EPISODE REVIEW: Kings: “Javelin” (Episode 11)

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One of the perils and fun parts about basing a story on one of the best-known tales in all of literature is that virtually everyone knows where the beats are in the story, and what to expect. If you’re doing a half-assed job of it, that works to your disadvantage: the ending is written before the beginning, so what’s the point, after all? But if you’ve got a clue, if you’re a storyteller of some strength, this very same thing works to your advantage. Yeah, everyone knows when to expect the plot twists, everyone knows how it more-or-less ends up, but you can use that knowledge to amp up the tension - is *this* when that happens? Oh, false alarm. Doe *That* detail last week mean that when the big twist comes, thus-and-so won’t survive? The Greeks made an entire dramatic subgenre of telling people plainly how the play would end, and then spending two hours watching the protagonists run headlong in to their fates specifically by trying to avoid it.

So before we get in to tonight’s play by play, I’d like to make a sizeable quote here from the story of David that’s been looming in the future since the first episode:

12 Then Jonathan spoke to David. He said, "I promise you that I'll find out what my father is planning to do. I'll find out by this time the day after tomorrow. The Lord, the God of Israel, is my witness. Suppose my father feels kind toward you. Then I'll send you a message and let you know. 13 But suppose he wants to harm you. And I don't let you know about it. I don't help you get away safely. Then may the Lord punish me greatly. May he be with you, just as he has been with my father. […] 19 Go to the place where you hid when all of this trouble began. Go there the day after tomorrow, when evening is approaching. There's a stone out there called Ezel. 20 Wait by it.

"I'll shoot three arrows to one side of the stone. I'll pretend I'm practicing my shooting. 21 Then I'll send a boy out there. I'll tell him, 'Go and find the arrows.' Suppose I say to him, 'The arrows are on this side of you. Bring them here.' Then come. That will mean you are safe. You won't be in any danger. And that's just as sure as the Lord is alive. 22 But suppose I tell the boy, 'The arrows are far beyond you.' Then go. That will mean the Lord is sending you away.
23 "And remember what we talked about. Remember that the Lord is a witness between you and me forever."
24 So David hid in the field. […] He said, "Why hasn't the son of Jesse come to the meal? He hasn't been here yesterday or today."
28 Jonathan replied, "David begged me to let him go to Bethlehem. […]30 Saul burned with anger against Jonathan.

He said to him, "You are an evil son. You have refused to obey me. I know that you are on the side of Jesse's son. You should be ashamed of that. And your mother should be ashamed of having a son like you. 31 You will never be king as long as Jesse's son lives on this earth. And you will never have a kingdom either. So send for the son of Jesse. Bring him to me. He must die!"

32 "Why do you want to put him to death?" Jonathan asked his father. "What has he done?" 33 But Saul threw his spear at Jonathan to kill him. Then Jonathan knew that his father wanted to kill David. 34 So Jonathan got up from the table. He was burning with anger. On that second day of the month, he refused to eat. He was very sad that his father was treating David so badly.

35 The next morning Jonathan went out to the field to meet David. He took a young boy with him. 36 He said to the boy, "Run and find the arrows I shoot." As the boy ran, Jonathan shot an arrow far beyond him. 37 The boy came to the place where Jonathan's arrow had fallen. Then Jonathan shouted to him, "The arrow went far beyond you, didn't it?" 38 He continued, "Hurry up! Run fast! Don't stop!" The boy picked up the arrow and returned to his master. 39 The boy didn't know what was going on. Only Jonathan and David knew. 40 Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy. He told him, "Go back to town. Take the weapons with you."

41 After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone. He bowed down in front of Jonathan with his face to the ground. He did it three times. Then they kissed each other and cried. But David cried more than Jonathan did.

42 Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace. In the name of the Lord we have taken an oath. We've promised to be friends. We've said, 'The Lord is a witness between you and me. He's a witness between your children and my children forever.' "

Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town.

1st Samuel 20:12-42

PLAY BY PLAY:

After last week’s cliffhanger ending with the arrest of David for treason, we get off to a slow burn. Silas plans the case out, assigns Gay Prince Jack to prosecute. The trial will be televised. He warns Michelle to stay away from David, “Lest there be any accusation of conflict of interest when he’s acquitted.” She more or less ignores this. Meanwhile, the pigeons of portentousness - last seen in episode two - swarm around the palace.

