EPISODE REVIEW: Kings: “The New King, Part II” (Episode 12, Series Finale)

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Man, is Saturday Night a bad night for this show, or what? Even I, who love it with an entirely inappropriate fervor, keep forgetting it’s even on, getting distracted by fireworks one night, and a Justice League Unlimited marathon the next. Talk about a show being consigned to outer darkness, it’s schedule is so remote that even those who love it frequently forget it exists. Such an undeserving exile.

In any event, forgive me for the delay. If it’s of any consolation, our favorite show goes out in fine fashion, at the top of its game all around.

PLAY BY PLAY

Several days have passed since Part One, and plans for Gay Prince Jack’s coronation proceed apace. There’s a good deal of tension, however. The country is under martial law during the transition of power, Jack has caved in to all of William’s demands about a new war with Gath, and someone - who is never made entirely clear, but most likely it’s Silas - is running around assassinating generals and government ministers who are loyal to the prince. The creepy Cross kid (MacAulley Culkin) evidently didn’t tell anyone about Michelle helping David escape.

William refuses to acknowledge that Silas is a threat however, and repeatedly states - probably to calm himself- that the man is probably dead already. Jack, however, most pointedly is troubled. He goes to the Reverend Samuels for guidance, and asks why God hasn’t spoken with him. “God takes no council with sinners,” Samuels says, “And both of us have recently become unforgivable.” Jack protests that all they did was remove a tyrant, and Samuels angrily asks what about the others? The innocents? All the blood shed in the coup? “That crown will never touch your head, for you are not the one God wants. And you know it.” Jack leaves angrily, while Samuels is clearly falling apart inside.

Silas pulls a “President Roslin” and addresses the nation over a pirate radio broadcast, calling his son a usurper, and himself the victim of a coup. Holed up in a garage somewhere, Silas and David share a not-entirely-enjoyable drink while the old king muses over his lack of communication with The Allmighty. “Maybe he doesn’t drink with bastards,” David says. They both realize they’re going to likely die the next day, but David says he’ll do it because the people need Silas, even though he personally hates him. “Once I see you back in your chair, I’m leaving. Just promise me that if God ever speaks to you again, you’ll listen.” They leave, neither noticing that God actually did give them a minor sign.

Meanwhile, the crown has gone missing, and the Reverend Samuels refuses to give the benediction and coronate Gay King Jack. “We don’t need it. We’ve got another crown,” William says.
“A false crown,” Jack says, realizing what’s going on.
“…And Samuels has already acknowledged you publicly as his magical choice.”
Jack becomes increasingly tyrannical, killing cabinet ministers in cold blood for disagreeing with him, and threatening to off his family. The queen saves Michelle, however, and tells her to keep her head down because Silas is coming back, and will be pissed. She - the queen - will fix it all, however. Michelle agrees.

Coronation day arrives. There’s a great bottom-falling-out scene where Jack climbs the steps to his ceremony, and realizes that he’s surrounded only by nervous armed guards. There are no screaming, cheering masses supporting him. As the ritual proceeds, we cut back and forth between the scribe reluctantly reading the inaugural liturgy and the Reverend Samuels kneeling at the altar in his church, poetically repenting of all he’s done.

William’s people kill Samuels, shooting him in the back while he’s on his knees in his own church.

Silas appears, literally just walking down the street in front of the palace. The guards raise their guns, but he just keeps walking nonchalantly. He stops and says “Let me pass.” The guards do not step aside. William screams for them to fire. The guards prepare to shoot, but there’s a rumbling, and suddenly we see an entire armored column of Goliath tanks rumbling down the street to surround the palace. David pops out of the lead tank and tells the guards to stand down, and they do. The king walks in, and is met by the queen in the lobby, her bearing his crown - the real one - evidently she’s the one who stole it.

Everyone freaks out. William runs with Jack for the airport, calling for his creepy son, but can’t find him. Reluctantly, he values his own neck over his kids - bastard - and runs anyway. Jack turns back. In the throne room, Silas sees the fake crown and starts questioning people. No one will give him any answers. “I will ask one more time with words, and then I will ask again with blood.” No one answers, but Jack walks in.
“I’m not going to run. Go ahead and kill me. You told me I can’t be what I am, God told me I can’t be what I want. There’s nothing left for me, so end it. I’m ready. Please.”
“We can think of things far more unpleasant for you than death,” Silas says. Guards haul Jack off. David leaves. “The Cross boy” is hauled in, and immediately fesses up where his dad went and what the plan is. ‘
“Why would you tell me this?”
“When I returned from exile, my dad told me to pay attention and learn things. I did. I learned who should be king, and who shouldn’t.”
“And what do you want in exchange?”
“You lost a son today, and I lost a father. Perhaps I could be part of the family?”

