Last night's Game of Thrones Season 2 finale was technically dénouement after last week's pyroclimax, but it actually felt full of life — it was a ramping up instead of a tapering off. For example, Daenerys, who was given little more to do this season than wander around aimlessly, at last has direction and mounting power. And more importantly: dragons. Dragons that get her out of trouble, evoke the nonstop adorable-creature parade that was '80s pop culture and show up just in time to leave us wanting more. Again.

You'll remember that last season ended moments after those little fire-breathing lambchops hatched. This time around, the ante was upped even more with a great parade of frozen zombies that closed out the show/season (the rotting undead horse is maybe the coolest image this show has ever offered). It reminded me of the final scene in Lucio Fulci's gut-busting 1979 film Zombi 2. Back-to-back video evidence is attached.


While the amount of time Thrones spends on setup is often mystifying, it's episodes like these that prove the show knows exactly what it's doing. It demands investment — it's telling that in my unscientific data collecting, every single person I've talked to who loves this show has also read the books. But it also knows how to satisfy and make good on its promises. Sansa's seeming liberation from Joffery and then realization that just because he isn't marrying her doesn't mean she gets to leave King's Landing? Or maybe it will if Littlefinger keeps his word? Exponentially gripping. Theon Greyjoy's meltdown that was played as straight-up comedy? Hilarious. Tyrion's downward spiral and confirmation of his place in this narrative ("These bad people are what I'm good at. Outalking them out thinking them. It's what I am. And I like it. I like it more than anything I've ever done.")? A moving scene between a dwarf and his whore. Robb Stark's wedding vows ("Father, smith, warrior, mother, maiden, crone, stranger. I am hers and she is mine from this day until the end of my days.")? Like a Ghost World-grade art-film parody. That was pretty dumb, actually.

The momentum this show picked up in the past two episodes has made up for the relative inertia of the season. It's almost infuriating that it took so long, but I'm not going to look a rotting, undead gift horse in the mouth. With so much unresolved so that we come back next season, this episode was technically setup as well. Imagine if it stays this satisfying while teasing itself out. Keep up the pace, Thrones.