- Main: Winter is Coming
This recap of "Winter is Coming" features a detailed synopsis of each scene of the episode.
At Castle Black, three rangers of the Night’s Watch – Will, Gared, and Ser Waymar Royce – pass through the tunnel under the Wall and into the Haunted Forest beyond. They are investigating reports of a group of wildlings based in the forest nearby. Will splits off from the others to undertake a reconnaissance. He finds the wildlings lying dead in the snow, dismembered with their bodies, entrails and blood arranged in an unusual pattern, as well a young wildling girl impaled on a tree. Horrified, he runs back to his companions.
Ser Waymar dismisses the carnage, asking what Will expects from savages like the wildlings; Will retorts that he has never seen wildlings do anything like the butchery he found in the clearing. Will and Gared suggest they head back to Castle Black, as they have confirmed that the wildlings are no longer a threat. Ser Waymar points out that the Lord Commander will ask what killed the wildlings and they need to investigate further. Will points out that they could meet the same fate, but Ser Waymar dismisses his concerns. He states that if Will were to flee south, he’d be beheaded as a deserter.
Returning to the spot of the massacre, they find no sign of the wildlings, only a few spots of blood. Ser Waymar and Gared investigate the site while Will scouts the surrounding area. Gared finds a bloody bit of clothing on the floor. Ser Waymar asks what it is, but before he can answer a tall, shadowy figure with glowing blue eyes rises from the snow behind him and speaks with a voice like cracking ice. Gared, stunned in terrified silence, can only attempt to mouth a warning, pointing at the danger behind his fellow ranger; Ser Waymar turns to see what is the matter and is swiftly killed by the creature as it swings a sword at him.
Will hears Gared’s cries, but before he can respond he sees the dead wildling girl from earlier. She is now standing by herself and turns to look at Will with blue eyes similar to those of the creatures. Will flees. He encounters Gared and is just in time to see him being beheaded by another of the creatures. The creature throws the head to land at Will’s feet. Will looks up to meet his fate.
Will, having apparently escaped certain death beyond the Wall, is making his way through the hills near Winterfell, the seat of House Stark. He is captured by a group of riders flying the Stark banner.
A rider bears news of the capture to Winterfell, riding through the outlying countryside and into the castle.
Bran Stark, the ten-year-old third son of Lord Eddard Stark, is practicing his archery in Winterfell’s courtyard. His father and mother, Lady Catelyn (formerly of House Tully), are watching. His elder brothers Robb Stark and Jon Snow (a bastard, born to a different mother than Catelyn) are helping him.
Eddard Stark’s two daughters, thirteen-year-old Sansa and her younger sister Arya, are practicing their needlework at the direction of Septa Mordane. Arya is bored by the exercise, especially as she can hear the sounds of the archery practice outside.
Bran misses the target, causing Robb and Jon (and his younger brother Rickon) to burst into laughter. Eddard berates them, asking which of them was a marksman at ten. Bran goes to take another shot, but before he can another arrow whizzes past his ear and strikes the target perfectly: Bran turns around to see Arya standing there with a bow while his older siblings gawk in amazement at their younger sister. Annoyed, he chases her around the courtyard as his older brothers laugh gleefully and urge him on.
The frivolity is interrupted by the arrival of Winterfell’s master-at-arms, Ser Rodrik Cassel, and Eddard’s ward (and hostage for his rebellious father’s good behavior), Theon Greyjoy. Rodrik reports that a deserter from the Night’s Watch has been taken in the hills. The law is clear: he must be executed. Eddard agrees to attend to the matter. He orders that Robb and Jon will join them and then, after a moment’s reflection, Bran. Catelyn objects: Bran is too young to see such things. Eddard responds that Bran won’t be a boy forever and that winter is coming. After he leaves, Catelyn gives Jon Snow a look of loathing.
Up in the hills, Will is brought before Eddard. He claims that he saw the White Walkers. He admits the deserting his post was wrong and he should have returned to the Wall to warn them, but he was too terrified and just wanted to flee. He asks Eddard to send word to his family. Eddard pronounces the death sentence on him and Jon urges Bran not to look away. Eddard beheads Will using his Valyrian steel greatsword, Ice. Bran does not flinch. Jon tells him he did well.
