Sansa Stark walks down a corridor in King's Landing with Septa Mordane, when sounds of fighting reach their ears. Lannister men have begun to slaughter the Stark guards. The Septa sends Sansa to her chambers, warning her to bar the doors. Sansa hurries away as a group of Lannisters advance on her governess, gripping bloodied swords. The young girl rushes though passageways, but her escape is blocked by the Hound. She orders him to step away, threatening to tell the Queen, but the burned man replies, "Who do you think sent me?"
Arya Stark practices her swordplay with her "dancing master" Syrio Forel, and a group of Lannister men come for her as well. Syrio dispatches them with nothing but his wooden practice sword, leaving only Ser Meryn Trant, a member of the kingsguard. Syrio holds his ground, but when the Braavosi's wooden sword snaps under one of Meryn's blows, he orders Arya to flee. The girl runs to the stables, where her packed belongings have been scattered on the ground. She digs in the pile, searching for her sword Needle. A fat stable boy approaches and tries to grab her, planning to hand her over to the queen. Without thinking, Arya plunges the blade into the boy's stomach.
The spymaster Varys visits Lord Ned Stark in the dungeons of King's Landing, offering the accused "traitor" a drink and delivering some unwelcome news: Tyrion Lannister has escaped the Vale, taking the Starks' last bit of leverage with him.
At the Wall, Lord Commander Jeor Mormont and his men examine the corpses of Othor and Jafer Flowers - two members of the Night's Watch who rode out beyond the Wall with Benjen Stark. Samwell Tarly notices that the bodies are strangely devoid of rot and odor. Mormont orders that they be burned after Maester Aemon examines them. Later, inside Castle Black, Mormont tells Jon Snow that he's received word about Ned's imprisonment. "I hope you're not thinking of doing anything stupid," Mormont tells Jon.
At King's Landing, Sansa pleads with the queen to set her father free. With the council chiming in behind her, Cersei suggests that Sansa write to her mother and brother Robb to urge them to bend the knee before their new king, Joffrey.
Sansa's letter arrives in the North, but Robb and Maester Luwin recognize the Queen's manipulation. Robb orders that his bannermen be called into service. He'll appear before the throne in King's Landing ... with an army. A raven carrying similar tidings arrives at the Eyrie, where Catelyn Stark is furious over her sister's refusal to help. "I will not risk Robin's life to get caught up in another of your husband's wars," says Lady Lysa Arryn, clutching her son.
Tyrion treks through the mountains with the sellsword Bronn. The dwarf promises his new companion: "If the day ever comes when you're tempted to sell me out ... whatever their price, I'll beat it." The men make camp, and soon the warriors of the Hill Tribes - led by a grizzled man named Shagga - fall upon them. After several tense moments, Tyrion convinces the tribesmen that he can deliver them the weapons and gold necessary to seize the one thing they want: the Vale of Arryn.
Jon, confined to his quarters after an altercation with Ser Alliser Thorne, notices Ghost pawing at the door, trying to get out. He opens the door and follows the wolf to Mormont's chambers, where he finds Othor's corpse, reanimated as a wight. Jon stabs the zombie-like creature, but the sword does nothing to stop it. Mormont wanders into the room holding a lantern, Jon heaves the lamp at Othor, engulfing the wight in flames.
The Dothraki raid a village of Lhazareen - a peaceful people of sheep-herders - killing, burning and raping with zeal. Daenerys Targaryen sees the Dothraki carrying off survivors as slaves, which they'll trade to fuel her invasion of Westeros, but when she hears the screams of a woman named Mirri Maz Dur, the khaleesi orders the women of the village to be protected. Later, the warrior Mago complains to Drogo about the affront and then challenges the khal's leadership. Drogo fights with Mago, ripping the man's throat out in front of the crowd, sustaining a wound to his chest in the process. "A scratch," he tells Daenerys, but when Mirri offers to dress the wound, Dany insists that Drogo allow it.
