Jun 15 2009 5:13pm

Words Don’t Settle Debt: Kings, “Brotherhood”

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

1. Ealon
Ha! Love this episode. Love the series really. What do you have against Michelle? She's awesome and beautiful. But they seriously need to find a way of cutting costs if they want to keep this on the air. Filming the recon mission in what looks like a small paintball field ought to help I'm sure.
2. dcole78
We all ready know it isn't going to be on the air next season so I think this was the last episode wasn't it? Great idea to bad it didn't pan out, I loved the over the top cinmintography the dove taking the bullet ment for David was classic!

Ah well. Michelle never struck me as dumb just niave and optimistic. David on the other hand.....
Dave Thompson
3. DKT
Just to be picky, I believe that verse at the end of this post is from 2 Samuel, not 1 Samuel :) Weird in that it was toward the end of David's reign, yet it happened here before his reign began.

Sad the show's gone, it was an interesting premise. I'm also sad that the show never tried to be as smart as it should've been, instead of pleading with the audience to be shocked, just *shocked* by how silly some of the characters acted.
4. Jake Lsewhere
@dcole78, all 13 episodes have already been filmed and finished this was only number 7. unless NBC changes its mind again the rest will be broadcast in this Saturday purgatory time-slot in the following weeks.
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5. heresiarch
"Despite the fact that Michelle survives, this episode has a lot to like."

We were kinda hoping for that in my house too. Not just as the fitting consequence of her perennial deathwish, but also because it would have been way more interesting than the "OH MY GOD EVERYTHING IS FALLING APART oh wait, it's cool" Status-quo-is-King(s) motif they've been doing pretty much every episode.

"(she and David are well-matched)"

Yep. A perfect pair of big, dumb golden retriever puppies.
John Massey
6. subwoofer
I am a big Ian McShane fan. Loved him in Lovejoy and as one of Dick Francais characters in several made for TV adaptations. Good idea for the show, bad time slot and crappy timing all round for the release. Got lost in the shuffle of the have to compete with CSI noise. And it did become soap opera-ish instead of going for Shakespear-ish. Poopy.
7. Superquail
Michelle really does have a death wish. She keeps walking in to situations that are unlikely to end well for her, knowing that her family can always bail her out. Is she intentionally courting death, or does she just not understand the concepts of risk the way ordinary, non-royal mortals do?
8. Foxessa
The very young McShane in the BBC Disraeli bio series, and in his single episode appearance in Roots are interesting, if only by revealing how tiny the very young McShane is. Deadwood persuaded all of us that he was a big and burley fellow. In these very early career appearances though -- imagine a smooth-faced, glowing complexioned McShane! -- how short, skinny and narrow he was. In some of the young Disraeli's most dandyish apparel, his hips and ass are not even present, he's that skinny.

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