Previously on Game of Thrones: Daenerys got some sex tips from her slave and started making her marriage work; Ned and his daughters headed south with the king and court, and Prince Joffrey proved himself to be a sniveling little jerk. Cate realized the Lannisters were behind Bran’s big fall and headed out to King’s Landing to tell Ned.
The royal entourage, now two direwolves short, arrives at King’s Landing and rolls up to the fairytale castle, where Stark dismounts and is immediately asked to attend a meeting of the high council. Ned tells the nanny to get the girls settled in, ignores the suggestion he change into something fancier, and heads inside.
Ned is shown into the throne room, where Jaime’s waiting to engage in an extended pissing contest during which Stark kind of accuses Jaime of being a coward and Jaime gets in a low blow by remembering the day Ned’s father and older brother were killed—burned by the mad king (a Targaryen, the father of Daenerys and Viserys—see how it all comes together?) who was later killed and replaced with Robert. Once they’ve gotten the dick measuring out of the way, Ned continues on to the council meeting.
He’s greeted first by Varys, who’s the Master of Whisperers, whatever that means. Verys says he’s terribly sorry about the troubles they ran into on the trip south, and they’re all praying for Joffrey’s full recovery. “Shame you didn’t pray for the butcher’s son,” Ned says shortly before moving on to embrace Renly Baratheon, Master of Laws and brother of Robert, who’s obviously an old buddy of Ned’s. Lord Petyr Baelish comes slithering in next. He’s Master of Coin and played by Aiden Gillian, who always seems to play a creepy bastard in period films and shows. He makes it clear in seconds that he’s got some sort of past with Cate, Ned’s wife. Seems he even fought a duel over her, with Ned’s late brother. Before yet another pissing contest can commence, Grand Maester Pycelle hands over the Hand’s symbol (a round medal with a hand on it) and calls the meeting to order. The only order of business is a tournament the king wants to hold to celebrate the new Hand, which carries with it some expensive prizes and leads to a discussion of how incredibly deeply in debt the crown is (to the Lannisters primarily, it seems). Ned’s shocked, though I don’t see why. Robert’s a crap king—I haven’t seen any evidence to the contrary. And all he does is party–of course he’s spent this country into bankruptcy. Ned plans to speak to Robert and try to persuade him not to hold this stupid tournament they totally can’t afford.
Joffrey’s having his wounds tended by his mother, who tells him a king should have scars (just as I said) and that he’s a hero for fighting off a direwolf. Joffrey says he did no such thing, he sat there and cried like a baby, and now he hates Sansa because she saw that. He asks his mummy if he really has to marry Sansa and Cersei tells him he does, but it’ll be ok, because he can do whatever he wants once he’s king and only see Sansa when he needs to.
Joffrey muses that his father allows the northerners too much power and freedom, and now they consider themselves the equals fo the royal family. Cersei asks how he would handle the situation and Joffrey says he’d double their taxes and require them ot provide soldiers for a standing royal army. Yeah, that wouldn’t forment rebellion at all. Stupid little prig. Cersei guesses that’s exactly what would happen and asks her son how he’d manage a rebellion. Joffrey assumes he’d crush them and install someone loyal at Winterfell. Cersei points out that the northerners are too loyal to their local lord for that to work, and the north is too big and too wild to be held by an outsider. He needs to know when to act, and when to save his strength. They do both agree that the Starks are their enemies now.
In their rooms, Sansa and Arya are eating. Well, Sansa’s eating. Arya’s really, really annoyingly hammering the table with her knife. The nanny tells her to lay off, but she doesn’t, because she’s a little pain in the ass, and Arya angrily says she’s practicing to stab Joffrey. Really smart to go around saying that in the castle, kid. Sansa calls her sister an idiot and Arya shoots right back that Sansa’s a liar, and if she’d told the truth than the butcher’s boy would still be alive.
