A new location at the start, The Twins, where the bridge Robb needs to cross is located. Robb has 20,000 troops and he told the Lannister scout they captured last episode that he’s heading south to do battle with Tywin. But to get there, he needs permission from Walder Frey who controls The Twins.
The episode opens and all you see is black. It doesn’t take long to realize, we’re in the dungeon and this is all Ned Stark sees as well. Then there is a light and a voice; Varys has come to visit with him again. He tells Ned that Sansa came to court today to plead for his life. Ned asks if Varys laughed with the others and Varys can honestly say that he did not. Varys says that does not want Ned to die, and at least I believe him. Ned is nonplussed, he has no idea what Varys wants. Varys admits he could help Ned escape, but he won’t. He’s no hero. As to what he wants, Varys wants peace.
Varys tells Ned that Robb is coming south to try and save him. Meanwhile, the late King’s brother, and true heir, Lord Stannis, is marching to King’s Landing to take the throne. This all adds up to war and Varys does not believe that is not good for Westeros. Varys wants Ned to serve the realm and the only way he can do that is to confess his treason, tell Robb to withdraw his army and proclaim Joffrey the King. Give the Lannisters what they want and they will let you live out your days serving the Night’s Watch. You can serve alongside your brother and your bastard son, Varys tells him.
Oh, were that it was so simple. But Ned doesn’t care about sparing his life, it means nothing to him. His honor is worth more to him than taking another breath. He’s a soldier, he says, and he “learned to die a long time ago.” But Varys cuts through his armor: “What of your daughter’s life, my Lord? Is that a precious thing to you?” He leaves and Ned has to ponder that question.
Outside of The Twins, Robb’s men are shooting down ravens, worried that Lord Frey will send the Lannisters word of Robb’s movements. He may be a bannerman for the Tullys, but they don’t trust Walder Frey. But, they need to cross his bridge. Theon tells Robb to march up and take it, they have the numbers. But Greatjon says there isn’t time. Catelyn tells them that for 600 years the Freys have held the bridge and exacted their toll for crossing it. Robb plans to go into the castle and ask Frey for permission, but his men think that would be a suicide mission.
His mother has an idea. She’s known Frey since she was a girl and he would never harm her (Greatjon is dubious, but doesn’t get a vote). She will go and ask for permission. We meet Frey and he’s just a cuddly ole thing, isn’t he? Seriously, this guy is so creepily nasty Lord Voldemort would tell him he needs to chill. He mentions to Catelyn that her father, Lord Tully has not shown up to his past three or four weddings (he’s had more marriages than all 17 seasons of the Bachelor), a slight that has not gone unnoticed (although at this point, how many more panini presses could he need). In fact, he’s well aware that her father looks down on the Freys – he wouldn’t even marry off any of their children to his (for this, Catelyn must be eternally grateful).
Catelyn presses on, after trying to deflect his criticism of her family. She’s come to ask a favor – that he allow her son and his army to cross the bridge. Why should he? She tells him Robb has 20,000 men, but he just scoffs and says they’d be 20,000 corpses when Lord Tywin got there. She tells him he pledged an oath to her father, he scoffs some more and says, “I said some words.” For all he cares, all these families can kill each other. What’s in it for him?
At Castle Black, Lord Commander Mormont has a present for his hero, Jon (who injured his hand when he threw the lamp at the wight and killed him last episode). It’s called Longclaw, and its a longsword with a new pommel in the shape of a wolf. It was Jeor’s fathers sword, made of Valyrian steel. He has no son to give it to, now that Jorah (who’s off with Dany) has been exiled from the kingdom. It’s poetic, the bastard son who inherits nothing getting something that was due another man’s son. The Night’s Watch is his family now. Jon doesn’t have to worry about Alliser Thorne for a bit, adds Mormont. He’s been sent down to King’s Landing with the wight’s hand – for a little “we have some serious shit going on up here” show and tell for the King.
Everyone at the Castle heard about the surprise gift and they’re all congratulating Jon and his buddies all want to see it. But Sam is sitting by himself and Jon can tell something is troubling him. Spill it, Sam! One of the perks of his job is he reads rmail sent to Maester Aemon. He read about Robb’s army and he tells Jon everything he know. Robb’s marching south, he has his bannermen’s support, and he’s heading for a war with the Lannisters. Jon says he should be with his brother.