Afterwards, Eddard asks Bran why it was necessary for him to behead the deserter personally. Bran replies that the Starks’ way is the old way, and Eddard agrees, saying that the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. Bran asks if it is true that Will saw the White Walkers, but Eddard tells him that they have been gone for thousands of years, and he suspects that Will was a madman.
The party returns to Winterfell over a bridge, only to find a dead stag with its entrails spilled out. Eddard is puzzled by what could have caused this. The puzzle is solved when they find a dead direwolf nearby, with one of the stag’s antlers still caught in its throat. According to Robb, there are no direwolves south of the Wall. Jon points out that there are now five: the direwolf was female, and had just given birth to a litter of pups.
Bran asks what will become of them and Rodrik points out that direwolves don’t belong south of the Wall. Eddard agrees they should be killed and Theon reaches for the first one. Jon stops him by pointing out that there are five pups, one for each of the Stark children. The direwolf is the symbol of House Stark, so the children were meant to have them. Eddard reflects on this for a moment and then agrees. However, the children must care for them themselves, even burying them if they die. Bran asks Jon why he did not include himself in the count, and he replies that he is not a Stark. However, just as they are leaving he finds a sixth pup, an albino, cowering behind a tree. Theon points out that it’s the runt of the litter, and as such belongs to Jon.
In King’s Landing, the capital city of the Seven Kingdoms, Queen Cersei Lannister meets with her twin brother, Jaime, a knight of the Kingsguard. They watch the Silent Sisters tending to the body of the late King’s Hand, Lord Jon Arryn. Jaime tells Cersei that she worries too much, while she replies that he doesn’t worry enough. She recalls the time he jumped a hundred feet into the sea at Casterly Rock and showed no caution. Jaime replies there was nothing to be afraid of, at least until she told their father.
Cersei is worried that Arryn told someone, like her husband, King Robert Baratheon, about what he had discovered. Jaime points out they would both be dead if that was the case. Whatever Arryn knew died with him, and Robert will choose a new Hand and go back to hunting boars and chasing whores. Life will return to normal. Cersei is less confident. She suggests that Jaime should be Hand, but Jaime finds the notion unappealing: their days are too long and their lives are too short.
Eddard is sitting in front of the godswood’s heart tree, cleaning his blade. Catelyn arrives, musing that she still feels like an outsider in this place. Eddard laughs, pointing out that she has five northern children and is not an outsider. Catelyn wonders if the Old Gods of the Forest agree, but Eddard replies that it’s her gods that have all the rules.
Eddard notices that Catelyn is upset and she tells him that there has been a raven from King’s Landing: Jon Arryn is dead. She knows he was like a father to Eddard, and she is sorry for his loss. He was taken by a sudden fever. His wife, Lysa, who is also Catelyn’s sister, is well, as is her son Robin. Catelyn tells him there is more: King Robert and his entire retinue are already riding for Winterfell. Eddard realizes there is only one reason why the king might be coming all this way to see him. She points out that he can always say no.
Winterfell prepares for the royal party’s arrival. Catelyn informs Maester Luwin that they will need a large number of candles, as Tyrion Lannister (Jaime and Cersei’s younger brother) is reported to read all night long. Luwin replies that he’d heard that Tyrion drinks all night long. Catelyn is surprised, wondering how much a man of Tyrion’s limited stature could drink. Luwin replies that they’re probably going to find out.
Robb, Theon and Jon have their hair cut ahead of the royal party’s available. Robb reports that he’s heard that the royal prince, Joffrey, is an unpleasant boy. Theon replies that the queen is reportedly a great beauty. Both Robb and Theon laugh as Jon is grumpily groomed by the castle barber, Tommy, saying he has never met a girl he likes more than his own hair.
The royal party approaches Winterfell. They are spotted by Bran Stark, who is watching from a rooftop. Bran ably runs across the rooftops of the castle and drops down to the courtyard to report the news to his mother. Catelyn reminds him that he has been forbidden from climbing on the castle walls and asks him to promise not to do it again. He does, but she knows he is lying. She sends him to relay the news to Eddard. She also notes that Bran’s direwolf pup has already grown in size tremendously in the month since he was found.
The king’s party passes through Winterfell’s outlying town, where they are observed by Arya Stark (wearing a Stark guardsman’s helmet for reasons of whimsy). She watches the procession in fascination, but then has to rush back inside the castle to get there ahead of the royal party.
