Old Nan: Oh, my sweet summer child, what do you know about fear? Fear is for the winter, when the snows fall a hundred feet deep. Fear is for the long night, when the sun hides for years, and children are born and live and die all in darkness. That is the time for fear, my little lord, when the White Walkers move through the woods... Thousands of years ago, there came a night that lasted a generation. Kings froze to death in their castles, same as the shepherds in their huts, and women smothered their babies rather than see them starve, and wept, and felt their tears freeze on their cheeks. So is this the sort of story that you like?
We have entered that Wretched Hive
we call a capitol: King's Landing
. After a month of travel, the new King's Hand, Eddard Stark, has arrived. Almost before he can jump down off his horse, he's been summoned to a meeting of the "small council
," consisting of King Robert's most trusted ministers: Grand Maester of The Citadel Pycelle
; Master of Laws Renly Baratheon
, Robert's youngest brother; Master of Coin Petyr Baelish
, called "Littlefinger
"; and Master of Whisperers Varys the eunuch
. Normally present but away on business today are Ser Barristan Selmy
, called "the Bold
", Lord Commander of the Kingsguard
; and Master of Ships, Stannis Baratheon
, the middle of the Baratheon brothers. (He will not appear this season
, so you can put him from your mind as well.) And of course Robert should be there, but he rarely attends these meetings, so the Hand of the King tends to chair them.
Before then, though, Ned makes a stop at the throne room, where Ser Jaime Lannister is chilling out. He derides Ned's new fortunes with a colloquial saying about his new post: "The King shits, the Hand wipes." They then go on to a furiously-subtext-laden conversation:
Ned: "Very handsome armor. Not a scratch on it." note
Jaime: "I know. People have been swinging at me for years, but they always seem to miss. note
Ned: "You've chosen your opponents wisely, then." note
Jaime: "I have a knack for it." note
Jaime also brings up the deaths of Ned's father Rickard and older brother Brandon, which happened right here in this throne room, at the orders of the Mad King. From the sounds of it, it wasn't pleasant
. Jaime tries to suggest that the Mad King's horrific treatment of the elder Starks justified Jaime killing him later, but Ned isn't buying it. He finally leaves Jaime in the throne room with some food for thought and gets to the small-council meeting. He greets Lord Varys politely, and his best friend's younger brother with some warmth; finally we get to Littlefinger, who presents an Info Dump
about being an Unlucky Childhood Friend
to Catelyn Tully, even fighting a duel against her fiance Brandon Stark for her. He comes across as rather creepy
Finally we get down to business. Robert has ordered the holding of a tournament in honor of Ned's appointment as Hand of the King, with eighty thousand gold dragons in prize purses. These may be difficult to arrange, as, according to Littlefinger, the crown is six million dragons in debt. (Robert is not the sort of man who cares about red numbers on his bank statements.) Ned decides to put off planning the tourney until he's had a chance to (try to) dissuade Robert from the idea, but the other councilors are clearly not sanguine on his chances.
Cersei tends the wounds Joffrey picked up last episode. Joffrey thinks the scars are ugly; Cersei thinks a king should have scars, to mark him as a warrior. When Joffrey points out that he's not
a warrior, Cersei gives him a lesson in editing reality
: when Aerys Targaryen was on the throne, Joffrey's father was a scoundrel and a traitor, but when Robert became King, he was a noble rebel
. After a meandering conversation on statecraft, they come to one conclusion: "The Starks are
our enemies." Cersei agrees, with a brittle smile: "Everyone who isn't us is the enemy."
