In the fifth episode of Kings, HOW IS THIS SHOW REAL. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Kings.
Trigger Warning: For police brutality.
This show is something else, y’all.
I do have two things to criticize about this episode, but I think that on the whole, Kings is not at all what I thought I’d be watching. Even from just “Goliath” alone, I expected more fantasy than realism, and “Insurrection” demonstrates how willing this show is to delve into the real-world implications of oppressive systems, media control, and protesting. Is it a perfect representation? No, and I have some issues with the way things were framed and which characters are given a voice over others. But it’s suitable. It’s compelling. And goddamn it, y’all, this show is disturbing.
I think that there’s a way to sort of understand the position that King Silas is in, and while the man is pretty much a monster in my eyes, he is trying to secure a peace with Gath, one that’s difficult and complicated. We know little to nothing about the nation and its culture, nor do we know anything about why the war started in the first place. All we’re expected to accept is that a compromise must happen so that the Gath people do not feel like they’re being cheated out of a chance to be a powerful nation on their own. While I would adore a chance to understand this other nation, I also get why “Insurrection” follows only the Gilboan perspective, particularly those citizens who would be affected by the trade of all lands above the river to Gath. To them, the king’s policy has an undeniable and forceful affect on their lives. These people lost family members and friends when Gath soldiers tried to take this land from under them, so it’s completely understandable that they’d be outright hostile to the idea of willingly giving land over to the very people who killed people they loved.
But it’s more than just land or blood lost. As Ethan later puts it, the people of this part of the country now view King Silas as their Goliath, the massive, powerful, and seemingly invincible force that they must rise against. And how could they not? This man is carelessly giving away their land to their mortal enemies. A peace treaty means nothing to them if they’re violently removed from their homes. Yes, Silas offered money to them to move, but how can that ever cover the emotional cost of something traumatic? So to these people, it’s completely sensible to resist.
Thus, David is cast into the impossible role as the king’s messenger when his own hometown is going to become part of Gath within half a year. It’s an agonizing thing to watch because he’s torn between his (misguided) belief in the holy nature of Silas’s royalty and his intense love for his home and his loved ones. It’s not easy to be forced into such a position, but I think David handles it well. He’s never condescending, nor does he try to pander to the people of Port Prosperity. And he would never attempt to do such a thing, you know? That’s what makes him such a good leader. At the same time, he’s caught in an impossibility, and he has no idea of the landmine he’s stepped in. I think one of the eeriest and most accurate aspects of the insurrection here is the reveal that King Silas and Abner more or less orchestrated the whole thing. It was destined to fail, and the protesters were destined to embarrass themselves, to die, and to have their movement discredited. Make no mistake: this is something government organizations have long been invested in here in the United States. One only needs to look to COINTELPRO or the CIA’s treatment of the Black Panthers or the pervasive spying and disruption attached to the Black Lives Matter movement to see how the state will do whatever it can to kill dissent.
That’s why I desperately wish this show would give us just a bit more of a nuanced look on who this shit happens to. Aside from Thomasina, Abner, and Samuels, this cast is entirely white. Aside from one black man in Ethan’s party, the whole protest, barricade, and fight seems to happen to white people. I don’t know how race works in Gilboa, but given that homophobia, sexism, and poverty all exist in this world, it’s not a stretch to assume that there are also race issues within this fictional universe. But look, the show doesn’t need to outright state any of this. I’m fine with an allegorical setting and narrative. However, so much work is done to represent other aspects of our own world accurately. The entire plot involving Jack, Katrina, and William is frighteningly real. So why is it suddenly fine to cast these other struggles as if they’re entirely white ones? Are there no real people of color in these rural settings? Why is that? I’m sure this was an unconscious thing on the part of the show, but that’s sort of the point. No one bothers to think about these implications because they’ve never had to.
So that’s how come I found this flawed, but compelling. The violence and terror in this episode escalates until we get that explosive final confrontation, and all of it demonstrates how the king still views his subjects as subjects and nothing more. He offers no sympathy. He offers no understanding. He offers no kindness. He offers peace in dramatic gestures while supporting violence and tragedy in the shadows.
I’m intrigued by this storyline at the very least because Katrina Ghent is a huge mystery. She drifts into this episode, gets exactly what she wants, gives Jack a chance to genuinely prove himself to his father (OH THE IRONY), and then never truly explains why she wanted a ministry seat in the first place. I think it says something about my interpretation of this show that I’m already expecting every goddamn character to have an ulterior motive. BUT SHE HAS TO. What does she want? Why buy her reputation back now? It doesn’t make any sense to me!
I did enjoy the chance for us to see just how controlled the media is within Gilboa. It often feels like I’m a conspiracy theorist when I try to talk about how similar things happen within our own media, but the truth is that there are many factors that go into how our news and entertainment is presented to us. I’d like to think that part of my work here and over on Mark Reads is about engaging with the motifs and tropes that we’re expected to accept. And I’d like to imagine that I have given tools to people that help them to think critically about the things they love. I think we can use this sort of shit to examine how news stories are framed, how passive language can be used to support monstrous things, and how biases will always affect the focus of narratives. Granted, the media control in Kings is extreme; all news stories are run by the king before they air. Thus, Jack’s rebellion was always doomed. The king simply cannot have the truth aired for all to see because embarrassment and criticism means a loss of power. Even in his personal life, you can see how resistant he is to any sort of constructive advice. Until the end of the episode, he’s entirely hostile towards Thomasina and others. Granted, she gets a promotion, but what does that mean? Does it actually signal a change in him, or does he move her around to avoid criticism altogether.
Which seems a perfect time to discuss Abner.
GOD I NEVER SAW THAT COMING. The signs, so to speak, have all been there, of course, but they were cleverly hidden because Abner has always been so loyal to the king. I never suspected him at all. I just have so many questions! How did they find out about William’s meetings? How long have they known? Does Abner honestly think that William’s choice for king is better? It’s not like we’ve ever seen Abner act positively towards Jack, so WHAT DOES THIS MEAN??? Is Samuels forever turned off from joining William because of the near miss? WHAT IS THIS SHOW, Y’ALL?
The video for “Insurrection” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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