Speaking of the north, the death of Mance Raydor (so well played by Rome's Ciarán Hinds) was a sight to behold and more than regrettable. But beginning with the death of Ned Stark, the loss of appealing characters has become a staple of this powerful series. The only Game of Thrones novel I've read so far is the very first, so I'm as struck as you by deaths of major characters if you haven't read the novels, either.
But Mance's death epitomizes the consolidation of power that is going in the north, as Stannis gathers his forces to take back the throne from the Lannisters. Stannis's assumption is that nothing credible can attack him from behind, from the north, as he moves on the south. But Jon Snow and we the viewers already know better, because we've seen the cold terror that the north can generate.
The ultimate battle has always been between the fire-breathing dragons south of the south and the icy spectres of the north. That battle, still a long way yet to happen, makes Stannis versus the Lannisters pale in comparison - even with the witchcraft on Stannis's side - and will likely make any victory he achieves over the Lannisters pyrrhic indeed.
But that's getting ahead of the story, where we've yet to see how Arya and Brienne play out.
See also Games of Thrones Season 4 Premiere: Salient Points ... Game of Thrones 4.2: Whodunnit? ... Game of Thrones 4.3: Who Will Save Tyrion ...Game of Thrones 4.4: Glimpse of the Ultimate Battle ... Game of Thrones 4.6: Tyrion on Trial ... Game of Thrones 4.8: Beetles and Battle ...Game of Thrones 4.9: The Fight for Castle Black ... Games of Thrones Season 4 Finale: Woven Threads
And see also Game of Thrones Back in Play for Season 2 ... Game of Thrones 2.2: Cersei vs. Tyrion
And see also A Game of Thrones: My 1996 Review of the First Novel ... Game of Thrones Begins Greatly on HBO ... Game of Thrones 1.2: Prince, Wolf, Bastard, Dwarf ... Games of Thrones 1.3: Genuine Demons ... Game of Thrones 1.4: Broken Things ... Game of Thrones 1.5: Ned Under Seige ... Game of Thrones 1.6: Molten Ever After ... Games of Thrones 1.7: Swiveling Pieces ... Game of Thrones 1.8: Star Wars of the Realms ... Game of Thrones 1.9: Is Ned Really Dead? ... Game of Thrones 1.10 Meets True Blood
And here's a Spanish article in Semana, the leading news magazine in Colombia, in which I'm quoted about explicit sex on television, including on Game of Thrones.
And see "'Game of Thrones': Why the Buzz is So Big" article in The Christian Science Monitor, 8 April 2014, with my quotes.
Also: CNN article, "How 'Game of Thrones' Is Like America," with quote from me
"I was here, in Carthage, three months from now."