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.
In King's Landing, Eddard tells Cersei he knows she is involved with Jaime and none of her children are Robert's. They soon learn that Robert has been critically wounded by a boar while hunting. A dying Robert names Eddard as the "Protector of the realm" to rule until Joffrey reaches the legal age. Eddard sends a message to Stannis, Robert's brother, intending to enthrone him since Robert has no true heirs. Eddard tells Baelish about his plan and asks him to gain the loyalty of the City Watch, the only force capable of overpowering Lannister forces loyal to Cersei. After Robert's death, Eddard, Baelish and the City Watch confront Cersei and Joffrey in the throne room, where Baelish and the City Watch betray Eddard and attack his men. At the Wall, Benjen goes missing during a foray beyond the Wall. Snow and Tarly are picked as stewards, with Jon assigned to Jeor. The duo swear their loyalties to the Night's Watch. In Essos, Robert's assassin is captured before he can poison Daenerys. Drogo vows to conquer the Seven Kingdoms and give it to his son. He starts marching towards Westeros.
Tywin and Jaime Lannister are inside a tent in the Lannister army encampment. As Tywin butchers a deer, Jamie reads the summons that calls for the Lannisters' henchman, Gregor Clegane ("The Mountain"), to be returned to King's Landing and brought to justice. Tywin tells Jamie that attacking Ned had been stupid, but he then asks why Ned is still alive. Jaime replies that it wouldn't have been "clean." His father asks if it bothers him when people call him "Kingslayer." He tells Jaime he shouldn't worry so much over what people say about him. Tywin is giving Jamie 30,000 men -- half his forces -- to go to Catelyn Stark's home and get Tyrion back. It's bad for appearances for Tyrion to be held, he explains; all that matters is preserving the Lannister family name. He then gives Jamie the standard "it's time you made something of yourself, son" speech. At King's Landing, Cersei visits Ned. He cuts right to the chase, telling her that he knows the secret that got Jon Arryn killed. Ned notices a bruise she received when Robert struck her, and she says that her brother would have killed Robert if he'd been there. "Your brother," Ned asks, "or your lover?" He guesses that Bran saw them together. Cersei doesn't deny it. She admits that all her children are Jamie's and says that, as twins, she and Jaime belong together. She tells Ned that Robert loves Ned's dead sister Lyanna more than he ever loved her. Ned tells her to take her children and leave with as many men as she can, because Robert will come after her once he tells him her secret. She mocks him for not claiming the throne when he could. He says it wasn't a mistake, but she says that it was. "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die -- there is no middle ground," she says. In his brothel, Petyr gets irritated by Ros from Winterfell moaning too much in pleasure. He gives hooker lessons, but doesn't join in because he says he's saving himself for another. He tells a story about a woman with impeccable bloodline and how she told him all her secrets. He wanted to marry her, but she was pledged to another. He challenged the other to a duel, expecting to win as it happens in the storybooks, but was soundly defeated. He ended up with a scar, and the man was killed in battle before he could marry the woman. From that experience he learned never to fight, but to "f---" people instead. Theon visits the wildling (Osha) who Robb let live after she attacked Bran. He tells her he's from the Iron Islands and then lectures her on calling him by his title. But she points out he's not a lord yet if his dad is still alive. He calls her "impudent" and then approaches her, almost propositioning her and asking if she wants to be free of her chain. Maester Luwin interrupts, telling him to treat her as a guest. She's not fazed by Theon. She tells Luwin she was trying to get south "before the long night comes." She tells him about things that sleep in the day and hunt at night. He thinks they've been gone for thousands of years, but she says they were only asleep and aren't anymore. From the wall, Jon Snow sees a rider approaching alone. Then he sees there's no rider, only a horse - his uncle Benjen's horse. Robert returns from his hunt, mortally wounded by a boar. Ned arrives at the king's bedchamber to find Joffrey at his bedside and Cersei watching over them. Ned examines the wound to his belly, which Robert says "stinks like death." Robert wants his funeral feast to be huge and the boar that gored him to be served. Robert sends everyone out, including Cersei. He dictates an order to Ned, commanding him to serve as "Lord Regent and Protector of the Realm" to serve until Joffrey comes of age. Robert says "son Joffrey" and Ned writes "rightful heir." Robert signs. Robert tells Ned he was right and to let Daenerys live if it's not too late. He asks Ned to help make his son better than him. "I'll do