Catelyn comes back from her meeting with Walder Frey. Apparently all his gruffness and sneering was his bargaining pose. He didn’t say no. He’s going to let her have what she wants and more – Robb will get most of his army – but only if he gets what he wants, and he has a long list. As Catelyn goes through the items, it gets worse and worse, until she answers the last of Robb’s “and?’s.” Robb has to take one of his lovely daughters off his hands. Robb is less than thrilled with the deal, but he is the leader and he has to do what must be done (Theon is not helping, by cracking up at this news).
We see Robb’s men cross the bridge, some traveling along the water, some peeling off to the left.
Jon has been summoned by Maester Aemon. The Maester asks him if he knows why the men of the Night’s Watch take no wives and father no children. He says, it’s so that they will not love. “Love is the death of duty.” It’s pretty obvious to everyone that Sam told Aemon he’s worried that Jon will desert to go fight by his brother and Aemon is here to talk him out of it. He asks Jon what he thinks his father, Lord Stark, would do if he had to choose between honor and those he love. Jon, who idolizes Ned, says his father would do whatever is right. But Maester Aemon doubts this, “most men are not so strong.” Finally, he gets to the point. Jon, you love your brother Robb and your father, and you probably want to run off and help them. But your duty is here at the Wall.
Jon gets pretty PO’d. He tells the old man, you don’t know anything about how I feel. How many teenagers have had this exact exchange with some old person, convinced that whatever they are experiencing has never been experienced before? And how many times does the old guy just happen to have a story that makes it clear we’re not that different? So Maester Aemon tells Jon a story, how he had received his own raven not that many years ago, telling him that his family was killed, his house ruined. Unlike Jon, he wasn’t young and strong, but already old, frail and blind when he got the news. He read how they had killed his brother’s son, and his son, and the children….
Suddenly, Jon has a moment of clarity and asks the old man, “Who are you?” And as he goes through his lineage, we find out that he is Aemon Targaryen, he was the uncle to the Mad King. He will not tell Jon what to do, that choice is up to Jon. But once made, it will live with Jon for the rest of his days. Is it just me, or did that not make it any easier for Jon to decide?
Maester Aemon’s last surviving relative, Daenerys Targaryen, is crossing the desert when her sun and stars slips from his horse. He is weak and his wound is not healing. As he lays on the ground, one of his men, Qotho, says that a Khal who cannot ride is no Khal. Dany quickly comes up with an excuse, they have to stop the caravan because she’s about to give birth. She calls for Mirri, the healer who worked on Drogo after his injury.
Back at camp Lannister, their scout has returned with the intel on Robb’s troop movement. Tyrion joins the discussion and his father tells him that he and his mountain men will be leading the vanguard. Tyrion looks shocked, then amused, then furious as he blurts out, “surely there are ways to have me killed that would be less detrimental to the war effort.” His father cuts off further discussion, and Tyrion storms off. Sounds like a typical Thanksgiving dinner at every house in America.
Back in his tent, Tyrion finds Bronn waiting there with a whore that he “took” from Ser — “What’s his name.” The less you ask Bronn, the better. Tyrion tells Bronn the news, that they’ll be leading the charge in the morning. Bronn decides he better find himself some company for what may be their last night.
Tyrion starts talking to the girl, and she’s a spunky one. She says her name is Shae and she has an exotic accent. She asks Tyrion what he wants from her. He’s remarkably prepared for this question. “I want you to share my tent. I want you to pour my wine, laugh at my jokes, rub my legs when they’re sore after a day’s ride. I want you to take no other man to bed for as long as we’re together. And I want you to fuck me like it’s my last night in this world – which it may well be.” Whoa, dude, give a girl some space! But Shae is smart. She asks what she gets in return for all that. Safety, the pleasure of his company, and more gold than she could spend if she lived a thousand years. Should have led with the last one. Off come the clothes!
Drogo is getting worse. Jorah tells Dany that he won’t last the night, but she can’t accept that. Jorah warns Dany that they should leave before Drogo dies, because once he’s dead there will be a struggle for power and she will lose. But she will not run. She is Khaleesi and her unborn child will be the next Khal. Jorah explains that, unlike Westeros, they don’t honor bloodlines here, only strength (well, bloodlines aren’t the only thing that carries the day in Westeros either as Joffrey is proving). The next Khal will kill her child rather than give up power.
Mirri, the healer, comes in, followed by Qotho. Mirri states the obvious, the wound has festered. Qotho is still angry that Dany is letting this “witch” tend to Drogo and demands she stay away, but Dany wants her there (despite the fact that so far nothing she’s done has helped). He threatens Dany what will happen to her if Drogo dies. He tells her she is nothing without him, but Dany will have none of that sass. She is a Targaryen, blood of the dragon. He’s not scared, all the dragons are gone he says as he leaves. Dany and Jorah make plans to prepare for a fight.
