A Night’s Watch deserter is tracked down outside of Winterfell, prompting swift justice by Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark and raising concerns about the dangers in the lawless lands north of the Wall. Returning home, Ned learns from his wife Catelyn that his mentor, Jon Arryn, has died in the Westeros capital of King’s Landing, and that King Robert is on his way north to offer Ned Arryn’s position as the King’s Hand. Meanwhile, across the NarrowSeain Pentos, Viserys Targaryen hatches a plan to win back the throne, which entails forging an allegiance with the nomadic Dothraki warriors by giving its leader, Khal Drogo, his lovely sister Daenerys’ hand in marriage. Robert arrives at Winterfell with his wife, Queen Cersei, and other members of the Lannister family: her twin brother Jaime, dwarf brother Tyrion and Cersei’s son and heir to the throne, 12-year-old Joffrey. Unable to refuse his old friend and king, Ned prepares to leave for King’s Landing, as Jon Snow decides to travel north to Castle Black to join the Night’s Watch, accompanied by a curious Tyrion. But a startling act of treachery directed at young Bran may postpone their departures.
Bran’s fate remains in doubt. Having agreed to become the King’s Hand, Ned leaves Westeros with daughters Sansa and Arya, while Catelyn stays behind to tend to Bran. Jon Snow heads north to join the brotherhood of the Night’s Watch. Tyrion decides to forego the trip south with his family, instead joining Jon in the entourage heading to the Wall. Viserys bides his time in hopes of winning back the throne, while Daenerys focuses her attention on learning how to please her new husband, Drogo.
Arriving at King's Landing after his long journey, Ned is shocked to learn of the Crown's profligacy from his new advisors. At Castle Black, Jon Snow impresses Tyrion at the expense of greener recruits. Suspicious that the Lannisters had a hand in Bran's fall, Catelyn covertly follows her husband to King's Landing, where she is intercepted by Petyr Baelish, aka "Littlefinger," a shrewd longtime ally and brothel owner. Cersei and Jaime ponder the implications of Bran's recovery; Arya studies swordsmanship. On the road to Vaes Dothrak, Daenerys finds herself at odds with Viserys.
Ned looks to a book for clues to the death of his predecessor, and uncovers one of King Robert's bastards. Robert and his guests witness a tournament honoring Ned. Jon takes measures to protect Samwell from further abuse at Castle Black; a frustrated Viserys clashes with Daenerys in Vaes Dothrak; Sansa imagines her future as a queen, while Arya envisions a far different future. Catelyn rallies her husband's allies to make a point, while Tyrion finds himself caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Tyrion's predicament becomes known in King's Landing, making life difficult for Eddard Stark. Ned's position is already precarious due to a disagreement with King Robert over plans to assassinate Daenerys before she can rally the Dothraki to invade Westeros. In the Eyrie, Catelyn is shocked by her sister Lysa's paranoia and distrust.
Reinstated as the Hand, Ned sits for the King while Robert is on a hunt, and issues a decree that could have long-term consequences throughout the Seven Kingdoms. At the Eyrie, Tyrion confesses to his “crimes,” and demands that Lysa give him a trial by combat. Joffrey apologizes to Sansa; Viserys receives his final payment for Daenerys from Drogo.
Explaining that the future of the Lannisters is at stake, Tywin presses Jaime to “be the man you were meant to be” as they prepare for battle. Ned confronts Cersei about the secrets that killed Jon Arryn. With the fate of the missing Benjen very much on his mind, Jon Snow takes his Night’s Watch vows, though not with the assignment he coveted. After Ser Jorah saves Daenerys from treachery, an enraged Drogo vows to lead the Dothraki where they’ve never gone before. An injured Robert takes pains to ensure an orderly transition at King’s Landing.
In the aftermath of Ned?s capture, Syrio and Arya face off against Lannister guards, while Cersei manipulates Sansa to her own ends. Robb rallies his father?s northern allies against Tywin Lannister and heads south to war. Tyrion forms an uneasy alliance with the hill tribes and reunites with his father. Jon lashes out at Ser Alliser Thorne and battles a mysterious attacker from beyond the Wall. Dany is forced to reconcile her desire to conquer Westeros with Drogo?s savagery after the Dothraki raid a peaceful village.
