Previously on Game of Thrones: Ned got his Hand job back, and finally figured out that Cersei’s been sleeping with her brother. Tyrion won his freedom through trial by combat, but it’s probably not enough to prevent an all-out war between the Starks and Lannisters. Viserys finally got his crown—molten, and poured over his head. I don’t think he’ll be too missed.
In a magnificent encampment somewhere, Lannister Senior, played by Charles Dance, aka Lord Stockbridge, is gutting and skinning a deer while Jaime reads aloud the order for Senior to return to court and answer for Clegane’s crimes. Senior tells Jaime he was stupid to attack Ned, and even stupider to leave Ned alive. He does, however, give Jaime 30,000 men to go attack Cate and free Tyrion. So, hang on a minute, they don’t know that Tyrion’s already been freed? Communcation in this world is confusing to me: Robb Stark knew about the attack on his father, like, a day after it happened, but the Lannisters still haven’t received any kind of raven or whatever telling them that Tyrion’s on his way home? It seems like the first thing Tyrion would do. This seems really inconsistent to me.
Anyway, Senior says they need to do this to prove their family’s still one to be feared, all the while meticulously skinning that deer. We’re getting our blood and guts good and early, this episode. He wipes his hands and urges Jaime to step up and become the man he was always meant to be. Then he goes back to his skinning.
Cersei meets with Ned in the palace gardens, and he wastes no time telling her he knows she’s sleeping with Jaime, and that all her kids are his. She confesses to it pretty readily, defending herself by reminding him that the Targaryens wed their siblings for hundreds of years to keep bloodlines pure. Oh, yeah, and that’s a family you really want to emulate. Wasn’t the last king called “the Mad King” for a reason? She veers sharply into squickville by reminding Ned that she and Jaime share more than a name—they once shared a womb, and they’re meant to be together. I don’t think that’s how it’s supposed to work, Cersei. A womb is not a biological e-Harmony. Ned thinks she’s always hated Robert, but she says she loved him and was excited to marry him, but reality hits hard, and on their wedding night he called her Leanna, and that was the end of that love story. Ned tells her he’s going to spill the beans as soon as Robert gets back from his hunting trip, and she’d better be gone by then, along with the kids. Oh, Ned, you idiot. You know she’s already had a hand in killing the last guy who had your job and found this secret out, and now you’re giving her a timeline. What makes you think she won’t kill you too? Are you not going to eat or drink anything until Robert gets back? It doesn’t seem like Cersei’s going anywhere.
At one of his whorehouses, Petyr watches Roz and another prostitute engage in some lesbian action. Ok, is it me, or is this show starting to really feel like endless fetish fuel? We keep getting girl-on-girl action, gratuitous sex and nudity and blood and guts. It almost never serves any kind of purpose in the plot, either, it’s just there. Like Roz flashing her nether regions at Theon last week—what purpose did that serve? None. It’s like it was just another wink at the fanboys or something, whereas I just find it sleezy.
Petyr scolds the girls for not doing well, and then starts coaching them (see? If this isn’t an audience stand-in moment for the guys out there, I don’t know what is!). One other thing: if Roz is already in the capital, that means it’s been weeks since we saw her last. Remember how it took the court over a month to get to Winterfell? Which means it’s also, presumably, been weeks since Tyrion was released, and his family doesn’t know that he’s safe yet? Where is he? Is he walking home? The hell is going on here? Roz invites Petyr to join them, but he won’t, because he’s holding out for Cate, who he’s been in love with forever. But she, sadly, was in love with Ned’s brother, who dueled with Petyr and won, and then got himself killed before the wedding could take place, so she married Ned instead. Just in case that’s ever important. It’s hard to focus on it, because the whole time the two girls are getting it on and that’s just distracting and kind of stupid and pointless.
Up in Winterfell, Tonks is spreading straw around somewhere and being told by Theon that she’s lucky to still be alive, because where he comes from, they drown people like her. Nice. They get into a chat about social niceties (such as referring to him as “my lord”). She gives him a bit of lip, and he gets annoyed and amused, calling her an impudent wench. For a little while, it looks like he might have found a Roz replacement (though perhaps not a willing one), but fortunately Luwin shows up and tells him to back off, because she’s their guest. That’s a nice way of referring to someone who’s chained. He sends Theon on his way and warns her he might not be nearby the next time that happens. She says she’s used to way worse than Theon. Luwin smiles at her spirit and gently asks why she came to Winterfell. She says she meant to go as far south as she could go, before the long winter sets in, because there are terrible things that hunt at night that are waking up and coming out again.
