The opening credits include a new location for this episode, the Eyrie. But we start in King’s Landing, dealing with the aftermath of the joust that saw Ser Hugh of the Vale taking a lance to the throat courtesy of The Mountain. Ser Barristan Selmy has been standing vigil as the former squire has no family there. Ned Stark talks to him about the boy and is suspicious how a former squire became a knight, gained a new suit of armor, and managed to draw the most feared competitor at the joust. Too many things do not add up.
Barristan and Ned go to gather the King, who is late for the start of the festivities. Robert wants to joust today, but he has become too fat to fit in his armor. The king berates young Lancel Lannister, blaming him and scaring the poor boy, until Ned defuses the situation. Robert grumbles about how Jon Arryn talked him into marrying Cersei Lannister and now he’s stuck with her and has to do what she says, like hiring her cousin Lancel as a squire.
Robert joins Sansa in the stands to watch the rest of the tournament. First up is Ser Loras Tyrell, the Knight of the Flowers, who Sansa seems to fancy. He presents her with a rose and she blushes, while Lord Renly looks on. Loras is battling the Mountain, but he is a much more wily opponent than Hugh was and he knocks Ser Gregor Clegane right off his horse.
But you don’t get the kind of reputation the Mountain has by taking defeat lying down, so he goes apeshit. He demands his sword and slices his horse’s head off, then turns his attention to Ser Loras. But Gregor’s brother Sandor (“the Hound”) comes to defend the Knight of Flowers. King Robert’s seen enough and demands they stop at once. Ser Loras forfeits his win and gives it to the Hound.
Catelyn and her bannermen are taking their captive Lord Tyrion somewhere, but not to Winterfell as Tyrion learns when he is unhooded. Catelyn had loudly proclaimed her intentions so that the Lannisters would be looking for Tyrion in the wrong place. Instead, they are on the eastern road, headed to the Vale, to take him before her sister, Jon Arryn’s widow. Tyrion warns Catelyn that she doesn’t know her sister any more, she’s changed. But there’s little time to discuss this as they are attacked by a marauding hill tribe.
Tyrion thinks this gives him a chance to escape while the fighting is going on. But he sees Catelyn under attack and comes to her rescue! Tyrion may disparage his fighting prowess, but he gets the job done. It’s his first kill. Ser Rodrik Cassel and the dark haired man who had offered Tyrion his room in exchange for gold managed to kill the rest.
Back at Winterfell, Bran is studying up on the houses of Westeros while Theon is practicing his archery. Bran mentions the Iron Islands, sigil kracken, words “we do not sow.” Theon is from the Iron Islands and his family the Greyjoys are the lords. Going through the other houses, Bran has a point to make when he gets to his mother’s house, the Tullys. Their motto is “Family, Duty, Honor” and Bran notes that family comes first but not for his mother who is not with her family right now. Maester Luwin tries to explain that the mission she is on is for the family, but Bran is unconvinced.
Later, Theon is with Ros the whore who puts him in his place when he goes all “the Greyjoys blah blah, Iron Islands blah blah, 300 years blah blah.” She points out that he is a captive of the Starks, no matter what he wants to call it, and that he is beholden to them.
Big shift, over to Arya practicing her footwork by trying to catch a cat.
Varys wants to talk to Ned in private, somewhat ironic for someone who makes it his business to know what everyone else is saying. He tells him what we’ve all deduced: the king is a fool. He is not the man Ned knew once. The eunuch believes he can trust Ned because, after observing him for a month, he can tell Ned is an honest, honorable man. The King, he tells Ned, is doomed, doomed as in on his way to join his former hand Jon Arryn in the Great Beyond. He believes Jon Arryn was poisoned and that Robert is next.
Varys believes that the squire, Hugh of the Vale, was the one who gave Jon Arryn the poison. Ned can’t imagine why anyone would have wanted to kill Jon Arryn, but Varys believes he knows why. The former Hand of the King was asking too many questions.
As Arya continues looking for her cat, she stumbles beneath the castle to the dungeons where the dragon skulls are kept. There she overhears snippets of a conversation. “He’s found one bastard already.” “He has the book.” Someone knows Ned is dangerously close to learning the truth that Jon Arryn was also searching for, and was killed for. The other man asks, when he knows the truth, what will he do? Whoever is speaking did not try to have Bran killed. They are also not aligned with either the Starks or the Lannisters. The first man says someone tried to kill him (Bran) and “what’s worse, they botched it.” “The wolf and the lion will be at each other’s throats. We will be at war soon.” The other man replies, “We’re not ready.”
