This episode opens with a dream sequence starring Bran. We know it is a dream sequence because he is walking. He cruelly awakes to the world, still in bed crippled from his fall. He is summoned by Robb who sends Theon to take Bran downstairs because Winterfell has guests.
Tyrion Lannister has paid a visit to Winterfell and he gives Bran a specially designed saddle that will allow him to ride a horse. Robb thinks it is some kind of trick because he is as wise as his mother. Tyrion rejects his false hospitality and chooses the whorehouses of Winterfell instead for his quarters. Lady Catelyn’s absence is noted and, further, Tyrion mocks Theon’s ‘captivity’ at Winterfell and tells the audience about the great failure of the Iron Men’s rebellion against the Seven Kingdoms. This is why he is at Winterfell, because he is a hostage of the Starks.
Jon Snow has gone from outcast to instructor at the Wall. This episode introduces us to Samwell Tarly, a cowardly and easily scared largish fellow. He willingly takes a beating during training with his fellow Night’s Watch recruits without fighting back until Jon stops the cruelty. That Jon Snow’s fighting prowess is so much greater than that of his fellow Night’s Watch brothers is never made more clear than in Jon’s defense of Sam. He exhorts Sam to defend himself but it is not in Sam’s character.
Daenerys arrives at the great city of Vaes Dothrak, the Dothraki capital. Viserys is still as delusional and insane as ever. The Dothraki capital is a smattering of huts around a large mountain so it is not as impressive as King’s Landing but this could also be inferred from their culture as a wandering horde versus the fixed bureaucracies and cities of the Seven Kingdoms. Could the Dothraki even conquer the Seven Kingdoms? They are a nomadic people who travel about on horseback. Having never crossed the sea, and then not having experienced siege warfare, their conquest of the Seven Kingdoms might be difficult. Nonetheless, as discussed in the previous entry, this is the conceit upon which Viserys has built his plan for the reconquest of Westeros.
In a conversation between Viserys and Daenerys’ handmaiden we learn that the Targaryens no longer have dragons because all of them had died out long ago but they were the backbone of the Targaryen dynasty. Loss of the dragons likely precipitated their loss of power.
Sansa is at odds with her father and Ned is still resisting the festival to be held in honor of his being appointed the Hand of the King. Ned begins his investigation into the mysterious death of Jon Arryn and he finds out from the Maester that Jon had began reading a ‘ponderous tome’ about the lineages and physical descriptions of the noble houses of the Seven Kingdoms. Ned posits that poison killed Jon Arryn, and he and the Maester both agree that poison is a ‘woman’s weapon,’ narrowing the suspects to Cersei and Varys the eunuch. Continuing the misogyny line, Ned tells Arya that she shall be the great lady of a castle one day and that her children will be knights and lords. She tells him that is not her and he is genuinely surprised by this response and reveals that does not understand his youngest daughter, leading us to question Lord Stark’s situational awareness skills.
In a conversation between Jon and Sam we learn that Sam took the black because his father hated him and vowed to murder him during a hunt. His father would tell Sam’s mother that he died in an accident. Faced with this choice, he took the black and is now stationed on the Wall with Jon Snow and the rapists, thieves, and murderers conscripted to protect Westeros from all manner of evil. Lord Baelish helps Ned in his investigation and points him in the direction of a former squire of Jon Arryn’s recently-made Ser Hugh. Ser Hugh tells Ned’s messenger that Lord Stark can come and talk to him in person. Ned meets Gendry the blacksmith’s apprentice to try and puzzle out why Jon Arryn would have taken an interest in him. He puzzles out that this apprentice is the King’s bastard son.
Jon advocates for Sam’s protection and is opposed by one lone jerk who is intimidated into compliance by Jon and his direwolf. Viserys continues to rampage around Daenerys, still unaware of their changed position. He truly affects the demeanor of a madman. That Targaryen inbreeding could only have had deleterious effects on subsequent generations, particularly if madness is already known to be a familial trait.
Ser Jorah lets Daenerys know the truth about the people of the Seven Kingdoms and that they do not long for her brother to be king. She admits her brother would not be fit to be king nor capable of leading an army to reconquer the Seven Kingdoms. Back at King’s Landing, the Hand of the King’s tournament proceeds despite Lord Stark’s protestations and noted absence. Cersei’s hair and general demeanor is appropriately ridiculous and she can only stand King Robert about as long as we can. Newly knighted Ser Hugh and Gregor Clegane are pitched in the first joust, which seems more than a little uneven. Ser Hugh is speared through the throat and chokes on his own blood while lying on the ground in full view of the audience. Convenient that Jon Arryn’s squire-turned-knight is offed just as Ned begins to piece together some kind of plot. Perhaps Cersei left because she did not want to see the inevitable death of the knight pitched against the Mountain, a man in the employ of House Lannister.
Sansa is shocked into reality by the events at the jousting event and finally seems to realize that there is a dark side to life at court. Her romantic views of court life are withering with every day she spends in the hot house of King’s Landing. While neither are enjoying the tournament, Cersei has a meeting with Ned on her own. She asks him what he hopes to accomplish and tells him how he cannot change King Robert. They exchange thinly veiled threats to kill each other and events would seem to verify Ned’s suspicions about Lannister involvement in various plots. Tyrion arrives at the same inn at which Catelyn Stark is staying. She takes his recognizing her as her impetus to be a dramatic harridan. She begins to throw around her connections as a Tully and has Tyrion arrested, igniting a storm of controversy likely to consume House Lannister and Stark in a maelstrom of her creation.