Thu
Apr 2 2009 6:01pm

“What can he have more but the kingdom?”

Kings is catching on. After a quiet premiere, ratings are improving as this alternate-history drama snags the imaginations of viewers looking for a little speculative in their Sunday. (We all know SyFy doesn’t want us; we have to go somewhere!)

The plot is loosely based on the life of the Biblical King David, set in the modern-day kingdom of Gilboa, where a war against enemy country Gath is raging. Young front-line soldier David Shepherd pulls a daring stunt that knocks out a Goliath tank, saves the life of the King’s own son, and makes David a national hero.

King Silas invites David to capital city Shiloh for a plum post as press liaison, because even in alternate universes no camera can resist a blonde beefcake, and it all seems like a good idea until Silas gets a sign that God has shifted his favor from His Royal Highness to the golden upstart. Awkward.

Kings has spent much of the first few episodes setting up conflicts without unspooling them: the tensions among the members of the royal family; glimpses and hints of political prisoners, enemies, and exiles; the will-he-won’t-he of Silas’ need to take David out of the power picture in order to solidify his own rule.

Some of these work out better than others. There are things the show does well: the aesthetics are cinema-sleek, the over-30 actors uniformly talented, and so far the show has ongoing and layered references to its Biblical counterpart that are enough to interest theologeeks.

Of course, there are issues: the under-30 cast is uniformly wooden (with the exception of Sebastian Stan; who would have thought the day would come when the kid from Gossip Girl was the best actor in the frame?), and it can be trying to sit through yet another vague conversation with yet another character you just met. However, these scenes have the feel of showrunners shedding exposition and gearing up for the game to begin, so a little anvil here or there might be forgiven.

By far the most interesting element of the show is the subtle world being revealed as we take baby steps outside the palace walls. We’ve had glimpses of the front lines, gossip websites, and treaty negotiations. Some things remain obfuscated, of which the most significant is the religion being built from the ground up—does the Reverend, set squarely against King Silas, actually have God’s ear? Is God an active and present force in this world, or just the reflection of human nature? After the runaway success of the cerebral and theological Battlestar Galactica, there’s a new niche for hard-hitting spiritual science fiction. Is NBC ready to tackle the nature of God? (Will corporate sponsor Liberty Mutual let them risk even asking the question?)

For those impatient to see what happens next, the show has stayed close enough to the Old Testament that you can grab a King James and get a sneak peek. Turns out Biblical David is remarkably more interesting than the aw-shucks ideal we’ve seen so far; I, for one, can’t wait to see him spitting and feigning madness to escape suspicion by enemy forces. (Or feigning anything, for that matter. Act, damn you, Chris Egan! ACT.)

If you’re up on your Kings episodes (and/or your Book of Samuel), what’s on your wish list for coming episodes? Mine has more Reverend, a long-awaited glimpse of Port Prosperity, more Thomasina, and Wes Studi being the shit. But there’s plenty more to choose from: what about the King’s son loving David “as his own soul”? (Hey, I just report the news. Pony up the canon, NBC!) Is the show going to be a theological battleground, or will they just be tiptoeing past all that on their way to Princess Michelle’s milquetoast romantic subplots? What in Gilboa do you most want to see?


And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom?
– 1 Samuel 18:8 (King James Version)

8 comments
Ceroth
1. Ceroth
I'm just wondering how they are going to handle David giving King Silas the foreskins of 200 Gathians as a bridal gift for the hand of King Silas's daughter.
- -
2. heresiarch
"Is God an active and present force in this world, or just the reflection of human nature?"

I don't see much doubt that God is active and present, what with the crown of butterflies that David gets. Honestly, it's my favorite aspect of the series, because to atheist me it's very sfnal--people absolutely expect that God is watching them and communicating with them directly, and can be a vindictive SOB from time to time. It's so much more interesting than the agnostic "Is there a God? Maybe!" thing that passes for religiosity these days.
Jordan Dennis
3. jddennis
@ 1

Ha. Or when Silas has to have the Witch of Endor summoning up Samuel's ghost. That should be interesting.
Justin Adair
4. Hobbyns
Don't forget David's homoerotic love for Jonathan. That would give the show interesting subtext:

"I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women." (2 Sam 1:26)
CD Covington
5. ccovington
I'm wondering if they're going to stick with the vindictive Old Testament god, with Silas' line about "Does something beautiful have to die to make you happy?"
Mitchell Downs
6. Beamish
I am enjoying the show, but I am trying very hard not to expect any specific Biblical parallel because sometimes the other shoe won't drop.

Case in point: the "love" between Jonathan and David. I think the show has completely passed by that as a possible romantic relationship. Perhaps they will have "Jack" fall for David while David goes the "brotherly" love route and thus: friction. But they have spent much of the first four epsiodes making Jack into much more of a villain than the biblical Jonathan ever was; so I think they might be ignoring that parallel entirely.

And given how clumsily the "Goliath" parallel was portrayed...I am hoping they limit other out-right parallels to more accessible metaphors.
Genevieve Valentine
7. GLValentine
@ ccovington - I certainly hope so. It feels like this version of God is as cruel and fickle as his Old Testament counterpart, not least for showing Silas that the hunky kid he brought home is going to usurp him but good. I can't wait for the show to give us some of the Reverend's perspective, just to see how much of this God is Silas' own psychology and how much is the tangible and plot-affecting diety.

@ Beamish - It is a less-than-stellar beginning, I agree. Maybe they're drawing it out, and part of Jack's redemption arc will be a "close friendship" with David? It does feel like the show is really drawing things out, so it's possible that their relationship will improve as the season goes along. If they go for the old "the son is jealous" thing, I'm going to be disappointed.
David Spiller
8. scifidavid
I gave up on this half way through the premiere. I think after reading this piece, I am going to give it another try. Hopefully, all the episodes are available on nbc.com and/or hulu.com.

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