It is Varys talking with Illyrio Mopatis, the man who arranged the marriage between Dany Targaryen and Khal Drogo. Mopatis asks Varys, “if one hand can die, why not another?” Varys responds, “this hand is not the other.” Mopatis tells him that Drogo is not yet read to send his army to attack the seven kingdoms. Illyrio says they need time for Drogo’s son to be born, that he won’t attack until then. But Varys says not to delay.
Varys and Baelish, the Spider and Littlefinger, have a testy conversation in the throne room about sexual proclivities and legalities and it’s all about subtext and power. They have so much in common, lowborn men now sitting in the seat of power, trading on secrets and information, but they also appear to be at odds. Littlefinger knows all about Varys’ conversation with Illyrio and that seems to surprise and trouble Varys. They are interrupted by Lord Renly who announces an immediate meeting of the small council.
Arya runs to tell her father what she overheard, but he doesn’t know what to make of what she’s saying and then he’s interrupted by word from Yoren (of the Night’s Watch) who tells Ned that his wife has taken Tyrion Lannister hostage. He wanted Ned to know before word got out to everyone, as a favor to Benjen.
Tyrion may have saved Catelyn’s life, but she still believes he tried to kill Bran, so they continue on their way to the Vale. They are stopped along the way by the guard of the Vale and then escorted the rest of the way.
At the small council meeting, King Robert orders Daenyers Targaryen (along with her unborn child) killed. And her brother Viserys as well. Ned advises against it, that it will disgrace the king’s honor. Robert is furious, the Targaryen threat must be eliminated for the good of the seven kingdoms. Ned rejects the idea as barbaric and doubts the information is even true. But Varys has it on very good authority – Ser Jorah Mormont who is one of his spies, serving the realm by feeding information on the Targaryen plans.
Ned is stubborn. Even if the information is correct, even if there will be a Targaryen leading a Dothraki army, there is still the matter of the sea between them and Westeros. He does not believe murdering the girl and her baby is the answer. Varys tries to talk sense to Ned; if the Targaryen child is a boy, he will lead an attack on the realm. Killing her will save untold thousands of life and the kingdom. Ned disagrees and he and Robert exchange heated words and Ned resigns his post, with the king mocking his “honor” as he walks out. Littlefinger follows Ned back to his room and tells him the word “treason” was thrown about. But before he leaves the capital, Littlefinger can arrange for Ned to speak to the last person Jon Arryn spoke with before his death.
Up at the Vale, Catelyn has brought Tyrion before her sister, Jon Arryn’s widow, to stand for his crime. Lysa is on a throne with her son at her bosom which would not be so disturbing if the boy were not old enough to be a Cub Scout. Lysa and her son already want to see Tyrion dead (“Mommy, make the bad man fly”), but Catelyn says he’s her prisoner and not to hurt him. Lysa sends him to see Mord.
Mord is the jailer at one of the best ideas for a jail ever. You’re not really locked up and are free to leave whenever you want. If you can fly, you’re in really good shape.
Renly, the king’s younger brother, is being manscaped by Loras, the Knight of Flowers. So that was why they were looking at each other before the joust. While chatting about capital gossip, the conversation turns to Loras telling Renly that he would make a better king than Robert. His family, the Tyrells, are almost as rich as the Lannisters and with their money, perhaps Renly could take the throne. Loras is brilliant at this, flattering Renly and convincing him to ignore little things like lines of succession and make the decision to become king. And he sure knows how to bring home his point!
Cersei comes to visit Robert to gloat about the rift between him and Ned. Strangely, she appears to be defending Ned, but perhaps she just liked having him close by where she could keep her eye on him. Robert is worried about Daeneyrs and her Dothraki husband, but Cersei dismisses his concern. Every schoolgirl knows the Dothraki won’t cross the Narrow Sea. But if they did, it would spell the ruin of the kingdom, that’s what worries Robert.
