Arya is taking her “dancing lessons” with Syrio Forel, unaware that elsewhere in King’s Landing her father has just been taken prisoner and Lannister soldiers are killing all remaining men loyal to the Starks. Her sister is walking with her Septa, discussing that Arya is late – they are supposed to leave today (oh if only they’d left yesterday!) – when they hear noises and realize something is terribly wrong. Septa sends Sansa back to her room, then stands in the hallway to distract the men and give Sansa time to get away.
Lannister men come to take Arya, but Syrio will not let that happen. He is suspicious that Lord Stark didn’t send his own men to come get his daughter. Pretty clever there, Syrio! When the men move to grab her, Syrio steps into action. Though armed only with a wooden practice sword, he takes on the red cloaks. Arya wants to stay and stand and fight with him, but he convinces her to go. He has dispatched all but one of the men before Arya finally leaves. Syrio’s sword was cut in half and he has one man left to fight, Ser Trent of the Kingsguard. We hear the clanging of swords and screams, but don’t see what happened.
Sansa is running back to her room for safety and comes face to face with the Hound. She is startled and scared, and tells him to stay away or she’ll tell the queen. He just chuckles. “Who do you think sent me?”
Arya runs outside and sees total chaos – dead bodies strewn around the square. She is at the stables where they were supposed to meet to take the carriage back to Winterfell. If only. She finds her bag and her sword, just as one of the stableboys comes out and threatens to take her to the queen. She moves suddenly to stop him and stabs him by accident, killing him.
Varys shows up in the dungeon where Ned is being held. He brings Ned water and tells him to hide it. He tells Ned that Arya has escaped the castle (“even my little birds can’t find her”) and Sansa is still engaged to Joffrey. Cersei will protect her. Unless you consider that marrying Joffrey would be its own special hell. All the rest of the Stark household that had come to King’s Landing, all dead.
Ned is angry with Varys. “You watched my men being slaughtered and did nothing.” But Varys is pragmatic. “I would again, my lord. I was unarmed, unarmored and surrounded by Lannister swords. When you look at me, do you see a hero?” Varys asks the question that we all would like to ask Ned at this point: “What madness led you to tell the queen you had learned the truth about Joffrey’s birth?”
Ned’s answer, “the madness of mercy,” is so naive and stupidly noble it’s painful to hear. Varys noticeably winces, then tells Ned it was his mercy that cost King Robert his life. Varys tells Ned that he’s a dead man. Ned thought he had protection, that Catelyn still held leverage in the form of Tyrion Lannister. But Varys knows that Tyrion is no longer her captive. Ned knows what that means and asks Varys to take his life right then. But Varys says what Arya told the god of death, “Not today.”
At the Wall, two men from the Night’s Watch have been found, dead (one missing the hand Ghost found earlier). They were rangers patrolling with Benjen Stark, who has still not been located. Sam notices something strange about the dead bodies – they don’t smell, despite the fact that it looks as if the men have been dead for a while. Jon suggests they burn the bodies, like the wildlings do. But Lord Commander Jeor Mormont wants to have Maester Aemon examine them first. What Sam noticed has raised some suspicions, in fact, Mormont compliments him for his smarts.
Jon is summoned by Mormont. A raven was sent to Castle Black from King’s Landing with news. The king is dead. His father is charged with treason, for conspiring with Robert’s brothers to deny Joffrey the throne. Jon reads the letter and storms out, but before he leaves Mormont warns him. He is a member of the Night’s Watch now and he has sworn an oath. If he leaves he will be captured and executed as a deserter. His duty is at the Wall, not with his father or his sisters.
No matter what you thought of Sansa before this moment, you have to feel sorry for her. She is surrounded by people who look upon her as a piece in a game to move at their will. She is alone, there is no one there she can confide in or ask for help. Queen Cersei and members of the small council are telling her awful things, confusing things. Her father is a traitor who, while Robert was still warm, conspired to deny his son the prince, her future husband, his rightful place on the throne. Sansa knows one thing about her father, he is a good man and a true friend of the King. None of this makes sense.
Cersei asks how she could possibly allow Sansa, the daughter of a traitor, to marry her son. This is all Sansa wants. She promises that she’ll be a queen like Cersei some day (which should make Cersei very scared). Pycelle is ready to throw her to the wolves, but Littlefinger has an idea. She’s a sweet, innocent. Perhaps if she can prove her loyalty to Joffrey…. So Cersei gives her instructions. Write a letter to her mother and her brother asking her brother to come to King’s Landing and pledge his fealty to King Joffrey. Sansa writes the letter believing it’s the only chance to save her father.