Arya and Sansa squabble at the dinner table, and Arya is sent to her room for daydreaming about stabbing Prince Joffrey. Ned tries to make amends with Sansa by giving her a doll, but Sansa is still deeply depressed over Lady's death. Besides, "I haven't played with dolls since I was eight." Ned, grumbling ("War was easier than daughters"), goes to see Arya, and finds her playing with Needle. Arya is mad at Sansa for lying, but mostly because that's easier than admitting her own feelings of guilt over Mycah's death. Ned points out that Sansa, as Joffrey's betrothed, must stand by him even when he is wrong, and Arya not unreasonably asks him why Sansa should marry Joffrey at all. Ned doesn't really know how to answer that, so he concentrates on the weapon: "If you're going to own a sword, you'd better know how to use it."
, Bran is awake, but he's paralyzed from the waist down, can't remember the events that led to his injury, and is largely despondent. His nurse tells him a scary story about the White Walkers, who ride on dead horses and hunt with spiders as big as hounds, and about winter, which Bran has never experienced, but it's interrupted when Robb comes in to visit him. Bran confirms that he doesn't remember why he fell, and that he'll never walk again. "I'd rather be dead," he decides, and again when Robb protests: "I'd rather be dead.
Catelyn and Ser Rodrik Cassel have arrived in King's Landing
. They sneak in through a back way to avoid detection... but are immediately found by some mounted guards, who "ask" them to follow quietly. They arrive in a brothel, where Littlefinger and Varys are waiting for them. Catelyn is furious about the locale, but Littlefinger points out that this is the last place anyone is likely to search for a Catelyn Stark. Varys knows about the dagger, but cannot identify it. Littlefinger can: it used to be his, until he lost it betting on the Kingslayer to win a joust with the Knight of the Flowers
. Its new owner? Tyrion Lannister.
Speaking of the Imp, he's up at the Wall
, watching Jon be trained by Castle Black's master-at-arms, Ser Alliser Thorne. It's not very good training, consisting mostly of Thorne telling other recruits to spar with Jon, and Jon wiping the floor with them
. Jon wins an ironic nickname, "Lord Snow
," while Tyrion trades quips with the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, Jeor Mormont, called "the Old Bear," about Ser Alliser's (lack of) efficacy as a trainer. Mormont also mentions that a raven arrived for Jon from Winterfell that morning.
In King's Landing
, Ned has received the same message, and Littlefinger, happening by, asks if he'd like to share the news with his wife. When Ned realizes they are heading to a brothel, he manhandles Littlefinger, suspecting a not-too-veiled insult; luckily, Catelyn manages to intervene in time.
At the Wall
, Jon finds himself cornered in the armory by several of his fellow recruits — Pyp, Grenn and Rast. They seem quite prepared to beat the snow out of him when Tyrion happens to wander in. He convinces the others to back up with a few not too subtle threats, and then takes Jon down a peg too: "It's a lucky thing none of them were trained by a master-at-arms like your Ser Rodrik. I don't imagine any of them have ever held
a real sword before they came here." And, as Jon starts to mull over his "victories," Tyrion drops the finishing stroke: the letter from Winterfell. "Your brother Bran: he's woken up."
Back, in King's Landing
Ned, Catelyn and Littlefinger plan their strategy, with Littlefinger offering Ned his assistance in finding proof about Tyrion's assassination plot, whilst Cersei frets to Jaime about Bran's recovery. Jaime is not concerned about Bran—"I think we can outfox a ten-year-old"—or about Robert either: "I'll go to war with him if I have to. They can write a ballad about us! The War for Cersei's Cunt." (Cersei herself is singularly unamused
.) Ned and Catelyn share a tender farewell before she returns to the north. And King Robert has a discussion with first Ser Barristan and then Jaime about first times. It sounds like something else until Barristan mentions a lance through the heart, at which point we figure out that they're talking about their first kills. We're also introduced to Lancel Lannister, a squire in Robert's employ and cousin to Jaime and Cersei, whose primary duty seems to be providing Robert with wine and being a general Butt Monkey
. "Who named you, some halfwit with a stutter?" Jaime, who is standing guard outside, is invited into the conversation, and claims his first kill as one of the outlaws of the Kingswood Brotherhood. (This creates an instant bonding session with Ser Barristan, who fought in the same action.) When asked about King Aerys's last words, Jaime relates that they were the same ones he'd been repeating for a while: "Burn them all." The mood kind of dies after that.