Robert realizes that with the end of the Mad King – a common enemy for the rebels – there is no one unified kingdom. There are many smaller groups each with its own agenda. The Lannisters want to own everything, the Starks just want to live in peace up North, they are no longer of one mind. All that’s holding the realm together was the forced marriage/alliance between Cersei Lannister and Robert Baratheon.
Theirs is by no means a happy marriage, for many reasons, and Cersei turns the conversation to Robert’s one true love, Ned Stark’s sister Lyanna. Cersei admits that she once loved Robert and wonders if he ever could have loved her, but the answer is no. Nothing will ever replace Lyanna. Hard not to feel bad for Cersei at this moment.
Ned goes to visit the last person Jon Arryn spoke to before he fell ill and it’s a young mother, holding her dark-haired baby who looks just like his father, the King. She tells Ned to let the King know how beautiful his baby is. Ned find out from Littlefinger that Robert had many bastards and that Jon Arryn tracked them all down.
Ned finds himself surrounded by guards, leading them is Jaime Lannister. When Jory Cassel tells Jaime to stand back, Jaime reminds him that Ned is no longer Hand of the King. Jaime knows that Tyrion has been taken prisoner by Catelyn and Ned says it was at his order. Jaime orders Ned taken into custody and his men killed (he doesn’t want Ned killed as he won’t get Tyrion back then). Ned’s men are disposed of quickly, including Jory (courtesy of a sword through the eye). Ned goes after Jaime and though Jaime is the one with the reputation, Ned is keeping up with him. Just as it seems there’ll be an end to the battle, and one that doesn’t bode well for Ned, one of the Lannister guards stabs him in the leg and brings him down. Jaime cannot kill him, but has made his point.
Varys is an intriguing character. He has said consistently that he serves the realm – but what does that mean to him? It seems as if he takes no side in the lion versus wolf feud, and is looking forward to there being a war for the Seven Kingdoms. Why does he want war and who does he hope prevails? He sent Jorah Mormont to spy on the Targaryens’ activities with the Dothraki, but he also counsels Illyrio Mopatis of Pentos on the timing of their planned invasion of Westeros. Illyrio says the must wait until the baby is born, Varys says there is no time to wait. During the small council meeting, he did not argue against the plan to murder the pregnant Dany, but why would he want her dead if he wants her son to lead the war?
Honorable men who speak the truth can only get away with doing that for so long, before they are fired or worse.
We know more of the story about Theon Greyjoy, that his family had rebelled against King Robert and as part of the punishment, their surviving son was sent to live with the Starks.
As easy as it is to dislike Cersei, hearing how she was forced into a marriage with someone who did not love her and was still holding a torch for his one true love, you realize that maybe she would be different today had Robert been a more loving husband.
Littlefinger: Tell me… does someone somewhere keep your balls in a little box? I’ve often wondered.
Varys: Do you know, I have no idea where they are, and we had been so close.
Bronn: Nothing like a woman after a fight.
Tyrion (looking at Catelyn): I’m willing if she is.
Tyrion: The Eyrie. They say it’s impregnable.
Bronn: Give me ten men and some spikes and I’ll impregnate the bitch.
Tyrion: I like you.
Catelyn: I am not a murderer, Lannister.
Tyrion: Neither am I. I had nothing to do with the attempt on your son’s life.
Catelyn: The dagger found…
Tyrion: What sort of imbecile arms an assassin with his own blade?
Rodrik Cassel: Gag him.
Tyrion: Why? Am I starting to make sense?
Ned: The narrow sea still lies between us. I’ll fear the Dothraki the day they teach their horses to run on water.
Cersei: Was it ever possible for us? Was there ever a time, ever a moment?
[Cersei takes a drink]
Robert: Does that make you feel better or worse?
Cersei: It doesn’t make me feel anything.
Tyrion: Oh, did I kill him too? I’ve been a very busy man.
Jaime: I’m looking for my brother. You remember my brother, don’t you, Ned Stark? Blond hair, sharp tongue, short man.
Jaime: Come, Stark. I’d rather you die sword in hand.
Jory Cassel: If you threaten my lord again…
Jaime: Threaten? As in, I’m going to open your lord from balls to brains and see what Starks are made of?
Ned: You kill me – your brother is a dead man.
Jaime: [smiles] You’re right.
Jaime (to his soldiers): Take him alive. Kill his men.