Jaime: My dear brother, there are times you make me wonder what side you're on.
Tyrion: My dear brother, you wound me. You know how much I love my family.
We open with the same glorious credits... except that they've changed! Now, instead of showing Pentos, they show the Dothraki grasslands and Vaes Dothrak. We learn in the first scene that this is where Daenerys is now, travelling with her new husband and his tribe. Daenerys is having a bad day; she's tired, she's sick of eating dried horse meat, and she's so saddle sore that she needs the help of three maids just to get off her horse and walk to a tent. Jorah Mormont tells her that it will get easier, but Daenerys doesn't look like she's buying it. Jorah then takes Viserys aside to suggest he return to Pentos and wait in comfort for the Dothraki to return, but Viserys wants to personally ensure Khal Drogo holds up his end of the bargain. He also asks Jorah what happened in Westeros to make him flee across the Narrow Sea; turns out Jorah caught some poachers on his land and sold them to a slaver. Hang on, isn't he meant to be a good guy?
We return to Winterfell, to find Tyrion Lannister waking up in a kennel, very hungover and cuddling a dog. His nephew Joffrey is there with his bodyguard. Tyrion informs Joffrey that he will give his sympathies to the Starks before they leave. When Joffrey complains that he can't abide the wailing of women, Tyrion slaps him! Three times! And when Joffrey cries and attempts to protest, Tyrion outright orders him to go to the Starks and pay his proper respects to them.
Tyrion joins his siblings and Cersei's other children, Myrcella and Tommen, for breakfast. Myrcella asks if Bran is going to die, and Tyrion says apparently not. All signs suggest Bran will survive "falling" from that tower. Though Bran lingers in a coma, Improbable Infant Survival may be in play after all! (Cersei and Jaime look very uncomfortable about this.) Tyrion then announces he's going north to see the Wall before they go home. Jaime says he'd rather die cleanly than live as a cripple or a grotesque; Tyrion disagrees, naturally, and mentions that he'd be interested to hear what the boy might have to say.
Cersei visits Catelyn at Bran's bedside, and tells her about her first son, a little boy with black hair who died of a fever. Jaime, meanwhile, visits Winterfell's armory, where he finds Jon Snow helping to forge a sword. Jaime sarcastically thanks him for guarding them all from the perils beyond the Wall. "I'm sure it will be thrilling to serve with such an elite force. And if not, well, it's only for life." After the smith is finished, Jon goes to visit Arya, who is packing to leave Winterfell, helped by her pet wolf Nymeria. Jon tells her he has a present for her, and to close the door. He gives her the sword he had Mikken forge for her. It's small and skinny, just like Arya. "First lesson: stick them with the pointy end." Jon tells Arya that all the best swords have names and Arya names the sword Needle. She and Jon say their goodbyes, with Arya glomping Jon and Jon smiling as he hugs her back. Afterward, Jon goes to visit Bran. Catelyn's not happy to have him there, but allows him to speak to Bran. Jon tells the still-comatose Bran to come and visit him at the Wall when he's well. After a few minutes, Catelyn harshly throws him out. Outside, Jon and Robb share their farewell, hugging each other good-bye.
Ned and Jon say their goodbyes, as Ned leaves for King's Landing and Jon leaves for the Night's Watch with his uncle, Benjen Stark (First Ranger of the Night's Watch). As they share farewells, Ned tells Jon, "The Starks have manned the Wall for thousands of years and you are a Stark. You might not have my name but you have my blood." Ned promises Jon that the next time they see each other, they will talk about Jon's mother. The topic comes up again at lunch, with Ned and King Robert by the side of the road reminiscing about old times. Robert mentions that there's only been one woman who has made Ned Stark forget his honor. In between Robert dredging up names (mostly of women he's bedded; "Thank the gods for Bessie! And her tits!"), Ned names her "Wylla," but will not speak of her. Finally, Robert gets down to business: he's received a message updating him on Daenerys Targaryen's marital status. It ignites Robert's legendary hatred of the Targaryens, despite Ned reminding him that there's an ocean between Westeros and this hypothetical avenging Dothraki horde, and that the Dothraki have no fleet.
