This week, Kings made a return to the air, giving us the rest of its already-cancelled first season. Saturday’s episode seemed to reflect the noble resignation of a condemned prisoner, as it carried two plots about lost causes (a fatal plague within the city and an assassination mission gone awry), began to kill off the supporting characters to clear up the call sheet, and set the stage for what could be a bang-up back six.
When Gath ambassadors ask King Silas for a favor, Jack and David lead a diplomatic team as cover for a covert op to assassinate a guerilla. David wasn’t in on the whole thing, and seems shocked, just shocked, that people don’t tell him everything. (Or anything. Poor dope.)
They capture the insurgent Belial, who’s revealed to be on a Gilboan payroll just as the tables turn. Jack and David, locked down by enemy fire, must hope the traitor is flushed out before they’re shot by Gath fighters—or their own men.
Meanwhile, Princess Michelle visits a hospital to see how her health care bill is panning out. She’s shocked, just shocked, that hospitals have filled up (she and David are well-matched). People are getting tested for diseases—that’s good! Two of them have the plague—that’s bad!
This pair of plots move the episode along serviceably, though the episode is at its best when the focus is on the mythic rather than the mundane. King Silas begins the episode with a sprig of acacia blowing into his house—a sign of change, the Reverend tells him. Silas spends the rest of the episode doing what anyone does when they’re looking for signs—interpreting everything that happens moment to moment, losing scope. He takes his son’s volunteering for the op as a sign of love; when things go sour, he thinks God’s taking his son. When his daughter breaks quarantine to comfort a dying plague victim, rather than seeing himself well rid of someone dumber than a box of hair, he sees it as a sign God has abandoned him.
Luckily, he snaps to, and asks the Reverend to send people home to wait out the plague’s twelve-hour incubation period. The Reverend agrees, then delivers a home-truth-slash-Morgan-Freeman-ism about plague as a sign of infection, and how Silas will have to cut off an infected limb to save the body. (Sadly, it’s not Michelle.)
This gives us our recurring symbol of the episode, the candle. Silas and the Reverend speak over a pool of candles the Reverend has lit; the Reverend asks households to put a candle in the window as a sign they are home; and, most usefully, the candle in King Silas’s own window goes out, repeatedly, when Colonel Wes Studi stands next to it.
Even Silas can’t ignore God flicking him on the forehead and shouting frantically, “This guy! This guy right here!” Wes Studi ends the episode on the wrong side of a knife blade, just as dawn comes and the King receives the news that the incubation period has ended; the city has been spared.
This episode wraps up more plot than most: Michelle is alive (inexplicably immune to plague!), and Silas finds out the traitor in his midst in under forty minutes, which is pretty snappy detective work. The real through-plot this week is Jack (who’s so conflicted that I’m surprised some of his internal organs haven’t ruptured), who decides he owes David a life debt—and he’s going to pay up, whether David likes it or not.
Despite the fact that Michelle survives, this episode has a lot to like. While the traitor subplot is underinflated and a little disappointing (really, the one who wants more war is the general? I’m shocked, just shocked), the mythic and over-the-top moments work surprisingly well. As if the series senses it has nothing left to lose, it goes overboard on cinematography: the episode opens with a lush, golden-hued dream, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t love the sequence of the Reverend’s radio broadcast, the emptying office buildings, and the Queen’s home candle being lit. There’s something about a little myth, you know?
Araunah said, Wherefore is my lord the king come to his servant? And David said …To build an altar unto the LORD, that the plague may be stayed from the people.
— 1 Samuel 24:21