Ned comes in and asks what’s going on. The nurse says Arya’s being a pain, so he sends her to her room, then hands Sansa a present, clearly trying to bring his sad, wolfless daughter around. Unfortunately, he gives her a doll, which is a totally inappropriate gift for someone her age. Poor dads, it’s hard for them to get it right with preteen daughters. Sansa tightly informs him she hasn’t played with dolls since she was eight, and then excuses herself. Ned lets her go and tells the nanny that war is easier than daughters. I’d believe it. It’s much more straightforward, at least.
Ned goes to see Arya, who’s got her little sword out. He examines it, recognizes the Winterfell blacksmith’s work, and asks her were she got it. She remains mum, so he goes stern and tells her it’s not a toy and girls shouldn’t be playing with swords anyway. Arya angrily says she wasn’t playing, and she doesn’t really want to be a lady anyway. Ned sits down with her and asks her who she was planning on skewering, her sister? Arya gets sad and says she was trying to learn how to fight, so she asked the butcher’s boy to fight with her, so it’s her fault he’s dead. Ned embraces her and says that’s not true. She’s a spitfire of a kid, and starts raging about how she hates all of them, king, queen, Joffrey, and Sansa. Ned reminds her that Sansa was put in an impossible position, so Arya shouldn’t blame her. They start talking about the coming winter—from what I understand, in this world, seasons drag on for years, so Arya’s never seen a winter. Ned tells her that, with the winter bearing down, they have to protect themselves and look after each other. He admits that the court’s a dangerous place, and they can’t be fighting amongst themselves. He hands her back the sword (she’s named it Needle, in case you’re interested), and warns her not to stab her sister with it.
Bran lays in bed, accompanied by an elderly nurse, who tells him a scary story, at his request, about how awful the last winter was, when there was no sun for years and children were smothered by their mothers, who couldn’t bear to see them starve. And the White Walkers came too. Robb arrives and sends her away so he can spend some time with his little brother. He gently asks Bran if he remembers anything about the day he fell yet, but he doesn’t. He’s clearly been asked this before. Bran’s more concerned with the fact that he’s paralyzed from the waist down. He tells his brother he’d rather be dead.
Cate and her guard arrive at King’s Landing through a back gate and are greeted by two knights who have been instructed to escort her into the city. She’s pissed but has no choice but to go with them. They take her to a fancy brothel, where Petyr greets her familiarly as “Cat.” She greets him with a whole lot of riteous indignation that he’d see fit to bring her to such a place. He apologizes and reassures her that nobody would find her there. She asks how he knew she was coming to the city. Apparently Varys told him, and Varys himself is there to greet her. He asks if she brought the daggar that was almost used on Bran and she produces it. He doesn’t recognize it but Petyr does. It used to be his, but he lost it in a bet to Tyrion Lannister. Well, well, the plot thickens!
Speaking of Tyrion—he’s up at the wall, watching Jon training new recruits, and kicking their asses one by one. I’m pretty sure he’s bored by his opponents, but it’s pretty clear they’re not at all the same social class as he, so chances are they haven’t spent all their time training in swordfighting as Jon has. Tyrion chats with the man in charge as they watch, and the man hands over a message that was sent for Jon, presumably carrying news of Bran.
King’s Landing. Pycelle catches up with Ned and hands over a message of his own. Ned unrolls it and reads it as Peytr strolls in and suggests Ned share it with his wife. Ned’s understandably confused, but he goes with Peytr to the brothel where Cate’s hiding out, and nearly strangles Peytr to death for stashing his wife there. Fortunately Cate calls out from an upper floor and Ned leaves his rival and goes in to see her. Peytr rolls his eyes at the quick-tempered Starks.