Speaking of Dothraki, in the grasslands Khal Drogo is still bending Daenerys over horsie-style every night. She doesn't look like she's having fun. But she seems to find solace in a fire-filled dream where flames crackle and dragons hiss...
On the journey to the Wall with Benjen, Jon and Tyrion discuss the falling standards of the Watch as nowadays, many of the Night's Watch brothers are criminals. As they discuss the Lannister history with the Targaryen and Baratheon regimes, young Jon is appropriately disenchanted with the Imp's observations of life: "Life is full of these little ironies" — the Lannisters served the previous king for years until Jaime Lannister killed him, then Cersei married the new king and now JerkAss Joffrey will be king after him. Tyrion says he, himself, would have been killed because he was born a dwarf but survived because he was born into the wealthiest family in all the Seven Kingdoms and, as a result, must use his mind for the honor of his house. He parallels this with Jon, who is an illegitimate son with nothing to inherit, but is set to forge his own path and earn his own honour by joining the ancient order of the Night's Watch. Jon argues that joining the Watch is a noble aim as the Wall defends the realm but Tyrion dismisses this. Jon takes a stiff drink of wine after their campfire conversation.
In Winterfell, Catelyn continues her vigil over sleeping Bran, explicitly neglecting her duties as the Lady of Winterfell and causing Robb to step up in her stead. Robb gives her the first paragraph of a "What the Hell, Hero??" speech, but is derailed by a fire elsewhere in the castle. He rushes away, leaving the window open for the howls of the direwolves to be heard. While he's gone, a creepy-looking man appears into the room with a wickedly-curved blade and almost literally announces his intention to slit Bran's throat. Catelyn fights him with every weapon at her disposal, but it's Bran's direwolf who saves the day (direwolf + assassin aimed at direwolf's master = dead assassin). The direwolf snuggles up to his bedded master once the douche is bled out; d'awwww!
Back on the Dothraki Sea, Dany's three handmaids (Irri, Jhiqui and Doreah) fuss over her scrapes and bruises. They trade stories about where dragons come from; most of them believe them to be extinct. ("It is known.") Daenerys finds out that Doreah is a bed slave and is trained in the arts of pleasure. Dany asks her to teach her how to seduce Khal Drogo. Fanservice and Les Yay ensue.
Back in Winterfell, Catelyn, with her hands bandaged, visits the tower from whence Bran fell. She finds a single blonde hair. She then calls a council in the godswood at Winterfell (of herself, Ser Rodrik Cassel, Maester Luwin, Robb and Theon), and gives voice to her theory: Bran saw something he was not meant to see, warranting not only his Destination Defenestration but the clumsy assassination attempt as well. Ser Rodrik also points out that the dagger is too fine a weapon for a mere cutthroat: "The blade is Valyrian steel, the hilt dragonbone." Catelyn decides to ride for King's Landing with Rodrik Cassel, leaving Winterfell in the care of Robb and Bran's life in the care of the gods.
We briefly return to the Dothraki Sea, as Daenerys works up her gumption and manages to first fend off Khal Drogo and then seduce him. With the Marital Rape License abolished, the couple have a night of actual tender lovemaking with each other.
The king's procession has stopped for the night at The Inn at the Crossroads, and Sansa takes the opportunity to wander, her direwolf Lady at her heels. First she runs into Ser Ilyn Payne, the royal headsman, who has no lines because "the Mad King" had his tongue ripped out. Then she's trapped between him and The Hound, and it's hard to say who frightens her more. Prince Joffrey to the rescue! He takes her on a walk out to the river, where they come across two boys using sticks to play at swordfighting. Only, one of them's not a boy: it's Arya. Joffrey takes this opportunity to bully her opponent. His name is Mycah and he is the son of a butcher. He has a stick against Joffrey's real sword, which he uses to slice Mycah's face. When Arya whacks Joff on the back with her stick, he starts slicing at her instead. Once again, direwolves win the day: Nymeria comes out of nowhere and attaches herself to Joffrey's sword arm, teeth first. With Joffrey on the ground crying like a punk, Arya takes his sword and throws it into the river. Sansa tries to comfort the blubbering Joffrey, but he angrily tells her to go away. And while she goes for help, Arya flees into the forest.
