lesson – when you sit on the throne, “the truth will be what you make it.” He’s not happy that he has to marry Sansa Stark but his mother is on a roll with her advice today and lets him know he’s free to sleep around as long as he knocks the Stark girl up now and then with an heir to the throne.
Joffrey is still not happy. He doesn’t like the Northeners, he doesn’t want them having as much autonomy and power as they have. Things will be different when he’s in charge. He’d take Winterfell away from the Starks if it were up to him and install a Lannister to run the place. Cersei is concerned he doesn’t understand just how different the Northerners are and how impossible a task it would be to take and hold the North, especially once winter came. But once you’ve told your child that they are special and can have whatever they want, they’re going to ask for the North.
We see some of that fight that is in the Northeners as Arya is practicing stabbing things at dinner (she imagines her dinner is Joffrey). Joffrey ordered the Hound to kill her friend the butcher’s boy and she won’t soon forget that. She also blames Sansa for not telling the truth which she believes would have saved the boy’s life.
Septa Mordane, the girls’ governess, is not pleased with Arya’s behavior and seems to prefer the more ladylike Sansa. Ned brings Sansa a gift, but it’s for a much younger girl and she runs off insulted. Having no luck trying to make Sansa feel better, Ned tries reasoning with his younger daughter, Arya. He sees the sword she has and recognizes where it was made and seems surprised to learn she has named her sword. Arya tells him that she was practicing with the butcher’s boy and she now holds herself responsible for what happened to him.
Arya is mad at everyone, including her sister. But her father teaches her a hard truth – that as the future wife of the future king, Sansa has to side with Joffrey even when he’s wrong. Winter is coming, after a decade-long summer, and the Starks have to protect themselves, even if that means aligning with people like Joffrey.
A crow caws in the window outside of Bran’s bedroom. He is being tended to by Old Nan, famous for her scary stories. She warns him he doesn’t know what fear is, being a child of the summer, and goes on to warn him about the winter to come, “when the white walkers move through the woods.” Wonder if she saw the first episode?
Robb comes in and asks Bran if he remembers how he fell, but Bran remembers nothing. He knows he’ll never walk again and says he’d rather he was dead.
Catelyn is accompanied by Rodrik Cassel as she heads into King’s Landing. She thought no one knew of her plans, so she was surprised when men from the City Watch greet her at the gates. She is brought into her old friend Petyr Baelish’s business establishment – a brothel. She’s furious until she understands why. Lord Varys, an old friend, had arranged with Baelish (aka Littlefinger) to bring Catelyn where she could be safely hidden away. He knows exactly why Catelyn is there and asks pointedly about the dagger.
This is a good time to point out that Varys, the Maester of Whisperers, has a team of “ears” at all points in the realm and perhaps beyond. It is his business to know what is going on and his “little birds” spy for him.
Varys inspects the dagger and recognizes it is of Valyrian steel, but admits to being unaware of whose dagger it is. Littlefinger, on the other hand, can identify the dagger as his. But he lost the dagger during the prince’s name day joust when he bet on Jaime Lannister who was bested by Loras Tyrell, the Lord of Flowers. And who won the dagger? Tyrion Lannister.
Tyrion is still up north, watching the new Night’s Guard recruits at Castle Black. Jon Snow is battling against his fellow recruits and was given the derisive nickname, and title for this episode, Lord Snow, to signify that, though a bastard, Jon was raised in a privileged and storied home. Jon proves himself a worthy warrior and he earns some faint praise from Master-at-Arms Alliser Thorne for his prowess with a sword.
Tyrion and Lord Commander Jeor Mormont chat about the new recruits, then Mormont gives Tyrion a message that came for Jon. Back at King’s Landing, Maester Pycelle brings a message to Ned Stark that came earlier in the day from Winterfell. Littlefinger walks up just as Ned is reading the note and suggests that he share the news with his wife. Ned says Catelyn is is Winterfell, but of course Littlefinger knows that is not true.
Littlefinger takes Ned to his whorehouse to see his wife and Ned thinks this is all a joke and he grabs Littlefinger around the throat and slams him into the wall. Littlefinger has already told us how Ned’s brother cut him open and how he fought a duel for Ned’s wife, so there is already enough bad blood there. Ned eventually finds out Littlefinger wasn’t punking him, Catelyn is there at the brothel. Awkward.
