"This country only works if people look up to us -- not some boy." -Queen Rose"First Night" is the last episode of "Kings" I've seen in advance, and probably my favorite of the three. It gives the great Ian McShane his strongest showcase so far in this role, and it gives us a much stronger idea of the role of both God and the monarchy in this alternate universe.
God's presence as an active participant in the Biblical tale of Samuel, Saul and David would have seemed to be the hardest element to translate into modern times, but Michael Green has done a surprisingly adept job at it. God appears to have chosen David as Silas' successor (the butterfly crown in the pilot), and in this episode He appears to punish Silas for his hubris by making him sacrifice his relationship with his illegitimate son Seth (but not, mercifully, Seth himself). It's all left just ambiguous enough that if you prefer not to mix your divinity with your contemporary political drama (even one liberally adapted from the Old Testament), you can just write it off as coincidence, but McShane and Eamonn Walker are sure playing it like men who believe.
Susanna Thompson's Queen Rose, meanwhile, believes quite devoutly in the idea of a royal family helping to elevate the commoners by giving them elites role models to aspire to. That's often been the argument in England about the enduring popularity of the royals, even long past the point where they had any real power: people living hard lives like knowing there's some grandeur in their world and believing that, under the right (albeit unlikely) set of circumstances, they might get to experience it firsthand some day. Of course, Rose only wants it to be a belief, and not a reality, and so she and Jack -- his mother's son just as much as Michelle is her father's daughter -- are doing everything they can to keep a commoner like David from making a major jump up in class.
"Kings" is this weird hybrid of the Bible, Shakespeare and soap opera, and the scenes with Jack taking David and his friends on a tour of Shiloh's hottest nightspots tilted more towards the latter. It wasn't quite "Gossip Girl," but those scenes definitely felt less vital than any of the material involving McShane or Thompson.
Based on the lousy ratings for the first two weeks, I have little illusion about the show continuing past this first season. But the one plus of NBC being in such lousy shape across the board is that it's not easy to pull even the low performers like this, which means chances are decent that we'll at least get to see the full season. And with any luck, Green will by then have advanced the narrative to a good stopping point, if not the natural end point for what's designed as an epic, years-long saga.
What did everybody else think?