EPISODE REVIEW: Kings: “Chapter One” (Episode 10)

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If last week was all about hope, this episode is about the death thereof. The king, once so open to the future, trusting, and full of promise, has seen his faith betrayed and learned that no matter how he may wrestle with David’s destiny, the future has no place for Silas. Once again closed off, and all the more tragic for it having shown his heir the soul of the man beneath the crown, he seamlessly shifts gears in to defensive mode, protecting what he sees as rightfully his. And as with all megalomaniacs, what the king sees is his is everything…

PLAY BY PLAY

The Charter of the Kingdom of Gilboa is stolen from the national archives by persons unknown. Our friends the two stupid guards show up, though they’re not comedy relief anymore it seems.
“Who could have done such a thing?”
“I don’t know, but whoever it was - I hate them.”
Silas needs to get rid of his chief advisor - David - whom he no longer trusts, so he sends the young captain off on a task that is somewhere between fools errand and suicide mission. David admits he lied to Silas last week, and begs forgiveness. “Prove you’re worth more than the lie,” Silas says, “Retrieve the charter.” He gives David some money, a gun, and a phone, “To call in and admit defeat. But if you come home with empty hands, remember that all we’ll see is the empty hands, not you.” (I paraphrase. Silas said it better. Silas *Always* says it better.)

Jump forward two weeks, and David is in Ekron, on the southern border of Gilboa, looking a bit bedraggled. He’s trying to be inconspicuous, tracking down leads to where the Charter is, but he sticks out like the good thumb on an otherwise sore hand. In a bar, he tries to bribe the barkeep for information, but the man knows who David is somehow, and tells him to go home before he gets hurt. A pretty brunette says she has information about it, and leads him to meet some goons. It’s a setup. They take advantage of the poor rube, shaking him down, kicking the crap out of him, taking his gun and his money. He’s lost nearly everything that Silas gave him, and is now operating almost entirely on his own innate abilities, not the kings. I don’t know how much clearer I can make that metaphor, kids.

He wakes up in the barman’s bed, but no, this is David’s story and not Gay Prince Jack’s, so we know nothing untoward happened. The bartender rescued him because “I couldn’t let you get killed just because you’re an idiot.” An unforeseen aspect of this show’s reliance on signs, symbols, and omens from God that are all real is that I’m perfectly willing to accept astounding coincidences here, whereas in any other show they’d make me scream “Oh, come on!” in my best Tom Hanks voice. Of course we’ve got an astounding coincidence here - or is it the will of God moving the pieces on the chessboard? The barman was in the Gilboan army back in the day, same unit as David’s daddy. He says some bad things about Silas, and some good things about David, including the *true* story of his father’s death!

Turns out that during the war, there were some uprisings in the “Southern Tribes,” who weren’t thrilled about being part of this newfangled “Gilboa” thing from the outset, and they certainly weren’t happy with the toll the war was putting on them. There were uprisings. In order to scare them in to submission, Silas ordered a unit - the bartender and the elder Shepherd’s unit - to pull a My Lai on some southern town, burn it to the ground, and kill everyone as a warning to the other southerners to either get in line or face the consequences. The army unit heroically refused to carry out their orders. After that, Silas wanted them dead. He had them air-dropped in to a battle zone with no weapons to be slaughtered (Shades of Uriah the Hittite! Not exactly the same thing, but a similar theme definitely). Shepherd Senior died saving the bartenders’ life.

David doesn’t know whether to believe this or not, but the bartender lets slip that he’s heard the Charter is in Ashkelon. David prints up a map on the man’s mid-90s computer (Because evidently the southern tribes are poor), hops on his bike and leaves. Time passes. Evidently he follows up the lead in quite a few places called “Ashkelon,” and finally comes to the last one on his list/map. It’s a dead end. His motorcycle dies. He’s about to give up, and pulls out the phone to call Silas and admit defeat, but just as he’s about to dial he recognizes yet more augury from the Allmighty. It’s a sign - get it? A billboard actually, which gives him the clue he needs. He calls a shipping company on the phone Silas gave him, realizes this is probably the way to go, and then meets up with some filthy hippie draft dodger types in an old van.

