In the first episode of Kings, David fights Goliath and gains a new ally. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Kings.
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With that said, let’s get into this.
I had no idea what Kings was when I started watching it, and I’m so glad to be utterly ignorant. This was a surreal experience, and it’s designed to be. The world here in Kings seems so remarkably familiar, and that’s intentional. So, once details begin to make less sense, once we see how the United States has been reimagined as a sort of modern monarchial kingdom, we’re forced to pay attention. And for a pilot that gives us so little in the way of history, there’s still a terrific amount of detail within “Goliath.”
What’s most important to me, though, is that the story here, separate from the worldbuilding, is intriguing all by itself. There is a clear design that’s meant to liberally refer to a number of Biblical stories, but let’s say you didn’t know the tale of David and Goliath. Why should we care about David or King Silas or Jack? Why does Michelle matter to the story? While I am certainly willing to sit back and enjoy how this show unfolds, I can already see how the pawns are being set into place.
I think. I AM PROBABLY NOT PREPARED.
So, we’ve got the Kingdom of Gilboa, capital city of Shiloh, a reimagined New York City. I don’t know the boundaries of this kingdom, but I know that a brutal war was fought (the same one that David’s father died in) in order to unifying numerous clans into one single nation. That was clearly no easy feat, and from the scenes within Silas’s court, it’s also obvious that it’s not easy to keep this kingdom running. On top of that, there’s an ongoing war with Gath, another nation to the north of Gilboa. (Canada???) These pieces inform the story, but they don’t overwhelm them. We need to understand how war affects this kingdom; we need to know of Jack’s past; we need to accept that this world might seem similar to our own, but it’s hauntingly different in other ways.
I say “hauntingly” because if you kind of mentally squint your eyes at “Goliath,” it’s utterly the same as our world. While there’s lots here to differentiate this alternate universe for our own, isn’t it just a slight shift in allegiances, in purposes, and in political systems? There’s still a need for the poorer classes to get decent health care, and there’s still a complete ignorance of that at the top of the political food chain. There’s still an inherent worship of the leaders and the stories they tell. There’s still a sense of a perpetual war that’s continued because it benefits those in power. While many of the smaller details might be different, I think it’s in the quieter, more subtle moments that the world of Kings is completely the same as our own.
That’s largely because of the clever way in which a very traditional fantasy narrative is playing out in a modern setting. At times, it was easy to ignore this, given references to the Internet and cell phones. But aren’t these characters ripped right out of some medieval-based fantasy world? We’ve got the powerful, cunning, and self-interested king; we’ve got his heir, an arrogant and reckless prince who seems completely uninterested in political affairs; we’ve got the princess trapped in a world where she can’t do as she pleases or gain the respect she deserve because she’s the king’s daughter; we’ve got the king’s spiritual advisor, the assistant, the queen. And then we’ve got David, who is an outsider, a rural peasant who lost a father to the king’s war, who is suddenly thrust into this world of opulence and grandeur and prestige.
It’s such a classic story, but there’s also a ton of potential for this to be subverted and twisted and expanded. Just because these characters might be based on archetypes or existing characters doesn’t mean that’s what will determine their outcomes. Setting this all in a fictional world that’s also modern makes this so much more fascinating than just doing a traditional fantasy locale, you know? At least, that’s my hope. I already want this show to surprise me, so I’m eager to see if I’m picking up on these things or if this is wishful thinking. For example: I really dig Reverend Samuels and the apparent anger lurking beneath his exterior. I also want him to not fulfill the trope of having magical black characters who exist on the sidelines and dispense advice without having any characterization of their own. I think Michelle is fascinating, but I want the same depth and complexity for Rose, who receives almost none of the attention and intrigue as the other characters her. Her defining features include pickiness and an inability to keep track of her cell phone. I’d like to see more.
There’s good acting all around, particularly from Ian McShane and Eamonn Walker, and I CAN’T GET OVER THAT SEBASTIAN STAN IS IN THIS. I can’t promise that I will avoid making more Bucky jokes, but I promise to pay attention to his character otherwise. I’d like to know why he’s so furious at the end of this half of the episode. Was that a job that he wanted? I WANT TO KNOW MORE!
I think that’s a good sign for a pilot episode. And granted, I haven’t even seen all of the first episode! Yet I still want to know more. That’s pretty cool.
The video for “Goliath” (Part 1) can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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