At The Wall, Jon gets cornered in the armory by his humiliated opponents, who gang up on him and threaten to throw him off The Wall. Fortunately, Tyrion comes in just then, takes a good look at everyone there, threatens to have them all killed, and namedrops his sister, the queen, so the guys let Jon go and start putting their gear away. Jon moans a bit about how everybody knew how crappy it was up on The Wall, but nobody told him. Uh, I seem to recall Benjy trying to talk you out of going, Jon. Tyrion counters this by telling Jon about the unfortunate lives of his attackers, who were all abandoned or arrested for stealing because they were starving, so their lives have sucked from the get-go, and it would do Jon some good to remember that they haven’t been trained for years the way he has. He hands over the message about Bran and leaves Jon to his thoughts.
Whorehouse Hideout. Peytr tells the Starks that even suggesting the queen’s brother tried to kill their kid would be treason. Really? Just a brother? He’s not even of royal blood! Cate says the knife is their proof but Peytr points out that Tyrion could just say it was stolen or lost or something. Cate turns to Ned and tells him that Peytr has promised to help them, and that he’s like a little brother to her (ouch!) and would never betray her trust. I don’t quite believe that, but we’ll see. Peytr promises to help keep Ned alive, for Cate’s sake.
Jaime arrives in Cersei’s room, where she immediately lays into him over his attempted murder of Bran. Jaime tells her to relax, and anyway, it’s a little late to be bitching about this now. He asks what Bran said and Cersei reports that he doesn’t remember anything. Jaime rolls his eyes and asks what she’s raving about, then. She worries that the memories might come back and Jaime, and I, shrug and say they’ll just claim he was lying, or making it up, or was confused from the head injury he sustained. She still worries that Robert might find out, and Jaime reassures her that if Bran talks, he’ll go ahead and kill him, and Ned, and Robert, and anyone else who needs to get killed.
Ned sees his wife off and promises to bring any proof of the Lannisters’ guilt before Robert, if he manages to find any. He warns her to be careful on the road, and they have a sweet moment before they kiss and she sets off.
Robert’s drinking and reminiscing, because that’s pretty much all he’s good at. He talks about first kills with Barristan Selmy, commander of the Kingsguard. As you can imagine, they’re not pleasant stories. Robert’s first was pretty grisly. He seems to be in a crappy mood and starts picking on the young page, who’s a Lannister, like everyone else in this damn castle. Robert sends the kid away and calls in Jaime, complaining about how many Lannisters there are around the place. Robert asks Jaime when his first kill was. It came when he was only 16. Impressive. Robert asks him about Targaryen’s death (which came at Jaime’s hands), but there’s not much more to say about that.
The Dothraki are on the move, as usual. Daenerys is riding beside Jorah and talking about Dothraki commerce (they don’t believe in money, but they get a lot of slaves given to them as gifts from cities that don’t want to be sacked). Daenerys watches a Dothraki beating one of the slaves for no reason, then tells Jorah to order them to stop until she says otherwise. He admiringly notes she’s starting to talk like a queen. “Not a queen, a khaleesi,” she says before dismounting and walking off through what looks like a bamboo forest lining the road they’re on. She reaches a clearing and takes a moment to breathe, but then Viserys comes galloping in, jumps off his horse, sword unsheathed, and starts screaming at her for issuing orders to him. He puts the sword to her throat, but then one of the Dothraki warriors finds them and yanks Viserys away from her with a whip around his throat. Niiice. The warrior asks if she wants him to kill Viserys and Daenerys tells him she doesn’t, so he lets Viserys go. Viserys chokes for air and then orders Jorah to kill the man who attacked him. Jorah ignores him and invites Daenerys to return to the rest of the tribe. A female servant helps her mount her horse. Still sputtering and pissy, Viserys goes to mount his own horse, but the warrior tells him he’s walking. Hee!
Jon, all wrapped up against the bitter cold, navigates a series of stairs and catwalks and a primitive elevator until he finds Benjy, way up top. They embrace and Jon looks over the side of the massive wall in wonder for a while. Benjy tells John he’s leaving that morning to patrol the area, because there have been disturbing reports. Jon offers to go along, but Benjy tells him to stay put. He hasn’t earned the right to go out yet.