It's past nightfall before Arya is found, and she's hauled directly before the queen. Joffrey has a very different version of events than Arya does, and Sansa is brought in as a tie-breaker. She refuses to corroborate either tale, leading Arya to grab her hair and shriek at her. (Cersei has the most awesome smirk.) King Robert is happy to let each child be disciplined by their father, but Cersei still wants blood, and demands that Nymeria be killed. Well, they don't have Nymeria... but they do have Lady. For once, Arya and Sansa agree on something, but Robert buckles before his wife's scorn. Cersei sends Ser Ilyn Payne, but Ned dismisses him and does it himself.
Outside, the Hound is returning from the hunt with the day's kill slung over his horse's back: Mycah, the butcher's boy. "You rode him down," Ned exclaims. "He ran," the Hound agrees. "But not very fast."
Ned attends his grisly duty, interspersed with shots of Bran in his bed at Winterfell. As one set of eyes close, the other set opens.
Tropes featured in this episode include:
- Adaptation Expansion: In the novel, Daenerys's "lesson" with Doreah in the art of seduction is mostly left to the reader's imagination, simply stating that Dany and Doreah sat talking until nightfall and not elaborating on just what it was that Doreah told her to do. Here, we see at least part of the lesson, which includes Doreah instructing Dany on the importance of maintaining eye contact during sex, being assertive with what she wants to do rather than allowing Drogo to dominate her, and to try a different sexual position that will allow for both of these things (as Drogo usually takes her "doggy style", Doreah instead introduces Dany to "cowgirl").
- Army of Thieves and Whores: Two rapists are added to the Night's Watch 'recruits'. Tyrion mentions they have a Sadistic Choice between gelding and the Wall, and many prefer the knife.
- Audible Sharpness: The assassin drawing his dagger.
- Almost Kiss: During her instruction in the art of lovemaking, Daenerys suddenly flips Doreah onto her back, starts to lean in...before panicking and backing off.
- Armor-Piercing Slap: Tryion slaps the future king, thrice! This is the start of a Running Gag.
- Bait-and-Switch Comment: Joffrey assures Arya that he won't hurt the butcher's boy. Much.
- Badass Boast:Ned: [Drogo and Daenarys' son] will not cross [the Narrow Sea]. And if by chance he does we'll toss him back into the sea.
- Bare-Handed Blade Block: Catelyn grabs the assassin's dagger with her hands. They get very bloody, but they do stop the blade from reaching her throat.
- Beneath the Mask: Joffrey shows his true colors; unfortunately Sansa refuses to see them.
- Big Damn Heroes: Bran's direwolf saves his life and his mothers, Nymeria saves Arya from Joffrey.
- Blatant LiesRobb: My mother?Jon: She was very kind.
- Joffrey claims that Arya and Mycah attacked him with clubs. When Sansa is called as an independent witness, she claims that as it all happened so fast she didn't see anything.
- Bond Creatures: Nymeria fetches clothing in its jaws for Arya when she's packing, but when she tries to order her direwolf around like a pet doing tricks, it just gives her a quizzical look. Summer and Nymeria also instinctively attack when their master is threatened.
- Brains and Brawn: Not having his brother's skill at arms, Tyrion has to train his mind instead in order to serve his House.
- Brutal Honesty: Both Lannister brothers (in their unique Jerkass way) try to discourage Jon Snow from joining the Night's Watch.
- Bully Hunter: Arya doesn't hesitate to go up against the future King of Westeros to stop him hurting a butcher's boy.
- Buxom Is Better: "Thank the Gods for Bessie! And her tits!"
- Catch Phrase: It is known that Dothraki women always say, "It is known."