They agree to give him a lift to the train yards, but instead they dope him up good, roll him, and, well, hell, I dunno what they do then. Take his cellphone? It’s all he’s got left at this point. In any event, he has a drug trip/flashback/message from the dead/portent of the future while he’s stoned, meeting his dead father - evidently, it really *IS* his dead father, not a hallucination (Again, I wouldn’t accept that in any show other than this one), and realizes that he, David, son of Jessie Shepherd, is supposed to be king.

He wakes up in Edom, at the train tracks, gets in a fight with one of the thugs who stole it, and then follows a cryptic musical clue the ghost of his father gave him to the right railroad car in a shipyard of hundreds of them. In the car, he finds the right crate, and he rescues the charter. The camera moves to the right to show us what’s in the next crate over, and lingers a bit. It’s the ark of the covenant!

MEANWHILE, Back in Shiloh, Silas has used the theft of the Charter to effortlessly change the rules of government a bit. To rise to the times instead of dwelling on the past. He tells Perry the Scribe to start a *new* book of their history, one that will be read a thousand years from now, telling how we rose to the challenges and changed our world. “The Book of Silas,“ Perry excitedly exclaims, to much applause from the courtiers. Perry narrates the rest of the episode. Silas quickly charms everyone in to accepting his new green energy self-sufficiency plan, which isn’t really so much of a plan as it is “Let’s just try everything and some of it’s bound to work.” Princess Michelle - who thinks David is at ‘diplomacy school’ - is put in charge of the day to day implementation. They restart construction on a hydroelectric dam in Pella, a wind farm on the plains of Dan, geothermal stuff elsewhere.

Gay Prince Jack and Katrina Ghent continue to plan their wedding, and they actually seem to have some surly chemistry between them. And why not? Both are willing to sacrifice their own souls for power. The Queen accuses Ghent of blackmailing Jack, but she ripostes that Jack was all too willing to sign on once he realized how much pain it would cause his mother. “I’m his last chance for happiness, and you know it. He’ll be a king by day, and a bad boy with whatever boy he wants by night,” (I honestly thought she was gonna’ say “A queen by night”), “And I don’t care. I may even join in occasionally. And once I crank out an heir, you’ll be….what? The royal gramma?”

The queen seethes at this. Miss Ghent heads off to Austeria to buy a 20 carat engagement ring she’s had her eyes on.

Jessie Shepherd, David’s mom, has been standing in the main foyer of the government building for days. The king keeps ducking her for most of the episode, but, in a good mood, he decides to confront her. She says that she knows the king has David off on some mission, and she knows that the king will never tell the truth about it. She says that she’s known all along that David had a greater destiny, but that she tried to keep him from it, but the king started it on its course, and though neither she nor Silas want it, now that it’s going they’ll only be able to watch it happen. So she wants to be here when David gets home, just to see the moment the tides turn for the king. Silas is shaken by this.

At the engagement party, the king kvetches about how late they are, and the queen says - oddly - let her have her moment. Jack comes in with a pretty brunette, and introduces her as his fiance - it’s not Katrina Ghent! It’s Lucinda Wolfson, his beard from a couple episodes back!

“Pity about Miss Ghent’s accident. But those winding mountain roads in Austeria are so dangerous!” The king and queen joke. They had her killed! The queen quips about Ghent not knowing enough to avoid jousting with a queen.

Yikes!

Silas takes Jack aside and praises him for his beard/bride to be, and says that his sacrifices of late have not been in vain. On the day Jack is married, he’ll declare Gilboa a blood monarchy, and name Jack as his rightful heir. Jack goes for a drive with his uncle Bill, and tells him that he wants out of the whole coup conspiracy thing, since his daddy is gonna’ give him the crown without any bloodshed. “And when that happens, you’ll still be my chief advisor.” Bill smacks Jack around a bit, and tells him that the revolution works on his time table, not Jacks, certainly not Silas’. “If you turn back now, you’ll only end up [dead] in a ditch with him. You’re engaged.”

Jack’s new bride-to-be walks in on him flirting with a guy named “Stu” and she has misgivings about the future. The queen attempts to browbeat her in to mindless obedience. Jack semi-rises to her defense, but only partially.

Meanwhile, all of Silas’ energy initiatives have failed - the wind farm, the geothermal, the hydroelectric - it’s all fallen apart. Then David strides in the main lobby and kisses his mom. Surrounded by cheers and applause, he strides to the throne room and presents it to the king.