Mirri says there’s nothing she can do but ease his pain. Dany will not accept this, there must be something she can do – some… magic? That gets Mirri’s attention. You want magic? Sure, but it’ll cost you. Only death pays for life. Dany asks “Whose death?” but Mirri skirts the issue. She asks for Drogo’s horse. It goes, reluctantly, into the tent (do horses have a sixth sense?). Even Rakharo tries to talk Dany out of this; blood magic is forbidden. But the ritual commences. Mirri kills the horse, blood spurts everywhere. Dany leaves and outside we hear strange, inhuman sounds coming from the tent. Jorah asks, what have you done, and we’re all wondering that. Qotho has heard enough, he heads into the tent to kill the witch and stop the magic, but Jorah defends Dany.
But Qotho had struck Dany and thrown her to the ground, and that has induced labor. The baby is coming and someone suggests the witch deliver the baby (what could possibly go wrong there) since the midwives might be afraid of getting near Dany with all the blood magic going on. Jorah carries Dany into the tent where the blood sacrifice, magic, demonic shrieking and other supernatural stuff is going on. But that was the only place approved by her HMO, so she didn’t have much choice.
Shae and Tyrion are playing a game (who can hold their hand over the fire longer) and he’s losing. Time for a new game. Tyrion will make a statement about Shae and Bronn, if he’s right, they have to take a drink, if he’s wrong, he has to take a drink. Tyrion’s guesses about Bronn are right, but every one of his about Shae is wrong and he’s about to pass out from all the alcohol. He’s convinced she’s lying because he fancies himself a great judge of people. Shae turns the table on Tyrion and asks him about the woman that he loved. Bronn had heard that Tyrion had been married (the Lannister soldiers are such gossips).
So Tyrion (since he’s many sheets to the wind at this point) tells the story of his lost love. He tells the story how he met a girl when he was 16, he thought she was being attacked and he came to her rescue as Jaime hunted down her attackers. Her name was Tysha and they spent the night and in the morning he asked for her hand. They were wed immediately and they lived happily ever after, until the septon who performed the marriage told Tyrion’s father Tywin about the nuptials about two weeks later. That’s when Tyrion discovered the truth. The whole thing had been a prank. Jaime had hired the girl, a whore, made up the whole scenario, because the thought it was time Tyrion got laid. After Jaime fessed up, Tywin gave the girl to his guards, paying her a silver for each guard. His father forced him to watch. She was rolling in silver by the time she was done. Bronn said Tyrion should have killed his father, Shae said Tyrion shouldn’t have been so gullible, and then she starts kissing him and you wonder. Is he still being gullible around women?
The next morning, Tyrion and Shae are still asleep in bed when Bronn bursts in. “You’re sleeping through the war.” The Stark army is near, about a mile away. Tyrion suits up and heads off to war. Though he’s called the Imp, you don’t often notice his height because of the force of his presence. But as they gird for battle, Tyrion suddenly seems very small and literally in over his head. Bronn tells him to “stay low.” If he’s lucky, no one will notice him. Tyrion: “I was born lucky.”
Tyrion calls together the tribesmen of the Vale and gives a great pre-fight pep talk. He addresses each particular group – stone crows, black ears, burned men, moon brothers (and, someone adds, painted dogs!) – your dominion over the Vale begins now! They are all riled up and start chanting “Half man!” They charge off to battle, but Tyrion won’t be on the front lines as he is knocked out by one of his own men. When he wakes, they have won. The tribesmen fought well, but the scouts were wrong, Robb wasn’t coming towards them with 20,000 men, in fact he didn’t go that way at all. He sent ahead just 2,000 of his bannermen (so that’s why Robb let the Lannister scout go with that message!). So if Robb wasn’t here, where was he?
Catelyn and Rodrik are waiting and then they see Robb and his army coming towards them. They had gone to Riverrun to take on Jaime Lannister and they were victorious. Not only has Jaime’s army been defeated (at what is now called the Battle of the Whispering Wood), but Jaime the Kingslayer has been captured!! Catelyn wants Jaime to give her back her daughters whom she believes are both still in the Lannisters’ control (she doesn’t know Arya is on the run) and give her Ned back. But Jaime claims he cannot do this.
Theon wants Jaime’s head, but Catelyn suggests he be locked up instead. Jaime, one of the most gifted swordsmen in all the realm, offers Robb a solution. Let’s battle it out right here, right now. But Robb realizes he can’t beat Jaime that way, so that will not be how this is finished. After Jaime is taken away, Robb addresses his men. 2,000 of his men were just sacrificed for the cause. They may have won this war against Jaime Lannister, but Ned is still in prison, his sisters are still with the Lannisters, Joffrey is still on the throne, so the battle is not over.