The Wall. It feels like it’s been a while. Jon and Sam are up on the top, and Sam’s talking about how much he misses seeing girls around. Jon’s not listening, though, because he notices a horse galloping back, riderless. He and Sam hurry below and reach the ground as the horse gets back. It’s Benjen’s horse, naturally, and it’s really, really freaked out. Jon asks the Night’s Watch leader, Mormont (uh, isn’t that Jorah’s last name?), where his uncle is, like he thinks this guy is psychic, or something.
In King’s Landing, Ned’s pacing the halls when Renly finds him and tells him Robert’s been pretty badly injured during the hunt. Ned runs to the king’s room, where Robert’s weakly telling Joffrey he should have done a better job of being a dad, but oh well, too late now. He sends Joffrey away and tells Ned it was his own fault he got hurt, because he drank too much and missed the boar he was aiming for, and the animal gored him. But he still killed it, and he wants the boar served at his funeral feast. Seems both creepy and oddly fitting, that. Robert sends everyone else away, despite Cersei’s near protests, and has Ned write up his last will, which names Ned as regent until Joffrey comes of age. Interestingly, Ned leaves Joffrey’s name out of it and just writes “my rightful heir” instead. Robert also gives Daenerys a reprieve.
Ned goes to fetch some painkillers and hears from a downcast Ser Barristan that they tried to get Robert to call it a day, but he wouldn’t, even though he was totally drunk by then. Varys asks who kept giving him the wine and Barristan says it was the king’s squire, that Lannister kid he’s always abusing. Hmm. Ned takes a second to mull that over, then tells Varys that they need to recall any plans to kill Daenerys. Varys says the horse is out of the barn on that one, and she’s probably already dead.
Oh, but she’s not. She’s braiding her husband’s hair and speaking with him in fluent Dothraki about possibly retaking the Iron Throne. He’s not interested in crossing the sea, so she flirts with him a little bit. She’ll talk him around, you wait.
Later, she, Jorah, and a couple of slaves and guards are strolling through the marketplace. She asks Jorah if he can speak to Drogo, but Jorah tells her to be patient before he peels off to go see if a merchant has letters for him. She offers to go with him, but he urges her to just enjoy the marketplace. Because he’s playing both sides, remember.
A young boy intercepts Jorah and tells him “the spider” sends greetings, congratulations, and a royal pardon. Well done, Jorah! It’s been a good day. I can’t remember who “the spider” is, I’m afraid, and the HBO site isn’t helping me out here. Sorry.
Elsewhere in the marketplace, Daenerys finds a wine merchant and asks, in the language of the Seven Kingdoms, to let her taste the summer wine. Jorah watches the exchange from afar, but close enough to overhear one of the slaves tell the merchant who Daenerys really is. The merchant suddenly tosses out the wine he was going to give Daenerys and goes for something else. Yeah, not suspicious at all. Jorah joins them and orders the merchant to pour a cup from the cask he’s giving Daenerys. The merchant tries to wriggle out of it, but now Daenerys is suspicious, and she orders the man to do as Jorah says. He pulls a cup, and Jorah tells the merchant he should drink first, because the guy’s getting all squirrely. Worst. Assassin. Ever. The merchant makes a break for it, but one of the guys with Daenerys is that Dothraki guy who’s so handy with a lasso. He’s captured. Really, guys? Poisoned wine? That was your big plan to get rid of Daenerys? Haven’t you ever seen one of these shows before? The poison never gets to the intended victim.
On The Wall, Jon and the other new recruits are graduating. Jon’s not all that happy about it, because he’s more concerned about his uncle. Sam tries to comfort him and exposits that he’s going to be a steward instead of a Ranger. Wow, that’s pretty cushy, actually. Nicely done, Sam. Mormont asks if anyone there keeps the old gods, because they get to take their vows at some tree a mile north. Jon says he does, and Sam volunteers to go with him, since the new gods haven’t ever done him any good anyhow. So, it’s a road trip! But there’s some bad news to come: Mormont starts handing out assignments, and instead of being named a ranger, Jon’s going to be a steward. The guy who was training them smiles meanly at him as his face falls. Nice move, moron trainer: take your best leader and fighter and put him where he’ll be utterly useless out of spite. That’s the way to keep the kingdom safe! The stewards are handed over to the blind guy who was telling Tyrion how understaffed the Wall is a few episodes back, and he hands out their assignments. Jon’s going to be personal steward to Mormont. He’s basically going to be Mormont’s maid. Jon’s not cool with that at all, but there’s nothing he can do about it now. He stalks off and then throws a wobbler for Sam and one of the other guys about how unfair this is. The other guy gives him a lesson about fairness: he was a musician who got hit on by a lord, and the lord didn’t take his rejection well and he wound up on The Wall. Yes, yes, life is terribly unfair. He stomps off himself, and Sam rather smartly lays a few things out for Jon: he’ll be working for Mormont, yes, but he’ll be very closely involved with him, and he might be able to use that to his advantage. Sam thinks Mormont wants to groom Jon for command. I kinda doubt that—I’m fairly sure the commanders come from the Rangers. Jon pouts that he always wanted to be a Ranger, and Sam shrugs that he always wanted to be a wizard. But that’s life, you know.