With Sansa's life in danger, Ned makes a fateful decision. Catelyn brokers an unsavory deal with the slippery Walder Frey. Tyrion acquires a mistress and is forced by his father to fight on the front lines. Robb wins his first major victory and captures a prized prisoner. Jon is rewarded for his valor and discovers a dark secret about Maester Aemon. As Drogo?s wound festers, Dany defies her bloodrider Qotho and puts her trust in the enslaved witch Mirri Maz Duur.
As tragic news spreads across the Seven Kingdoms, Bran and Rickon share a prophetic dream, Catelyn interrogates Jaime about her son?s fall, and Robb?s destiny is forever changed. After a surprising decision by his father, Tyrion heads south. Arya assumes a new identity in an attempt to escape King?s Landing, and Sansa is terrorized by Joffrey. At the Wall, Jon is forced to choose between the Night?s Watch and the family he left behind. Across the sea, Dany pays a terrible price for her love, but finds new hope.
As Robb Stark and his northern army continue the war against the Lannisters, Tyrion arrives in King’s Landing to counsel Joffrey and temper the young king’s excesses. On the island of Dragonstone, Stannis Baratheon plots an invasion to claim his late brother’s throne, allying himself with the fiery Melisandre, a strange priestess of a stranger god. Across the sea, Daenerys, her three young dragons and khalasar trek through the Red Waste in search of allies, or water. In the North, Bran presides over a threadbare Winterfell, while beyond the Wall, Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch must shelter with a devious wildling.
In the wake of a bloody purge in the capital, Tyrion chastens Cersei for alienating the king’s subjects. On the road north, Arya shares a secret with Gendry, a Night’s Watch recruit. With supplies dwindling, one of Dany's scouts returns with news of their position. After nine years as a Stark ward, Theon Greyjoy reunites with his father Balon, who wants to restore the ancient Kingdom of the Iron Islands. Davos enlists Salladhor Saan, a pirate, to join forces with Stannis and Melisandre for a naval invasion of King’s Landing.
At the Red Keep, Tyrion plots three alliances through the promise of marriage. Catelyn arrives in the Stormlands to forge an alliance of her own. But King Renly, his new wife Margaery and her brother Loras Tyrell have other plans. At Winterfell, Luwin tries to decipher Bran’s dreams.
Joffrey punishes Sansa for Robb’s victories, while Tyrion and Bronn scramble to temper the king’s cruelty. Catelyn entreats Stannis and Renly to forego their ambitions and unite against the Lannisters. Dany and her exhausted khalasar arrive at the gates of Qarth, a prosperous city with strong walls and rulers who greet her outside them. Tyrion coerces a queen’s man into being his eyes and ears. Arya and Gendry are taken to Harrenhal, where their lives rest in the hands of “The Mountain,” Gregor Clegane. Davos must revert to his old ways and smuggle Melisandre into a secret cove.
The end of the Baratheon rivalry drives Catelyn to flee and Littlefinger to act. At King’s Landing, Tyrion’s source alerts him to Joffrey’s flawed defense plan and a mysterious secret weapon. Theon sails to the Stony Shore to prove he’s worthy to be called Ironborn. In Harrenhal, Arya receives a promise from Jaqen H’ghar, one of three prisoners she saved from the Gold Cloaks. The Night’s Watch arrive at the Fist of the First Men, an ancient fortress where they hope to stem the advance of the wildling army.
Arya has a surprise visitor; Dany vows to take what is hers; Joffrey meets his subjects; Qhorin gives Jon a chance to prove himself.
Jaime meets a distant relative; Dany receives an invitation to the House of the Undying; Theon leads a search party; Jon loses his way in the wilderness; Cersei counsels Sansa.
Theon holds down the fort; Arya calls in her debt with Jaqen; Robb is betrayed; Stannis and Davos approach their destination.
A massive battle rages for control of King's Landing and the Iron Throne. Tyrion and the Lannisters fight for their lives as Stannis’ fleet assaults King’s Landing.
Tyrion awakens to a changed situation. King Joffrey doles out rewards to his subjects. As Theon stirs his men to action, Luwin offers some final advice. Brienne silences Jaime; Arya receives a gift from Jaqen; Dany goes to a strange place; Jon proves himself to Qhorin.
Jon meets the King-Beyond-the-Wall while his Night Watch Brothers flee south towards the Wall. In King's Landing, Tyrion wants a reward, Cersei arranges a dinner party, and Littlefinger offers to help Sansa. Across the Narrow Sea, Dany starts her journey west while in the Riverlands, Arya meets a band of outlaws.