Arya is still in the city, but looks like a street orphan rather than a lady of Winterfell. She’s trying to get some food, when she is drawn to the Great Sept of the Baelor (the center of religious worship in the city) where the Hand of the King is being taken. King Joffrey is holding court and her father Ned is being brought before him to answer for his treason. She runs to see him, climbing up on the statue of Baelor for whom the sept is named. Her father spots her as he’s brought into the square. He passes by Yoren from the Night’s Watch and has just a moment to utter “Baelor.” Luckily, Yoren understands, looks over at the statue and sees Arya.
Ned stands before the crowd, his daughter Sansa is standing next to Cersei and the King. She smiles at him as he starts to do what he has to do to save her life. Ned is answering the question that Varys posed to him in the dungeon. “What of your daughter’s life. Is that a precious thing to you?” Ned the honorable, the duty-bound, says, “I come before you to confess my treason in the sight of gods and men.” He says what Cersei wants to hear. He betrayed Robert, he plotted to kill Joffrey and seize the throne for himself. Shouts of “Traitor!” can be heard, and some from the assembled masses hurl things at Ned. He goes on, lying to save his daughters. “Joffrey Baratheon is the one true heir of the Iron Throne.” Joffrey is gleeful in victory and his mother can barely hide her own joy. Even Sansa looks pleased.
Grand Maester Pycelle speaks about how the gods can be both just and merciful, then turns to Joffrey for his ruling. Joffrey tells us that his mother wants him to spare Ned Stark’s life, have him sent to the Night’s Watch, stripped of all rights and powers, to live out his days defending the realm in exile. And he says that his dear Sansa has begged for mercy for her father. So you’re ready for him to use this to explain why he’s being kind. But he will not listen to these soft-hearted women. “So long as I’m your king, treason shall never go unpunished. Ser Ilyn. Bring me his head!” Both Sansa and Cersei scream, trying to stop him. But Joffrey has made up his evil little mind.
From here time seems to speed up. Sansa is hysterical, Arya is devastated and Cersei is pissed. Even Varys runs over and tries to talk with the King. Meanwhile, Ilyn Paine, the royal executioner, can not get his black hood on fast enough. Ned is put down, his head lowered. Arya is running towards him, when Yoren grabs her. He tells her not to look, not to say anything and keep her eyes on him. Ned looks around, he’s looking for Arya but she’s not at the statue any more. He bows his head and we hear the sound the sword makes as it slices through and it’s all over. Arya opens her eyes and sees birds flying away in the sky. She’s holding tight to Yoren and closes her eyes again. The end.
That was one of the most shocking moments in any show I’ve ever seen. The hero isn’t supposed to die, certainly not the first season! Someone swoops in and saves the day at the eleventh hour. But that’s not the world of GoT. Ned sacrificed his honor for his family and ended up with neither. The good man dies an admitted traitor. Sansa was betrayed by the man she’s supposed to marry and she’s not the only one. Joffrey, a psychotic manchild, wields immense unrestrained power. Cersei thinks she’s in charge but she cannot control her son. Robb thinks he has a bargaining chip (Jaime Lannister) that he can use to save his father, but his father is already dead. And Arya is about as alone as a person can get. Tough episode.
Varys: I am the Master of Whisperers. My role is to be sly, obsequious and without scruples. I’m a good actor my Lord.
Greatjon Umber: Expect nothing of Walder Frey and you’ll never be surprised.
Tyrion: Shagga likes axes.
Tyrion: Let’s play a new game.
Bronn: There’s a Bravoosi knife game I could teach you —
Tyrion: Does it involve the potential for losing fingers?
Bronn: Not if you win.
Tyrion (to Bronn): You once loved a woman many years ago, but it turned out badly so you’ve never let yourself love again. Oh wait, that’s me.
Tyrion (to Shae): Your turn, my mysterious foreign beauty.
Shae: I don’t want to play.
Tyrion: It’s fun. Look at the fun we’re having.
Tyrion: Impossible as it seems, there was a time when I was unaccustomed to wine.
Bronn (after hearing Tyrion’s story): I would have killed the man who did that to me.
Shae (to Tyrion): You sould have known she was a whore. A girl who was almost raped doesn’t invite another man into her bed two hours later.
Tyrion: As I said, I was young and stupid.
Shae: You’re still young and stupid.
Tyrion (to Bronn): Did we win?
Bronn: We wouldn’t be having this conversation if we didn’t