Alert:This story contains major spoilers from Sunday's Game of Thrones episode.
First, the king was killed. Now, the real power at the heart of Game of Thrones is dead, too.
In Sunday's dizzyingly eventful fourth-season finale, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), the man falsely accused of murdering his nephew, King Joffrey, takes the life of his father, Westeros' de facto ruler Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance).
With Tywin's death, "It's never been so unsettled," episode director Alex Graves says.
The death of Tywin, grandfather of Joffrey and his brother and Iron Throne successor, King Tommen, is just one of many shocking and significant happenings in the season finale of the HBO drama, which is based on George R.R. Martin's book series.
"It is basically scene after scene, one tectonic shift in the story or character's life after another," Graves says.
The ruling Lannisters are at the heart of the drama. Tyrion, sentenced to die after a trial brought on at the urging of his sister and Joffrey's mother, Cersei (Lena Headey), escapes with the help of his brother, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).
Instead of leaving, Tyrion heads to Tywin's quarters where he finds his former lover, Shae (Sibel Kekilli), in his father's bed. He strangles her, finds Tywin on the toilet and kills him, in an artful touch, with Joffrey's crossbow. Tyrion then flees Kings Landing.
"I think Tyrion is pretty just" in killing Tywin, says Headey, pointing out how Tyrion has been wronged and taking an opposing view from her character. "His dad is (sleeping with) the love of his life. Tywin's made of spite."
The loss of the security and strength provided by Tywin "is yet another brick out of the foundation" of the family and will have ramifications for the Lannisters and many others, she says. "There will be a lot of change, I'm sure."
Much happens outside the Lannister family, too. North of the Wall, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is planning to kill wildling leader Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds) when a first-time meeting with the invading Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), another claimant to the Iron Throne, stops him. In another part of the north, Jojen Reed (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), a traveling companion of Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright), meets his own demise.
The travels of odd-couple warriors Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and Sandor "The Hound" Clegane (Rory McCann) come to an end, with Arya leaving The Hound to die after his fight with Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie). "Arya's never going to forget who's on her list" for vengeance, Graves says.
Across the sea in Meereen, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), who also has designs on the Iron Throne, makes the difficult decision to chain two of her increasingly unruly dragons, with one still on the loose.
The deadly winnowing may make sense at this point in the epic series, which has been renewed for two more seasons.
"To this point, the world of the story has been expanding. More characters, more worlds, more story lines. But we've reached the middle of the story, more or less, and Season 4 is where the expansion seems to end, which feels appropriate," executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss say in an e-mail. "We don't have stasis, which tends not to work so well in storytelling. That leaves contraction. Which means that characters, worlds and story lines will converge in surprising ways that would be much less surprising if we said anything about them."