Jul 2 2009 11:51am

Ruin Me: Kings, “Pilgrimage”

On this week’s episode of Selective Amnesia Theatre, King Silas fakes a pilgrimage so he can go hang out with his mistress in the countryside (you remember, the one he gave up forever about three weeks ago). Silas also brings David with him, because he’s already forgotten that last week he hated David for being the world’s most lifeless king-in-waiting.

This pilgrimage means two things. One, Ian McShane had to do enough acting for two people in all his scenes this week. Two, the moment King Silas turns his back, the palace turns into a pit of vipers, and we get a glimpse of what will happen to this kingdom when Silas dies. One of these things works out much better than the other.

After last week’s sex-heavy blackout, we now get to enjoy two sex scandals (his and hers!), Macaulay Culkin dusting off his creepster glasses, and Katrina Ghent, who I continue to vote in as King every time I make an imaginary ballot asking who the King should be instead of Silas. (Queen Rose, Katrina Ghent, Thomasina, and Death regularly make this ballot. David never, ever does.)

With Silas and David sidelined (Silas manfully gardening and David flat-out lying about having anything to tell Silas, like maybe how he and Michelle got to know each other biblically last week), Queen Rose is in charge of things. Fact: Silas is an inspiring speaker and generally beloved. Fact: Queen Rose is the real bite behind the throne.

She arranges for an unveiling of a portrait of Cabinet officers, which goes well except that Katrina Ghent got painted out and replaced with a flag (oh snap!). When Katrina confronts her about it, the Queen makes it clear that she thinks Katrina slept her way to the top, ignoring the point Katrina makes about Rose’s brother buying her the throne (double snap!). Queen Rose declares she will do anything in her power to keep Katrina from having any recognition or power, ever. And nothing can possibly go wrong when you anger a resourceful woman, so the Queen can sleep tight about that.

Unfortunately, her kids are the two most indiscreet people on the planet, and all sorts of sexy shenanigans are coming to light. Rose and Thomasina have their work cut out for them trying to keep Jack’s boyfriend’s video manifesto under wraps, with their usual luck. Jack seems content with the “I have no idea who he is” defense, until he finds out the video was a suicide note. Then it’s time for some teary-eyed introspection. (Again.)

Meanwhile, a smoothly sociopathic Cousin Macaulay sells Michelle’s photos to Katrina Ghent (ooooh snap), who presents Queen Rose with Michelle’s photos and Jack’s video and tells her to choose which sibling gets spared the public shaming, because the other one is going to air. (Oh SNAP.)

Rose chooses Jack; as she coldly outlines to a gobsmacked Michelle, a few sexy photos of Michelle with her boyfriend is a scandal, but one that will eventually fade. Unspoken but obvious: Jack’s problem is a lot harder to handle in terms of succession, so Michelle gets to bite the dust on this one. Tough luck, unfavored daughter!

Jack comes through for her at the 52-minute mark, though, storming into the Ministry of Information office (which is located in the lobby of Grand Central Station for some reason). “Ruin me,” he demands, insisting he'll do anything to make Katrina Ghent leave his sister alone. Katrina stops just short of chirping “Happy to!” and suggests that nobody's sex life has to go to air—if Jack marries her. (OH SNAP.)

In the end, the only person humiliated in this episode is the King, who finds out from his little girl that David was a lying sack of amaryllis bulbs and held back some pertinent details about his dating life. Michelle is thrilled everything is out in the open! David is worried that he lied for the first time in his entire cornfed life! Silas is burning that amaryllis bulb like it’s going out of style.

The theme of this week is best illustrated by the scene in which King Silas point-blank asks David what David thought of the crown of butterflies that settled on his head in the pilot. David says that he grew up on the story of Silas receiving the crown of butterflies as a symbol that he was the next King, and so for David the crown clearly means—he’s meant to serve the king. I mean, come one, there’s guileless and then there’s idiocy. Even Silas is like, “ you have a concussion or something?” After that revelation, it’s all the meta-story can do to gather all the other characters in the schoolyard and chant “Kingfight!” at them until they do something that indicates they want the throne.

So, after a week of secular political ankle-biting, the other characters haven’t progressed at all, and Silas is stuck hating David just like at the end of last week. I would grasp at straws and say this is ominous and exciting, except that I said that last week, and at this point Recurrent Selective Amnesia strikes King Silas with remarkable regularity. I’m not holding my breath.

And Saul said unto Michal, Why hast thou deceived me so, and sent away mine enemy, that he is escaped?