Khal Drogo's khalasar travels the Dothraki sea
, which is an endless plain of grasses, and Daenerys listens to an Info Dump
from Ser Jorah. After she gets bored, she commands the entire khalasar to stop so that she can experience the serenity of the plain undisturbed. But disturbance is what she gets: Viserys comes crashing through the greenery, furious over Dany giving orders to the khalasar—and, by proxy, him. It looks like he's about to do something violent when, out of nowhere, Rakharo and his whip show up and yank him to the ground. Rakharo suggests taking an ear for insolence, but Daenerys, translating through her handmaid Irri, orders that her brother not be harmed. (Rakharo does a Double Take
. Irri's expression suggests she doesn't get it either.) Once Viserys can breathe, he screams for Mormont to kill his attackers... but Mormont looks to his khaleesi
, not his king, for instructions. As a final humiliation, Rakharo takes Viserys's horse.note
Jon Snow takes a lift up to the Wall
(yes, they have a lift) to meet with his uncle Benjen and look off the top for the first time. Benjen, the First Ranger of the Night's Watch, is to ride out and investigate disturbing reports from the wildlings. Jon, of course, wants to go, but it is the First Ranger he is speaking to, not his uncle, and Jon has not even taken his vows yet. Down at the bottom of the hall, Tyrion is making friends with Yoren, a recruiter who scours the Seven Kingdoms for willing candidates (and not-so-willing criminals); his next trip will be to King's Landing. Benjen wanders in and takes offense at Tyrion's jovial treatment of the Watch. Tyrion explains that, while he believes the wildlings to be as dangerous as the next man, he doesn't think that the White Walkers actually exist. He and Benjen Agree to Disagree
, more or less, and and Tyrion makes plans to accompany Yoren on his pilgrimage south, finding his company congenial.
At Dothraki sea
, Daenerys finds out that she is pregnant. The Dothraki call it "a blessing from the Great Stallion," and Dany and Drogo seem very happy together canoodling in bed
, but when Ser Jorah hears about it, he interrupts a debate with Rakharo (over whether Armor Is Useless
, and whether the increased protection is worth the decrease in agility) to ride to Qohor. Hmm, that's not mysterious at all
In the yard at Castle Black
, Jon is sparring with Grenn and Pyp again. But this time, he's teaching them, not just beating their asses into the ground. Tyrion observes him with approval, and then returns to a conversation with Lord Commander Mormont and Castle Black's maester, an old blind man named Aemon. Aemon reports that the days are getting shorter, and Mormont that wildlings are fleeing south of the Wall, claiming they've seen the White Walkers. Both are concerned for the future: if the Night's Watch is to repel the White Walkers, they're going to need more than a thousand members, and those members will need to be more than young criminals and old exiles. They beg Tyrion to plead their case in court. Finally, Tyrion says his farewell to Jon, who asks him to give Bran his love. Thus freighted with the hopes and dreams of the Night's Watch, Tyrion Lannister departs for Winterfell and King's Landing.
The final scene of the episode concerns Arya, who arrives at the dining hall of the Tower of the Hand
to find an eccentric man with a vaguely Italian accent and two wooden swords. He calls himself her "dancing master, Syrio Forel," and begins to tutor her in the ways of "water dancing." "Nine years Syrio Forel was First Sword to the Sealord of Braavos, he knows these things." "This is not the iron dance of the Westeros we are learning, the knight's dance. Hacking
!" He is a Large Ham
to end all Large Hams, but nobody holds it against him
. "This is the Braavos dance, the water dance. It is swift... and sudden. All men are made of water, do you know this? If you pierce them, the water leaks out and they die.
