In the second episode of Kings, EVERYTHING HAPPENED AND I DON’T KNOW HOW TO DEAL WITH IT. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Kings.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of war, homophobia.
WHAT THE HELL.
I think that’s a good way to start this review because clearly, I had no fucking clue how quickly Kings would subvert a ton of storylines and turn this entire world upside down. I’m glad that I split up the pilot because it allowed me to be lulled into a sense of understanding for the show, only for that to be COMPLETELY DESTROYED IN UNDER FORTY MINUTES. The rug was pulled out from under me, it was set on fire, and we were both thrown from a cliff into a pit of despair, and THIS IS ALL THE FIRST FUCKING EPISODE.
WHAT THE FUCK.
I thought I had this figured out. I THOUGHT I DID. That scene with his mother at the start of this half of “Goliath” felt obvious enough. Jack resented the attention that David received, and understandably so. He felt entitled to the kind of treatment that David received, and while part of that was due to his own arrogance, I could also tell that he feared the treatment he was going to get from the military because of the kidnapping. I don’t feel like Jack is all that simplistic of a character as I thought he was, and this scene helped to develop a duality to him. As much as he might not be the best person, he still felt dismissed and ignored by his father. I got the sense that he had a much closer relationship with his mother, but not one that’s perfect either.
I was so certain I knew where this story was going, but NO. NOPE. If you watch the video for this episode, you’ll see me admit that I was prepared to write a review of the pilot that described this world as “painfully straight,” AND HOLY SHIT, I WAS WRONG. I’m still reeling from the confrontation on the steps because there wasn’t a single warning or hint to the truth. None! And then King Silas is fiercely condemning Jack for what he does at night and it’s terrifying and intense and THIS CHARACTER IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING LIKE WHAT I THOUGHT HE WAS. I’ll comment more on this once I talk about Silas, but within this world, God feels like an actual presence, not merely a religion or a faith. But Silas believes that God intended for heterosexuality to be the standard. Is that the case throughout Gilboa? I imagine that he’s got the societal support for this kind of bigotry or else why would Jack remain in the closet?
It certainly explains why he’d choose to back William’s plan to oust his father. But at what cost? Is it worth it to plunge the nation into poverty just to get rid of a horrible king? Because make no mistake, Silas is awful. Actually, let’s just talk about him now.
I struggled to figure out what sort of king Silas was in the first half of “Goliath” because I suspected that his charm was only part of the story. He is a charismatic leader, but he’s certainly clever enough to deploy that as a way to stay in power. There was a hint of his more ruthless nature when he urged Abner to have Minister Fawkes taken out, but I didn’t know how serious he was about that. This half of the pilot confirms that Fawkes was murdered for offending the king, and that’s just the start of how despicable and gross Silas is. Of course, we’ve got his disgusting and homophobic treatment of his son. It’s a sign of how willing he is to do practically anything to maintain his own power.
So when William threatens to remove his financial backing of the kingdom, look how quickly Silas refuses to do anything risky. Well, anything risky that would hurt himself, of course. He quietly visits his mistress and his secret son. (ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME???) He completely ignores the treaty he just made with Gath so that he can fulfill William’s war-mongering. It’s a disaster, one thwarted at the last second by David, but I’ll get to that. Silas is not a fool; he’s well aware of the many players on the board right now, but he views them precisely as if they’re pawns. He manipulates them, he moves them as he sees fit, he strategizes, and sometimes, he takes them off the playing field if necessary. I think the word “ruthless” fits him best because his own sense of morality sits in the background of all his decisions.
He knows this, I think, and it’s why he’s so utterly infuriated by Reverend Samuels’s rejection. Silas likes to think of himself as a godly royal force, and you can definitely see that in his treatment of Jack. He’s always believed to have had God on his side. Why else would he tell that butterfly story over and over again? It reinforces his divine inheritance and purpose. So now I have to wonder: Did that actually happen? Did butterflies form a crown on his head as a sign that God had chosen him? Or has Silas been lying this whole time? Is that why he changes his mind at the end of the episode?
I think the “David vs Goliath” story is still unfolding, except in this case, “Goliath” is both King Silas and the war-profiteering empire that’s been set up by him. It’s a new battle for him, though he has to go through hell before he ever gets there. I do love stories where someone is dropped into an entirely new world, and I think that David’s role in “Goliath” fulfills that. I’d like to see more of the rural parts of Gilboa to get an understanding of the difference between the capital and other parts of the kingdom, but for now, David’s behavior helps explain the dynamic well enough for me.
The world of Shiloh might be foreign to him, but his no-nonsense attitude helps him navigate that. His first press conference as the military liaison is awkward enough, but it felt refreshing. No one was there to bullshit the press or to speak in platitudes and generalities. David was the real thing, and the press respected that. (Which was all part of the design that Silas intended, but I digress.) So when David learns of the continued military action along the border of Gath, he doesn’t react in a way to hide how he feels about everything. He rushes to the border upon news of his brother’s fate, and he doesn’t care that he’s now in a position to be seen by everyone in Gilboa. It’s a sign that he hasn’t even remotely gotten used to the world he now inhabits; another liaison might have thought twice before rushing into a warzone.
But David’s emotions are not something he’s used to hiding. I don’t get the sense that he’s a secretive person either, so I think I understand why he’s so horrified by the secret he reveals to Eli right before Eli dies. In his mind, his near-capture by the Gath is a sign of his cowardice. Nevermind that he rushed into an enemy camp to rescue strangers, and nevermind all the brave things he’s done since then. To David, that act alone was a sign that he didn’t have what it took to be a courageous person. I disagree with that assessment, as does Eli, but the point is that David views himself harshly in the light of all the attention he’s gotten. Because of this, though, he finds the bravery he believed he lacked in order to offer the Gath people one last chance at peace. That scene on the battlefield is heartbreaking and resilient, and it needed to be. If we’re to accept the fantastical ending to this episode – that David was chosen by God as the next ruler of Gilboa – then we need a reason why. Saying that King Silas is terrible in comparison is not enough.
Having a young man offer his own life up so that a war can end? That’s pretty kingly to me.
The video for “Goliath” (Part II) can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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