30 March 2009

NBC's KINGS: a few first thoughts

A little background: I grew up in a protestant household, but I'm an atheist. So I'm familiar with the Old Testament stories, though it's been a Long Time.

I started seeing ads for this new show on NBC called KINGS during Heroes a month or so ago. It looked kind of interesting, with a semi-post-apocalyptic cum alternate history setting: In a place that looks like New York City, there are Kings. I can go with that. A bit of internet poking, and it turns out that the principals are (loosely?) based on the Old Testament Kings of Israel. Wikipedia has a spoilerish(?) list of the mains and their counterparts.

I remembered yesterday that it airs on Sundays, so I watched the first episode on the computer, then ran downstairs to catch last night's, which was actually episode 3. Fortunately, I didn't miss too much, though a few things were cleared up when I watched episode 2 online.

I'll wager that it's not exactly spoilers to say that King Silas (Saul) is abandoned by God, and David is chosen instead. But the rest of the post might contain spoilers, so be forewarned.

The first episode opens up with the inauguration of the city of Shiloh, a sleek, modern city of skyscrapers. King Silas is giving a big speech, in which we learn that he saw the city in a dream, built up from the rubble and ash left from a terrible war, and that he had a vision of being crowned by God. Meanwhile, David Shepherd fixes Reverend Samuels' car.
Flash forward to two years later, and David is on the front lines of the war with neighboring Gath, which is a military dictatorship of some sort. The tanks (Goliaths) are lined up, and they hear of an ambush and hostage-taking. The king's son is one of the hostages. David decides to violate his orders and rescue the hostages, though he doesn't know Jack is one of them.

Rather than a court-martial, David receives accolades and is promoted to the military press liaison. He doesn't want it, but he does as he's told. Meanwhile, Jack is pissed, because he's going up on charges, based on the lack of air support that led to the ambush. Turns out the kid was framed/set up. We also learn that Jack is gay, and that Silas knows: Jack's playboy antics are really a cover for his true preference. Silas tells him, of course, that if he wants to be king, Jack's got to stick to women. (The whole getting an heir thing.) There's an interesting discussion of the issues of homosexuality in KINGS on After Elton.

The rest of the 2-hour pilot revolves around David getting used to Shiloh (and falling for Princess Michelle), setting up backstory, and a peace treaty. Silas wants a peace treaty, but his brother-in-law, head of CrossGen, a military contractor, does not, for his own murky reasons.

Silas will not end the war, because he's beholden to CrossGen, and Samuels tells him that God no longer favors him, etc. The episode ends with David getting swarmed with butterflies, and the crown of butterflies that Silas had years before. Silas sees this.

The second episode revolves around the signing of a peace treaty with Gath. We learn a bit more backstory, or get hints of it. In the resolution of the terms of the peace treaty, we learn that the people of Gath live very poorly, probably as a result of the long war in the past, and that they want to live like Shiloh. So Silas' terms are to give Gath their port city in six months' time, IFF Gath stops fighting.

David's mom comes to Shiloh to fill out forms for David's brother Eli's deathgild. Eli's death prompted David to walk out across the front line and shout an overly long speech about sacrifice and peace and blah. (I got bored partway through it.)

I missed the first 10 minutes of episode 3, but it was mostly about politics and Silas' mistress and illegitimate son. The Queen is trying to get Michelle to stop liking David, so she sends him out with playboy son Jack. It sort of fails, maybe. The fallout of the gossip pictures will probably show up next week.

Overall, I'd say the writing can be a bit ham-handed at times, over the top with the Bible stuff. Also, the party scenes look like they've been taken from any number of recent vampire films, and the gay kids in the show are kind of stereotypically poncy, which is kind of annoying. But one interesting thing is that the God in KINGS is the vindictive, petty, jealous God of the Old Testament, who demands sacrifices.

Silas has a line, when he's driving back from a meeting in the woods with Samuels and hits a deer, to the effect of, "Is that what you need? Something beautiful has to die to satisfy you?" which I thought was a fascinating line, because it paints a clear picture of the OT God. Then I immediately wondered what the Baptists would think about it.

I'm curious to see where it goes, though. There seems to be talk about it being really expensive (they've got some big name actors, and the sets and filming are very sleek) and not getting many viewers, so perhaps it's heading to cancellation. I hope not; it could be interesting.

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