The Stark family members and their retainers gather ahead of the royal party’s arrival. Catelyn is puzzled by Arya’s absence, but she manages to arrive ahead of the party. Eddard admonishes her.
The royal party arrives. Robb notes a smile exchanged between Prince Joffrey and Sansa. Arya starts identifying members of the royal party, but Sansa tells her to shut up. Eddard watches in slight bemusement as King Robert, who is a portly man, requires help to dismount his horse. He greets Eddard by telling him he’s gotten fat. When Eddard raises a questioning eyebrow at the king’s own girth, they both burst into laughter. Robert greets Catelyn and the children warmly, telling Sansa she is a beauty and Bran that he will be a soldier. Queen Cersei also greets the Starks, though more reservedly. Robert asks Eddard to take him to the crypts so he can pay his respects. Cersei objects, pointing out they have been on the road for a month, but Robert ignores her.
As Robert and Eddard leave, Arya ponders where ‘the Imp’ is. Overhearing, an annoyed Cersei tells Jaime to go and find their missing brother.
Eddard takes Robert into the crypts and asks for news of Jon Arryn. Robert tells him that it was a fever that burned right through him before anything could be done. They reminisce about Arryn, whom they both saw as a father figure. He never had to teach Eddard much, but he set Robert to rights. Robert regrets he didn’t always listen to him.
Robert asks Eddard to serve him as Hand of the King. Eddard says he is not worthy of the honor, but Robert tells him it isn’t an honor. He wants Eddard to run his kingdom for him while he eats, drinks and whores his way to an early grave. Robert tells Eddard that he helped him win the Iron Throne and now he can help him keep it. If Eddard’s sister had lived, they’d have been bound by blood. Robert says it’s not too late, and also offers to betroth Joffrey to Sansa and join their houses. Eddard is stunned.
Jaime goes looking for Tyrion. His first port of call is the brothel located in Winterfell’s outlying town.
Tyrion is visiting with a whore named Ros. Feigning ignorance of who he is, Ros gossips about the king being in Winterfell, along with the queen and her twin brother, who is reported to be the most handsome man in the Seven Kingdoms. Tyrion asks about her other brother, "the clever one". Ros replies that the rumor is that the clever one is a little lecher ("Prone to all manner of perversions,") whom everyone calls ‘the Imp’. Tyrion, annoyed, says he hates that name. Ros, laughing, tells him they have been expecting him.
Jaime walks in and tells Tyrion they are being feasted by the Starks at sundown and begs him not to leave him alone with these people. Tyrion reluctantly agrees. Because time is short, Jaime sends another three girls in to help matters long.
Robert pays his respects at the tomb of Lyanna Stark, his late betrothed. He tearfully asks Eddard why he buried her in such a cold, dark place. She should have been buried on a hillside somewhere, with the sun and clouds above. Eddard tells him that she was his sister, a Stark of Winterfell, and this is her place. Robert replies that she belonged with him. He still dreams of killing Rhaegar Targaryen every single night. Eddard tells him that it is done and the Targaryens are gone. Robert replies, "Not all of them."
In the Free City of Pentos, across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen and her brother Viserys are guests at the manse of Magister Illyrio Mopatis. While waiting for her bath, Daenerys is visited by her brother. Illyrio has sent gifts for the wedding feast. Daenerys is puzzled as to why Illyrio has hosted them in his home for more than a year and lavished them with gifts. Viserys replies that it is because Illyrio is not a fool, and he knows that Viserys will richly reward him once he takes back his kingdom. He has Daenerys undressed and advises her to show off her woman’s body. He needs her to be perfect today, lest she "wake the dragon". Departing, Viserys says that when they write the history of his reign, they will say it began on this day.
Daenerys is numbed by her brother's arrogance, and stoically descends into her bath to harden herself to the cruelty of her fate. Her servant cries out in protest, as the bath is so hot that it should scald her.
Magister Illyrio, Daenerys and Viserys await the arrival of their guest, Khal Drogo of the Dothraki. Viserys complains that Drogo is late and Illyrio replies that the Dothraki are not known for their punctuality.
Drogo and his bloodriders arrive. Viserys notes the length of Drogo’s braided hair. When Dothraki are defeated in combat, they must cut off their hair so the whole world can see their shame. Drogo has never been defeated. Viserys says that Drogo is a savage, but also one of the finest killers alive. Daenerys is to be his queen.
