Okay, first, stop. STOP. STOP. No seriously.
THIS WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS
NOT THE SORT OF SPOILER YOU WANT SPOILER'D
DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE EPISODE/READ THE BOOK. DO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT COLLECT $200.
I hope you're not reading if you haven't seen the episode/read the book. You shouldn't be. This will ruin a big Something that you don't want ruined. Okay?
When I was telling my friends about this show, particularly those who hadn't finished the books or even started them, I was generally quiet but said something to the effect of "Just don't think you've seen it all yet. There are surprises." The big moment that I'm going to start discussing in t-minus one paragraph is certainly one of the most gripping in the first novel (second-most, for me, but since my favourite scene doesn't get shown until next week, I'll not say more), and since it's so wrapped up in the developing narrative there was no way they could've ducked away from this gamble without losing all of their cred', yo.
Assuming we're ready: killing off Ned was, in my mind, one of the things that set ASoIaF apart, and I'm desperately glad that they kept it in. For starters, it lets the reader know that this is not your Lord of the Rings any more (though if anyone still harboured such a belief, seriously, have you been watching?). Sure, Boromir dies in LotR, but you knew Aragorn wasn't going to. Hell, you also kind of knew Gandalf was coming back. Game of Thrones essentially takes anyone who doesn't take fantasy seriously and slaps them on the side of the head. These aren't goofy stories about a wizard and some short guys and a funny elf and dwarf. If an elf showed up anywhere in Westoros he'd get his head chopped off.
I'm going to pull back a bit and not talk about the show itself--because the web is full of those discussions--but instead redirect a bit to why this moment was so important to me, especially in the broader sense, for its implications towards a fantasy narrative that's less obsessed with its own trappings and more about a damn good story that, hey, has knights and castles and shit because those things are cool.
I'm fond of saying that a really great way for a fantasy book to look like a hackneyed, low-brow doorstop is to include something in its title taken directly from its own universe; an example would be Eragon, though there are countless others. The reason I dislike this is because out of the gate, the book is not telling you that it is focused on elements of story, but rather that it has fantasy shit inside so come on and read why don't you? A title reading The Drizz't of Angmarrez't means absolutely nothing no matter how neat the author thinks it sounds. I know I'm sort of derailing here, but I do have a point to return to: look at the title of Game of Thrones. "Westoros" appears nowhere in the title. Nor do any of the other fantasy trappings. You hear that title, you know exactly what the show's about.
Returning to what I was talking about, this moment really puts forth that Game of Thrones gives not one fuck that you expect a fantasy story to have an elf and a bit with a wizard in it. It is telling a story, it is engaging with lots of interesting stuff, and also is written within a fictional world. To me, that's what separates GRRM's work, and it's a trend I've gleefully noticed is starting to become more and more adopted. To diverge again, think of a really great thriller. Is it great because it has all the thriller stuff (crime, sophisticated bad guy, etc.)? No, that just makes it a thriller by definition. What makes anything great is the actual meat of the thing, not the trimmings.
What I'm saying here is Game of Thrones is rib-eye. Now I want steak....
How that all translates onto a TV show is somewhat questionable. I hope audiences don't flee, because there's much more to come (including death, lots of that), and I'd hate to see the series come to a stop at season two. After the surprisingly strong response to Lady's death (curious how no one gave a damn about the butcher's boy), I wonder if people will be able to stomach Ned's sudden decrease in stature. Guess only time can tell.
There's a lot of other stuff to talk about in the episode, of course, but I don't have anything particularly interesting to say about it right now, since this is really a seat-of-my-pants sort of thing.
'Till next time.