Monday, April 06, 2009

Kings, "Insurrection": Gone fishin'

Spoilers for last night's "Kings" coming up just as soon as I bribe a government official...
"He calls for peace, but denies me the cost. Good day to be a critic." -King Silas
"Insurrection" was the first episode of "Kings" to not have series creator Michael Green's name on the script (Erik Olesen is the credited writer), and it showcases just how tricky it's going to be to maintain the odd balance between Bible and modern-day, particularly in the dialogue.

There are deliberately stylized lines like William Cross telling Reverend Samuals, "Change is in the air -- like winter. Can you smell the wood burning?" But then there are lines like the skinny security guard, realizing that his chunky friend has a crush on Tomasina, telling him, "You are so screwed."

Obviously, "Kings" takes place in a world where we have to accept the contemporary (24-hour cable news) alongside Old Testament conceits (monarchs being chosen by God), and until now the arch nature of the dialogue -- not really Shakespeare, but also never really mundane -- has helped bridge the two. For however long this show is on, its writers need to be really careful not to let blatantly modern phrasing into their scripts, because they tend to break the spell.

"Insurrection" also illustrated the problem of having to deal with a relatively perfect hero. In the Bible, David becomes decidedly imperfect after he's King (just ask Bathsheba's husband), but at this stage of the story, he has to be pure enough to remain God's choice. Some actors can do interesting things as characters who are unremittingly good, but Chris Egan doesn't know quite how to play it, even as the writers place him in situations so complex that being good isn't of much use. And it doesn't help that he's so often paired with Allison Miller as Michelle, who's so far the cast's weakest link.

I'm not the world's biggest Leslie Bibb fan, but I'll reserve judgment on her character until we see if she's just been inserted to add a bit of classic soap opera vixen-ry to the proceedings.

Still interesting, but definitely my least favorite episode to date.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

I actually really liked this episode! It forced you to consider that right and wrong was unclear and murky at times, and forced the characters to deal with that. it seemed to have the most plot/action of the episodes so far in terms of pace.
And the idea that the king was purposefully looking weak to draw out the plotters - didn't see that coming.
It's interesting you mention the language in this episode Alan, because this one had a moment I found most sublime yet. When Silas is telling David that if goes in to Michelle he might get shot, he says something like "we won't be able to tell you from the other". Not "others" but "other". For us watching at that moment, we looked at each other and said wow, that phrasing is just beautiful and powerful at the same time, conveying the regal-ness at the same time as plainspoken-ness. Of course it doesn't hurt that it's Ian McShane speaking the line :-)

Unknown said...

I'm still enjoying this show (for as long as it's on the air). I agree about the modern phrasing taking one out of the world they are trying to create.

And more than previous episodes, this one felt like an "episode", rather than a continuation of one over-arching story. There was absolutely no follow-up to last week's tabloid headline ending.

Leslie Bibb, I think is supposed to be this show's Six. We'll get at least one obligatory shot of her legs each episode.

I did like how we got a shot of a map kind of showing where Gilboa and Gath are. If there was any theory that Gilboa would be shaped like the U.S., and Gath shaped like Canada, this dispelled that.

Overall, while I like the show, I wish this had been conceived as a true limited series with a definitive ending in mind. The interesting part of this story is going to be David becoming king and the challenges he faces, but the way this show is paced, I don't see that happening until season three or four (not that it's going to get that far).

This is a very curious show. Very interesting, but I don't know that they can sustain it for very long.

Oaktown Girl said...

David's character is pretty bland, and that's a definite drawback. I thought this episode had some good moments, and I'm still on board. I agree with Vic that a limited run would have probably served this show better, especially since it's on network TV and not cable. It's too bad American TV is not as flexible as British TV.

Toby O'B said...

"David becomes decidedly imperfect after he's King (just ask Bathsheba's husband)"

That just needed an "Oh wait... you can't" LOL

I was glad to see the map. I welcome all details that show how different this world is. Other bits of trivia:

UNN - Unity News Network

The area of Lorem (spelling?) - a city like Shiloh? a district or county or a province?

That Silas is from the South

I forgot to take a good look at the trophy - did it depict a soccer game, or was it some fictional game?

I love that kind of detail!

Fernando said...