Tyrion and one of the Wall commanders are drinking and sharing stories of Fear Factor-esque meals. For the record, bear balls are a bit chewy. Good to know. They talk about the recruits, most of whom are criminals, though some are young men looking for steady employment. Man, the economic situation in Westros must be seriously bleak if guys are going up to The Wall just to have something to do. Benjy comes in and gets annoyed, thinking Tyrion’s making fun of the Rangers. He gets all depressing, talking about how half his recruits will die, just so lords like Tyrion can sleep secure down south. Tyrion tells Benjy he has a lot of admiration for the Night’s Watch and he doesn’t know why Benjy’s being so touchy, but he doesn’t believe there are White Walkers or any of those other dangerous things on the other side of The Wall, which means the Rangers are fairly useless. Benjy tells him he doesn’t know anything, having never been on the other side of The Wall. He bids his fellow Night Watchman a good trip south (he’s going to collect new recruits) and leaves. Tyrion’s glad to hear he’ll have some company heading down to King’s Landing.
Daenerys is practicing her Dothraki with her slave, while said slave braids her hair, and then feels her up. Daenerys asks what she’s doing, and the girl tells her her body’s changing, because she’s obviously pregnant. Daenerys looks surprised, but not upset by this realization. Guess her relationship with the Khal has really improved.
In a hut, Jorah is schooling the warrior who attacked Viserys on various weapons, like curved swords and armor. They talk about their fathers, who were both warriors themselves, and in Jorah’s case, his father still is. Daenerys’s slave comes in and tells the men that Daenerys wants to eat something different that night, like rabbit or duck. The warrior tells her there aren’t any, so she informs him that Daenerys is pregnant and needs her duck. Jorah looks far less pleased by this news than Daenerys did, but he offers to have someone butcher a goat for her. The slave leaves, and Jorah heads out, saying he needs to go…somewhere I didn’t catch.
On The Wall, Jon’s training with the boys again, but this time he’s actually giving them pointers and helping them improve. Tyrion looks on, approvingly. He heads back inside, where a blind man played by Peter Vaughn (who’s in everything, so I’m not even going to bother with his Top Hat Rating) starts talking about the coming winter, and it’s going to be a long, dark, bitter one. The man sitting with him says the Rangers have been catching lots of Wildlings lately, and hearing reports of the White Walkers. Peter Vaughn worries about what’ll happen, because the Rangers are spread thin and there aren’t enough of them and they aren’t equipped. He and the Ranger Leader ask Tyrion to speak to his sister and see if she can persuade the king.
Daenerys and Khal Drogo are cuddling together in their tent. In Dothraki, she tells him the baby’s a boy. He asks how she knows, and she says she just does. They seem really blissful and sweet together. Amazing what good sex can do for a relationship.
Tyrion finally gets to pee off The Wall, just as he said he would. Jon’s standing nearby, and once Tyrion finishes, Jon says he’s sorry to see Tyrion leave. Jon asks him to tell Bran he misses him, if Tyrion stops by Winterfell on the way home. Tyrion promises to do so. They shake hands and Tyrion heads back down from the top of The Wall.
In King’s Landing, Arya, dressed in trousers, arrives for a fencing lesson. Her teacher, who has a pretty flamboyant Inigo Montoya-like accent, scolds her for being late, and tosses her a wooden sword, which she fails to catch,. This is going to be a rough one, Inigo. She picks it up and complains it’s too heavy. He tells her it’ll make her strong and corrects her stance and grip. Lessons commence, and she sucks, naturally, but she quickly starts to get better, and she’s clearly enjoying herself. Ned comes to the door ande looks on, smiling proudly. Aww, good dad! But then, watching his daughter fight, he starts to look a little tense, remembering battles past, and probably anticipating more to come.