The trial begins. A Gathian terrorist accuses David of selling his services to them if they’d stage his heroic rescue of Jack, and thereby start his meteoric rise to fame, worming his way in to the royal confidence so as to help topple the monarchy. Rather than look pensive over these accusations, or run away, David confronts the terrorist, and more-or-less rips him apart on the stand, showing his claims to be nonsense. Jack presents video evidence - faked - of David and the terrorist shaking hands some months earlier. David freaks out a bit at this, and starts saying “All I am guilty of is serving my king” over and over like a mantra, until he’s dragged from the courtroom and they adjourn for the day. Meanwhile, William Cross once again offers to let Reverend Samuels join his coup/conspiracy. Samuels initially rejects it again, then says he’ll consider it if David is saved.

Michelle, meanwhile, is feeling dizzy, bruising like a peach. She’s worried her cancer is back, and goes to see her doctor. Silas goes to visit David in prison, and says he doesn’t trust the boy since he lied to him about Michelle. “So if you’ve done anything else, now is the time to come clean.” David says that if he *had* done anything, he’d immediately confess to it and fall upon the mercy of the king. “Yeah. I believe you would,” Silas says.

Day two of the trial, David brings up an old war buddy of his as a character witness. Initially this works out great, and David looks great, until Jack cross-examines the guy and breaks him up on the stand. He points out David’s heroics, his good luck, his strength, his virtue, his undefeatability, and his knack for being in the right place at the right time as being, you know, just a little bit suspicious in retrospect, and eventually David’s friend realizes that, yeah, no one can be that lucky, that good, that often. He believes - after Jack puts the idea in his head - that David must be a Gathian mole.

Michelle realizes that the video evidence against David must be fake, since it took place during the blackout when she was in bed with him. They can easily prove this. (They’ve got pictures). David tells her no, that it’ll just get her in dutch with the king, and he’s pretty sure Silas wants him dead. She doesn’t believe this, and goes to talk to her dad about it, but he just keeps saying “David *IS* guilty, and I’ll have him destroyed and removed from history.” Frightened, Michelle goes to the doctor and discovers she’s pregnant. Unexpected, since her earlier cancer rendered her sterile. She goes to her mom saying she’s too frightened of her father to talk to him. Mom says she’s right to be frightened, and they need to keep this secret from Silas, or else he’ll kill the baby.

That night, Samuels tries to talk Silas out of prosecuting the boy since he knows full well that he’s innocent. Silas ignores him. Samuels works an actual minor miracle - shutting down power at his command - to point out how wrong Silas’ actions are, but Silas simply says “I remember when your wife was taken from you, and you asked me to find those responsible, kill them, and remove every evidence of their lives from history. That wasn’t as a prophet, that was as a man seeking revenge. You can be the lamb, or you can be the knife, but try to be both at the same time and you’ll just end up slaughtering yourself.”

David is dragged out of his cell in the middle of the night and taken to meet Samuels and Cross, who offer to spirit him away to a safe country elsewhere. David says that would make him look guilty. They confess that they’re going to overthrow the king, and David refuses to have anything to do with them, saying that if he took their offer he *would* be guilty of the things Silas accuses him of. He takes off Samuel’s watch and gives it back to the preacher saying “If I’m going to die, I don’t want to have this on me.” Samuels is shaken by this, and they throw David back in prison. There, David demands to see Jack, so Jack shows up. Rather than plead or protest his innocence, David warns Jack of the conspiracy against Silas - which you’ll recall Jack is a part of himself - which completely shakes the gay prince. He can’t believe that David would *STILL* be loyal to the king after all this.

Day Three: David calls Michelle to the stand, but she doesn’t show. Silas clears the courtroom and explains to David that a kingdom only works if everyone believes in the king, and everyone did until David showed up. Now, troubles have started, people move to remove Silas, and it’s all David’s fault. Even if David himself didn’t plot against the king, it had the same effect as if he had - everyone wants Silas gone. David is shaken by this.

When court re-assembles, Silas asks David how he pleads. David says “Guilty,” realizing the truth of Silas’ words. He tries to expand on this, but Jack shuts him up and starts a speech about how he - Jack - and Silas colluded to frame David, and remove him because he was a threat to their power. Silas goes balistic, and tells Jack to shut up, but Jack keeps on incriminating both of them . The two of them get in to personal insults, culminating with the king calling Jack a “Faggot” on national TV, and ordering the guards to place the prince under arrest and remove David. Silas - having lost it - just rails on about how everyone is against him. Riots are already starting kindgom-wide. As they haul David away, Michelle tries to explain why she ditched him, but there’s no time. Jack is taken out a back entrance, and surrounded by guards. “This is it? Not even a pretence of a trial?” His uncle shows up and says the guards are loyal to Jack, as are the generals. One of the guards hands Jack a gunbelt, as cross says that this changes nothing, merely moves up the Coup’s schedule - no more waiting. Jack cocks his gun…

THE END.

