Okay, I sort of lied about not being able to do this recap-a-view-'nalysis while on vacation. But honestly, my mom told me I HAD to do it. So I did it... while on vacation. That means no benefit of a DVR to pick apart scenes again or get exact quotes, but I did my best. Here we go!

Spoilers for the show (but not the books) are comin' right up. Seriously, if you haven't already seen the Season 1 finale, get out now or I will hunt you down myself.

I'm guessing Game of Thrones has become a big part of people's lives now, because Season 1 was outstanding. Out! Stand! Ing! And I bet a lot of you who haven't read the books but saw last night's promo for Season 2—which read "Spring 2012"—immediately downloaded A Clash of Kings(the second book in the Song of Ice and Fire series) to your Kindle or broke into your local Barnes & Noble and ripped it from the shelves, drunk with lust and frothing at the mouth like a meth addict at a low point. I don't blame you.

Whether you decide to spend the off-season reading the books or not is entirely your call (my personal recommendation: do it). What the finale says about this incredible story is that it's just beginning, and unlike with most TV finales, you can start the next season right now, if you like. I'm very interested to hear what those of you who haven't read the books but have come to adore the show are going to do.

Though "Fire and Blood" was the finale, I still consider last week's "Baelor" to be the apex of the series so far. The beheading of Ned Stark will forever stick out as one of the most shocking moments in television, and "Fire and Blood" largely dealt with the aftermath of Ned's murder while setting the stage for Season 2 (which is consistent with my belief that, when it comes to great shows, the penultimate episode of the season is always the best episode of the season). But...


It was the scene that fans of the books have been waiting for—and it was awesome. Until Dany's trio of little monsters hatched, the Game of Thrones been largely devoid of magic, mystical creatures, and other stuff associated with the genre—and I'm glad it was. Seriously, I'm not really into all that and I didn't think Game of Thrones needed it. But I'll be damned if I didn't leap out of my chair when I saw Dany rise slowly out of the ashes with one dragon on her shoulder and two more covering her hoo-ha. Holy crap. That scene was absolutely gorgeous, and the dragons looked so good that for the first time in television history, horny teenagers weren't focused on the bare nipples on display.

Dany may have lost almost all of her Khalasar, save for a few loyal followers who remained behind, but she's never been more powerful. Who needs a host of barbarians when you have a dragon? And when you have three dragons, well, you can do just about anything you want. It blows my mind that even though Dany hasn't stepped foot in Westeros, we are already so incredibly aware of her threat to the Seven Kingdoms. Her storyline has barely intersected with the rest of the show, yet it doesn't feel like she isn't connected because her character development throughout Season 1 has been superb. Now that the season's over, I encourage you to revisit Episode 1, when we first met her, and look at her eyes—the eyes of a scared child—and compare them to the raw power that emanates from her in the finale's last scene. And she isn't even old enough to get a driver's license. Man, I love Dany (and Emilia Clarke, who's been wonderful all season long).

For everyone else, however, power has been shattered to pieces and spread out across the kingdoms. Stannis, Robert's oldest brother, is making a claim for the Iron Throne. Renly, for some reason, thinks he should be king. Now Robb Stark has suddenly been named another king. But making the calls in King's Landing is Joffrey, the most despised person on television right now. NOW do you understand why Book 2 is entitled A Clash of Kings? The dragons may have stolen the show, but the heart of the series' conflict is still the war among the great houses and the fight to sit on the Iron Throne, and that fight just became a Battle Royale. There will be no shortage of story for Season 2.

Just a few notes on the other characters, because I think many of their Season 1 stories actually wrapped up last week, and most of their involvement in the finale had to do with them taking the first steps in their journeys for Season 2:

... Jon Snow left to join Robb, but then returned because his Brothers in Black re-recited their oath. Come on, Jon, you can't be changing your mind every time someone reminds you of your past promises.

... Arya's got a new haircut (which I hate) and is off to The Wall with some new friends (Yoren, Gendry) and some new enemies (Porky and Blondie Smallteeth).

... Varys and Littlefinger had another GREAT conversation—will someone please give these two their own show? Maybe put them in an apartment together in Manhattan?

... Despite being taken prisoner and bloodied with rocks, I still really want to be Jaime Lannister. He's so f***ing cool.

... Cat continues to offer up some great reaction faces, like she did when Robb was named King of the North, and she had one of those "Oh boy, here we go again" looks on her mug.

... Ros, is there anyone in Westeros you won't spread your legs for? And if not, when is it my turn?

... Bran and his lil' bro Rickon are having crazy premonitions and gave us some pretty sweet history lessons in the crypts. Also: Rickon needs to train Shaggydog.

... Drogo died. Sad face.

... Cersei is having trouble containing Joffrey and taking the incest thing to the next level.

... Tyrion has been named Hand of the King in his father's place and is getting a little too attached to his new whore.

... And finally, Sansa may be the most screwed of them all, because she's still betrothed to the worst person in the world.

That may sound like a whole lot to keep track of, but somehow—and I'm still trying to figure out exactly how—Game of Thrones has managed to take this complex web of stories and make it easily digestible. Just step back and consider of how many things are going on, how many characters you've met, how everything is interconnected, and how far you've come to understand this world that is now impossible to remove from your imagination. It's a universe so rich and deep, with even its smallest parts described in the most specific detail, yet it's just getting started. And the real mind-blower is that it all came out of just one person's brain. Spring 2012 can't come soon enough!

Additional notes from the ravens:

... "They have your sisters. We have to get the girls back. And then we will kill them all." You go, Catelyn!

... I loved that in an episode that was largely gritty and serious, we still got to see Grand Maester Pycelle do some Jazzercise after bedding a whore.

... True Blood did itself no favors by showing that 8-minute preview after Game of Thrones' incredible final scene. What WAS that?

... Who do YOU think should be king of Westeros now? The correct answer can only be Stannis, right?

Follow Ser Tim Surette of House TV.com on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom