At the start of the episode, note not only the various locales identified for the episode, but look closely at each actor’s name. In front of their name is a thumbnail of their character’s house sigil!
A raven is cawing and we see Bran standing and walking and shooting arrows. He follows the raven into the crypt at Winterfell, as it turns towards him we see it has three eyes. Suddenly Bran wakes and he’s back in bed; he’d been dreaming again. Theon Greyjoy tells Bran that he has company; his brother Robb wants to see him. But Bran is pretty cranky about almost dying and becoming a cripple and isn’t in the mood.
Theon ignores him. Robb is the Lord of Winterfell now and he gets what he wants. He calls in Hodor, a very large, simple-minded man who helps carry the younger Stark.
As he promised Jon, Tyrion Lannister has come to Winterfell on his way back to King’s Landing with a message for Robb, accompanied by Yoren from the Night’s Watch. Tyrion is receiving an icy reception from Robb, but he ignores that. He has something for Bran – a design for a saddle that will help the boy be able to ride despite his injury. Robb is suspect, why would Tyrion want to help Bran? “I have a soft spot for cripples, bastards and broken things.”
Tyrion is poking at Theon a bit. He calls Robb Theon’s master and questions Theon calling Catelyn Stark “my lady” saying “your loyalty to your captors is touching.” We don’t yet know who Theon is or what his relationship to the Starks is, but we’ve seen him hanging with the Stark children since the first episode. Tyrion asks how would Balon Greyjoy feel to see his only surviving son turn into a “lackey.” So that answers that! Well, the who, anyway, if not yet the why.
Tyrion mentions his family’s fleet burning in Lannisport and that Theon’s uncles were responsible. But the Greyjoy rebellion was short-lived; they were outnumbered ten-to-one and Theon’s brothers were among those killed in the losing effort and Theon became a ward of the Starks. And now we have…the rest of the story.
At the Wall, Jon is continuing to help train his fellow recruits. A new recruit shows up and he is immediately made the butt of jokes for his size. He is Samwell Tarly of Horn Hill. Sam has obviously never fought before. Ser Allison Thorne instructs one of the knights to continue to beat on Sam until he stands, which is both nonsensical and cruel. Eventually, Jon has seen enough and goes to Sam’s defense. Thorne thinks he’s clever, and sends three of the recruits to go after Sam, all they have to do is get past Jon. But Jon kicks ass and Sam is safe for today. But he’s going to have to learn to defend himself. He says he’s a coward; that’s what his father says anyway (what would this show be without daddy issues??). The Wall is no place for a coward.
Dany and company arrive at the idyllic Vaes Dothrak, which looks a lot like the California coast. But Viserys is unimpressed, calling it mud, shit and twigs. His social skills need some work, but he’s probably counting on no one translating his insults to the Khal. He whines about Drogo marching his army the wrong way.
Dany and Jorah are talking (we don’t hear anything about Jorah’s side trip to Qohor that was mentioned in the last episode) and she asks if Viserys gets the Dothraki army, will they be able to take the seven kingdoms. Jorah is dubious; the Dothraki have never crossed the narrow sea and are afraid of the water. But if they somehow managed to get across, it is possible. King Robert might meet them in the open with his troops, although others in his council might be more wise. It’s a toss up. Jorah is in an interesting spot, he knows those people. His father is among those people. Another of them, Ned Stark, chased him off out of the realm and still wants his head. Dany seems troubled that Jorah had sold slaves and he tries to explain why he did (he needed the money, expensive wife and all that).
Elsewhere, her brother Viserys is being tended to by Doreah, a concubine from Lys. She asks him about having dragon’s blood in his veins and he said it’s quite possible. She asked what happened to the dragons, and he said brave men rode them from Valyria to build the greatest civilization this world has ever seen. Viserys has never seen a dragon, only their skulls that were used to decorate the throne room in the Red Keep.
In King’s Landing, Septa Mordane talks to Sansa about her life as the future queen. Sansa is worried and tells her Septa that she thinks Joffrey hates her, but Septa won’t hear of it. Instead, she quizzes Sansa on her knowledge of the Iron Throne and the Red Keep. Sansa doesn’t want to play, she’s too upset, too angry, especially with her father who she claims she will never forgive.
Her father has troubles of his own with the small council. Janos Slynt, Commander of the City Watch, comes before them with a laundry list of problems facing the capital. There isn’t enough money to give him the extra men he needs, so Ned offers him 20 of his own men.