R-mail gets to Robb quickly, demanding he come to King’s Landing and swear his allegiance to the new king. Maester Luwin quickly recognizes that while Sansa wrote the letter, it was Cersei’s words. Robb seems to understand what is being demanded, “Joffrey puts my father in chains, now he wants his ass kissed?” Yes, that’s it precisely. Luwin explains that Robb cannot refuse a royal command, but Robb has every intention of going to King’s Landing. But not alone. He tells Luwin to call the banners, all the houses loyal to the Starks, including Umber, Mormont, Karstark, Bolton and Cerwyn.
Catelyn was still up at the Eyrie with her sister Lysa when she finally gets word about Ned. By the time Catelyn learns what’s happened Ned is a prisoner and Robb is about to declare war. Her sister is no help at all, she will not send any soldiers from the Vale. They will stay put to defend the Vale. She is scared to death of the Lannisters. They’ve already killed her husband. She knows they would do anything. Catelyn is on her own.
This has been one heavy episode, so it’s time for a nice traveling/buddy comedy interlude with that madcap duo, Tyrion and Bronn. They’re on the mountain pass from the Eyrie, on their way home, and Tyrion is whistling a happy tune, which greatly irritates Bronn. He would like them to be a little quieter as there are hill tribes in the area. The entire conversation is priceless (though with money being no object to the Lannisters, perhaps a value could be agreed upon). They establish the relationship perfectly, Tyrion has bought himself what he lacks, the ability to kill. While this is a purely business arrangement, Tyrion lets on that he is quite willing to expand the relationship into the friend zone.
The next morning, they are discovered by members of the hill tribes that Bronn had warned about the day before. Many extremely large men are surrounding their makeshift campsite and, despite Bronn’s prowess with a sword, and Tyrion’s quick mind, it looks like the two will be breakfast for these strange mountain men. Tyrion uses his humor in an attempt to diffuse the situation and Shagga, the leader of the Stone Crows, is impressed enough to agree to spare Tyrion – so he can entertain the children (one would assume Tyrion might prefer death to that option). Bronn is still dead meat, until Tyrion shifts to his fall-back position. The great Lannister fortune.
Tyrion tells Shagga, son of Dolf, that he is Tyrion, son of the richest man in all of the seven kingdoms and if his men help Tyrion get home, his father will shower them with gold. Shagga is unimpressed. But Tyrion presses on. He has the temerity to start insulting the Stone Crows. Their tactics, their weapons, their trouble fighting against the knights of the Vale. (Note how Bronn looks at Tyrion while he’s saying all this. He’s convinced Tyrion has lost his bloody mind.) Tyrion cannot buy his way out of this, Shagga tells him.
Tyrion takes off a ring (my precious) and puts it right into Shagga’s face and tells him that it is worth more than everything the Stone Crows own. Still unimpressed, Shagga, son of Dolf? Then listen carefully. If you help Tyrion and Bronn get home, Tyrion will give you the Vale of Arryn. Not a trinket, not some gold, the whole freakin’ thing. Deal or no deal?
Can things get any worse for Jon Snow? His father is a prisoner and accused of treason, he’s stuck in the frigid north away from his family, he’ll die a virgin, and now Master-at-Arms Alliser Thorne wants to taunt the poor boy. Not just a bastard, but a traitor’s bastard. Real clever, Alliser. Jon wants to put a knife in that smug face, but his friends stop him just in time. Alliser tells Jon, “you’ll hang for this, bastard,” and storms off.
Lord Commander Mormont walks in; he saw what just happened. And he looks even more glum than usual. He reminds Jon that he told him not to do anything stupid (and for the record, attacking the Master-at-Arms may be the epitome of stupid). He is confined to quarters. That night, his direwolf, Ghost, is clawing at the door. What’s the matter, Ghost? What is it, girl? (Lassie reference, anyone??)
Jon follows Ghost to Mormont’s room. He walks around; it’s dark and creepy. A door slams and a scary zombie dude is there. He attacks Jon and Jon tries fighting him – stabbing him, impaling him – but the guy won’t die. Mormont walks in carrying a lamp just in time to see the dead guy stand up again. It was one of the two dead rangers that had been brought in earlier in the day. Not so dead anymore. Jon grabs the lamp and hurls it at the reanimated dead man. And finally, he’s dead for good.