Before they reunite, we’re back up north with Jon and he’s being razzed by his fellow Night’s Watch recruits. They give him a hard time and he’s done with it – he was miserable under Catelyn’s roof in Winterfell and came to Castle Black looking to find a new family, only for it to be more of the same. He’s feeling sorry for himself, until Tyrion talks some sense into him. But first, Tyrion must talk some sense into the boys who were attacking Jon, and mentioning how nice each of their heads would look on spikes at King’s Landing was enough to get them to disband. Tyrion then brings the note to Jon about Bran’s awakening.
Littlefinger suggests the Starks tread carefully before accusing the queen’s brother of attempted murder, noting that Tyrion will simply say the dagger had been stolen from him. Catelyn urges Ned to trust Littlefinger who she considers to be like a little brother to her. He promises to do his best to keep Ned safe.
Jaime and Cersei discuss what to do about Bran, but Jaime is not worried. No one will believe a child and he’ll go to war for her…love… if he has to. He vows to kill the boy, Ned Stark and everyone if he has to, until they are the only people left in this world. It would be so darn romantic if they weren’t brother and sister.
Catelyn says goodbye to Ned and heads back to Winterfell. It’s a sad farewell, but necessary. They each tell the other to be careful with their temper as they can both be a bit hotheaded (exhibit A, Ned almost killing Littlefinger).
King Robert is chatting with Ser Barristan Selmy, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, about their first time. At first we think it’s when they lost their virginity, but then we realize they’re reminiscing about their first kill. For Robert it was during the time of his rebellion against the old Mad King and he recalls bringing his hammer down on a member of the Tarly family during the battle of Summerhall.
Robert scares his squire, Lancel Lannister (one of his wife’s cousins), then calls for Jaime Lannister to come join the chat. Jaime is serving as a member of the Kingsguard, defending Robert, but he makes the job sound demeaning and beneath Jaime. Jaime turns the table when discussing one of his first kills, Robert’s predecessor on the throne.
What did the Mad King say when Jaime stabbed him in the back, Robert asks Jaime, probably to unnerve or embarrass him by pointing out that he had not faced the man he killed. But Jaime’s recollection is quite sobering and reminds us the person he killed was an insane killer himself. So what did King Aerys say? The same thing he’d been saying for hours. “Burn them all.”
The Dothraki convoy continues and Dany learns more about them from Jorah. The Dothraki don’t believe in money and so they don’t buy their slaves, they are given as “gifts” by those who don’t wish to be conquered. The Khals can be brutal and arbitrary. Hearing this, and seeing one of the men beat a slave, she decides to start wielding some power of her own. She commands the convoy to stop, then goes for a walk. Her brother Viserys comes after her, furious. He is the future king, he is the dragon, he does not take commands from a girl.
Viserys puts a knife to her throat and one of Khal’s men, Rahkaro, lassos him and pulls him off of her. He wants to kill her brother, or at least cut off Viserys’ ear to teach him a lesson, but she spares him. Upon his release, Viserys commands Jorah to kill Rahkaro, but he doesn’t take his orders from Viserys. Dany’s brother must return to the Khalasar humiliated.
Jon Snow takes the medieval elevator up to the top of the Wall, because he wasn’t cold enough down below. He finds warmth in the form of his Uncle Benjen who is there to see Jon’s first view of the land north of the Wall. He tells Jon that he’ll be leaving Castle Black the next day as his job as First Ranger requires him to patrol the North. He mentions there have been “disturbing reports” that he hopes are untrue. But we, like the rangers in the first episode, saw what we saw. Jon wants to go with him, but Benjen says, no. He’s no ranger. At least not yet. He has to earn it.
Back on the ground, Tyrion is having a grand ole time chatting it up with Yoren, a recruiter for the Night’s Watch. They are exchanging ribald stories that give us one of Tyrion’s famous quips. When asked what was the strangest thing he’s eaten, Tyrion replies, “Do Dornish girls count?” Oh those exotic southern girls!