When all but Maester Pycelle leave, Ned mentions that he wanted to discuss Jon Arryn, the former hand of the king who died suddenly. He was under Pycelle’s care at the time, but he could not help him. “His sickness struck him very hard and very fast.” Pycelle mentions that Jon Arryn came to him the night before he died and asked for a book. It was “The lineages and histories of the great houses of the seven kingdoms.” Ned thumbs through the book and sees the dull recitation of bloodlines. Was there anything else Jon Arryn said? Yes, he repeated on phrase, “The seed is strong.”
Ned pointedly asks if there is any possibility that Jon Arryn was poisoned, but Pycelle thinks that impossible. Jon Arryn was loved by all. Pycelle shifts the conversation to Lord Varys, who he reminds Ned is a eunuch, as he wonders aloud how such a man found himself on the council.
From that odd conversation, Ned comes across an odd sight – his daughter Arya standing on one foot, balancing on the edge of a stairway. This is part of her training as a “water dancer,” the type of sword fighting of the Braavosi. They talk about what Bran can now do, in light of his limitations, but what bothers Arya is how limited her options are considering she’s a girl. As she says to Ned, he doesn’t understand her at all.
Jon is on watch duties tonight and he is joined by Sam, his new watch partner. Sam doesn’t see well. He’s afraid of heights. What is he doing there? On his 18th name day, his father told Sam that he was not worthy of his land or his title and that he would forsake his inheritance and take the black. If he did not, his father implied, there would be other ways to make sure he wasn’t around to inherit anything. Perhaps Sam’s dad should meet Catelyn. Sam’s sad story touched Jon so much, he almost cracked a joke. When Sam says he’s not going to get any better at fighting, Jon kids, saying he can’t get any worse! Good for you, Jon!
Littlefinger has heard from Pycelle that Ned was looking at the book on Westeros lineage. Someone can’t keep his mouth shut! But he’s not alone, and Littlefinger shows Ned just how many ears there are in the capital. It seems impossible to do anything without being noticed. Littlefinger hints at something nefarious about the fact that Jon Arryn’s squire, Ser Hugh, was knighted right after his master’s untimely demise. He suggests that Ned send someone he trusts to talk to the squire, though he adds quickly that there is probably no one that Ned should trust. He also suspects that the armorer may have some helpful information for Ned.
Ser Hugh of the Vale is questioned by Jory Cassel, captain of the guard of Winterfell, and the person Ned trusts the most with his investigation into Jon Arryn’s death. Ser Hugh won’t talk to Jory, but he will talk to Ned.
Meanwhile, Ned goes to talk to the armorer, who says that Jon Arryn did come talk to him several times, though never bought anything. Instead, he came to see a boy who works there. He asked the boy about his mother, who she was, what she looked like. The boy said she died when he was little and she had yellow hair (unlike his own dark hair). Ned looks at the boy closely and after he leaves, he tells Jory that was King Robert’s bastard son.
Jory goes with a message for King Robert, but is met outside of his chamber by his guard, Jaime Lannister. Jaime is happy to complain about how the king insults his sister by entertaining whores while her brother guards his door. TMI, Kingslayer. Jory just wants to deliver the message and leave, but instead they get into a discussion. Jory had fought side-by-side with Jaime at the Siege of Pyke, when Balon Greyjoy revolted against King Robert. They reminisce about how Thoros of Myr charged with his burning sword to help win the victory against the Greyjoys. Jaime mentioned how he saw the Greyjoy son Theon at Winterfell, which he says was like seeing a shark on a mountaintop. Jory said he’s a good lad, Jaime isn’t so sure.
Back at the Wall, Jon has finished his watch and is sitting down for dinner. The other recruits start ragging on Jon, but he won’t stand for it. Sam is no different than the rest, he’s just trying to find where he belongs. One of the rapers-turned-brothers, Rast, won’t have any of this and he promises to continue to make Sam’s life hell. While he sleeps, Jon and his friends pay Rast a visit. Jon’s direwolf is there as well, and they explain to Rast that he will not be giving Sam any more trouble.
The next day, Rast wants no part of Sam. The boys try and help him during training, but Ser Alliser Thorne is none too pleased. This is no game, they are all that stands between the kingdom and what lies beyond the Wall. Point taken.
At Vaes Dothrak, Viserys is angry with his sister. He won’t have her telling his concubines what to do and he won’t have her running his life. He is the dragon, after all. He has no love for the Dothraki or their ways and just wants his army as soon as possible. He hits her but she hits him right back and he is stunned. This is no little scared girl. She is a Khaleesi now and if he ever raises a hand to her again it’ll be the last time he has hands.