"Now you will try to strike me." As Arya charges in time and time again, getting nowhere with her Flynning
but clearly having the time of her life, Ned steps in to watch. But as the wasters clack again and again, the smile slides from his face, and the thump of wood is overtaken by the sounds of swords, and screams, and war.
Tropes featured in this episode include:
- Adaptational Attractiveness: Averted with Renly Baratheon. The character on the show is a good-looking guy, but the actor playing him is not an Adonis like his book counterpart.
- The Alcoholic: Robert sure does love his wine.
- Alliterative Name
- Apathetic Citizens: Jaime mentions some.
Ned: You just stood there and watched.
Jaime: Five hundred men just stood there and watched. All the great knights of the Seven Kingdoms, you think anyone said a word, lifted a finger? No, Lord Stark. Five hundred men, and this room was silent as a crypt. Except for the screams, of course.
- Armor Is Useless: Jorah and Rakharo debate the issue.
- Armor-Piercing Question: Arya asks her father how she can let Sansa marry someone like Joffrey. Ned Stark can't think of an answer.
- Audible Sharpness: When Arya draws Needle from its scabbard, then with wooden swords during Arya's first lesson; justified, as Ned is flashing back to the war he fought in and imagining his daughter in combat while he watches.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Tyrion explains why (see What the Hell, Hero?).
- Babies Make Everything Better: Daenerys and Drogo are very happy to learn that she's pregnant.
- Breather Episode: No White Walkers, no child murdering, no doggy-style, no direwolf maulings... it even ends on a relatively positive note, if you ignore Ned's flashback.
- Brick Joke: Tryion does take that piss off the Wall.
- Brown Eyes: Unlike his book counterpart, Renly on the show has brown eyes, and he's considerably more sensible and stable than either of his brothers.
- Call Forward: The "War for Cersei's Cunt" scene is taken straight from the third book, A Storm of Swords. The scene appears as a flashback in the third book though, as Jaime's viewpoint didn't appear until that book.
- Captain Obvious
Lancel: It's empty, your Grace.
Robert: What do you mean, it's empty?
Lancel: There's no more wine.
- Cool Teacher: Syrio Forel. Just so.
- Country Matters: Especially notable, as it's the first time people who haven't read the books learn Cersei's name!
- Deadpan Snarker:
- Jaime. "I'll go to war with him if I have to. They can write a ballad about us! The War for Cersei's Cunt."
- Also Tyrion. "What's the strangest thing you've ever eaten?" "Do Dornish girls count?"
- Littlefinger doesn't even need anyone to talk to: "Ah, the Starks. Quick tempers... slow minds."
- Dedication: To Margaret John, the actress who played Old Nan, who died before the show began airing (this was the first episode she appeared in).
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: Ser Alliser Thorne.
- Dynamic Entry: Rakharo emerges from offscreen after strangling Viserys with his whip.
- Famous Last Words: Apparently the Mad King's was "Burn them all." Jaime also gets in a Deadpan Snarker line earlier when he reveals that the outlaw he decapitated for his first kill didn't say much.
- Fish out of Water: Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister at the Wall; Tyrion realizes the reality faster than Jon, despite being the one who hasn't pledged his life to it. There's also the Starks in King's Landing.
- Genre Blindness: Robert doesn't mind that somebody nicknamed 'Kingslayer' is guarding his chambers. True, he got to power thanks to this man's act, but still.
- Glory Days: Robert reminisces about his first kill, but ends remembering that the boy died pointlessly because his House surrendered not long after. Jaime Lannister and Barristan Selmy also talk about the wars of their youth.
- Good News, Bad News: Good news; Bran's awake! Bad news; he's crippled.
- Flynning: The fencing lesson is typical Hollywood choreography.
- Foreshadowing: When Jorah hears Danys is pregnant, he suddenly declares he's got to ride off. We find out why in the next episode.
- From a Certain Point of View: Cersei teaches Joffrey to reframe events to show him in a more favorable light.
- Funny Foreigner: Syrio Forel, who has an awesome accent and odd syntax at times. He's apparently from Braavos.