OBSERVATIONS:

Wow! This was a hell of an episode. I was feeling it was way too slow in the early bits, but it was like a musical progression gradually gathering strength and complexity, with new details gradually stacked atop old themes until the whole thing snowballs, almost without you noticing it. Of course we knew this was coming - the quote from Samuel makes it clear - but we didn’t know when or how or really even why. We did know that somehow, in some way, Jack was going to side with David, though, and when that happened all hell would break loose. And brother, has it ever!

Several notes from the biblical story were hit in one form or another tonight. Firstly, Silas tried to kill David by framing him for treason. Secondly, Jack saved David’s life, imperiling his own in the process. Thirdly, Silas hurled a spear at Jack in the forms of outing him on national TV (Ending his political career) and in having him arrested (Presumably as a precursor to execution). These are obviously the Javelin of the title. Fourthly, while not specifically in that passage I cited, this incident begins the civil war between King Saul and David the Rebel, and this episode clearly ends with everyone and their maiden aunt on a war footing. I can not wait to see what happens next.

We learned a bit more about Gilboa tonight:
1) The Crown Prince is expected to prosecute treason cases.
2) The king sits in on treason cases.
3) The borders of Gilboa are at least roughly the same as those of the real-world United States. There was mention of being king “From sea to sea.”

Was it just me, or was the music a bit Battlestar Galactica-ey tonight? A lot of rising middle-eastern sounding strings to create tension.

My only quibble is that they should have used a courtroom set for the trial, or at least some set that wasn’t obviously a minor redress of Silas’ throne room. I’m not convinced it wasn’t supposed to be the throne room actually, but we needed some other location for this, I think.

The idea that David’s own heroic, noble nature worked against him because it was too good to be believed was played well, and was clever.

Michelle’s realization of her father’s mad dog qualities were believable, and her fear as a result was palpable. I honestly believe the queen is a bit afraid of the king herself, and always has been.

Man, when Silas kills someone, he kills the hell out of them, doesn’t he? He speaks so often of removing every evidence of a person’s existence in this ep that it appears to be a bit of a fetish with him.

Samuels’ miracle was interesting, as was Silas’ increasingly inappropriate efforts to hide inside a mundane routine from a life he never had - tonight he insists on going grocery shopping when everything is going wrong around him. He cooks quite a few times tonight. There’s his secret family in the boonies. This aspect to his madness is increasingly interesting, and I’ve never seen it done before like this. He’s just a subtle bit more nuts every time we see him, as tonight when he holds a tomato and talks about it secretly being a nightshade.

David is a catalyst. He doesn’t do much, but his example causes people around him to change or go in to motion. Silas was entirely right about that. David’s simply being David causes Jack to betray his father, Samuels to question his own soul (No mean feat with a prophet!), and prompts a civil war. And through all this, he remains basically innocent. It’s kind of fascinating. Would that we’d get another season to see where all this is going, but alas Endgame is here for the season as well as the show.

Thomasina’s increasing discontent with her liege is interesting. She’s not happy having to assassinate people on Silas’ whim, and it’s taking a toll on her soul. The two idiot guards are back, and the fat one confesses his love for her. She’s so messed up, hating herself so much that the fact Anyone could love her makes the guy seem appealing.

Jack’s performance tonight was very cold. He’s always been a man of masks and layers, but tonight he played it with such a poker face that the ‘mask’ thing is almost literal. When the mask falls away for an instant - when David warns him of the conspiracy against Silas - it’s shocking and sad and rewarding. I think we got our first - and probably only - brief look at the *real* Jack Benjamin there, and I think he realized that he’s never supposed to be king. Having been outed and insulted by his father on TV, I wonder how much of Jack will crawl back behind the disguises, and how much of him will be transformed. Again, it would be interesting to see, but we’ll have to suffice ourselves with only two more weeks.

So what will Silas do next? Clearly he’s slipping closer to insanity, clearly his wig-out on TV and arresting his own son, and the fact that he tried to frame his own advisor - these will not go over well. These are not the things that can be easily put aside or explained away. “Well, when I called my son a faggot, what I really meant was that he reminds me of an English cigarette in that he’s….you know…roughly cylindrical”

Presumably, had the show lasted for another year, the whole next season would have been David on the run, and Silas trying to gut him like a trout. That’s my prediction, because clearly the man ain’t goin’ down without a fight, and I don’t think William Cross will survive the next two hours.

What do you all think will happen next? Post your theories in the comments!

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