I actually liked this one a lot, maybe more than the previous too. There seemed to be some many plot lines and political intrigue going on and for about 2/3 of the way and at the very end, they handled it real nicely. Somewhere around Michelle getting captured and David saving her it felt pretty pedestrain.

P.S. I'm surprised you haven't mentioned "Narase Campbell" at all.

Robert said...

Not to get to theological, but the pre-king David was decidedly imperfect. He was a genocidal war criminal, mass-murdering whole cities including women and children to hide his double-dealing from the Philistine (Gath) king with whom he sought refuge after fleeing from Saul. He was a an habitual liar, although perhaps that could be justified by his life on the run. And Bathsheba wasn't the first wife of another man who caught his eye--Abigail comes to mind, although there the dead husband preceeded the taking of the woman instead of following it.

I thought the reveal of who sent the text warning Cross to get out of the conspirator's meeting was quite interesting (especially in context of the Biblical betrayal of Saul's son by Abner later on after David became king)...but I wasn't very clear on what the sign was that warned Samuels away from the meeting. Was it something to do with the smoke?

Nicole said...

If the modern language is kept to the Rosencratz and Guildenstern guards, I think it can still work because it would be comparable to what Shakespeare did with his comic characters, by not having them speak in iambic pentameter as compared to the "main" characters.

Ian McShane and Dylan Baker are knocking this out of the park (along with the Reverend). The others are not as consistent.

sedeyus said...

"Was it something to do with the smoke?"
Yeah, he was heading that way then the wind shifted the smoke a different direction. I gotta say the last two episodes have been pretty disappointing. Ian McShane (of course) is tearing it up but the two most important leads (David, Michelle) are so boring. It also doesn't help that Christopher Egan plays all his scenes like a hurt puppy-dog. For God's sake a war hero wouldn't be crying in front of his king.

Hatfield said...

Yeah, I was confused by it as well, and it still didn't tip me that they were about to get raided, so that was good, actually.

Hmm, that was rather rambly.

I have to disagree big time with Alan here (other than his gripe about the "You are so screwed" line; hey, I speak Spanglish, but that doesn't mean I recommend it). I don't find Egan as bland as everyone else seems to, and I liked things such as Thomasina speaking her mind to Silas, the reveal that it was Abner who warned Cross, Samuels' obvious disdain for Cross and his stance that it was God's to decide if Silas fell, and Silas' moment in the stream with Leslie Bibb's character. Hell, all Silas moments, really.

So, perhaps not big time, but I'll say I enjoyed this episode plenty.

And Fernando, with all the Deadwood fans who watch this show for love of McShane, Marlyne Afflack's "Wire" alumnus status tends to go unmentioned, but I think I've brought it up at least once, and I'll say it now: it's nice to have her on my screen again, and even playing a likable character, at that!

Anonymous said...

I thought was happened with the smoke was that the flag was blowing in one direction (as was the smoke) and then the smoke shifted in the other direction (while the flag continued in its original direction)as Samuels watched - suggesting to him it was a sign to go away.

Raz Cunningham said...

Sure, David is a bit bland at the moment, but hopefully it won't stay. Ian McShane just continues to get better.

Zack Smith said...

David still seems wishy-washy, and at least a hint of some edge would help. This plot was annoying, because it involved his lame family (Becky Ann Baker, who is awesome, aside). His brother came off as an ass toward the end, and the plot with Port Prospertity seemed like something that should have come up two episodes ago.

Ian McShane rules, literally and figuratively, and this ep gave Dylan Baker and Wes Studi more to do. It's a good touch that there is such a large number of characters, but each has a personal storyline that develops a little more each episode.

Leslie Bibb has been on TV for a decade, and yet does not seem to age. Weirdly excited about next week's guest star as well.

KINGS, BETTER OFF TED, DOLLHOUSE and to a lesser extent CUPID are all pretty entertaining midseason shows (though DOLLHOUSE is more of a "is Whedon going to convince me this can work?" thing).

That said, it seems like it's best to watch them as one-season shows and just enjoy them while they're on.

Brent McKee said...

I'm just wondering if this is really the story of David's rise or Silas's fall. They aren't the same after all. That makes Silas the lead character and a tragic figure while David is somewhat less important.