- God Help Us All: "When winter comes, gods help us all."
- Happily Married: Catelyn and Ned, more obviously in this episode. Daenerys and Drogo seem to be getting there too.
- Held Gaze: Between Cersei and Jaime, but it is quickly subverted as instead of them kissing he grabs her by the waist after they have stared into each other's eyes for several minutes. The trope is played straight when Ned and Catelyn say goodbye to each other; they hold each other's gazes and then kiss before Catelyn leaves.
- Hot-Blooded: Despite being a generally reserved man, Ned loses his temper very quickly when he thinks Littlefinger is trying to trick him. As Littlefinger says, "Ah, the Starks. Quick tempers—slow minds."
- Incoming Ham: In the final scene we meet Syrio Forel, Arya's sword fighting, er, dancing instructor. He's glorious.
- In the Back: "Tell me—if I'd stabbed the Mad King in the belly instead of the back, would you admire me more?"
- Insistent Terminology: Syrio Forel pointedly calls Arya a boy several times, making the point that her sword is all that matters of her identity during their lessons.
- Kill It with Fire: A favorite method of the Mad King. It's mentioned that his last words were, "Burn them all."
- No Dead Body Poops: Lampshaded by King Robert when he says they always leave that bit out of the songs.
- No Pregger Sex: Averted with Drogo and Daenerys, who were last seen in bed together shortly after the announcement.
- Not So Stoic: Ned slam-chokes Petyr one-handed when he thinks Petyr is insulting him by taking him to a brothel to meet his wife.
- Off Hand Backhand: Syrio effortlessly blocks or dodges all of Arya's strikes.
- Old Master: "Nine years, Syrio Forel was First Sword to the Sealord of Braavos. He knows these things!"
- Replacement Goldfish: It's a custom in Westeros that if you cannot fulfill an Arranged Marriage contract, a family member must stand in your stead. This is how Eddard ended up married to his older brother's fiancee.
- The Spymaster: Lord Varys.
- Sympathy for the Hero: Jaime praises the bravery of Ned's father and brother, and seems sincere when he says they deserved a better fate.
- Tempting Fate: Cat is saying that no-one in Kings Landing knows who she is when she's approached by two of the city watch who greet her by name.
- Took a Level in Badass: Episode 3 marks a turning point in Daenerys' personality, since it is the first time we see her openly stand up to Viserys and put him on the receiving end of abuse for once.
- Unholy Matrimony: Jaime and Cersei are unpleasant people, but very much in love with each other.
- Unusual Euphemism:
- Water dancing, for sword fighting in the Braavos style, though it makes more sense once it is explained:
"All men are made of water, do you know this? If you pierce them, the water leaks out and they die."
- It may also refer to the smooth and flowing movements that characterize the Water Dancing style, contrasted with the harder and heavier movements of "the knight's dance" (as Syrio calls it).
- Also 'dancing master' for Ayra's swordfighting instructor, which maintains the fiction that she's being taught arts more appropriate for a noblewoman.
- Villainous Breakdown / Who Dares?: Viserys is unhappy over being ordered about by his sister; when her guards put him in his place, he devolves into a foamy-mouthed lunatic very quickly.
- Waif-Fu: Ned Stark arranges for his daughter to learn a swordfighting technique more suited to her thin blade and small frame.
Remember child, this is not the dance of the Westeros we are learning. The knights dance... Hacking! And hammering!
This is the Braavos dance, the water dance. It is swift...and sudden.
- Wham Line: "Tyrion Lannister. The Imp."
- What the Hell, Hero?: Tyrion delivers a relatively gentle one to Jon Snow, pointing out that none of the boys on the Wall have ever had a master-at-arms like Ser Rodrik to teach them, and few had ever even held a sword before.
- Whip It Good: Daenerys' bodyguard, Rakharo.
- Written by the Winners: Cersei's philosophy seems to be that rulers make their own reality.