"You Win or You Die" is the seventh episode of the first season of Game of Thrones. It is the seventh episode of the series overall. It first aired on 29 May 2011, but some HBO subscribers were able to see it a week early on the HBO Go digital platform. It was written by executive producers David Benioff & D.B. Weiss and directed by Daniel Minahan.
Eddard Stark's investigations in King's Landing reach a dramatic climax as he confronts Queen Cersei with his findings. Tywin Lannister prepares his forces for battle and gives Jaime an important assignment. Ser Jorah Mormont's actions inspire Khal Drogo to make an important vow. Jon Snow finally takes his place amongst the Night's Watch.
On the borders of the Riverlands, Lord Tywin Lannister has assembled an army of sixty thousand men, with which he plans to oppose the Starks and punish Catelyn's capture of his son, Tyrion. As he stands in his tent skinning a dead stag, he tells his elder son, Jaime, that this conflict will decide the fate of their family; they will either forge a dynasty that will last a thousand years or cease to exist, as the Targaryens had done. He orders Jaime to become the man he was meant to be, and to take thirty thousand men and besiege Riverrun, Catelyn's childhood home and the seat of House Tully. Jaime ponders why Tywin would risk so much for the ugly, stunted son that he hates, but to Tywin a Lannister is a Lannister - even though he considers Tyrion the least worthy member of their family, any affront to their family must be punished or it makes them look weak.
In King's Landing, Lord Eddard Stark meets with Cersei Lannister. He tells her that he knows the secret that Jon Arryn died for: that Cersei's three children are not Robert's, but the product of incest between her and Jaime. Cersei does not deny the charge and in fact is proud of it, comparing their love to the old Targaryen practice of marrying brother to sister; she also admits to having despised Robert ever since their wedding night, when Robert drunkenly stumbled into Cersei's bed and called her "Lyanna". Eddard angrily tells her to take her children and leave the city immediately. When Robert returns from his hunt, he will tell him the truth of the matter and that Cersei should run as far as she can, lest Robert's wrath find her. Cersei icily calls Ned a fool for turning down the throne himself after the sack of King's Landing. Eddard tells her that he has regrets, but that isn't one of them. Cersei departs with a chilling warning: "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground."
In one of his brothels, Littlefinger instructs the newly-arrived Ros and another prostitute, Armeca, on how to please their customers and make them happy. When they ask him to join them, he refuses, saying that he only ever had eyes for one woman. He tells them about his past, how he loved and fought a duel for a woman. He lost and subsequently realized that he could never beat those in power by honorable means, as they would never let him compete on equal terms. When Ros asks him what he wants, he says, "Oh, everything."
In Winterfell, Theon Greyjoy attempts to bully Osha, the wildling woman captured in the recent raid. He insists that she refer to him as "My Lord", but she is unimpressed with his antics. She points out that he is not entitled to this, as his father is still alive. Maester Luwin dismisses Theon and questions Osha about why her band crossed the Wall and were fleeing 'as far south as south goes'. She claims that the White Walkers have awoken after millennia asleep and are coming south, to Luwin's skepticism.
At King's Landing, Renly finds Eddard and tells him that Robert has been badly mauled by a boar and is not expected to survive. Eddard finds Robert telling Joffrey that he wishes he could have been a better father to him. Eddard chooses not to tell Robert about his discoveries to spare his final hours from pain. Robert instructs Eddard to take a letter naming him as the Lord Protector of the Realm, to rule until Joffrey comes of age. Eddard doesn't write Joffrey's name, instead saying 'the rightful heir'. Robert also asks him to cancel the attempt on Daenerys Targaryen's life. Leaving the chamber, Eddard talks to Varys, who slyly points out that Lancel Lannister ensured the King kept 'refreshed' with alcohol during the hunt, meaning his reactions were slowed and unreliable. Varys also says it is far too late to stop the attempt on Daenerys' life.