Dany comes across the Dothraki raping and pillaging a recently-conquered village. She is horrified. For all their talk of not caring about money and not shedding blood in their city, they are pretty brutal. But this is all part of Khal Drogo’s march to the narrow sea, to conquer Westeros for her and their unborn son. Dany demands they stop and Jorah gives the command, but the Dothraki soldiers are incensed. It is their right to take the spoils of their victory they fought for.
Dany instructs Jorah to bring all the women to her. Jorah tells her she can’t protect all the women, but Dany is woman, hear her roar – “I can and I will.” Not surprisingly, Drogo gets an earful from some of his men about his wife ruining all their fun. He asks his wife if what he’s heard is true. It’s a sitcom staple inserted into a tense scene as he calls her “my moon” and she calls him “my sun and stars” while they’re each digging in their heels. Dany tries to lawyer him, saying that she has claimed them all as daughters, so they cannot be “mounted.” She tells him, his men can have the women if they put a ring on it first. You know Drogo is thinking, exasperated, Women!
Dany is taking crap from no one, and when the men disparage her suggestion that they marry the women with the throwaway line, “does the horse mate with the lamb?” she comes back with “the dragon feeds on horse and lamb alike.” Drogo likes feisty Dany, as he believes her spunk comes from his son growing in her womb. He tells Mogo and his other men to do as she says and leave the women alone.
Mogo spits on Drogo and says any Khal who takes his orders from a foreigner is no Khal. He raises a arakh (a scythe-like sword) against Drogo and cuts him. He has unleashed hell and Drogo goes completely medieval on him, slicing his neck open and pulling out his tongue and throat with his bare hands.
Khal sits back down and Dany runs over to him, concerned about his wound. He’s all macho bravado – that’s nothing, just the bite of a fly – but it’s a deep gaping hole. Dany asks for one of the healers to take care of him. One of the captured women, Mirri Maz Duur, says she is a healer and can help. Drogo’s men don’t want her helping, accusing her of being a witch, but Dany insists. Drogo reluctantly goes along, whatever the misses wants is okay with him.
At Winterfell, there is a feast to welcome all the bannermen who have answered the call to take up arms against the king and to rescue Ned and his family from the Lannisters. Lord Umber says if he can’t lead the fight, he’ll take his men home, but Robb is not about to be told what to do. If Umber refuses, Robb will hunt him down, seize his land and hang him for an oathbreaker. Umber takes umbrage, goes for his weapon, and then Robb’s direwolf charges across the table and bites off a couple of his fingers.
Robb could have taken Umber’s move as a treasonous attempt on his life, punishable by death. But he instead gives Umber an out. Everyone calms back down, albeit one of them now unable to make a two handed victory sign. Robb has passed his first test as a leader, he used both strength and fairness in handling Umber and all the bannermen are still in line.
Bran is asleep in his room when Robb wakes him to say goodbye. He’s going south to save Ned. Bran wants to come with him, it’s so cute how he reminds Robb that he can ride now, but Robb says no. “There must always be a Stark at Winterfell.” Bran will be that person until Robb returns. It’s a sweet moment, one of those “you’re the man of the house now” moments. Bran is left behind to run Winterfell with his little brother Rickon and Maester Luwin. Rickon comes in and Bran tries to comfort him, telling him Robb is going to save their father and their mother will be back too, but Rickon looks about to cry and tells him, “no they won’t.”
Bran is outside near a weirwood tree in the godswood, praying to the old gods for his family, including Theon, when Osha the wildling captive comes up to him. She tells him the gods are listening to him and speaking to him. But she also tells him that the old gods won’t be any help to Robb where he’s going. There aren’t even any weirwood trees in the South anymore, they’ve all been cut down. Suddenly a naked Hodor shows up and Osha jokes that there must be some giant blood in him. She tells Bran that there are giants and “worse than giants” beyond the Wall, where she’s from. She tried telling Robb that there are greater dangers up north, beyond the Wall, than where he’s heading.
Speaking of north, the Night’s Watch is dealing with the aftermath of the dead rangers trying to kill Jon and Mormont. As Jon and his fellow crows stand around the fire used to make sure the dead stay dead, Sam says the men “were touched by white walkers.” Only fire will stop them, he says. How does Sam know this? He read it in a very old book in Maester Aemon’s library. The White Walkers for Dummies book also said they sleep beneath the ice for thousands of years and when they wake up…. Finish your thought, Sam! What do you mean, you hope the wall is high enough? It’s 700 feet high! Fun fact, those brought back to life by White Walkers are called Wights. And they can be people or animals.
