Updated Monday 4/22 at 9:55am PDT
Game of Thrones, Episode 802: “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”
Original airdate: April 21, 2019 on HBO
Spoiler warning: This page may contain descriptions of events in this and previous episodes. Watch before reading.
For this final season of the HBO hit Game of Thrones, we are collecting reviews and impressions from professional TV writers for each individual episode, continuing with “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” written by Bryan Cogman and directed by David Nutter. Check this site each Sunday night for the latest reviews.
While we won’t try to assign an overall score to each episode, we have grouped the reviews into rough categories based on critic enthusiasm, beginning with the most positive. Scores for individual reviews are displayed only in those cases where a reviewer has specifically indicated a score. (Those scores have been converted to a 0-100 scale when necessary to facilitate comparison.) “Recaps” are not included if they merely discus the plot details and fail to assess the episode’s quality in any way. Click on any publication name to read the full review. Additional reviews will be added on Monday morning.
Extremely positive reviews
To call it “fan service” would be to do a disservice to what credited writer Bryan Cogman and director David Nutter have pulled off here: Summing up eight years’ worth of development in a way that does justice to this large panoply of characters without tipping into phony sentiment. These conversations were often baldly sincere, occasionally awkward, sometimes brittle, and downright mawkish at times…and not a single one rang false.
[“Experts” review for people who have read the novels] Whatever is to come in the Battle of Winterfell, its ultimate value to this story will be better for having been preceded by two confident and contained episodes exploring the breadth of humanity on display in the series as a whole.
Den of Geek!
More so than last week’s premiere, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdom” reminded us why we love these characters, and why it’ll hurt so much when we say to the Many-Faced God next week, “So it is today, old friend.”
There’s a sense of urgency in this hour that was absent in episode 1 – an intangible flow that builds on every scene that has come before it. … Thanks to some truly emotional payoffs and a steadily escalating sense of dread, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” feels like quintessential Game of Thrones – a crowd-pleasing installment that nevertheless allows for some much-needed character progression before, presumably, the show kills half of the cast.
This week’s Game Of Thrones returned to greatness. … After a disappointing season premiere followed the show’s worst season, we feared the Game of Thrones we loved was gone for good. This week the show finally remembered what made us love it in the first place.
The more I mull it over, the more I think that was a genuinely brilliant Game of Thrones episode.
Sean T. Collins
Tonight’s episode … is GoT at its best. In a way, it makes good on the promise of last week’s season premiere, which tended toward the cheery, wish-fulfillment side of this calm-before-the-storm section of the story. Yes, there’s even less action this week than last, and no screaming burning zombie children either. But writer Bryan Cogman and director David Nutter, both of them series veterans, dig into the show’s rich library of character relationships, find the heartwrenching stuff at the center of each and put it on display time and time again.
It’s even more emotionally potent than the premiere … An episode this great is more, frankly, than I had hoped for after GoT‘s sluggish recent seasons.
Barely anything happened. But to long time fans – the type who talk about these characters and if they were real people with hopes and dreams – it was absolutely fantastic.
“A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” reminded me that what got viewers hooked on Game of Thrones wasn’t the spectacle or the battles. It wasn’t even the crazy twists or the political intrigue. It was how the show’s collection of characters felt just a little like real people living through massive, life-changing events. “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” was a marked improvement over the season eight premiere and the kind of episode that Game of Thrones needed to have before it descends into the chaos of the impending war with the Night King.
It’s nostalgic, it’s heartwarming, AND it features a sex scene more truly sexy than the 10,000 sets of tits that have come before it on Game of Thrones. We laughed, we cried (along with Brienne), and this episode became a part of us.
Birth. Movies. Death.
The episode’s understated humor and consistent compassion only highlighted the reason its stakes feel so tremendous: these are characters who, good or bad, villainous or virtuous, have arrived at a crossroads, and the coming war will test the lessons they have learned across the past seven seasons.
Consequence of Sound
It’s an episode heavy on theme, atmosphere, and character moments, but light on any forward momentum beyond finally giving The Night King a little motivation. And yet, once we dive into momentous of events of the series’ final four, extended runtime episodes, we’ll all probably be yearning for a few more interludes like these, when Game of Thrones could take a breath, deliver some of the charm and banter that made it more than a grimdark tour through a fantasy setting, and let us enjoy the quiet moments before everything has to be heavy and bloody and full of life-changing importance again.
The emotional episode was a tense calm before the White Walkers storm that is now within eyesight of Westeros’ furtherest northern city – a ready release into the chaos and fog of war to come
As an hour of television, A Knight Of The Seven Kingdoms wasn’t so much full of drama as it was a living recap of past stories. Which, for all its minor (and a couple of major incidences) came off as a little less than totally satisfying in the shadow of last week.
GoT’s action scenes get so much attention but the show has always executed its quieter moments equally well, so this is an unexpected treat in the final season (and if you criticized season 7 for its fast pacing and slam this episode as “too slow” then you’re just an impossible-to-please person).
This slow episode focused on making sure audiences remembered why they fell in love with the sprawling list of characters in the first place.
Season 8’s second episode was yet another filled with build-up and anticipation, the promise of something monumental waiting just over the horizon.
