Please note: Spoilers ahead.
The death of Ser Hugh is the focus of the opening of this episode. The match-up between the knights is determined by drawing straws. As discussed in the last post, Ser Hugh’s death is timely and suspicious, likely leading to some sort of Lannister concoction. King Robert wants to joust but he’s too fat for his armor, a fact pointed out by Ned. After convincing King Robert to not participate in the tournament, Ned decides to join his daughter Sansa at the jousts, just in time to see the Knight of the Flowers, Ser Loras, against the man who just killed Ser Hugh, Gregor Clegane.
Ser Loras knocks the Mountain off of his horse with what Petyr Baelish thinks was a trick. The Mountain, in his fury, cuts his horse in two and then attacks Ser Loras. A fight then erupts between the Mountain and his brother the Hound until King Robert calls it off.
That the two are brothers who bitterly hate each other as well as being equally gifted in martial abilities makes for an excellent rivalry. Tyrion, still the captive of Catelyn Stark, pleads his innocence and proves his worth when the group is attacked by mountain tribes. When Catelyn is about to have her head bashed in with a spiked club, Tyrion comes to her rescue with brutal effect.
Bran is bitter that his mother has left Winterfell, somewhat inexplicably from his perspective I’m sure. Theon brings a whore into Winterfell who he then begins to berate for being a whore and having Tyrion Lannister as a customer. She reminds him that he is a ward of Lord Stark’s because his father lost a rebellion, again rubbing salt in the wound.
Back at King’s Landing Varys and Ned have a meeting in which Varys warns Ned that the King is doomed unless Ned saves him. Varys warns that King Robert could end up being poisoned like Jon Arryn with the tears of Lys.
Varys intimates that Ser Hugh poisoned Jon Arryn and he must have been hired by someone with considerable resources. Meanwhile Arya stumbles upon the dragon skulls in the basement of the castle, just like Viserys described in the last episode. While she’s in the basement we hear then see Varys meeting clandestinely meeting with Magister Illyrio, discussing how Houses Lannister and Stark will soon be at war. Magist Illyrio reminds him that Khal Drogo will not make a move until his son is born.
Petyr Baelish and Varys have a long reparte between the two of them that is both revealing and slightly ridiculous. Interesting way to deliver a lot of plot detail but their back and forth wears thin after more than a minute or so.
They’re interrupted by Renly who comes to tell them King Robert is on the way to a council meeting because important news has arrived from abroad. After getting past the guards with a little bit of her noble girl sass, Arya then gets a chance to inform her daft father of his impending demise.
A brother of the Night’s Watch arrives to tell Ned about his wife’s taking Tyrion captive, a great warning so that he could leave the capital immediately, but I doubt he’s that wise. King Robert reveals that he believes his realm is kept under control through fear of him. Ned argues against assassinating Daenerys which Robert argues vigorously against.
Varys the eunuch tells Ned that Jorah Mormont is the source of these rumors and Ned, ever honorable, discounts it based upon Jorah’s history. After being harangued by King Robert Ned tenders his resignation as Hand of the King. Now would be the time to leave the capital.
The crazy train continues at the Aerie, where Catelyn’s sister Lysa still breastfeeds her well grown son. Lysa sounds slightly crazed, if anything, and he son is a petulant brat. The look on Catelyn’s face when she realizes what she has done is priceless. No doubt she had no clue what she was getting herself into. Tyrion is relegated to the sky prison, a set of prison cells with openings overlooking the valley below. We learn that Renly and Loras are lovers, something intimated by Petyr Baelish earlier.
In addition to this we learn the two of them are plotting to put Renly on the throne in some way, which is more shocking than their being lovers since all these people pride themselves on knowing every slight action and though of everyone around them. Why doesn’t the eunuch know these two basically plan on displacing a fleet of people in order to get Renly on the throne?
King Robert meets with his wife, who concedes Ned Stark was ‘serious enough’ for the job of Hand. Robert again repeats his concern over the Dothraki which Cersei displaces with the usual hindrances to a Dothraki invasion: lack of seafaring vehicles, siege weapons, and organization. King Robert tells her that is nice but how long will he enjoy his people’s support while the Dothraki run around unfettered? He then advocates for military centralization and admits the purpose of the Seven Kingdoms died with the Mad King.
In further telenovella revelations, we learn in the conversation between Queen Cersei and King Robert that he can’t even remember what the Stark lady he was so in love with looked like and that her stillborn first baby boy with him is a true story. If you will recall I questioned her motives in telling such a story to Catelyn when she went to console her because of Bran’s accident. I even went so far as to call Cersei a manipulative liar but apparently she was telling the truth. She also discovers that King Robert could never have loved her.
Ned and Petyr Baelish are continuing their investigation into King Robert’s various bastards. Jaime Lannister meets Ned as he leaves Baelish’s whorehouse. Jaime has arrived with a retinue of knights.
Ned takes responsibility for his wife’s actions. Jaime kills Ned’s bodyguard and then he and Ned engage in the series’ best duel so far, a collection of scenes worthy of their choreography. Lord Stark and Jaime seem evenly matched and we don’t know how it would have ended if not for the dastardly intervention of one of the Lannister retainers who stabbed Ned in the back of his leg with a spear. Since Ned is like pseudo-king of the North it is quite bold for Jaime Lannister to handle this dispute in this manner but it is probably best to not ask too many questions with regard to plot.