A Step between Me and Death: Kings, “Judgment Day”

Kings delivered its best episode so far on Saturday, and it’s no coincidence that they kept David on the down-low. He spent the hour begging the King for clemency and wondering why his brother, who tried to lead an insurrection against the King, might be facing the death sentence. (God’s chosen king: dumber than a sack of hair.)

The royal family managed to accomplish more than just infighting, and the minor characters appeared in a new light—this week, at last, every action had an equal and opposite reaction. With new alliances already falling apart and some agendas taking turns for the unexpected, it was an hour of solid TV, with the exception of Macaulay Culkin’s cameo as the King’s recently-pardoned nephew who materialized at a dinner party, vagued around, and vanished immediately into the mists of time. Thanks for the tout in the promos, NBC!

This week’s at-odds principles were justice vs. friendship. The Biblical frame story was taken from King Solomon (too many foreskins and homoerotic goings-on in the Book of Samuel).

The idea of a King as above the judicial system, or at least demonstrably outside it, is a perfect backdrop for a psychological study of the King. The episode’s best moments were those when we weren’t sure how the King would rule, and the slow-boil backstory finally paid off; seemingly impartial rulings were given dramatic punch.

Meanwhile, Jack, who has no pesky illusions about impartial judgment, is putting his Ministry position to good use, puppeting Katrina Ghent on his sister’s behalf and leaning on David to publicly denounce the King in return for some behind-the-scenes lenience. Instead, David drops a magnificent speech (do you just pull a string in the back when you want him to deliver one?) about the nature of justice and his faith in the King.

The speech, given when David has everything to lose, surprises Katrina Ghent so much that she brings the news to the King. The fact that the King and David manfully embrace about it isn’t half as interesting as Katrina Ghent playing both sides against the middle after less than a day. It’s a dangerous and thrilling position for her to be in, and I wouldn’t be able to wait to see where it goes, except that the show’s already been chopped and we won’t get the chance to see it. I’ll draw stick figures about it or something instead.

Meanwhile, in some other show entirely, Macaulay Culkin swans past in the background and sulks swiftly away. (Seriously, there’s a mysterious introduction, and there’s an absolute throwaway guest star, and after NBC’s trumpeting about him, I expected more than four lines. Is it too much to ask?)

Most of the characters this week find themselves at someone’s mercy: the chosen ones pleading their cases on Judgment Day; Katrina reluctantly enacting Jack’s whims; Macaulay Culkin at the mercy of the royal pardon (and the scriptwriters); Michelle at the mercy of the Council; David at the mercy of the King.

This episode marks the second time King Silas has more or less forgiven David’s brother for treason, which will not escape Jack. The King feels he has either rewarded friendship, or bought himself a friend, and seems as happy as we’ve ever seen him, which would make him the only person in the entire world who likes David. David himself is too busy thinking about how shiny Michelle’s hair is and how her blood smells like freesia to realize that most of the people in the city are waiting to push him down a flight of stairs the minute the King isn’t looking. He’ll have to sharpen up, fast. By that I mean: man, someone is going to push him down a flight of stairs next week.

David sware moreover, and… he saith, “Let not Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved: but truly as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between me and death.”
— 1 Samuel 20:3


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