Lady Catelyn and Ser Rodrik Cassel are heading back from the Eyrie through an area called the Neck, riding past an abandoned castle, Moat Cailin, when they come across Robb’s army. Robb is in a tent, discussing war strategy with some of his men. Jaime Lannister is pushing back the armies of the Riverlands, Tywin Lannister has a separate even larger army coming up from the south. His mother and Rodrik come in and she’s cool, not embarrassing him in front of his friends with a big smooch and waits until they all leave.
She’s so proud of her little boy, all grown up and ready to kick some Lannister ass. Well, not really. She’d love nothing more than for him to head back to Winterfell and leave the fighting to those who’ve done it before. But he won’t listen. He shows her the letter from Sansa (or, as she correctly notes, from the queen) and she notices that there’s no mention of Arya which worries her greatly. Neither of them thinks going to King’s Landing and bending the knee is the answer. Instead, Robb will have to defeat the Lannisters on the battlefield.
Catelyn puts no pressure on Robb at all. She just casually mentions what Tywin Lannister did to the Targaryen children after the Mad King Aerys Targaryen was executed – they were all butchered in their sleep. Tywin is in control again, but possibly meaner than he was back then. But Catelyn’s not done with her pep talk. She tells Robb, if he loses, his father dies, his sisters die, we die. Robb looks for a moment like he’s going to throw up, then he smiles. “Well, that makes it simple then.” Not so fun fact, it was the Mountain (the one who pushed his brother’s face in the fire when they were kids) who actually carried out Tywin’s order to kill the Targaryen children.
Tyrion and his merry band of killers meet up with Tywin and his branch of the Lannister army. Tyrion was hoping to have time alone with Daddy Dearest before he sprung Shagga and the rest on him, but Shagga is not the most trusting of fellows and wants to keep Tyrion close. The hill tribes make a curious sight at the encampment and Tywin is decidedly unimpressed and irritated (pretty much his default position). He lets Tyrion know that his army’s battle was not for him, but for the honor of the family name.
There’s a lot of, why couldn’t you be more like your brother Jaime, as well as updating Tyrion on the latest including the capture of Ned Stark. Tyrion does not take the news like Tywin expected. He’s not gleeful, more surprised, especially as he assumes that King Robert would never imprison his friend Ned. But then he finds out that Robert is dead and his nephew Joffrey now sits on the Iron Throne. That gets a reaction from Tyrion! His uncle Ser Kevan tells Tyrion about Robb’s army and their plan to move south.
Good chance for Tyrion to segue into what he needs to pay back the debt he owes Shagga and his group. Before he can get them what they need, word comes in that Robb’s army has crossed the Neck (the southernmost part of the North, bordering the Riverlands) and is heading south. Tywin instructs his men to get an army together to attack and sends word to Jaime of his intentions. He then surveys the mountain men. He tells them he’s heard they are great warriors. If they ride with him against Robb’s army, they will have all that Tyrion promised them and more. Shagga agrees on one condition, “only if the half man fights with us.” Now it’s Tyrion’s turn to look like he’s about to hurl.
Robb and his men are figuring out their battle plan. Their scouts tell them that Tywin and his men are moving north, and Rodrik thinks the approach is to get them while they’re out in the open. But Greatjon Umber thinks the better approach is to go after Jaime and his army at Riverrun, which will then get the River lords to join the Stark army. Either approach poses the same problem. To get over the river, they have to cross the Twins, a bridge controlled by the Freys. The Freys are bannermen of the Tullys (Catelyn’s family). As Catelyn tells it, Walder Frey is not the most reliable of bannermen; her father calls him “The Late Lord Frey” for his propensity of arriving just in time to reap the spoils of a war he didn’t fight. Catelyn cautions, “some men take their oaths more seriously than others.”
The Stark men round up someone outside in the camp, while inside the tent discussions are continuing. There is no question that they need to cross the bridge, but what do they do? Go after Tywin or go after Jaime? The men bring in the Lannister scout they found sneaking around and he admits that he was there counting Robb’s army, and had already got to 20,000. Immediately, Umber wants his head, but Robb wants to be merciful. He tells the scout, “Tell Lord Tywin winter is coming for him.”
In case we’ve forgotten, Ned is still in the dungeon.