Maybe it’s because I’m sucker for ‘the night before battle’ stories, tinged as they always are with sadness and regret, but I really enjoyed this melancholy curtain raiser to the coming mayhem next week. … Where last week’s opening episode was sketched in broad strokes – and arguably spent most of the hour reminding us where we were after a two-year absence – this week went deep into the relationships between various characters and was all the better for it.
After [Jaime Lannister’s] pseudo-trial concluded, there was the strange but not unpleasant sensation of Game of Thrones turning into a Richard Linklater hangout movie.
It makes for a very bleak episode, but a damned good one, too. After last week’s rocky season premiere, I am very happy to report that things are much, much improved.
Los Angeles Review of Books
Last night was the least Game of Thrones this show has ever been. It was gentle and slow, tender and authentic; no one was cruel and everyone was listening.
After last week’s onslaught of story points, this episode seemed measured, even contemplative.
If last week’s episode was necessary (to remind us of where everyone is and set up the final season), then last night’s episode was… not. … And yet I have a feeling, when we reach the end of this season of Game of Thrones and look back on the journey we took with this amazing, infuriating and confounding show, many of the moments we remember will come from this episode right here. No, none of this was strictly “necessary” to the story. But emotionally? These moments were irreplaceable.
How much you enjoyed this episode has a lot to do with how much you’ve invested in these characters. I enjoyed it quite a lot, even if it did feel like the beginning of a goodbye.
Is two episodes of set-up one too many, when you’re only working with six to begin with? Possibly. But I think they more or less succeeded at capturing the atmosphere of anticipation and fear, and I’ll admit to being totally curious at what will happen next week.
Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones, like last week’s premiere, gave us plenty of the moments we may have thought we wanted … But the night before the war to come — yes, I think we’re finally almost there — moved so fast through all those emotional meetings that I’m not sure which ones I’m supposed to care about most.
Of these two suffocatingly claustrophobic episodes, this week’s was the better: more emotive, more tender, and even, at times, strangely poetic.
It’s a fan-service episode! Like a kiss on the cheek before they rip the Band-Aid off.
That was a little bit more subdued than I thought it would be.
On one hand, this felt like the second setup episode in a row. On the other hand, what a setup episode!
Those fans who love “Game of Thrones” for how much it can push the bounds of TV with its giant set pieces and enemies of mythic proportion may come away from this even-keeled episode disappointed. But it’s undeniably satisfying to spend this night with so many characters that we’ve come to hold dear, being the fly on the wall as they drink melancholy mugs of wine and reminisce about the dangerous and even bizarre paths they all took to get to this pivotal moment in history. Taking place entirely in Winterfell the night the Whitewalkers are set to descend upon them, this is the the kind of latter days episode that could only work on a show that invests in its characters enough for it to pay off.
The Washington Post
The very final-feeling conversations between characters in this show are the stuff their humanity is made of. Whatever the outcome of next episode’s battle is — and I suspect it will be a very high body count — the real distinction between the living and the dead was drawn this week in the warm bodies and warmer conversations between our tragically, beautifully human characters.
I know a lot of people found plenty to love in this episode, and there were definitely some moments that made me emotional (Ser Brienne’s smile shone as brightly as the sun glinting off the sapphire waters of Tarth). But I wish “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” had dug a little more into the existential terror that characters must be feeling in concrete or insightful way.
I’m all for Thrones celebrating the quieter moments. But there were times during “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” when I felt the show running down a checklist and making sure it spent a little time on everything before getting ready to kill off a bunch of main characters.
Having had seventy-plus hours to get everyone in position for the ending, the show is still basically just spinning its wheels, and trying to match up all the characters who haven’t shared a scene yet. … The inescapable fact is ‘A Knight Of The Seven Kingdoms’ finds itself feeling directionless, unsure what it is or what it’s doing, when it’s meant to be triple-A caliber television.
The Globe and Mail
An hour of television that was Game of Thrones playing to its strengths, and tripping on its weaknesses. … These beloved characters have been on such an emotional journey that I want to spend as much time with them as possible and hear everything they have to say to one another – but why does it all have to be so yeah-yeah-I-get-it obvious?
For a show that relies so heavily upon its own cultural importance and the conversations that happen around it, the series’ final season is proving reluctant to serve up a real watercooler moment.
Liz Shannon Miller
It’s not that things were badly executed, but there was nothing really challenging or assertive to inspire interest. … Through a third of the final season, the presumably massive battle on the horizon remains the center of the show’s focus — without, alas, actually showing us any battling.
Like last week, this was another plot-light, comedy-heavy, anticipatory hour of Thrones – an episode designed to deliberately torture the audience by putting everyone we love in one room, uniting them against a common enemy, and having them joke and sing and flirt before they get ripped apart by icy dead hands. … I like Game of Thrones when it is slower, chattier, and more character-focused, but at times, this episode became repetitive.
If anyone needed evidence that “Game of Thrones” has run out of both novel and story, Sunday seemed to offer it. “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” still managed to be satisfying in the same way last week’s opener was satisfying
Thrones is also apparently done mounting scenes that are riveting in their own right, rather than ones that just cash in on years of pent-up audience desires. Did any of this episode’s farewells and cuddle piles subvert expectations? Were any relationships further deepened? Were our understandings of characters made more complex? … The scariest implication of this episode is that Thrones might execute its grandest showdown without the zings of surprise, imagination, and bald-eunuch machinations that once made it great.
What do you think?
What did you think of Sunday’s episode? Let us know in the comments section below.