Benjen Stark ends the jocularity with some sober facts for Tyrion. Half the boys training will die north of the wall so “plump little lords like you can enjoy their summer afternoons in peace and comfort.” Tyrion is not insensitive, but he simply doesn’t believe that the Night’s Watch is protecting the realm from white walkers and other magical/mystical beings. He’s not that concerned with the wildlings either, who he dismisses as nothing more than unfortunately situated people, living on the wrong side of the wall.
Tyrion picks up Yoren to travel with back down to King’s Landing and he promises Yoren that traveling with a Lannister means traveling in style.
Dany is learning the Dothraki language when she gets felt up by her handmaiden only to discover she’s pregnant! Jorah and Rakharo are discussing fighting when the conversation turns to Jorah’s father, Jeor Marmont, Lord Commander of the Knight’s Watch, whom Jorah calls a man of great honor whom he betrayed.
When Jorah learns that Dany is with Dothraki child, he decides he must travel to Qohor. The Khalasar is on their way to Vaes Dothrak, and he’ll meet up with them there.
Jon has had a change in attitude and now is helping his brothers of the Night’s Watch as they learn to fight. Tyrion notices that his little pep talk must have helped! He speaks to Maester Aemon, the elderly maester (teacher/healer) who tells him that the Stark’s family motto will be coming true shortly – Winter is Coming. And it will be a long one, “and dark things will come with it.”
Lord Commander says that wildlings have been heading south recently, saying they’re fleeing the white walkers. Maester Aemon worries that the Night’s Watch, its numbers dwindling to just a thousand boys and old men, will not be able to protect the realm. They ask Tyrion for his sister’s help so they can be properly manned before winter comes.
Dany and Drogo are lying together and she tells him he’s going to be a dad and that they’re having a boy. Maybe whoever built the elevator also created a sonogram?
Scratch pissing over the edge of the world off Tyrion Lannister’s bucket list. Jon is sad to see Tyrion go, as he recognizes that Tyrion has been a friend up north. He asks Tyrion to send a message to his brother Bran as he passes through Winterfell on his way back to King’s Landing.
Arya meets Syrio Forel, her new “dancing master.” He will teach her to use her sword. He is exotic and a little crazy and looks like he’ll be a great teacher. He was “first sword” to the Sealord of Braavos, after all. Her father comes by to watch her first lesson and smiles. Just so.
Ned: Glad to see your protecting the throne.
Jaime: This sturdy old thing? How many kings asses have polished it, I wonder. And, what’s the line? The King s**ts, and the Hand wipes.
Joffrey: So you agree, the Starks are our enemies.
Cersei: Anyone who isn’t us is our enemy.
Grand Maester Pycelle: Should we begin?
Ned: Without the king?
Renly: Winter may be coming, but I’m afraid the same cannot be said for my brother.
Robert: We’re telling war stories. Who was your first kill, not counting old men?
Jaime: One of the outlaws in the Brotherhood.
Barristan Selmy (to Jaime): I was there that day. You were only a squire, sixteen years old.
Jaime (to Selmy): You killed Simon Toyne with a counter riposte. Best move I ever saw.
Barristan: Good fighter, Toyne, but he lacked stamina.
Robert: Your outlaw… any last words?
Jaime: I cut his head off, so… no.
Robert: What about Aerys Targaryen? What did the Mad King say when you stabbed him in the back? I never asked. Did he call you a traitor? Did he plead for a reprieve?
Jaime: He said the same thing he had been saying for hours… “burn them all.”
Ned: Handsome armor. Not a scratch on it.
Jaime: I know. People have been swinging at me for years and they always seem to miss.
Ned: Chosen your opponents wisely, then.
Jaime: I have a knack for it.
Yoren (to Tyrion Lannister): What about you, my lord? What’s the strangest thing you’ve eaten?
Tyrion: Do Dornish girls count?
Cersei (to Joffrey): When Aerys Targaryen sat on the Iron Throne, your father was a rebel and a traitor. Someday, you’ll sit on the throne, and the truth will be what you make it.
* * *
Everyone who isn’t us is an enemy.
Ned: War was easier than daughters!