Wednesday, March 25, 2009

TV Review: Kings "Prosperity"

Season 1, Episode 2 (Original Air Date: Monday, March 22nd, 2009 at 8/7c on NBC)

The Plot: (From A peace treaty signing ceremony could be jeopardized when the leader of the Gath military (Steven J. Klaszky) inquires as to why David Shepherd (Christopher Egan) isn't there. Tensions mount as King Silas (Ian McShane) and General Abner (Wes Studi) come up with a plan to get rid of David, while William (Dylan Baker) plans to get rid of King Silas.

The Review: Kings is a very new series, and one of which I have yet to make up my mind about. It's really too early to call it as a good series overall, and I personally don't know whether I like it or not yet. I admire them for trying something new, but still, I have my doubts. It can seem very pretentious and overly dramatic at times (I almost threw up over that awful scene from the pilot where David's brother died, so David runs into the battlefield and waves the white flag while the tragic hero music plays; poorly acted & completely implausible).

My views on the casting are mixed. Ian McShane is consistently brilliant, but more or less everyone is mediocre to horrible. I realize they were going for the blonde-haired, blued-eyed, all-American Boy-type with Christopher Egan, which is appropriate for his character, but to me he just comes across as a cardboard cutout character; he's just boring to watch. However, when Brian Cox suddenly showed up in the latest installment, my mouth dropped open. He was only in one scene, but man, oh man, was it an awesome. He and Ian McShane, two masters on their craft playing off one another, one as a corrupt dictator with a messiah complex, the other as a deposed dictator fallen into madness; it doesn't get much better than that.

In case you haven't figured it out already, Kings is essentially a modern retelling of the Biblical story of David, particularly his rise to power and the fall of his predecessor, King Saul. I like this angle, it's really the shows only selling point outside of Ian McShane. However, the translation is...inconsistent at best. It's very precise, even to the point where it doesn't make sense, which also makes some of the changes made all the more confusing. For example, making Saul, or Silas as the case my be, a modern day monarch of a fictional country seems odd and unnecessary. It would seem more appropriate to make him the democratic leader of Israel in an alternate world where Israel is the dominate superpower of the world. And if they're being that accurate, why bother with any name changes? Saul is a perfectly believable name in modern society, so why is he Silas here? And replacing Jonathan with Jack, seriously (incidentally, Jonathan was supposed to be David's best friend and ally against Saul, not his rival for Saul's attention and a drunken playboy)? Also, what's the deal with Samuel being young? I always pictured him an the wise, ancient old Gandalf-type prophet, but here, Saul/Silas is at least a decade his senior. I'm sorry, but that doesn't really work for me.

Still I must admit, this film has a great visual style about it. It actually manages to create a large and epic feel, something hard to accomplish on a TV budget. Though I'm not sure what butterflies and pigeons have to do with the story of David, I appreciate the poetic imagery. More appropriate animals would have been lions or lambs, but of course it would've been pretty difficult to mount one of those on David's head as a crown. This episode in particular is full of it, from the opening scene where Silas is yelling at the sky in the rain, begging God not to abandon him, and the flock of pigeons flew around him, to a scene in the climax that involved a not-so-subtle crucifix reference (wrong Bible story, guys), it's all good stuff.

Overall, I did think this episode was much better than the pilot, which got abysmal ratings despite a good amount of hype. I think the main problem with the pilot was the two-hour running time. Audiences just aren't willing to devote that much time to a totally new series they know nothing about. Extra long episodes are something you do for series finales, not premieres, because you have to have your audience already on board. Hopefully they've learned they're lesson and haven't completely alienated everyone yet. While I have yet to fully gauge the show, something genuinely fresh and original is rare and worth checking out. I definitely look fore ward to seeing what more this show has to offer.

Click here to visit the official website for Kings.

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