Sam and Jon are doing some steward work and discussing the unfairness of the vow of celibacy, especially since Sam is convinced that the higher ups sneak off and break their vows regularly. Sam is surprised to find out that the dreamy Jon Snow is a virgin, like he is. Jon said he came close once, with Ros the prostitute (Tyrion and Theon had discussed her last episode). But he couldn’t do it, he couldn’t bring another bastard child into the world.
Alliser Thorne comes in and talks to the boys about his last winter beyond the wall, when he was in search of Mance Rayder and the wildlings who fight with him. He scares them with horror stories of a brutal winter. He reminds them that soon they’ll get their assignments and be official men of the Night’s Watch and then new recruits will come in for training. But they are still boys. And come the winter they will die like flies. Quite the pep talk!
Dany is worried, she hit her brother, she hit “the dragon.” But Jorah thinks he is no dragon. While she knows the plan she also knows it will fail. Viserys can never lead an army and he will not help them get home.
King Robert is many banners to the wind as the celebration is to commence. Sansa smiles at Joffrey but he doesn’t return her smile. Lord Baelish sees this and comments. We learn of his nickname, Littlefinger, which he says came from the fact that he lived in a region called the Fingers and was quite small as a child.
The joust finally begins. First up is Ser Gregor Clegane, also known as The Mountain. He is one scary looking guy. He is the older brother of The Hound. He will be jousting against Ser Hugh of the Vale, the squire Jory tried to talk to earlier (who had been Jon Arryn’s squire just before he died). On the second pass, the Hound jams his lance right into Hugh’s gullet and the poor boy bleeds to death.
As if witnessing such a violent death isn’t bad enough, Littlefinger proceeds to tell Sansa the story of The Mountain and The Hound. This will not be a future Disney project. The Mountain was a jealous little kid and when he saw his six-year-old brother playing with one of his toys by the fire, a wooden knight, the Mountain pushed his brother’s face into the burning coals and held him there while he screamed and his face melted away.
While the tournament goes on outside, Queen Cersei comes to see Ned Stark. She proposes letting bygones be bygones, even admitting calling for the direwolf Lady’s death may have been extreme. But then she asks why Ned is there and doesn’t seem satisfied with his answer that he’s there to serve the King until he is no longer needed. She says serving the King is a fool’s errand, but Ned counters that it is his job.
She says Ned is not the leader his brother Brandon was. Ned is more of a soldier. He says he was trained to kill his enemies, Cersei coolly replies, “As was I.” Yikes, a threat and proper grammar!
Catelyn and Rodrick stop at the Inn at the Crossroads on their way back to Winterfell from King’s Landing. Who should show up but Tyrion Lannister. The innkeeper tries to tell him there’s no room, but he is a Lannister and he has enough money to get whatever he wants. One of the men offers Tyrion his room.
Tyrion notices Catelyn, who had been trying to stay incognito. She stands and surveys the room, noting the banners of the various guests and reminding them of their allegiance to her family, the Tullys of Riverrun. And why is she doing this? Because she is convinced that Tyrion tried to have Bran killed. She makes her accusation and asks for help in seizing Tyrion and taking him to Winterfell to stand for his crimes.
The guests all take up their swords on behalf of Lady Stark and Tyrion is surrounded.
We learned some interesting back stories today. Theon is a ward of the Starks, handed over by the defeated Balon Greyjoy after Ned Stark helped put down the Greyjoy rebellion against King Robert some nine years earlier. The Greyjoys had some early victories, including setting fire to the Lannister fleet Lannisport, but they were ultimately defeated when Robert led a siege on their stronghold at Pyke. Jaime Lannister, Jory Cassel and Thoros of Myr (and his flaming sword) fought alongside Ned Stark and the King to defeat the Greyjoys, killing the two oldest sons in the process. Despite originally coming to live with the Starks as a prisoner, Theon seems to have a close relationship with Robb and certainly doesn’t act like he’s still a prisoner of the Starks.
We also learned that The Hound and the Mountain may be brothers, and may both be fierce killers, but there is no love between the two and the Hound learned a very painful lesson early in life about crossing his brother. Jorah Mormont is an exile from Westeros, banished by Ned Stark after being caught selling slaves. And we know that Jon Arryn’s death is looking more and more like murder, but we don’t yet know the why or who of it.
Tyrion: I have a soft spot for cripples, bastards and broken things.
Bran: I’m not a cripple
Tyrion: Then I’m not a dwarf. My father will rejoice to hear it.
Tyrion (to Theon): I’m a constant disappointment to my own father and I’ve learned to live with it.
Ned: Perhaps I was wrong to distrust you.
Petyr: Distrusting me was the wisest thing you’ve done since you climbed off your horse.