Silas is impressed that the queen supported him over her own family, and she asks for clemency for some others who kept their heads about them in the unpleasantness. He agrees. While packing, Michelle visits David, and they make up/make out. Silas, meanwhile, gets a message from God, and heads out on the rooftop of the palace to have a conversation. “It was a mad idea You had. Kings? A Monarchy? In this day and age. Still, I built this entire city in Your Name…even You must be impressed.” Later, “Then I still have some part to play? Anything. Name it. [pause] Him? Not him, why him?” God leaves with Silas drenched on the rooftop screaming “Don’t leave me” like a spurned lover.

Broken, Silas has Thomasina call David to the mansion, “Tell him ‘I listened.’” David reluctantly goes. Silas tells him that he’s the new king, chosen by God. David is still stunned by this, and says he doesn’t want it. “Your wants are not at issue here. Get used to that.” At first Silas is forlorn and resigned, but as he gets drunker and angrier, he starts screaming at David and God, once again like a spurned lover. “You stood there and lied to my face, all the while God and you were going behind my back.” He hits the boy with a fireplace poker, and the two of them get in to a massive fistfight, culminating with David cold cocking Silas and screaming “Maybe I should be king” while pounding the old man in the face. Realizing what he’s done, he stumbles out of the room and is found by Michelle.

Michelle takes him to the Reverend Samuels’ church, where they are met by the ghost of the preacher. He tells them that David must go where Silas won’t find him, and he must go alone: Gath. David reluctantly agrees, as does Michelle, but she pledges her undying love, takes off a ring and gives it to him. David says likewise.
“Husband and wife, if you like,” says Samuels, “Words of love and promises spoken before God. You two have already been married for some time.”

Jack is in a barred, but comfortable room in the palace, sentenced to be “Bricked in with someone you can’t stand, but who loves you unquestioningly, until such time as you produce an heir, a child Silas can take and raise correctly.” They bring in Jack’s fiance/beard. Jack begs Thomasina for help, but she says “You went against the family. It’s not so hard. You just close your eyes and think of someone who’s dead.”

Michelle is exiled for a year, as engineered by her mother, evidently to both save her life and cover up the pregnancy. Silas and the queen discuss starting over, and how no one can remove Silas from power. She leaves, and the ghost of Samuels tells Silas - who’s quite insane - that God is not pleased by his actions, and that David and his family are somewhere safe, somewhere Silas can’t find them.
“I’ll find them, and when I do, I’ll come after you and kill you,” Silas says, also evidently not realizing he’s talking to a ghost. Or maybe he does - he is barking mad now, after all. Silas declares the fact in no uncertain terms that he is now at war with God, and so Samuels delivers a message, “Do not search too hard for my servant David, for on the day you lay your hands on him, that day shall you die.” Samuels is suddenly gone.

Meanwhile, we see tanks and soldiers marching around on the streets in the country, as David - alone and on foot - slips across the border in to Gath. A lone monarch butterfly follows him.

THE END

OBSERVATIONS

Man, this was a great episode, very tense, and though it follows the biblical narrative as inspiration, it plays fast and loose enough with the details of the story that you never know quite which way it’s going to break. Jack’s brief redemption last week was completely undone by his descent in to thuggery this week, and it was sad to see. His obvious hurt at being Rejected by God was well played, and it set the stage for Silas’ own insanity over having been rejected by the same God for the same reasons and the same person.

Even though Samuels was killed, it wasn’t at all surprising that he’s still God’s mouthpiece. In the bible, the ghost of Samuel is used to deliver a message to King Saul about his own demise, so I saw that one coming. Presumably, had the show continued, Samuels would have continued on in that capacity for some time, though there would have been a real-live Reverent/Prophet to replace him.

As soon as I can find it, I’m going to post a transcription of Samuel’s prayer of repentance. It was very flowery, very pretty, and for a bit there, I thought it might have actually been a Psalm or something. “Lord, Forgive my eyes, forgive my hands,” and so on. Quite impressed, was I.