In Vaes Dothrak, Daenerys attempts to convince Khal Drogo about the benefits of an invasion of the Seven Kingdoms, but Drogo is reluctant to cross the Narrow Sea, despite the thousands of ships they could find in the Free Cities to do the job. He says that a man doesn't need an iron chair only a horse. Daenerys travels to the marketplace with Ser Jorah Mormont and her handmaidens. She asks Jorah to help convince her husband since the Seven Kingdoms are hers by birthright but he reminds her that her ancestor Aegon the Conqueror took six of the Seven Kingdoms, because he was capable of doing so (due to his dragons), nothing more. Jorah is delivered a message from Varys, a royal pardon for his crimes. Seeing Daenerys with a wineseller who is keen for her to try a particular vintage from the Arbor, Jorah realizes that this is the assassination attempt. Having second thoughts, he steps in and stops Daenerys from drinking it. The wineseller attempts to flee, but Rakharo brings him down with a bolo tangling his ankles.
At Castle Black, Lord Commander Jeor Mormont names the trainees as men of the Night's Watch. He hands out assignments, but to Jon's disgust he is being sent to the stewards, not the rangers. He will work directly for the Lord Commander as his personal steward. His attempts to plead his case to Maester Aemon (who has selected Samwell as his own steward) are met with indifference. However, Sam suggests to Jon that whilst this move was possibly orchestrated by Ser Alliser Thorne to punish Jon, it is also an opportunity for the Lord Commander to groom Jon directly for command. Both are then surprised when Pypar admits that he was sent to the Watch for refusing to give sexual favors to a lord, not for stealing a wheel of cheese to feed his sister. Nothing about being sent to the Wall is fair.
At King's Landing, Renly confronts Eddard and offers him a hundred swords to take the queen and her children into custody, but Eddard refuses to dishonor Robert's last hours by shedding blood in the Red Keep and taking frightened children hostage. Renly suggests that he could make a good king, but Eddard angrily points out that Stannis is Renly's older brother and the true heir. In his study he writes a letter laying out his findings to Lord Stannis and instructs a courier to take the message to Dragonstone, Stannis's island fortress. Littlefinger then arrives and talks to Eddard, who tells him the truth about Joffrey's parentage. Littlefinger suggests that they keep quiet, acknowledge Joffrey as king and make their puppet. If he proves intractable, they can reveal the truth and crown the more malleable Renly instead. Eddard considers this treason. Littlefinger realizes that even though Lord Eddard has Robert's edict naming him Regent and Protector of the Realm, he doesn't have the men he needs to seize control from Cersei. He needs the loyalty of the City Watch. Littlefinger understands that the honorable Eddard Stark can't come right out and ask him to bribe them, but agrees to do what needs to be done.
Up north, Jon and Sam say their oath of fealty to the Night's Watch in front of a heart tree just inside the eaves of the Haunted Forest and are acknowledged as men of the Watch. Sam decided to take the oath with Jon to the Old Gods of the Forest, as the Seven gods his father worshiped have never seemed to answer him. After they take their oaths, Ghost finds a severed hand in the woods and brings it back to Jon and a horrified Sam.
With the wine seller captured, Ser Jorah tells Daenerys that Robert Baratheon will never stop trying to kill her and her future children. Drogo quickly arrives in the tent. He glares at the seller and then goes to Daenerys to ensure she is okay, before offering Jorah the reward of any horse he chooses for foiling the assassination. Angered, he beings to yell out in Dothraki that his army will cross the "poison water" as no khalasar has done before and take the Iron Throne for his son. Drogo's khalasar departs Vaes Dothrak the next morning, with the wine seller tied naked to the saddle of Daenerys' horse, forced to walk until he falls.
In King's Landing, Eddard is summoned to the throne room by "King Joffrey"; Robert has died. He arrives to find Littlefinger and Varys waiting for him, along with Commander Janos Slynt and a detachment of the City Watch. Varys tells him that Renly has fled the city, along with Ser Loras Tyrell and a number of retainers. They were last seen heading south. The party enters the throne room, where Joffrey sits on the Iron Throne. He demands oaths of fealty from his councilors and subjects. Instead, Eddard gives Ser Barristan Selmy the proclamation naming him as Lord Protector of the Realm. To Barristan's shock, Cersei takes the "paper shield" and tears it up. Instead, she suggests that Eddard bend the knee and swear allegiance. In return he will be allowed to return to Winterfell. Eddard responds that Joffrey has no claim to the Iron Throne and commands Slynt to take the Queen and her son into custody. Instead, the City Watch kill Eddard's bodyguards and Littlefinger holds a knife to his throat, saying, "I did warn you not to trust me."