Ned is, once again, wandering the halls of the Red Keep when Renly finds him and confirms Ned’s been named Protector of the Realm. He immediately throws his lot in with Ned, offers him 100 men, and urges him to get Joffrey away from his mother before she ruins him. Too late, Renly. Ned asks where Renly’s older brother, Stannis, falls in all of this and Renly tells him not to think about that, because they’ve got other matters to focus on. He points out that Stannis inspires no loyalty, and he’s not a king, but Renly could be. Come again? Are you talking about killing Joffrey off, now? Because unless Ned comes out with his (basically unsubstantiated) news about Joffrey being Jaime’s kid, not Robert’s, that’s the only way one of Robert’s brothers gets the throne. Ned’s not ok with this plan at all and tells Renly that Stannis is a commander and a warrior. Renly points out that good soldiers don’t necessarily make good kings, but Ned’s still not on board and refuses to go killing kids.
He dispatches one of his men with a message for Stannis, just as Petyr arrives for a little chat. Petyr too knows about Ned’s impending promotion. Ned immediately tells him that Robert’s sons are really Jaime’s, so Stannis will be in once Robert dies. Petyr tells Ned that, actually, it would be wiser to allow Joffrey to succeed so Ned can rule in his stead. In the intervening years, they can marry Sansa to Joffrey, release Tyrion, and make peace between the Starks and Lannisters. Oh, and kill off Stannis. Then, if Joffrey turns out to be a pain, they’ll just reveal his secret and put Renly on the throne. And Petyr’s happy to help Ned carry all these burdens—for a modest fee. Ned is not ok with making peace with people who tried to kill his son, he’s fine with having an all-out war between Starks and Lannisters. He only asked for Petyr to meet with him so he could ask for more guards and soldiers to overcome the queen’s guard. Petyr tells him he’s inviting chaos, and when that comes, the only one anybody will listen to is the man with the purse strings: him.
Jon and Sam head out with a few other guys to go talk to the old gods at a creepy tree that appears to have a face weeping tears of blood. Charming. They recite their vows in unison, and with that, they’re men of the Night’s Watch. They embrace each other, and the three men who accompanied them. Jon’s direwolf then emerges from the woods, hoping to play a game of fetch with a man’s arm. Lovely!
In Dothrakitown, the wine merchant’s all bloodied and tied up. Daenerys and Jorah take in the sight and talk about how endangered her life is, and always will be. Drogo joins them, asks Daenerys if she’s ok, and sweetly kisses her on the forehead before thanking Jorah for intervening and pledging to invade the Seven Kingdoms and take back the throne for his wife and son.
So, the Dothraki get back on the road, dragging the merchant, bound and naked, with them.
In King’s Landing, one of the stewards or servants or whatever finds Ned and tells him Joffrey and the Queen Regent are waiting for him in the throne room. And Robert’s dead, by the way. Ned finds Petyr, who tells him the city guard is all his. Renly, however, is not—he’s fled the city. The two men, along with Varys, enter the throne room with a whole mess of guards, and find Joffrey sitting on the big, ugly throne, his mother at his side. Joffrey starts firing off orders for his coronation to be planned, and says he’ll be accepting oaths of fealty from his councilors. Ned calls on Barristan and hands over a scroll. Barriston reports that it’s got Robert’s seal on it. It’s Robert’s last will, declaring Ned regent. Cersei asks to see it, then tears it up. Barriston’s shocked and tells her those are the king’s words, but she shortly says they have a new king now. She orders Ned to bow to her son, and she’ll let him go back to Winterfell and live. Ned reminds her that Joffrey has no right to sit on the throne, so Cersei orders Barristan to arrest Ned. Barristan’s reluctant to do so, and even more reluctant once he realizes that all the soldiers lining the throne room are answering to Ned now. Ned tells them to take the queen and her kids into custody and return them to their rooms. But then one of the soldiers supposedly on Ned’s side attacks one of Ned’s actual men, the Hound throws himself into the melee, and Petyr grabs Ned and puts a knife to his throat, reminding him that he once warned Ned not to trust him. Well, then. Didn’t see that one coming.