Okay, so the Red Wedding went down earlier this week, along with Catelyn, Robb, Talisa and one of maybe six hundred major plotlines. You’ve had a few days to decompress, reached out to those you care about, and resolved to stick with them and get through these hard times in Westeros together.

Here’s why Game of Thrones is now officially an elite TV program. It just asserted the shit out of itself and completely shocked your system. Only the great shows can do something on this caliber—provide a scene so intensely packed with emotion that it shakes you to your core, while all you’re doing is sitting on your couch twiddling your thumbs. Despite the sadness and anger you might feel at George R.R. Martin and D.B. Weiss/David Benioff for luring you into comfort and promptly slicing your jugular, take a step back for a second and appreciate the unique dose of premier storytelling they just served you. Has Hawaii Five-0 ever made you feel this strongly about a single scene?

The outpour of tweets, Facebook posts, and angry texts to your friend that read the books since Sunday night is really something extraordinary. You know an episode of TV has struck a chord when people make Twitter accounts like @RedWeddingTears in commemoration of it. But just as we’ve gotten over the hill and most people fully know about the Red Wedding, a general feeling of “now what?” has set in.

This kind of episode, and really the entire concept behind it, yields such a strange hangover. It brings up several questions, not the least important of which is: how are you supposed to follow up an act of greatness? Is there even any point in trying? What did Michael Jordan do after winning his first three consecutive championships? He fucking played minor league baseball. And wasn’t even a little bit good, hitting .202 in the ‘94-’95 season. It’s oddly enough the same wonder I had after the season 4 finale of Breaking Bad, wherein Walter White completed his Heisenberg transformation and out-eviled the brilliant, patient Chilean drug lord, Gustavo Fring. How do you follow that up? Should Heisenberg have just traded in his fedora for a Birmingham Barons cap and pinstriped shirt?

Of course not. Even though I didn’t see a way for it to get better, I’m glad Breaking Bad came back for a fifth and final season (though still pissed it was broken into two segments over a year apart). Similarly, I’m excited to see what GOT has in store for us in the season finale—and more importantly, next season and beyond. That’s purely because we suddenly know how serious the stakes are in this Game of Thrones. This isn’t a fairy tale. Traditional heroism has been thrown out the door, and it’s clear no character on the show is safe. Now that the three oldest members of the Stark household have been brutally murdered in the first three seasons, anything can happen.

Credit to George R.R. Martin, who has sometimes been labeled as the world’s most cynical romantic, for getting real with his readers and reflecting the pain and suffering that are more prevalent in life than warm and fuzzy endings. Further credit still to D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, for staying true to the brutality of George’s books. All I can say is their jobs definitely aren’t easy. But I’m sure it’s all worth it.

Because now they have our attention.