- Chekhov's Gun: Cersei refers to the black-haired child she had with Robert.
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: Arya shows her concern for the small folk early, and attacks Joffrey to stop him from hurting her friend Mycah. Unfortunately this being Westeros, the whole thing ends with Arya in disgrace for striking the Crown Prince, and Joffrey and Cersei having Mycah killed anyway.
- Converse with the Unconscious: Jon to Bran before leaving to join the Nights Watch.
- Cool Sword: A plot point — the dagger used for the assassination is too expensive to be owned by a mere thug, so had to have been given by whoever hired him.
- Country Matters: The first instance in the series; uttered fittingly enough by Joffrey, towards Arya after she smacks him one.
- Death of a Child: Mycah, the butcher's boy, is rode down by the Hound for striking a member of the royal blood.
- Dirty Coward: Joffrey is a Smug Snake when he's threatening a butcher's boy armed with a stick, but resorts to pleading after Arya takes his sword off him and threatens him with it.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The assassin's dagger is Valyrian steel, which is later established to be absurdly sharp. Catelyn only comes away with a nasty gash. Had this happened later in the series, she'd have lost a finger or several more.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: In addition to his...relationship with his sister, it's shown that Jaime is one of the very few people who genuinely loves Tyrion.
- Foil: The differences between Sansa and Arya are particularly highlighted in this episode: Sansa goes on romantic walks with the Crown Prince while Arya prefers sparring with the butcher's boy; when Joffrey hurts Mycah, Sansa tries to negotiate with him while Arya attacks; and afterwards Sansa pretends she doesn't remember what happened because she doesn't want to displease the Queen and her betrothed while Arya vehemently insists that Joffrey is guilty of hurting her friend and refuses to back down.
- Sansa meets the Hound, and after ordering her direwolf killed, Robert tells Ned to get her a dog instead.
- The entire conversation between Robert and Ned about a) Jon Snow's mysteriously-unrevealed mother, b) Ned's unwillingness to talk about her, and c) Ned's visible fury and irritation at Robert's bloodthirsty threats against Daenerys (even if she is leagues away) get a proper Rewatch Bonus, about five seasons after, after what was revealed in "The Winds of Winter". Moreover, the subtext of the entire conversation (i.e. the origins of the Rebellion and Robert's life-long grudge against Rhaegar for taking Lyanna) gets an even more bitter and sadder subtext with the revelations of "The Dragon and the Wolf".
- Good People Have Good Sex: Dany's situation improves once she learns to make love to her husband as an equal.
- The Glomp: Arya to Jon before he departs for the Wall. Jon then gives a forehead kiss to an unconscious Bran.
- The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Sansa and Arya. A possible aversion as even when Arya is furious with Sansa over lying to Robert about what happened, she immediately backs her up when Cersei wants Lady killed. It doesn't do any good, but still...
- Harmful to Minors:
- Cersei indignantly removes her children when Tyrion starts getting crude, though they don't seem to mind.
- Doreah was sold to a pleasure house when she was nine, and started working three years later.
- Joffrey has no problem encouraging Sansa to drink, then trying to slice up her little sister.
- He Knows Too Much: Subverted in Bran, who is revealed to have survived his "fall" (though he is still in a coma.) And again when an assassin is sent after him as he sleeps, only to be repelled by Catelyn and Bran's wolf. After this, Catelyn correctly deduces that he was thrown because he saw something he shouldn't have.
- Held Gaze: Doreah instructs Daenerys on the importance of this in lovemaking (plus the need to get on top). When Drogo tries to forcibly push her onto hands and knees, she tells him in Dothraki that she wants to look at his face this time. They end up having sex while holding each other tight and staring intensely into each others eyes.
- Hot-Blooded: Arya, to disastrous effect.
- Homoerotic Subtext: Daenerys receives a lesson in seduction from her handmaid Doreah. It's, erm... hands-on, to say the least.