Robb calls his bannermen to march south, but one of them, Greatjon Umber, isn't happy when he's told that he won't lead the vanguard. He draws a blade at the table, and Robb's direwolf, Grey Wind, drives Umber to the ground and bites off two of his fingers. The Greatjon regains his feet, and Robb offers him a graceful escape from the situation by making a joke, "Doubtless, the Greatjon only meant to cut my meat for me." The men laugh, none louder than the Greatjon. Later that night, Robb visits Bran in his chambers to say goodbye. The army is leaving, and now Bran is the oldest Stark in Winterfell.
The next day in the Godswood, Osha tells Bran that Robb and his sworn swords are marching the wrong way. The danger is in the North. The men of the Night's Watch are learning this to be true, as they burn the wights' bodies at Castle Black. "They've been touched by White Walkers," says Sam, who read about the monsters in a book from Maester Aemon's library. "Only fire will stop them."
The Northmen make camp near the Trident, where Lady Catelyn Stark and Ser Rodrik Cassel meet up with Robb's forces. Catelyn and her son are relieved to see each other safe, but both realize how high the stakes are: If Robb cannot win this war, their entire family will die. As he strategizes with his bannermen, it becomes clear that victory requires crossing the Trident - which depends on the cooperation of the unreliable Lord Walder Frey.
Tyrion and his allies from the Hill Tribes arrive at the Lannister war camp. The dwarf tells his father, Lord Tywin Lannister, that they owe the tribesmen weapons and armor for their assistance. Tywin asks the mountain men to fight with him against the Northmen, and Shagga agrees - as long as Tyrion fights as well. Their conversation is cut short when a message arrives that the Starks on are on the march. Tywin sends out orders that it's time to strike.
Sitting on the Iron Throne, King Joffrey makes appointments, raising the City Watch commander Janos Slynt to nobility and naming Tywin as Hand of the King. Ser Barristan Selmy is dismissed as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard ... and replaced with Jaime Lannister. Barristan is shocked and appalled to be removed from a position he vowed to serve for life, and leaves in shame and anger. The final order of business is a plea from Sansa that Joffrey grant mercy for her father. She swears Ned loved Robert and must have been deceived, begging Joffrey to help if he has any affection left for her. "Your sweet words have moved me," Joffrey tells her. "But your father must confess and say that I'm the king. Or there will be no mercy for him."
As the Lannisters press their advantage over the Starks, Ned's eldest son, Robb, rallies his family's allies to war. Sansa pleads with Joffrey to spare her father's life while Ned, still captive in the dungeons, finds an unexpected ally in Councillor Lord Varys. While Arya is able to run during her father's punishment, Sansa is left to ask King Joffrey for mercy over her father. Jon and the Night's Watch confront an ancient evil from beyond the Wall, while across the Narrow Sea, Drogo's army marches west towards the Seven Kingdoms.
Arya manages to escape King's Landing after her Braavosian sword master delays the guards sent to arrest her; Sansa is captured however. Robb hears the news and prepares the Northern armies to fight the Lannisters, leaving Bran behind to rule Winterfell. Lysa refuses to fight the Lannisters; and Catelyn leaves, joining Robb's camp. Tyrion and Bronn are surrounded by Shagga and his men. Tyrion convinces them to escort him to Tywin to repay them. They arrive at Tywin's camp, where the latter asks Shagga to help them in their confrontation with the Starks in exchange for payment. Joffrey appoints Tywin as the Hand. Sansa begs the former to show mercy upon Eddard. Joffrey agrees if the latter recognizes his reign. At the Wall, some bodies affected by the White Walkers are found. In Essos, Drogo's soldiers begin attacking nearby settlements, enslaving locals in order to sell them and gain the money to buy the ships necessary to pass the Narrow Sea.
