NBC's 'Kings' Retells David And Goliath

Ian McShane stars in the new twist on a biblical story.

By Paul F. Montgomery
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 3 | Posted Apr. 7, 2009

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Ian McShane (right) plays King Silas Benjamin alongside reluctant hero Christopher Egan.

Photo by NBC.com

It’s an old story. The brash young shepherd boy with the killer fastball winds one up and sends the other team’s giant hurtling down to earth. The math isn’t right. That other guy was huge. Our hick nailed the bastard anyway. Don’t underestimate the underdog.  Michael Green’s Kings offers an update of the old hick vs. giant tale. Here, our David is a meek soldier (Christopher Egan) and Goliath, a tank. Despite appearances, this isn’t a conflict on the Gaza Strip.

David fights for the modern monarchy of Gilboa in its war with the equally fictional kingdom of Gath. The series exists in a reality which borrows cosmetically from our own and thematically from the Old Testament, with a few surprises of its own. A digitally enhanced Manhattan stands in for the crown city of Shiloh, home to Silas Benjamin (Ian McShane), founder and King of Gilboa. Silas wears a coat and tie like any modern politician, but there is a spiritual element as well. In speeches, he talks of the day he was blessed with a crown of live butterflies, symbolic of God's good favor, the divine right of kings.

When David becomes a hero in battle, he’s ushered to Shiloh, becomes a media darling and falls for the king’s daughter (Allison Miller). Daddy isn’t pleased. He wanted a pawn and what he got was a challenge. David encounters a flurry of signs and symbols. God may be choosing a new favorite, as Silas is already feeling the cold shoulder. 

If this sounds compelling, you may want to avoid your place of spiritual worship for fear of spoilers. It’s really the ideal biblical adaptation, faithful enough without being redundant. But it's not like sending a sacred cow down a slip-n-slide slathered in ketchup either. This is captivating political intrigue with cloaks and daggers aplenty. Imagine all the trappings and trimmings of The West Wing with the sinister tone of Battlestar Galactica.

It’s probably drier than all that, which may be my only major criticism. I’m not looking for belly laughs, but there’s little to break the tension of this operatic drama. Kings is pretty self-important, and it ought to be. But even Shakespeare tossed a few puns into his tragedies.

It's a good time to be a genre series, so they say. But just as Silas sits wary on his throne, Kings fans have reason for concern. The show is a critical success, but it's not winning the popular vote. And in the television game, that's the only divine right that counts.
Root for the underdog.

Sundays, 8pm, NBC

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1. Caroline said... on Apr 8, 2009 at 08:03AM

“I keep meaning to go back and watch this from the beginning, because I caught the third episode or so and wasn't blown away.

Though I'd be all over an actual period adaptation of the book of Kings, so my judgment might not count for much.”

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2. Mollie said... on Apr 8, 2009 at 10:18PM

“This is the best show on network television. Having watched it from the beginning, I would recommend it highly. In fact, we've watched each episode a second time only to find subtle Biblical references we'd missed the first time around. It's brilliant.”

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3. Anonymous said... on May 19, 2010 at 01:04PM

“One of the best television series ever. What happened to it?”

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