EPISODE REVIEWS: Kings: "Prosperity" (Episode 2)

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This is my second attempt at a review, because I spent 49 minutes writing the first one only to push the wrong button and wipe it all out. Disheartened, this will probably been more terse than my usual go round.

“An evil spirit was on Saul, as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand; and David was playing with his hand. Saul sought to strike David even to the wall with the spear; but he slipped away out of Saul's presence, and he struck the spear into the wall: and David fled, and escaped that night. Saul sent messengers to David's house, to watch him, and to kill him in the morning”
---1st Samuel 19:9-11 ( http://bible.somd.com/web/B09C019.shtml )

We start off with Saul atop a rooftop in the rain, beseeching God not to go. David awakes to find a man sitting on the foot of his bed telling him not to go. David awakes, again, to find the man was a dream while pigeons fly portentously around through both his dreams and real life.

Silas has decided David is a threat, and orders Abner to have him assassinated.

The Gathians have sent envoys to sign a peace treaty, but they refuse to until they get to meet David. The young captain is called in, and ordered to shut up, which he does in a loquacious fashion that annoys Silas and the Gathian General, but seems to charm the premier. When the time comes to sign the treaty, Gath claims it’s been changed to Gilboan advantage, and they stomp out.

Told that the king is having the worst day of his life, his Brother in Law decides to pull all his megacorp’s funds from the royal treasury, bankrupting the government and the king. Silas confronts his inlaw about this, and fails to resolve the situation. He proves to be rather charmingly resilient and undaunted at his failure and heads to “Gehenna,” a kind of maximum security prison/fort thing in the middle of nowhere.

Here he confronts Vesper Abaddon, the deposed mad king of Carmel. 30 years before, Silas defeated Carmel and imprisoned its king, though he told everyone he’d killed the guy. Abaddon’s subjects emphatically celebrated his demise. When Silas captured the kingdom, its treasury was empty, and in the thirty years hence no one’s found the money. Silas bribes Abaddon in to telling him where it is by giving him information about where the Abaddon family is today. Evidently he’d told Vesper he had them killed.

Silas takes the money, puts it in the treasury, and passes off the whole ‘economic collapse’ thing as a computer glitch, much to his brother-in-law’s annoyance. The Queen shows up proving she knows more about the troubles between Silas and her brother than we would have imagined last week. She independently brokers a deal that will smooth things over - evidently her nephew was banished from the court “For good reason,” but she can get him back in.

Princess Michelle speaks well of David to her dad, but he reminds her of something dark in her past which upsets her.

A dejected David decides to leave town with his mom, but sees a kid on TV holding a sign that says “Don’t Go” and realizes what he has to do: he carjacks the cab and crashes it in to the Gathian motorcade, nearly resulting in a firefight on the palace steps. Silas steps in to restore order and is able to get the Premier alone so he can negotiate. Turns out Gath is a poor military dictatorship that wants a higher standard of living, but can’t create it. Silas offers them “Port Prosperity,” a major world trade center that they captured from Gath a generation before in six months if they’ll agree to peace. They agree.

David praises the king and how great he is, and the king realizes that since fortune smiles on David, it also smiles on those around him, for now anyway, and calls off the assassination, but not before the shooter takes his first shot. Fortunately those portentous pigeons save the anointed one’s life.

Man, this really is The Silas Show isn’t it? Ian McShane just chews every bit of scenery, commands every scene, stomps around regally, and it all totally works. This is no small feat because - let’s admit it - this is a goofy concept for a show, and there’s a million billion ways it could be done badly, especially with an American accent, but the man just completely nails it. And Silas is a fascinating character, a really really bad man who locks people up in basements for 30 years and blithely orders assasinations of people he thinks might be trouble in the future, maybe, possible; yet on the other hand he genuinely wants peace, he genuinely cares about his people and his country and his family (Though perhaps not as much about his wife as he should) I love how quickly he sized up the premier and what the *Real* problem was.

The actor playing David reminded me a lot of Jeff Bridges this week, but in a good non-Jeff Bridgesey way. A young Jeff Bridges if I didn’t flat out hate Jeff Bridges. That can only be a good thing.

“Abaddon” is a popular name this year. There was a “Matthew Abaddon” on Lost this season and last. I wonder if they’re related?

Implied last week, it is now confirmed that “Gilboa” is composed of several kingdoms that were confederated during the “Unification Wars,” and bits and pieces of others. “Carmel” was one of the completely-absorbed kingdoms (And evidently one of the larger ones as well), and substantial territory from “Gath” was grabbed as well.

Is it just me, or did the salvation army uniforms the Gilboan army wears look a bit different this week?

Nice to see Rosencreten and Guildestupid, the two comedy relief guards from the pilot again. I figured that was a one-shot-only gag. I keep picturing Eugene Levy and John Candy circa 1983 SCTV in that role for some reason. Dunno why.

Nice also to see that the queen has something going on upstairs as well.

I liked that Gay Prince Jack seemed to genuinely care for the troops that served under him. [Edit: The surprisingly and consistently positive review on the AV Club here http://www.avclub.com/articles/kings-prosperity,25565/ notes that Jack's interest in his troops was likely a way of making them loyal to him and not his father in anticipation of his coming attempt to dethrone Silas that was set up last week. I totally missed this, but they're right. Good job AV club!]

I don’t know why, but I really expected Jessie to die in this episode. Glad I was wrong. I really liked her speech about wanting David to come home because he fits in to the city too well, and “The ones with a destiny don’t end well.”

The subplot with the Gathian General wanting to pick a fight with David just totally didn’t work for me at all. How ‘bout you?

The Gathian war is said to date from “The last century,” which means at least 9 or 10 years of conflict since this world appears to use the same calendar we do.

I love how everyone in this world just accepts that there are numinous visions and signs and portents, and they try to figure them out. They’re subject to interpretation, of course, and not always reliable because of that, but still I love that it’s part of their culture.

I also love the high-and-low English in the show. As R2 pointed out last week, it’s not that the rich in this world have better elocution than the hoi paloi, they also use an entirely different syntax on occasion. That’s neat.

It seems as though Silas kept Vesper alive to find out the location of the money he squirreled away, but on second viewing I'm not so sure of that: The picture was clearly a tool he could have used at any time to get the information out of him, so obviously he's keeping the mad king of Carmel alive for a reason. It might simply be that he likes him, or as Vesper himself said, "I'm the only person who ever tells you the truth."

I kept meaning to say this last year, but kept forgetting for some reason: King Silas has the sweetest-ass throne room ever seen on TV.


* If Shiloh is this world’s analogue of New York City as it appears to be, then where is “Port Prosperity?” Obviously it’s coastal, and there’s not too many places on the east coast you can put a large city. Assuming Gath is north of Gilboa, really the only contender is Boston.

* What did the queen’s nephew do to get banished?

* What did Princess Michelle do?

* Now that the royal brother in law is calmed for the moment, does this mean he won’t support Jack’s attempt to dethrone his father? If not, then how will Jack react to this betrayal of his intended betrayal?

* How long will Silas’ toleration of David last before his “Evil Spirit” comes on him again?

* Is there a class system in Gilboa? Michelle’s conversation with her father seems to imply that there is, at least nominally.

* Liszt last week, Beethoven this week - clearly this world is not too far removed from our own, so when’s the point of departure from our own timeline?

* Is Silas in the habbit of squirreling people away and pretending he's killed them? This episode seems to suggest he is, and we know of at least three cases of it implied herein. If so, why does he do this?