Arya practices her swordplay while real swordplay spills out of the throne room after Cersei and Joffrey tried to claim the throne. The fighting heads into the courtyard, where Cersei's men kill anyone who gets in their way. Sansa goes looking for her sister, but her nursemaid hears the fighting and sends Sansa to her room with strict instructions not to open the doors for anyone. The nursemaid confronts four armed men alone. Arya loses at her practicing when her teacher Syrio Forel says one direction and she listens and follows instead of reacting to what he's actually doing. He lectures her on following what she sees and reacting. Lannister men come for Arya, but Forel confronts them. Armed with only a wooden sword he takes on four men. She watches, amazed as he disarms all the men until the captain is left. Arya urges him to leave with her, but he refuses to back down. The captain fights him and breaks the Forel's wooden sword. He sends Arya away, asking what they say to the god of death. "Not today," she parrots. She leaves. She runs and hears screams as they fight. Sansa runs into the Hound in the hallway. She threatens to tell the queen. "Who do you think sent me?" he taunts. Arya runs into the courtyard and sees the box that holds her sword Needle. She looks for it when a boy comes up and threatens her. She tells him to get away and whirls with her sword in her hand. She stabs him through the gut and runs. Varys pays Ned Stark a visit down in his dungeon cell. He tells him Arya escaped, but Sansa remains engaged to Joffrey. Varys tells Ned the rest of his household is all dead. Varys asks why he told Cersei he knew the truth. Ned claims it was mercy. Varys says Ned got Robert killed and tells him he's a dead man. Ned thinks he's safe because Catelyn has Tyrion, but Varys tells him Tyrion is free. Ned wants Varys to just kill him now, but he declines. On leaving, Varys claims to serve the realm, because no one else does. Jon Snow and his men bring two dead men back from beyond the wall. Sam notices they're frozen solid and don't smell. The Lord Commander Mormont is notified of a raven from King's Landing. Jon joins him in his chambers and Mormont asks for ale for them both. He tells Snow of Robert's death and that Stark has been charged with treason for conspiring with Robert's brothers to deny the throne to Joffrey. Sansa listens to Cersei, Master Pycelle, Varys and Petyr. Cersei says she can't marry Joffrey now because she's a traitor. Petyr argues she should have a chance to prove her loyalty. Cersei tells her to write to her mother and Robb, telling him to come to King's Landing and swear loyalty to Joffrey. She asks what will happen to her father. Cersei tells her that depends on her brother, and on her. Robb reads the letter, but Maester Luwin can tell Cersei told Sansa what to say. Robb knows he cannot ignore the official command, so he'll go -- but not alone. He tells Luwin to summon the banner men to defend his father. Hundreds of ravens fly from Winterfell. At the Vale, Catelyn is incensed that her sister Lysa waited all day to show her the word from the raven. She wants Lysa to send men to fight for Ned, but Lysa worries about the safety of her son, Robin. She says the knights of the Vale will stay in the Vale to protect their lord. Tyrion and Bronn walk home. Bronn admits he's in it for the money. Tyrion says that's not a problem, he'll always pay more than the other guy. In the middle of the night, Bronn wakes up hearing noises. They are quickly surrounded by Stonecrows and their leader, Shagga, son of Dolf. Tyrion brags about his family's money while bashing their crappy weapons. Tyrion takes off his ring and hands it over. He tells him if they help him, he'll help the Stonecrows take over the Vale. Jon Snow works in the Wall kitchen, when his tormentor comes in and taunts him about being the bastard son of a traitor. Jon lunges at him with a knife, but men stop him. The Lord Commander comes in later and confines Jon to his quarters. Later at night, Jon's direwolf Ghost won't stop barking. Jon lets him out and follows him to the commander's room. Instead of Mormont, a giant disfigured bald man comes at him. He stabs him, but the man keeps coming. The man falls and the Commander comes out of his room and sees. The man gets up and starts to attack again so Jon throws his lit lantern at him and hustles Mormont out. Daenerys walks through a burnt down village with Jorah as the Dothraki attack the inhabitants. He explains that the Dothraki are pillaging to raise money for ships to sail to Westeros, as she wants. Everywhere, women and children are screaming as the Dothraki attack them, claiming the spoils of their victory. Daenerys commands them to stop attacking one woman. She claims others, even though Jorah