Arya encounters the Brotherhood without Banners, while her brother Bran encounters a mysterious group of followers on the other side of the world. Jaime and Brienne continue their journey towards the capital, while the capital itself welcomes the arrival of the infamous Queen of Thorns, who invites Sansa to lunch upon her arrival.
Daenerys makes a deal for all the Unsullied and slaves in Astapor by offering something of value, against the advisement Ser Barristan Selmy and Ser Jorah Mormont. Jon Snow is sent with a band of wildings to scale the wall, while Arya and Gendry leave Hot Pie at the inn and are made to travel with the Brotherhood without Banners. In King's Landing, Tyrion is made the new Master of coin, while Petyr Baelish is sent to wed Lady Arryn in the Vale. Jamie convinces his captors against the rape and murder of Brienne with the thought of the amount her father may pay in Sapphires for her safe return. Jamie then tries to convince his captors that his father would pay them gold for his safe return to Kings Landing.
Jaime wakes up and even without a hand he steals a sword and tries to fight his captors but he is immediately defeated and captured. Arya and Gendry are taken to the secret cave of the Brotherhood without Banners where they meet their leader Beric Dondarrion a missing soldier from the Stark army who sentences Hound to a sword battle with him. Theon Greyjoy is taken to his father's castle where he is betrayed and captured by the man who saved him. Daenerys is still convinced that she will trade her dragon for the Unsullied army, the day of the exchange, Kraznys meets with Daenerys to complete the deal. Daenerys hands Drogon to Kraznys, who tries to shake loose of his collar. Kraznys then gives her the golden whip. Daenerys asks if it is done, and if the Unsullied are now under her command, to which Kraznys insultingly says yes. Daenerys now tests her new powers and reveals her identity and that she can speak Valyrian, she orders Drogon to burn Kraznys and tells him that dragons are not slaves, she also orders the Unsullied to kill every armed man in the castle and leaves with the whole army and the three dragons now unchained.
In King's Landing, with the help of Littlefinger, the Lannisters discover the Tyrells' plot to marry off Sansa Stark to Loras Tyrell. To prevent the union, Tywin Lannister plans to marry Sansa to Tyrion, and Cersei to Loras instead, despite Cersei and Tyrion's protests. At Dragonstone, Stannis visits his wife, Selyse, to confess about his infidelity, only to realize that his wife has always known and approves it. He then reveals to his daughter, Shireen, that Davos is imprisoned, and she sneaks into the dungeon to visit him and teaches him to read. In Riverlands, the Hound defeats Lord Beric in trial by combat and is released, angering Arya Stark. Gendry decides to stay with the Brotherhood, and Thoros and Beric plan to ransom Arya to her brother, Robb Stark. At Riverrun, despite many objections, Robb Stark decides to execute Lord Karstark after he murdered two captive Lannister boys. With the Karstarks abandoning him, Robb plans to make a desperate alliance with Walder Frey. Beyond the Wall, Jon Snow struggles to earn the Wildlings' trust while holding back the imperative information. Later, he and Ygritte have sex. Across the Narrow Sea, while on the march, Daenerys Targaryen's Unsullied select Grey Worm as their leader.
Tywin plans strategic unions for the Lannisters. Melisandre pays a visit to the Riverlands. Robb weighs a compromise to repair his alliance with House Frey. Roose Bolton decides what to do with Jaime Lannister. Jon, Ygritte and the Wildlings face a daunting climb.
Dany exchanges gifts with a slave lord outside of Yunkai. As Sansa frets about her prospects, Shae chafes at Tyrion's new situation. Tywin counsels the king, and Melisandre reveals a secret to Gendry. Brienne faces a formidable foe in Harrenhal.
King's Landing hosts a wedding, and Tyrion and Sansa spend the night together. Dany meets the Titan's Bastard. Davos demands proof from Melisandre. Sam and Gilly meet an older gentleman.
Robb presents himself to Walder Frey, and Edmure meets his bride. Jon faces his harshest test yet. Bran discovers a new gift. Daario and Jorah debate how to take Yunkai. House Frey joins with House Tully.
Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) challenges Tywin (Charles Dance). Bran tells a ghost story. In Dragonstone, mercy comes from strange quarters. Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) waits to see if she is a conqueror or a liberator.