Silas is a character who has fought and compromised to get where he is, although to David he is an all-powerful figure. At some point he must have been liek David though. So maybe it is appropriate that the actor playing David is bland and not dynamic - or is playing bland - so that we can see him progress as he learns the ins and outs of court life.

Oaktown Girl said...

Hatfield - I agree. I'm loving Marlyne Afflack's "Tomasina". She's seems on the surface rather quiet and reserved, but she also utilizes her power and strength when it's called for - even for confronting Silas. At the end when Silas said he was going to "promote" her, it sounded more like a punishment was on the way. I'll have to go back and rewatch the episode online. It's going to be interesting to see what happens with that.

I'm the last one anyone would ever call "fashion conscious", but I gotta say: that beret is really, really not working for McShane/Silas. Jeers to the costume dept. Besides, a unique, original style of hat would have shown another interesting difference between the world of Gilboa and ours. But a beret? ZZzzzz.

Thais Afonso said...

I don't think Egan is so bad, specially compared to Alison Miller. The problem is, altough they are not terrible, the young cast is really not at the level of the adult cast. Ian McShane is of course fantastic. And I agree with Nicole about Dylan Baker and Eamonn Walker, and with Oaktown Girl about Marlyne Afflack. But I also have to add Susanna Thompson to that list. I'm a Once and Again fan, so of course just having her back is great, but I really think she managed to make Queen Rose more compelling and complex than she might actually be. It's too bad she didn't have much to do in this episode.

The Pulse said...

This is a show I really find compelling. I know the writers have a story to tell and I just want to sit back and let it unfold with great acting and production.

I think Michelle is the weakest link in the cast - David hasn't had to play nuance much before tonight, and I bought his words much better now than in his speech in front of Gath in the pilot.

My favorite cast member might actually be Dylan Baker as Cross - he fits the role so perfectly and makes me hate him and believe him at the same time.

And here's a little shout out to Jack, who is much better here than as Carter Bazen on Gossip Girl. Bravo.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Just FYI: ratings are now so low that NBC has pulled the show off Sundays, effective immediately, and will move it to Saturdays at 8 in a week.

Saturday timeslot=done. Only question now is whether we make it to the end of the season.

Anonymous said...

This really seems like a botched job on NBC's part more than anything. There were so many ways that they could have sold this one to the public and instead they went with an anonymous ad campaign with just the title and an orange flag (sure, those kinds of posters work for title=pitch shows like Lost and Desperate Housewives, but the Kings posters meant nothing if you hadn't already seen the pilot). Or, once they saw the pilot, NBC could have changed their order to make it an old-school event mini-series with an end date in sight (related, why are the networks so afraid of doing miniseries again? That is a format itching to be scratched).

Of course, maybe something magic will happen on Saturday and an audience will appear. I won't hold my breath, but didn't NBC run Sisters on Saturdays nights for, like, a decade of acceptable ratings? I know times have changed, but a boy can dream.

Sigh. I hope it gets to the end though, I don't want another Pushing Daisies (which at least appears to be coming back to ABC for the final three episodes next month?)

Kirs said...

re: Ian McShane's head gear. It isn't a beret. It's a flat cap- berets don't have a brim.

I just don't understand why people haven't caught on to the show- I love it. Maybe it would have had more success on a different channel? Everything NBC touches seems to die a horrible death.

Evamarie said...

re: And here's a little shout out to Jack, who is much better here than as Carter Bazen on Gossip Girl. Bravo.
Yes, he is definitely better here, but also, he has more to work with in this character.

About David being Bland? Well I thought tonight stepped away from that a bit. He showed emotion and he had a hard decision to make. I do think this show would fail miserably without the guy playing Silas, though. I think they should focus on him more.
I find the Queen very interesting, too, as well as Thomasina. They are strong females and have interesting relationships with the King. The wife can tell him he needs a trip, and Thomasina can comment on his feelings like a best friend.
The daughter bugs me, she is kinda bratty. They keep trying to convince us that she's "good" and "works for the people", but she just comes off as temperamental and reminds me a lot of Rachel in the new Batman movies. Believes in the "right" thing, etc.
The show is starting to develop a lot of plots of intrigue - my problem is I am yet to be convinced that Silas is a really terrible King (sure he's a bit jerky, but he's tough) and that David would be a much better one (he's too wrapped up in his personal emotions, much like the princess).