tells her they belong to the warriors. Daenerys returns to camp to find her husband sitting next to a pile of severed heads. Mago , a warrior, is complaining to Khal that Daenerys took the women he was planning to "mount." Daenerys makes a polite case for preventing the women from being raped, saying it is her will and as Khalessi he has to listen to her. Khal Drago enjoys seeing his fierce bride, but Mago says a khal who takes orders from a "foreign whore" isn't really a khal. He draws his sword. Drogo walks into it purposefully and presses his chest against it as he tells Mago what he'll do to his corpse. Without drawing his own weapon, Drogo ducks and darts to avoid Mago, then finally kills him with his own sword and rips out his tongue with his bare hands. One of Daenerys's new slaves offers to help clean Drogo's cut. The Dothraki are suspicious, but Daenerys asks her husband to let the woman treat him. He relents. At Winterfell, Robb deals with the ego of the Greatjon, who demands he get to lead the vanguard into King's Landing, saying Robb is too green. He threatens to take his men and go home if not. Robb stares him down and says he's welcome to leave, but after he takes care of the Lannisters he'll come for him for breaking his oath to his father. Greatjon draws his sword and Robb's direwolf races at him and rips off a few fingers. Robb uses it as an excuse to show he knows enough to let a wolf deal with things for him. Cowed, the Greatjon laughs off the missing digits and the situation is diffused. Robb says good-bye to Bran in the middle of the night and tells him to stay at Winterfell. After he leaves, their younger brother Rickon comes in, worried about their parents. The next day, Bran prays to the Old Gods. Osha, the captured wildling woman, tells him the gods heard him, but she predicts bad things for Robb headed south and tells Bran the true threat lies to the north. Sam, Jon Snow and the troops stand around the burning bodies of the men they found beyond the wall. Sam thinks they were touched by White Walkers. He read about them. He says they sleep beneath the ice for thousands of years. He hopes the wall is high enough to keep them out. Catelyn comes upon an encampment. Robb reports that the River Lords are falling back with Jaime Lannister on their heels, and Lord Tywin is bringing a larger army from the south. Catelyn walks in. She asks to talk to Robb alone, then hugs him. He shows her Sansa's letter. They notice there's no mention of Arya. Robb tells her he has 18,000 men. Catelyn says their only hope is that he can defeat the Lannister army in the field. She reminds him what happened to the Targaryen children when they lost throne: they were butchered in their sleep, on the orders of Tywin Lannister. She tells him if he loses, the Starks all die. "Well that makes it simple, then," he says. Tyrion and Bronn march with the Stonecrows. They reach Tywin Lannister's camp. Tyrion leads them in and makes introductions. Tyrion learns the Robert is dead and Cersei is essentially in charge of King's Landing. They know Robb called in his banners and is leading an army. Tyrion asks for the armor, swords and pikes to pay his debts. He's interrupted by an update from the field. Tywin announces he's moving against Robb Stark. He asks Shagga and his men to fight with him and promises them more loot. Shagga says only if Tyrion rides with them. Robb tries to figure out his next move. They need to cross the river at the Twins, which Lord Frey controls. He's bannerman to Catelyn's father, but isn't exactly reliable. Robb's men bring in a Lannister spy they caught. They say he was counting the men. Robb asks how high he got. When the man says 20,000, Robb talks about mercy and commands his men to let him go. Robb tells the spy to tell Lord Tywin that "winter is coming" with 20,000 men. As soon as the spy leaves, the men wonder about his move. Ned is roused from his cell. Sansa comes to court to hear Cersei force retirement on Ser Barristan from the King's Guard, which is supposed to be til death. "You let my father die, you're too old to protect anyone," Joffrey snipes. Cersei announces Jaime will take over as lord commander of the King's Guard. Varys promises Barristan a good house, but Barristan is indignant. He draws his sword and tosses it on the floor, telling Joffrey to melt it and add it to the others in the throne.There's an announcement calling for any other business. Sansa steps forward. She begs mercy for her father. She reminds them that he never wanted to be hand and loved the king. She says Pycelle gave him milk of the poppy and he wasn't himself when he said Joffrey wasn't king. She begs Joffrey personally. Joffrey says Ned has to confess and say that he is the king or there will be no mercy. "He will," she says.