- Horrible Judge of Character: Ned and Sansa get hit hard with this regarding Joffrey and Arya's face off over the Trident incident. Sansa still views Joffrey as a Prince Charming—even after he's attacked a defenseless butcher's boy—and Cersei as a kindly queen, so doesn't admit that Joffrey is lying about what he did. Meanwhile Ned doesn't realize Cersei and Joffrey were never going to handle the event fairly, gets manipulated into them using his conflicted 13-year-old daughter as the "tie breaker" and goes along with executing her pet wolf. (And for bonus points is still going ahead with Sansa's betrothal even after witnessing Joffrey's true colours). It says something that the eleven-year-old of the family is the one who realizes how Obviously Evil the Queen and Crown Prince are, and serves as Foreshadowing for how Ned and Sansa will be manipulated at Kings Landing.
- Howling to the Night: Wolves can be heard as Jon travels further Oop North to the Wall. The Howl of Sorrow of the direwolves doesn't improve Catelyn's grief madness.
- I Call It "Vera": Jon tells Arya that all the best swords have names. Arya names hers Needle.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: When it starts to sink in what he's signed up for, Tyrion tosses Jon Snow his costrel. "Everything's better with some wine in the belly."
- Intertwined Fingers: Also recommended by Doreah (and as is often the case with this trope, used for Les Yay).
- Irony: Lampshaded by Tyrion when he notes that his brother killed the last king while his sister married the new one.
- I Was Beaten by a Girl: King Robert shows his contempt when Joffrey says that little Arya Stark disarmed him.
- Jump Scare: Sansa running into Ilyn Payne.
- Kick the Dog: Or rather cut the direwolf's throat.
- Kill the Cutie: Lady is the sweetest and most docile of the direwolves, and she's ordered to be executed by the end.
- Laser-Guided Karma: When Joffrey and Arya offer two different versions of their fight, Sansa refuses to corroborate Arya's truthful story—that Joffrey attacked Mycah first, and Arya & Nymeria defended him—instead choosing to lie that she doesn't remember what happened. As a result, Robert allows Cersei to have Arya's wolf killed...but because Nymeria is gone, Sansa's wolf is executed instead. You can see Sansa very quickly wishing she'd just been honest and backed her sister up.
- Mama Bear:
- Catelyn. She takes on an assassin sent for Bran armed with nothing but her bare hands, which are cut to ribbons by the knife he wields. Without the intervention of a direwolf she would have been screwed, but she was still incredibly brave.
- Cersei is an evil version. She's determined to get blood for the attack on her son, regardless of whether it's an innocent party or not.
- Man Bites Man: Lacking any other weapon, Catelyn uses her teeth to protect Bran.
- Meaningful Look:
- Tyrion takes note of the looks being exchanged between his siblings as he discusses whether Bran might wake up.
- Jorah notes the fearful look that Daenerys gives to Khal Drogo, and assures her that It Gets Easier.
- When Daenerys asks what Doreah means by finish a man, Doreah just gives a look and she quickly gets the point.
- Never Hurt an Innocent:
- Zigzagged with the assassin sent for the comatose Bran; he's visibly distressed when he realises his distraction failed, and an innocent woman is in the room with his target, but his target is an innocent child.
- The assassin tries to convince Catelyn that killing Bran would be a Mercy Kill, but it's not clear if the assassin convinced himself of that.
- Never Live It Down:
- In-universe example. Catelyn is a loving wife and mother, but she still feels the pain of Ned's old infidelity deeply and does not like him leaving with Robert again, since the first time Ned left 17 years prior, he had an affair, resulting in the conception of his illegitimate child Jon, and returned with Jon to Winterfell. Ned himself regrets hurting Catelyn with his infidelity.
- Though at the same time, the show removes Catelyn's own out of universe moment of this from the books, where she snaps at Jon that he should have been the one that fell.
- The show does however keep in Sansa's case of this (lying about what happened between Arya, Joffrey and Mycah) which some fans hold against her for a long time.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Arya strikes a prince (albeit to protect her friend Mycah) then her direwolf bites him, while Sansa doesn't admit that Joffrey was to blame for starting the fight. Which results in Nymeria having to flee and Lady getting killed in retaliation, leaving the Stark girls without their protection.