Shocked by David’s success, the king attempts to put a positive spin on it. “It tested my faith in many things and many people” the captain says. Silas clears the throne room, but David bids Perry stay. He does. There’s a very polite showdown between them in which Silas appears all sweetness and light, but once he’s gone, the king orders Thomasina to kill David.

Guards bust in and arrest David while he’s in his apartment, in bed with Michelle. The charge? “Treason.”

And we discover that Perry *DID* start a new book, as ordered, and his narration has been taken from it, but it’s not The Book of Silas, rather it’s “The Book of David,” which he keeps in secret, under lock and key.

THE END

We learn more about Gilboa and the organization of this odd parallel world in this episode than we do in the whole rest of the series up until now. Pella, Edom, Askelon, Ekron, ‘The Planes of Dan,’ ‘the Southern Tribes’, ‘The Southern Territories’ - all these are new, never mentioned before, and it implies that Gilboa is a federation of tribes just like ancient Israel was. It’s also interesting that there’s some regional tension among them. We’ve also learned that there’s a charter ‘from the elders’ (Whomever they were) establishing Silas’ monarchy, and we learn that the nation of Austeria (Namechecked before) is extremely mountainous. And Gilboa is not (As of now) a “Blood monarchy,” but mostly due to oversight.

No idea where these new regions and tribes lie, of course, and we don’t even know if Austeria is on the same continent as Gilboa, but it’s interesting just the same.

Silas is kind of heartbreaking in this episode, mainly because he was so hopeful last week and now he realizes there’s no future for him unless he makes it himself. He’s never been a good man, but he’s always been a compellingly complex bad one, and the last few episodes have shown us more of his sunny side. The shadows are front and center this week, though, and Silas himself actually seems kind of comfortable to have them back.

The Queen continues to be a manipulative and heartless bitch, forcing everyone around her to do her bidding. There’s a running theme in both the Silas and Queen subplots this week about them not wanting to give up power. They are made for each other, in a sad, twisted, dark way. The way they both quip about killing miss Ghent is kind of chilling, they’re so amused at themselves.

Thing is, Miss Ghent was unquestionably right: She was Jack’s last chance at happiness, and though their union was more a business merger than an affair of the heart, they did both accept each other for who and what they were, not wanting the other to change their ways. This is probably fairly similar to the odd relationship between the current king and queen. Certainly the only reason Ghent fails is a lack of experience, not because of a lack of scheming and power-mad desire on her part. In her and Jack’s arrangement, there was a certain level of understanding that almost suggested compassion, or at least a kind of relaxation that we’ve never seen Jack express around anyone else.

The way the queen tells Miss Wolfson that her job is to “Breed more of his kind” - referring to Jack - is deliberately creepy. I can’t help but feel the gay lobby won’t like that, but of course it’s unlikely they’re watching this show anyway.

I guess Uncle Bill’s rapprochement from a few weeks back really was all for show. Evidently he never dissolved his conspiracy to remove Silas from power. We’re told the coup would take place “In a month.”

Energy level and events are really ramping up. The status quo we’ve known through most of the series is shaking badly, and will no doubt shatter in the next three episodes.
Lots of good flowery dialog in this one, but unfortunately I didn’t have time to take my normal notes.

The Ark of the Covenant! Wow! What the heck was that all about?

It’s interesting that they make it very clear that God is rejecting Silas’ sacrifices, and when the Reverend Samuels is called upon to make suggestions, he’s just as clueless as everyone else this time out.

David knows he’s supposed to be king now. Silas has known it from Episode 1. Jessie has known it since he was a baby. Who else knows it?

Ok, here’s my big reservation about this show: Everyone on it is great, even the minor characters. Everyone chews the scenery, everyone is appropriately larger than life. Here we’ve got our first David-centric episode in I dunno how long, and…he’s just kind of bland. He’s likeable, he’s got a degree of aw shucks charisma, but as *THE* central character of the show, he’s just not a strong enough focus. I feel disloyal saying that, but there it is.

Oh, you can watch the episode online here http://www.nbc.com/Kings/video/episodes/?vid=1131823#vid=1131823

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