Mar 14, 2011


It is a strange thing that of all my favorite shows only one - only one - hasn't been canceled prematurely. And that's just because Buffy aired in the pre-premature cancellation era (I actually have no idea if that is true, but never mind). All the others have met an untimely demise. Which either speaks bad about the tastes of the unwashed masses (likely) or shows that mine are weird (also likely).

So anyway, Kings. I first heard about that show when I came to America to audition for school. Literally every bus stop in Manhattan had a billboard with a poster for it. And they were beautiful, giving a subtle SF vibe, what with the strange skyscrapers and the butterfly flag. So when it started airing, I started following it. And boy, was I hooked.

Kings is a modern day reimagining of the story of David and Goliath, turned into a complicated drama filled with omens, conflicting agendas and political intrigue. In an alternative present the kingdom of Gilboa, barely a generation old, is at war with the neighboring country - the Republic of Gath. King Silas of Gilboa (Ian McShane), God chosen monarch with absolute power and authority, wants peace, but other powers would deny it to him. Then on the stage appears David Shepperd (Christopher Egan) - a a simple farmboy with a strong sense of justice and integrity, who saves the life of the crown prince - Jack Benjamin (Sebastian Stan) - by sneaking into Gath territory and rescuing him from the camp where he is held prisoner. That, and the picture, showing him destroying a Goliath - one of Gath's unstoppable tanks - turns David overnight into a media star, and a focus of all the political intrigues of the court. Then he falls in love with the princess Michelle (Allison Miller), and when even God's signs seem to point at him as the next king, Silas is faced with a horrible choice.

Kings is absolutely fantastic. First comes the amazing cast. Ian McShane (Deadwood) is the type of actor who eats living dragons for breakfast, and the choice to put him as an Old Testament king in a modern age setting is nothing short of genius. Every word he utters is edict, his tone of voice enough to stop the sun from rising, every order he gives - a primal force. It is impossible not to fall in love with his Silas, flawed and vain as he is.

Christopher Egan (of dubious Eragon and Resident Evil fame) gives a surprisingly mature performance as the wide-eyed yet unwavering in his beliefs young soldier who turns the kingdom into a storm that he is the eye of. Still, his is the role of the idealist, and as such - less nuanced than those of others in the cast. Another fantastic character is Jack Benjamin, the King's son. He is a tortured soul, denied the right to be what he wishes to be, and Sebastian Stan (Gossip Girl) portrays his bipolar swings between a victim and a villain very well. Another beautiful casting choice - perhaps the best one after McShane - is Susanna Thompson (CSI and Star Trek: Voyager/Deep Space Nine, among many other tv shows) as the queen Rose. She is the perfect queen - the velvet glove to her husband's iron hand, yet a woman strong enough to have literally designed the entire Kingdom of Gilboa from scratch.

But really, it is hard not to like all the characters, none of whom is entirely good or bad, and my gushing over them would be rather pointless in any further detail. The choice of setting is the second thing that captures the imagination. Gilboa is very obviously a smaller version of present day America, with the newly inaugurated capital of Shiloh being a cleaner, grander and slightly more decadent New York. The concept of an Old Testament absolute monarchy mixed with today's political power plays, media and public support concepts and the interests of corrupt businessmen is nothing short of genius, and it is executed perfectly. And the story of Kings and omens that unfolds on this stage holds its own against the sublime cast and beautiful setting with ease.

Kings is very particular about its colors, so Gilboa is always bathed in golden light, with the orange of its butterfly flag dominating over any other color, while the neighboring Republic of Gath, in its Soviet trappings, is always dark green and gray. I am aware that this is rather simplistic in terms of creating an atmosphere, but there are scenes in the show that are works of art simply because of the choice of palette.

Unfortunately, the show bombed completely in the box office. It was, as Joss Whedon would say, ignored and abandoned. Nobody saw it, nobody cared. And so NBC pulled the plug. Thankfully, the first season - a meager twelve-episode affair - is completed, and a full story arc manages to evolve and be resolved in that time. So even though David and Silas' tale is far from over, Kings is undoubtedly worth the time and a perfectly satisfying experience. I have rarely witnessed such craft in creating a TV show, and I strongly suggest you give it a chance.


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