- No Animals Were Harmed: Lampshaded by GRRM on his not-a-blog, in which he recounts all the people who protested Sean Bean's treatment of Zanni, the dog who played Lady. He then goes on to mention that the actor who played Mycah was not harmed either, but nobody asked about him.
- Noble Wolf: Bran's wolf, who defends him as well as his mother from an assassin. Arya's wolf, Nymeria, who savages Joffrey when he threatens Arya with a sword. And Sansa's wolf, Lady, who is sweet-natured, patient, and obedient, and dead at the end of the episode because she stayed with her pack.
- Not Helping Your Case: When Sansa lies about what happened, Arya attacks her in a fury. Cersei gives a smug smile, as it backs her version of events that Arya was the guilty party.
- Oblivious Guilt Slinging: Viserys telling Jorah that under his reign he won't be punished for selling slaves. We later discover Jorah is deeply ashamed by this act.
- Oh, Crap!: Jon's reaction to seeing the Wall, where he's going to spend the rest of his life.
- Pet the Dog:
- Although she's also checking to see if Bran looks like he might wake up, Cersei takes the time to empathize with Catelyn, citing a time when she also lost a son.
- Robert tries to make Ned feel better about his infidelity.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Catelyn isn't happy about Jon's presence at Bran's bedside. "I want...you...to leave."
- Quizzical Tilt: Arya tries to order Nymeria around while packing, to which the direwolf merely tilts her head. "What, you want me to fetch your gloves?"
- Reasonable Authority Figure: King Robert tries to fill this role; when his son quarrels with Ned's daughter, he tries to get a third point of view from Sansa and points out that all children fight and that the matter of discipline should really be left up to the parents. Too bad he can't stand up to Cersei, and ends up ordering Sansa's innocent direwolf be killed just to shut her up.
- Revealing Cover-Up: Jaime Lannister may have gotten away with pushing Bran off the tower, had an assassin not botched the job of killing him and made it clear that someone wants him dead.
- Royal Brat: Joffrey is getting more and more slappable as the series progresses...
- Sexposition: At least Doreah has an excuse, given that sex is the subject of discussion.
- Shoo the Dog: Nymeria is reluctant to leave, so Arya is forced to throw rocks at her to drive her off.
- Smug Snake: Viserys shows a lot of these traits; he proclaims that Ser Jorah would not have been punished for selling to slavers under his rule, for example.
- Sound-Only Death: We just hear Lady squeal as Ned kills her with a dagger.
- The Speechless: Ilyn Payne, thanks to the Mad King having his tongue ripped out.
- Stealth Hi/Bye: Catelyn looks out the window at the fire, then turns to find a hooded stranger armed with a knife in the room.
- Talk to the Fist: Lampshaded when Robert says that Ned would have hit him for raising the uncomfortable subject of his past infidelity, if he weren't the King.
- Tell Me About My Mother: Jon wants to know if his mother is still alive, and cares about him. Ned promises to tell him all about his mother when they next meet.
- This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: Ned refuses to let the King's Justice kill Lady, killing the direwolf himself.
- That's an Order!: A silent version, after the King orders Lady killed.Ned Stark: Is this your command? [King Robert looks coldly at him] Your Grace? [Robert turns his back on Ned and walks out]
- Villains Out Shopping: Incestuous, murderous twins Cersei and Jaime are seen doing such awful things as having breakfast with their family, giving their condolences to a grieving mother, and offering some friendly advice to a boy aspiring to be a warrior.
- We Need a Distraction: The assassin sets fire to another building, drawing everyone away to fight the fire. Fortunately Catelyn refuses to leave Bran's side.
- Would Hurt a Child:
- Joffrey cuts Mycah's face, then takes wild swipes at Arya that would have killed her if she hadn't dodged his sword.
- The Hound returns with Mycah's body slung over his horse. "He ran. But not very fast."