Illyrio presents the trembling but dutiful Daenerys to Drogo. Drogo says nothing and rides off. Viserys is startled and asks if he liked her. Illyrio replies that if he didn’t like her, they’d know about it.
Illyrio and Viserys look out across the Narrow Sea, towards Westeros, and Illyrio tells Viserys that it won't be long now before he takes back his father's throne. He tells him that the people want the return of their rightful king, and drink secret toasts to Viserys's health. Viserys asks when the marriage will take place and Illyrio replies very soon, as the Dothraki do not like to stay in one place for very long.
Viserys asks if it is true that the Dothraki lie with their horses. Illyrio advises against asking Khal Drogo this. Viserys angrily asks if he thinks he is a fool, but Illyrio smoothly says that Viserys is a king, and kings sometimes lack the caution of common men. Viserys is aware of the deal: he will give Drogo a queen, and he will give him an army.
Daenerys speaks up, saying that she does not want to be Drogo’s queen. She just wants to go home. Viserys agrees, but points out that their home has been taken from them. The only way they can go home is with an army, Khal Drogo's army, and he would let every one of the forty thousand soldiers and all of their horses in that army have sex with Daenerys if that is what it takes.
In Winterfell, Sansa and Catelyn prepare for the feast. Sansa gushes about Joffrey’s good looks and hopes he will like her. Sansa asks how long they will have to wait to be married, but Catelyn tells her that her father has not even decided to accept the king’s offer. Sansa is puzzled as to why he would refuse: the King’s Hand is the second-most-powerful position in the Seven Kingdoms. Catelyn tells her that Sansa would have to leave Winterfell and leave her parents behind, but Sansa points out that Catelyn had to leave her home and family to come to Winterfell. Sansa begs her mother to convince Eddard to accept the king’s offer: being queen one day is Sansa’s greatest dream.
The feast gets underway and Catelyn and Cersei sit at the high table. Robert is drinking heavily and starts kissing one of the serving girls, to Cersei’s evident disgust.
Jon Snow is practicing with his sword in the Winterfell courtyard. His uncle, Benjen Stark, rides into the castle, having just come south from the Wall. They embrace and Jon says he was not welcome at the feast. Benjen, concerned about Jon, offers him a place amongst the sworn brothers of the Night’s Watch. Jon considers only for a moment before accepting. Surprised at the speed of his response, Benjen points out that there are drawbacks to being a member of the Watch, such as not being able to take a wife or have children. Jon says he does not care about that, but Benjen points out he might, one day. Benjen goes into the feast, suggesting they’ll talk about this again later.
Tyrion Lannister arrives at the courtyard, catching the end of the conversation. He introduces himself to Jon and muses that he’s always wanted to see the Wall. He states that Jon is "the bastard", to Jon’s annoyance. Noting this, Tyrion advises him to take the name and wrap himself in it, using it as armor so it can never hurt him. The rest of the world will never forget what he is, so why should he? Jon angrily asks what he might know about being a bastard. Tyrion replies that "All dwarfs are bastards in their father's eyes."
Benjen speaks to his brother at the feast. Eddard asks him if he knew Will and Benjen replies he did. He was a young lad, but tough, a true ranger. Eddard says he was speaking madness about the White Walkers slaughtering his friends. Benjen says the two he was with are still missing beyond the Wall. Eddard points out it could have been a wildling ambush and Benjen says it could. However, times are odd: direwolves south of the Wall, talk of the Walkers and his brother could be the next Hand of the King. He wryly says, "Winter is Coming." Benjen then greets Robb.
Robert continues to fondle the serving woman at the feast. Hoping to distract Cersei from the sight, Catelyn makes small talk. Sansa is presented to the queen and Cersei compliments her on her dress and beauty. She asks about Sansa’s age and, to Catelyn and Sansa’s discomfort, if she has bled yet; Sansa replies no. After she leaves, Cersei tells Catelyn that Sansa will do well in the Capital, as her youth and beauty should not be hidden up here. Catelyn seems somewhat distressed by her words. Sansa exchanges another smile with Prince Joffrey as she returns to her seat.