Back in the throne room, Joffrey is getting down to business. Step one, repay those loyal to you (and by definition, disloyal to Ned Stark). Janos Slynt, who promised Ned he and the City Watch were behind him, will now be Lord Janos and given Harrenhall as a reward. While this is going on, Sansa is passing by knights she knows as she makes her way before the King. Next announcement, Joffrey’s grandfather will take over as Hand of the King in the place of the “traitor” Ned Stark. That had to hurt Sansa to hear. Finally, Pycelle finishes up with an edict by the council that their King’s life and safety is of paramount importance.
Cersei calls for Ser Barristan Selmy, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. He’s being given the chance to retire, with pay and benefits, so long as he steps down. But Barristan objects. The Kingsguard is a lifetime appointment, a brotherhood, and he can no more leave it than he can break an oath. But it has been decided, Jaime Lannister will replace him. Barristan strips off his armor and basically asks for Joffrey to kill him, saying he’ll die a knight. Littlefinger makes a quip to diffuse the situation, but Barristan draws his sword, a great warrior still wanting to show he is invincible. Then he throws his sword on the ground saying, to the King, “Here, boy, take it and melt in down and add it to the others.” Shockingly, he’s allowed to leave under his own power.
Sansa comes before Joffrey and kneels. She’s begging for mercy for her father, but Maester Pycelle is no help at all, saying “treason is a noxious weed. It should be torn out….” But Joffrey interrupts and allows Sansa to finish. Littlefinger asks if she denies her father’s crime, and she says no, she knows he must be punished, but again asks for mercy. She blames what he did on the King’s brothers, maybe Renly or Stannis lied to him. Joffrey reminds her that he said he wasn’t the King, and Joffrey actually looks hurt and confused by that. Why would Ned Stark say such a thing, he asks. (Joffrey, maybe you should ask you mom/aunt or your uncle/dad instead.) Varys is enigmatic as ever, saying simply “a child’s faith…such sweet innocence.” Does he mean Sansa…or Joffrey? He goes on to add that wisdom often comes out of the mouths of babes. There’s no doubting where Pycelle’s allegiance lies. “Treason is treason,” he roars. Well, thanks for that segue into the law of identity.
Sansa tries to reach whatever humanity might exist in Joffrey and asks once more, if he ever loved her, to please spare her father’s life. Joffrey says he is touched by her words, and Cersei seems pleased with his decision. Joffrey tells Sansa he will do that for her if her father proclaims that Joffrey is the rightful King. Sansa promises that he will.
Arya: Come with me. Run!
Syrio: The first sword of Braavos does not run.
Syrio: What do we say to the god of death?
Arya: Not today.
Ned: Tell me something Varys. Who do you truly serve?
Varys: The realm, my lord. Someone must.
Tyrion: If I’m going to die, it may as well be with a song in my heart.
Bronn: I should just take your food and leave you here. Eh, what would you do then?
Tyrion: Starve, most likely.
Tyrion: What do you want, Bronn? Gold? Women? Golden women? Stick with me and you’ll have them all.
Bronn: Don’t go looking to me to bend the knee and “my lord” you every time you take a shit. I’m not your toady and I’m not your friend.
Tyrion: Though I would treasure your friendship, I’m mainly interested in your facility with murder.
Tyrion: If the day ever comes when you’re tempted to sell me out, remember this: whatever their price, I’ll beat it. I like living.
Shagga: How would you like to die, Tyrion, son of Tywin?
Tyrion: In my own bed, at the age of 80, with a belly full of wine and a girl’s mouth around my cock.
Mogo: First you have to kill me.
Drogo: I already have.
Greatjon Umber (to Robb): I’ll not sit here and swallow insults from a boy so green he pisses grass.
Osha: I tried telling your brother, he’s marching the wrong way. All these swords, they should be going north.
Shagga: If the half man betrays us, Shagga son of Dolf, will cut off his manhood…
Tyrion: …and feed it to the goats, yes.
Tywin (to Tyrion): The rumors of your demise were unfounded.
Tyrion: Sorry to disappoint you.
Tyrion (making introductions): And here we have Bronn, son of…
Bronn: …you wouldn’t know him.
Tyrion: We have our differences, Jaime and I. He’s braver. I’m better looking.
Tyrion (to Tywin, about Robb): The boy does have a certain belligerence. You’d like him.
Robb’s message to Tywin (given to the Lannister scout): 20,000 Northeners marching south to find out if he really does shit gold.