everything I can to honor your memory," Ned says. Robert laughs that King Robert Baratheon will be remembered for having been "murdered by a pig." He asks Ned to get something for his pain and to let him die. Selmy blames himself for the King's accident, and is deeply upset by his failure to protect him, Ned tells him they couldn't protect Robert from himself. Varys asks who gave Robert the wine. It was his squire, Lancel Lannister. Ned tells Varys to call things off with Daenerys. Varys says it's probably too late. Daenerys braids her husband's hair and tries to convince him to cross the ocean. She teaches him the word "throne." He answers that a warrior doesn't need a throne, only a horse. Out in the Dorthraki camp, Daenerys asks Jorah if there's a way to change Khal Drogo's mind. He leaves her to see if there are any letters for him. A young boy gives him a message from the Spider -- it's a royal pardon. Jorah can go home. Daenerys talks to a wine seller, who hears her speaking the common tongue. He tosses out the wine he was about to give her, and instead gives her an entire cask. He tells her there are many in her homeland who hope she'll return. Jorah steps in and demands the vendor serve the wine. He resists, but Jorah takes a glass. Rather than drink it himself, he insists the vendor try it. The vendor raises the cup, then drops it and runs. Daenerys's men catch him while Jorah escorts Daenerys away. At the Wall, Jon Snow listens glumly through the ceremony making him a man of the Night's Watch. He only wants to go look for his uncle. He listens to the reminder that the penalty for desertion is death. He volunteers to go outside the wall and pay tribute to the Old Gods, north of the wall, Sam volunteers to go with him. They read the assignments and Jon is assigned to the stewards, not the rangers. The head guard who has tormented him smirks at him. Jon is assigned to Lord Commander Mormont at the request of the Lord. He'll fetch his food, change his sheets and fill his bath. Sam tries to convince Jon that being around the big boss will mean he's in the loop. He thinks that means Jon is being groomed for command. Robert's brother Renly asks for a minute with Ned and tries to plan how to keep the throne from Joffrey and Cersei. He doesn't think his brother Stannis is fit to be king, either. He suggests he is. But Ned refuses to go along. Instead he sends a letter to be delivered personally to Stannis. Petyr visits Ned, who explains that because Robert had no natural born sons, it passes to Lord Stannis. Petyr suggests he could instead help Joffrey to succeed and make peace with the Lannisters. He suggests if Joffrey doesn't work out, they can remove him and install Renly. Ned thinks that would be treason. He's going with Stannis. Ned's worried about having enough men to enforce his decisions. Petyr explains that the gold cloak guards will follow the man who pays them. Jon Snow and Sam head beyond the wall with four other men. They take their vows at an old tree with a face in it that looks like it's crying blood. They're sharing congratulations when Jon's direwolf brings something from the woods: a severed hand. Daenerys is somewhat surprised Robert is still coming after her. Jorah explains that as the last Targaryen, Robert will always come for her. The traitorous wine vendor is tied up, awaiting his fate. Khal Drogo comes to his wife to make sure she's alright. He offers Jorah any horse he wants, and he promises his unborn son that he will secure him the throne, and the seven kingdoms. He gives a speech announcing his intent to go to war as Daenerys looks on, full of pride and lust. On the road the next day, Daenerys leaves the Dothraki city with Khal Drogo, Jorah, and a large entourage, making their way to the sea. The would-be assassin wine vendor trails behind the Khaleesi on foot, naked and tied to her horse. Ned gets word that Robert has died. Petyr tells him everything is arranged, and Varys says Lord Renly left in the night with Ser Lorras. Ned meets with the gold cloaks. Their commander Slynt says that he's behind Ned. Ned walks into the throne room to find Joffrey on the throne, having taken over as king. Joffrey demands fealty from the council and orders Ned to make arrangements for his coronation immediately. Ned presents Ser Barristan Selmy with Robert's final sealed decree, naming Ned protector of the realm. Cersei asks to see it. She rips it up saying, "This is your shield? A piece of paper?" Selmy protests, offended. Cersei tells Ned to bow and they'll let him live. Ned says Joffrey has no claim to the throne. Cersei commands Barristan Selmy and the Kingsguard to attack, but he hesitates. Ned commands his men with the backing of the city watch to put Cersei under guard. Ned says he doesn't want anyone to get hurt. Someone cries "now!" and Ned can only watch as his men are attacked by the city watch and the queen's men. They're outnumbered and surprised. Ned ends up with a knife to his throat -- it's Petyr. "I did warn you not to trust me," Petyr says.