At his family's war camp, Lord Tywin Lannister butchers a stag and discusses their house's situation with his son Jaime Lannister, who reads Lord Ned Stark's order for Tywin to appear at court. The patriarch reprimands his son for attacking Ned in the streets and explains how important it is to free Tyrion from the Eyrie: "Every day that he remains a prisoner, the less our name commands repect." Tywin gives Jaime half the house's army - 30,000 men - and sends him to Riverrun to apply pressure to Lady Catelyn Stark's family. The future of the Lannisters' dynasty rests on Jaime's shoulders.
In the Godswood at King's Landing, Ned tells Queen Cersei Baratheon that he knows the truth that Jon Arryn died for: That her brother Jaime - not King Robert Baratheon - fathered her children. She admits as much and tells Ned that she's reviled Robert ever since their wedding night, when he drunkenly called her by the name of his true love, Lyanna. Ned suggests she flee with her children before Robert returns and learns the truth.
At Littlefinger's brothel, he watches with boredom as Ros and another whore put on an unconvincing sexual performance together. He orders them to start over, directing their actions. "They just paid you. Your job is to make them forget what they know." As the women slowly begin to enjoy themselves, he tells the story of how he dueled with Brandon Stark over Catelyn Tully and what he learned from losing that fight: "I'll never win that way. That's their game, their rules. I'm not going to fight them; I'm going to f**k them."
Osha, the prisoner from beyond the Wall, replaces the rushes on the floors of Winterfell when Theon Greyjoy enters the room behind her. He tells her she's lucky to be alive and tries to take an imperious stance as the future Lord of the Iron Islands. But Osha doesn't really understand, nor does she care to. Theon steps closer and then leans in lecherously ... but Maester Luwin interrupts them and drives Theon away. He asks Osha why she fled south, and she tells him, "There's things that sleep in the day and hunt at night."
Robert returns from his hunt, mortally wounded by a charging boar. On his deathbed, he talks with Joffrey Baratheon, not knowing the boy isn't his son. When Ned arrives, Robert orders the room cleared so they can talk. Robert rescinds his order to assassinate Daenerys Targaryen and tells Ned to write down his final command: Ned is to rule in his stead until his "son Joffrey" comes of age. Ned replaces those words with "rightful heir" and gives the order to the king to sign and seal, never telling him that Joffrey is Jaime's child.
In the market of Vaes Dothrak, Daenerys shops with her handmaidens while Ser Jorah Mormont wanders off to take care of some business. In fact, he's betrayed Dany to Lord Varys and traded her life for the pardon of his crimes. As he watches Dany approach a wine merchant - in truth an assassin peddling poison - Jorah changes his mind and stops the attack, taking the merchant prisoner. When Khal Drogo hears of the attempt, he swears before his khalasar to make war against the men of Westeros, conquer their realms and lay claim to the Iron Throne. As for the merchant, he's dragged naked and bloody behind a horse.
At the top of the Wall, Jon Snow half-listens as Samwell Tarly carries on about how he misses girls. But when a lone, riderless horse approaches, they open the gates and race down to Castle Black. The horse belongs to Jon's uncle, Benjen Stark, who is nowhere to be found.
Later, the men of the Night's Watch gather around Lord Commander Jeor Mormont as the recruits are prepared to enter the brotherhood and assigned to their positions. "Here, you begin anew," he tells them. As the names are called, Jon is shocked and insulted to hear that he's been made a steward, not a ranger as he'd always dreamt. Sam tries to talk sense into him however, pointing out that he's been selected as Mormont's personal steward - the Old Bear is grooming Jon for command.
Jon and Sam go beyond the Wall with a small party of men to speak their vows before a weirwood tree. They say the words solemnly, forsaking lands and family, and thus enter the brotherhood for life. As the men embrace one another to celebrate, Ghost pads over ... with a severed hand dangling from his mouth.
Renly pulls Ned aside and urges him to seize control of the throne before the Lannisters consolidate power and take it for themselves. "By the time Robert dies, it will be too late for the both of us," he says. Ned insists that Renly's older brother Stannis Baratheon is the rightful heir. The issue is moot, however, because Ned refuses to stage a coup during the king's final hours. Nevertheless, he sends a message to Dragonstone for Stannis. Littlefinger also visits Ned to offer his own strategy: Make peace with the Lannisters and share the rule of Westeros with them. Again, Ned declines the ploy, but he asks Littlefinger to make sure the City Watch takes his side when Cersei tries to lay claim the throne.
After Robert dies, Ned is called to the throne room, where he finds Cersei and Joffrey surrounded by Lannister guards as well as the Kingsguard. Renly has fled the city, leaving Ned to resolve the situation on his own. As the doors open, the watch commander Janos Slynt tells him, "We stand behind you, Lord Stark." Seated on the throne, Joffrey commands that preparations begin for his coronation. Ned hands Robert's sealed command to Lord Barristan Selmy to read, and once he's finished Cersei asks to read the letter and says, "Is this meant to be your shield, Lord Stark?" She tears the document to pieces and orders Ned to bend the knee before his king. When Ned refuses, she orders her men to take him prisoner. Ned calls for the City Watch to seize the queen, but instead, they turn on his men, killing everyone except Ned. Littlefinger places a dagger to Ned's throat and says, " did warn you not to trust me."
Ned confronts Queen Cersei over the truth of Jon Arryn's death. Robert, mortally wounded by a wild pig during his hunting, says Ned will rule as regent of the Iron Throne until his oldest son, Joffrey comes of age. Jon Snow takes the vows of the Night's Watch. Khal Drogo summons his army to invade Westeros after an assassin tries to poison Daenerys. Ned asks Baelish to secure the cooperation of the City Watch in removing the Lannisters from the throne revealing that Joffrey is not Robert's son but Jaime's, making Robert's younger brother, Stannis, the true heir. Ned brings Robert's declaration before Cersei, Joffrey, and the Small Council. However, Baelish and the City Watch reveal themselves loyal to the Lannisters, capture Ned and kill his men.