In the fourth episode of Kings, THIS FAMILY IS SO DESTRUCTIVELY MANIPULATIVE THAT IT KILLS ME. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Kings.
Trigger Warning: For talk of homophobia.
So fucked up. THESE PEOPLE ARE SO FUCKED UP.
I think the easiest way to talk about “First Night” is to address the four characters who play the biggest role in the events that unfold in a single night in Shiloh. And it’s an important night: the “first” night where ballet is performed in the city. Ever, as far as I can tell. But what we get to see â€“ and what no one in Gilboa gets to witness â€“ is the dichotomy of appearances. On the outside, this regal, royal family is a sign of unity and power. Internally? They are a messy, vicious, and power-hungry group of assholes.
Let’s start with King Silas, who spends the bulk of this episode trying to devise the most effective method to deceive his wife and the Gilboan people. Once he learns that his son with his mistress is sick enough that he might die, it’s understandable that he’d want to drop everything to be with him. The deceit and the disgust come from the complicated way in which he’s made his staff complicit in his affair. Here, they’re forced to devise a bribe for the doctor after clearing an entire hospital wing of EVERY SINGLE STAFF MEMBER. This occurs after they’ve already found a way to get around Rose’s attentiveness, lying to her in the process. What’s going to happen when she finds out??? I know that’s inevitable at this point!
Regardless, even if you examine how Silas interacts with his staff, Helen, and his child, there’s still something unsettling about the way he views everyone in his life. For King Silas, people are roadblocks on his path to a greater glory. Yes, he’s tender towards his son and Helen, and he probably does care about them. But once it seems that his son’s treatment isn’t going to work, look what he does. He has Reverend Samuels arrested for “treason,” which is just a ploy to get the man alone in the middle of nowhere for safety reasons. HOW FUCKED UP IS THAT? How does Samuels get home???
Okay, that’s not exactly the most important question here (SORT OF). The scene is so intense because Samuels gives Silas the exact advice that he needs, but Silas, in his arrogance and entitlement, not only ignores it, but then applies it to his life in a way that completely misses the point. The whole reason Samuels walked away from his king is because the man was willing to kill soldiers (and did so, indirectly!) in order to advance his kingdom. The sacrificial lamb Samuels speaks of is not someone else. Every sign that Silas is getting and then promptly ignoring is that he needs to stop being the king. So what does he sacrifice?
He leaves Helen and his son behind.
If I understood that final scene, Silas won’t ever visit them again. Now, this is clearly going to backfire, but it’s obvious Silas doesn’t care. He knows he has the power to bury them, and he’ll probably do it. That’s how self-centered he is. He offers up his own family as the lamb to God, unaware that God has no desire for such things.
My god, this woman CLEARLY has a vested interest in politics and she is VICIOUSLY GOOD AT THEM. She likes to think of herself as existing outside of them, but politics is not just nations and treaties and war and diplomacy. No, her deft maneuvering to get David out of the First Night celebrations and away from her daughter counts as politics, as does her manipulation of Michelle. Look, this woman understands how public attention and media scrutiny can work in the king’s favor, and that’s why she’s so offended that a seat next to Shepard went for more money than one next to her husband. It’s related to Jack’s story, too, since she makes reference to a star shining too bright.
Which makes me wonder exactly how complicit she was in Jack’s behavior, too. Queen Rose was quite pleased by the way that Jack was able to secure and leak photos, but what does she know? Is she aware that her son is gay? Or does she believe his playboy persona so perfectly that she sought out his help to ruin David’s image? I’m not sure enough of either conclusion to commit to them, but I understood that like her husband and Jack, she was willing to do absolutely anything to get what she wanted. That goes for her daughter, too, but I’ll address that in the last section.
That’s because I want to talk about Jack, whose character makes me sad and who I hope will get a story in this show that lifts him out of such destruction and rage. It’s upsetting to watch the man overcompensate, of course. We all know it’s a performance, and this episode details just how complicated and layered that performance is. How many players are there? How many people know what he’s been doing? How many people has he deceived and used along the way? This is the first time we meet one of Jack’s lovers, and it is not a positive thing at all. I know I’m early into this narrative, so I’m giving this story a chance to develop. But I want to see something more for Jack than disappointment and depravity. I suppose I’m coming into this having seen this specific story play out a million times in fiction and in real life, so it’s not exactly pleasant watching it again. Internalized homophobia is a nasty thing, and I’m hoping that the show is addressing this through his story. At the same time, I’m getting a vibe of antagonism from Jack more than anything else. And the whole trope of villainous queers isn’t exactly my thing these days, if I’m being honest, so that’s why I want more from this story.
What we get here is haunting. Jack can’t accept who he is, so he pursues fights and promiscuity and drugs to mask his own pain, to give off a very specific appearance. It’s not something that can last, can it? From the end of the episode, I got a hint of a future storyline, too. Jack’s obsession with David goes beyond the work he did for his mother, right? Oh no, THIS IS A DISASTER, STAY AWAY FROM STRAIGHT BOYS, JACK. IT NEVER ENDS WELL.
If there’s one person who doesn’t fit into the Benjamin family’s sense of entitlement and cruelty, then it’s Michelle. While we see her attempt to get what she wants out of Paul, I didn’t interpret this as anything close to what Silas, Rose, or Jack did in the same episode. Michelle’s end is to get private funding for her health care initiative, something she genuinely cares about. The end result of her courting Paul? I’d say it’s a fairly positive thing, you know? Playing politics well and flattering people with attention and access in order to get real shit done does not contain the same cruelty as the type of manipulation we see elsewhere.
She’s an outsider, much like Jack is, too, but she isn’t ready to play the role that’s expected of her, and it’s kind of crushing to watch. I don’t think she’s gotten as shitty of a deck as Jack, so perhaps that’s why she’s not lashing out as anyone. There isn’t quite the risk for her or the intensity. Still, like many people in this episode, she’s steamrolled by the royal family, even though she’s a part of them. What her mother and father want is what takes precedence, and that means that Michelle’s own desires are irrelevant to the greater picture. David can’t be hers, and neither can her reform package. Even that was tainted by her mother’s touch.
This show is so messed up, y’all.
The video for “First Night” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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