- Lord Tywin Lannister
- Little Bird
- Jaremy Rykker
- Bowen Marsh
- Othell Yarwyck
- Starring cast members Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister), Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark), Isaac Hempstead-Wright (Bran Stark), Richard Madden (Robb Stark), Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark), and Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) are not credited and do not appear in this episode.
- This episode features the fewest regular cast members to date with only 11 cast members appearing and 7 absences.
- This episode is the final appearance of starring cast member Mark Addy (Robert Baratheon) due to the death of his character.
- Jason Momoa (Khal Drogo) is credited as also starring in the closing credits of this episode.
- This episode covers approximately the material from Chapters 46, 48-50 and 55 (Eddard 12-14, Jon 6 and Daenerys 6) of the first novel.
- The episode takes its name from Cersei's phrase "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die".
- The revelation that Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen are not Robert's children means that his younger brother, Stannis Baratheon, is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. He appears in the second season.
- In the establishing shots of the Lannister camp at 3:28 Timett and Chella are seen but should not be there yet; the footage was taken from scenes shot for the next episode "The Pointy End".
- The stag shown being skinned by Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister was real and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister was hoping that after the scene it could be sent to craft services as he loves venison, but that didn't happen. In the books, Tywin Lannister is never shown skinning a stag. The character introduced this way is Lord Randyll Tarly, Samwell Tarly's father who is doing this in A Game of Thrones in a flashback as Sam is telling Jon Snow of how his father made him join the Night's Watch. Randyll Tarly has yet to be cast in the show, so this introduction is given to Tywin Lannister.
- To date, this is one of only two episodes that Tyrion Lannister has not appeared in, the other being "The Rains of Castamere."
- In the book, Eddard does not send Stannis a letter telling him that he is the rightful heir. The letter is written, but intercepted. Stannis already suspected that the children were not Robert's, as he was investigating it with Jon Arryn. Since Arryn died he has been building his forces on Dragonstone.
- Littlefinger could never support the claim of Stannis, because Stannis has despised him ever since he protected City Watch Commander Janos Slynt from prosecution and dismissal, when it was discovered he was receiving bribes. Stannis is a strict adherent to law and order, and has banned prostitution on Dragonstone, so both Petyr Baelish's power and livelihood would end if Stannis comes to power.
- The scene between Tywin and Jaime, and the scene between Theon, Osha, and Maester Luwin, were written at the last minute because the rough-cut of the episode was running short, and filmed in post-production reshoots. Note that they are all interior shots which didn't need to be filmed on-location.
Cersei Lannister: "Jaime and I are more than brother and sister. We shared a womb. We belong together."
Cersei: "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground."
Littlefinger: "You know what I learnt losing that duel? I learnt that I'll never win. Not that way. That's their game, their rules. I'm not going to fight them: I'm going to fuck them. That's what I know, that's what I am, and only by admitting what we are can we get what we want."
Ros: "And what do you want?"
Littlefinger: "Oh, everything, my dear. Everything there is."
Robert Baratheon: "I hereby command Eddard of House Stark to serve as Lord Regent and Protector of the Realm until my son Joffrey comes of age."
Eddard Stark (writing): "I hereby command Eddard of House Stark to serve as Lord Regent and Protector of the Realm until my rightful heir comes of age."
Eddard: "I will not dishonor Robert's last hours by shedding blood in his halls and dragging frightened children from their beds."
Eddard: "What you suggest is treason."
Littlefinger: "Only if we lose."
Littlefinger: "I did warn you not to trust me."
Eddard Stark: "You've always hated him." Cersei: "Hated him? I worshipped him. Every girl in the Seven Kingdoms dreamed of him, but he was mine by oath. And when I finally saw him on our wedding day in the Sept of Balar, lean and fierce and black-bearded, it was the happiest moment of my life. And that night he crawled on top of me stinking of wine and did what little he could do. And whispered in my ear "Lyanna." Your sister was a corpse and I was a living girl and he loved her more than me."
|Game of Thrones Season 1|
|#01 Winter is Coming||#06 A Golden Crown|
|#02 The Kingsroad||#07 You Win or You Die|
|#03 Lord Snow||#08 The Pointy End|
|#04 Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things||#09 Baelor|
|#05 The Wolf and the Lion||#10 Fire and Blood|