Before we get to last night's killer Season 1 finale -- that would be HBO's "Game of Thrones" -- a few words about AMC's "The Killing," which pretty much ended in a howl of frustration last night.
It's probably a fitting conclusion to the first season of a show that started out promisingly and has been, as Salon's Matt Zoller Seitz puts it, "like watching the first season of 'Homicide: Life on the Street' morph into 'Scooby Doo.'"
All I can say about the we-still-don't-know-who-killed-Rosie-Larsen ending is this: We were warned.
Last night, I went back to my first review of the show, the generally positive one I wrote before I, too, soured on it. Here's what I found:
"Sud won't even guarantee someone will be brought to justice. 'Whether or not it gets solved at the end of the season is a mystery,' she told reporters in January."
Few of us, I suspect, wanted to believe her.
Now, on to "Game of Thrones," which did deliver.
If you've read the George R.R. Martin book, you already knew how Season 1 of HBO's "Game of Thrones" was supposed to end -- but would it?
There are two things I'd been wondering since I finished the book, just about the time the series began:
-- How long would the writers be able to put off the game-changing death of Eddard Stark (Sean Bean)?
-- How were they going to pull off a key moment that should come at the very end?
Last week, of course, we learned the first answer. (And, please, if you haven't yet watched that episode, don't complain that I've spoiled it for you. It's been a week and if you wanted to remain spoiler-free, you wouldn't be reading a blog post with "Game of Thrones" in the headline.)
Tonight, we saw how HBO's adaptation answered that second question:
There be dragons.
"I am the dragon's daughter," declared Daenerys "Stormborn" Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) moments before walking into her husband's burning funeral pyre, into which she'd earlier placed her three precious (and presumed defunct) dragon eggs.
And the next morning, she was discovered naked, nursing one of three newly hatched dragons.
As special effects go, the dragons were fine. But I'm guessing there are "Game of Thrones" fans who didn't know 10 weeks ago that they'd signed up for dragons, any more than they knew that Ned Stark wouldn't make it through the season.
And baby dragons, like baby chicks, don't stay babies forever, do they?
It was a powerful season long before the critters showed up, but Daenerys' three scaly babies were probably the happiest thing about the Season 1 finale, where nearly everyone else was having a very tough night: Sansa, the battered fiancee of the boy king who'd had her father's head lopped off, Jon Snow, who tried to leave the Wall to help his half-brother Robb avenge their father's death and was pulled back, Catelyn Stark, whose face-to-face with Jaime Lannister was also one of the episode's high points.
"Play resumes" on "Game of Thrones," HBO tells us, in the spring of 2012. First, though, winter is coming.
It already feels much too long.
What did you think of the two finales?