The story still roughly tracks with the bible. On one occasion, “An evil spirit” came in to Saul, and he hurled a javelin at David, and tried to kill him on several occasions. David in the bible never fought back, though here, in a fit of frenzy he does, briefly. After it becomes apparent that Saul isn’t just nuts, he really wants David dead and gone, David runs off to Philistia (Gath in the TV show), and Saul and David fight what amounts to a small-scale undeclared civil war for quite some time, with David and his band of rebels being chased by the king’s army. And of course David married Saul’s daughter Michael. (Michelle, obviously, in the show.) This is all good stuff, and presumably, had the show survived for another season, Silas and Jack would have died at the end of the second year. Silas’ descent in to madness also tracks with the bible. Jack’s story doesn’t track with the bible at all.

I haven’t mentioned it until now I don’t think but the obvious reason Jack is gay on this show is because in the 90s it was popular for some people to claim David and Prince Jonathan in the bible were lovers. This is a pretty disingenuous argument, done only for some homosexuals who feel they need acceptance to claim that the bible’s greatest (strictly human) hero was Bi. There’s no evidence for this at all, and the argument hangs entirely on plays of words that have subtly changed meaning since the time the story was written. In the bible, Jonathan warns David his father is going to try to kill him, and it’s a literally tearful farewell in which both men proclaim their love for each other. The fact that this love is clearly fraternal is completely ignored by those who would twist the words to their own ends. They also conveniently ignore that the bible is openly homophobic. Such is life. People feel the need to do what they want to do, and then they feel the need to steal your own talismans to justify it.

When the show started, and Jack was immediately revealed to be gay, I was very annoyed by this because it was obvious that they were using the trendy gay-justification element as a way of beefing up an underdeveloped character, but I have to say they did this so well, and Sebastian Stan does such a great job portraying him that I was totally won over. It was probably the most complex, tortured, sympathetic portrayal of the travails of a closeted gay man, and how miserable his life is, that it’s hard not to empathize with the guy. Arguably, it’s the best portrayal of a homosexual character on any TV show, ever. Certainly it’s the least propagandistic.

I love that David and Michelle were already married. A lot of people have been annoyed by the romantic through-line with them, but for me it worked. There is a very, very old belief - mostly forgotten now, but it does actually show up in the bible after a fashion - that sex and marriage were the same thing, and the ceremony was entirely irrelevant to the act of marriage itself. This is ancient magic, almost Neolithic, and seeing it pop up here, enshrined in all this talk of destiny, and pronounced by a ghost - I have to say, it moved me. I’m a romantic. I like the subtle, organic kind of reveals like that, which have been there all along, but in such a way that you don’t notice them until they’re pointed out and you go “Oh, of course!” I love that.

Best line: “Oh, William. Bringing guns to a tank fight?”

Silas conversation with God on the roof in the rain was…ehm…more than a bit stagey. It didn’t quite work for me, but I thought it was interesting that Silas was overjoyed and genuinely happy to be speaking with The Lord again, but he wasn’t exactly what you’d call ‘humble.’ Though we only hear one half of the conversation, Silas declaring that “Even You must have been impressed” and later saying “You’re welcome” to God were arrogant to the point of offensive. And then God pulls the rug out from under him, leaving him screaming pathetically on a rooftop, alone and abandoned.

Silas comparing God and David to adulterous lovers tomcatting around behind his back is, likewise, deliberately offensive (Though it’s being said by a madman, so I take no offense at it), but it’s not entirely a non-biblical allusion. The bible repeatedly uses the metaphor of marriage to explain God’s relationship with humanity. The Song of Songs is a lengthy, overtly sexual version of this; God repeatedly refers (Through His prophets) to Israel as an “Unfaithful wife”; and Jesus is openly compared to a bridegroom. It is very clever, though again no doubt offensive, that they spun it this way. When you put this kind of intellectual effort in to sacrilege, it’s hard not to be impressed.

Interestingly for such an amazingly religiously-steeped show, we’ve made it through the whole season without even once seeing (A) A cross, (B) A star of David, or (C ) a bible, or any other scripture as such.

There’s a latin motto written on the Silas’ throne room wall that I never noticed before. Could anyone make it out?

There’s been a bit of chatter lately about whether this is the end of the show or the end of the series. Some people are saying that the show hasn’t been cancelled, or that NBC has reversed their decision. Please. One doesn’t need to be Samuels to read the signs that this show is dead, dead, dead. If it comes back in some form, I’ll gladly eat my words and ask for more, because I really do love this show. It was shamefully treated by the network, and left to die prematurely.

It’s sad to see it go, much sadder than nearly any show I can remember.

You can watch the episode - the entire series, really - here http://www.nbc.com/Kings/video/episodes/?vid=1139094#vid=1139094

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