THEY CUT OFF NED'S HEAD!
Wait. Hang on. We have to cover some things first. Catelyn Stark has to convince the old, cranky Walder Frey to let the Starks use his bridge. He agrees, but only if the Stark children are all willing to marry Frey children. Robb goes along with it. So he sends two thousand soldiers as a feint against Tywin Lannister's army and the rest of his army attacks Jaime's. And they take Jaime Lannister hostage, so it presumably went pretty well.
Up at The Wall, Jon Snow learns about all the shenanigans and appears to be planning on deserting on the grounds that nobody else has ever had to decide between serving in the Night's Watch or participating in a civil war with the rest of one's family. Maester Aemon disagrees and it turns out he's a Targaryen from a couple generations back. So when the Mad King was getting rebelled against and the remaining Targaryens were being hunted down and killed, he was in a very similar situation.
And that cut that Khal Drogo gave himself in the last episode? It's not looking good at all, and he falls off his horse, which is apparently something that a horselord is not supposed to do. As his wound oozes and suppurates (that doesn't happen on screen, but how often do you think I have an excuse to say "suppurate"?), Daenerys gets a little panicky about what's going to happen when he dies. Because it will probably involve the death of both her and her unborn son. So she makes that witch she saved do some kind of spell to save him, which is a logical enough plan, although it apparently involves gallons of fresh horse blood all over everything. And then Dany starts to give birth.
And in King's Landing, Varys comes to visit Ned in prison to tell him that if he's willing to say that Joffrey is king, he'll be allowed to take the black and go join the men of The Wall. He doesn't want to do it, because he's Ned "Honor Honor Honor" Stark, and he probably loves the idea of dying to prove how much honor he's got. But Varys reminds him that Sansa's life is also at stake. So Ned comes out in front of a howling crowd to "confess" that he's a dirty traitor. Joffrey tells the crowd that his mother, Queen Regent Cersei, wants to let Ned live. But he disagrees.
And then THEY CUT OFF NED'S HEAD!
Oh, hi! So, um, have you seen this episode yet? Because if you're reading this recap to find out what happened, I gotta be honest. You're probably better off actually watching it and then coming back here. Or I guess the book is pretty popular too. You could try that, I guess. My point is that this recap will be, I hope, entertaining. And enjoyable. But you definitely want to watch this episode.
Right. With that out of the way, let's get to the opening credits. After the usual King's Landing, we get something new! As we go north over the Riverlands, we zoom in on The Twins, which are a pair of castle-like towers on either end of a big bridge across the river. Then up north to Winterfell and The Wall, and over to Vaes Dothrak. Although I don't think they're actually still in that city.
Ned Stark, it appears, is still in prison, where everything is dark. Then a torch appears, with Varys behind it. That's kind of a good news/bad news situation. Varys tells Ned that many still pray for him, specifically Sansa, who has pled for his life in court. Ned figures that's the sort of thing that caused a lot of laughter, but Varys promises that he does not want Ned's blood. And then he has a story about his pre-eunuch days when he was part of a troupe of actors. The moral is that his role in life is to be sly, obsequious, and without scruples. That's a pretty harsh view of actors, isn't it? Some of them aren't all that obsequious. Anyway, he admits that he could free Ned, but he won't. Ned wants to know what Varys is after, and the answer turns out to be "peace." Well, good luck with that. He also wants to let Ned know that Robb is marching south with an army of Northmen. Well, that worries Ned, because Robb's just a boy. They get to talking about other options for king and Ned insists that Stannis Baratheon is next in the line of succession. Varys was trying to bring up the topic of who would be a good king, but that's not Ned's style. Varys employs a wolf metaphor to suggest that Cersei would prefer some kind of peaceful resolution to all this. So Varys would like Ned to serve the realm and lay down his sword. He believes Cersei would let Ned take the black. Whaddya say, Ned? He says no. Like Eddard Stark is going to sell his honor for a few more years of life. Hell, no! This guy has spent his entire life waiting for a way that he can prove to everyone just how honorable he is. Ned says he grew up with soldiers, not actors. So instead of learning to lie, he learned to die. That doesn't actually sound like a huge improvement to me. Varys shrugs and asks, "What of your daughter's life, my lord? Is that a precious thing to you?" Ned considers that. Exit Varys.