Jaime Lannister bumps into Eddard Stark at the feast. Jaime tells him he is glad to hear that Eddard might be coming south with them. He also remarks that Robert will likely hold a tournament to celebrate if Eddard accepts his offer, noting that competition on the field has gotten a little stale. Irritated, Eddard says he does not fight in tournaments. Jaime tries to bait him, asking if he is too old for it. Eddard replies that when he fights a man for real, he does not want him to know what he can do. Jaime is surprised by the response and compliments Eddard for it.
Arya flings some food at Sansa, to Robb’s hilarity. Catelyn catches Robb’s eye and he ushers Arya out of the room, to her annoyance.
In bed after the feast, Catelyn and Eddard talk about how fat Robert has gotten. Catelyn tells Eddard again that he can still refuse the offer, and if Robert has a problem with that he can talk to her about it. They are interrupted by Maester Luwin, who has received an urgent message for Catelyn. The letter is from her sister, Lysa. Catelyn is surprised to see that the message has come from the Eyrie, the seat of House Arryn in the Vale. Catelyn thought her sister was still in the capital.
Catelyn reads the letter and immediately burns it. She tells Eddard that, according to Lysa, the Lannisters are plotting against King Robert. They arranged Jon Arryn’s death and the king’s life is in danger. Lysa has fled to the Vale with her son to prevent any action being taken against them. Luwin gives them his counsel: Robert trusts Eddard more than any other man. If there is a plot against the king, Eddard is the best man to smoke it out in the capital. Catelyn angrily replies that Eddard has spent half his life fighting wars for Robert and has served him more than ably enough. She also points out that Eddard's father and brother once rode south and never came back, but Luwin points out that that was a different time and a different king.
On the beach near Pentos, the barbaric wedding of Khal Drogo and Daenerys is held. There is feasting and dancing, as the young bride looks on with trepidation. Viserys asks when they can start planning the invasion of Westeros, but Illyrio replies that the Dothraki do things in their own time, and will only make war when their omens favor it. Viserys is unimpressed by their omens.
Amid the savage festivities, two Dothraki get into an altercation over a girl; the two men pummel each other first with fists, then swords are drawn and one kills the other. Illyrio tells Viserys that a Dothraki wedding without at least three deaths is considered a dull affair.
Daenerys and Drogo are given many gifts. Drogo is pleased to see "Jorah the Andal", a noted warrior from Daenerys’s own country. He introduces himself as Ser Jorah Mormont of Bear Island. He gifts Daenerys with books of songs and stories from the Seven Kingdoms. He says he is loyal to the true king of Westeros and hopes to always serve him. Viserys accepts his offer.
Illyrio then presents his gift: three spherical, stone objects. He tells Daenerys that they are reportedly dragon eggs, from the Shadow Lands beyond Asshai. The centuries have turned them to stone, but they are still beautiful. Daenerys is impressed by the gift.
Drogo declares the feasting done and gives Daenerys his own gift to her: a beautiful white horse. She asks Jorah how to say, "Thank you," in Dothraki, but he replies that there is no such phrase in their language. Drogo lifts her onto the horse and they prepare to ride off. Viserys urges her to make him happy.
Drogo and Daenerys ride to an outcropping of rock away from the party. Drogo removes their clothes. Daenerys, nervous, asks him if he can speak the common tongue, but he only replies, "No," apparently the only word of her language he knows. Daenerys cries as her giant husband takes her, essentially raping her as is his right.
Tyrion exchanges pleasantries with Sandor Clegane, Prince Joffrey's bodyguard. Tyrion is severely hungover and is trying to work out what he’s doing going out with the hunting party. Sandor is bemused that he would even try hunting, but Tyrion boasts he is the greatest hunter in the land and his spear never misses. Sandor points out it’s not hunting if you have to pay for it.
Robert asks Eddard if he is still as good a huntsman as he used to be. Eddard replies no, but he’s still better than Robert. Robert thanks him for accepting his offer, as he knows it was not an easy choice to make. Robert tells Eddard he is the last true friend he has left.
Before riding out, Eddard exchanges a last smile with Bran, who is watching him leave.
Bran defies his mother’s command and goes climbing again, this time up the side of one of Winterfell’s towers. Hearing noises from within, he investigates and sees Jaime and Cersei having sex. They spot him and Jaime grabs him before he can escape. Cersei panics, saying that, "He saw us." Jaime asks Bran how old he is. When he says ten, Jaime says, "The things I do for love," and pushes him from the tower. Bran plummets dozens of feet to the ground.