—1 Samuel 19:17

Mitchell Downs
1. Beamish
Every new episode of this show just seems to underscore how uneven the writing and acting is - even in the same scene.

The scene where the Queen explains to Michelle why she is to be the sacrifice was a nice bit of dramatic writing about the power a woman can wield when she is free to use her sexuality as well as her brains - as the queen well knows. Yet in spite of the cold, hard, but wise, bitch delivery of the Queen, Michelle still stands (or sits) there like she has head trauma or her mother suddenly started speaking in Farsi.

The one-on-one scenes between Silas and David were painful - for every line Ian McShane delivered with precision the actor playing David botched the return stroke. When Silas went down with his bad back I almost thought of it as McShane just finally collapsing under the weight of carrying those scenes.

Yet, for all those acting flaws, when Katrina Ghent suggested that Jack marry her as the ultimate dagger into the Queen's heart I loved it. Those moments really make me wish the rest of the cast were as committed to their roles and the writing was as consistently strong.

The creep meter was still turned to 11 on good ol' Mac - I think he might be trying to set a new bar for reprehensible psychopath and I am actually coming around on his performance now that they actually gave him something to do other than be creepy. The scene with him and Michelle at the table was equal parts disturbing and thrilling; and it was all carried on him playing with a water glass. I kept waiting for him to throw it at her or drop some horribly inappropriate reference to her sex life but instead the tension lingered until Michelle bolted.

Oh, what could have been.
- -
2. heresiarch
"Oh, what could have been."

This is the perennial refrain of Kings. Someday, decades in the future some one will remake this show with decent writing and internal consistency and a cast that can all act, and damn--that will be something to see.
3. mmoore
I just watched the last two episodes one right after each other. Ian McShane is so good. And I actually like the stylized form of English that they use. It suits him certainly.

Didn't care much for the actor that plays David at the beginning, but I am starting to like him. A shame.

Like the fact that women have a role here. For the first time, I wondered who Saul's wife was--and why didn't I know her name.

I wish now that it had not been canceled. Given the love affair between David and Michele, I would have LOVED to see how the writers handle the eventual falling out between David and Michelle. And how would Michelle handle David's other wives--which here would have mistresses. Blast it! This is just getting to be interesting.
4. mmoore
I would like to know who cousin Andrew is supposed to be. Or was he invited into the biblical story by the writers? (Yeah, I realize that it doesn't follow the biblical story exactly.)

And why isn't David red-headed? Don't we have enough blond protagonists? Could they have given a redhead the nod this time? I am so tired of the prerequisite blond star or co-star. What happened to the new era inaugurated by our new prez?
C.D. Thomas
5. cdthomas
There's a clue to the cluelessness at the end, when Silas raves about youth and its freshness and what it has to each old farts like him -- which really makes no sense because the action of the entire episode was how the youngins were scheming and dealing and whoring just like the old folks at home. In the incapable hands of the young leads that's not ironic; it's just sad, really.

The contrast between Michelle and Katrina couldn't be more plain. Katrina's played with the same soft, high voice and mannered tone, but what wealth of subtext does Ms. Bibb generate with a glance. Note how she responds to her official erasure in the portrait; not one tantrum, or jerk, just a cool accounting of a debt she'd soon collect. Hell, *DYNASTY* did this worse, and Aaron Spelling wasn't a slouch at storytelling.

My only regret that KINGS and the failure of DIRTY SEXY MONEY will make the multi-generation rich-frakker soap opera off-limits for a season or two. Too bad, because KINGS pointed the way to a more literate execution of the tropes, as well as a long arc that gave the audience no threat of Moldavian Massacres on the horizon. For once, the Bible would provide a realistic and predictable counterbalance to the plots, as well as a solid basis for story that would free up the characters to be intriguing and *un*predictable.

And if the elites want the dogs of populism in our culture called off while they transfer their cash to offshore enclaves, they'd better get to making some diverting circuses, with the glamorous in elegant trouble ASAP, before calls for bread bring 'em down. Heck, that's Rose's main contribution to the kingdom -- massage the hype, create the spectacle, so no one questions the rot underneath the heavenly kingdom's carpets. That critique I'm sad to lose.

We won't get a series soon that proposes an America controlled by two or three lead families, with killable servants and court scandals, and a press openly skewed toward who buys it that day. It was doing the work of SF, refracting the view of our world through a prism, so we could see it better. I hope they're not cheap enough to skimp on the DVD...
6. BobRoehm
I'm pretty sure Jack's boyfriend Joseph didn't commit suicide after sending the video; rather, he was murdered by the Queen and made to look a suicide.

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