KINGS (2009)

(English, Tagalog and Spanish, with subtitles) Running time: 2 hours 8 min.

See, just as the LORD my God has charged me, I
now teach you statutes and ordinances for you
to observe in the land that you are about to enter
and occupy. You must observe them diligently, for
this will show your wisdom and discernment to the
peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes,
will say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and
discerning people!” For what other great nation
has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is
whenever we call to him? And what other great
nation has statutes and ordinances as just as
But take care and watch yourselves closely, so
as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days
of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children-
Deuteronomy 4:5-9

David Shepherd, Rev. Ephram Samuels, and King Silas. © 2009 NBC
David Shepherd, Rev. Ephram Samuels, and King Silas.
© 2009 NBC

The much-heralded new series Kings began on Sunday, March 15 with a two-hour-long pilot that has set the stage for a great deal of political intrigue. Executive producer (Heroes) Michael Green’s new political soap opera, as it’s being described, is a very intriguing modern version of the Biblical story of Saul and David. The writers take many liberties with the original story—David Shepherd is the youngest of six, not seven, sons, and it is his mother who is named Jesse. His father is not in the picture, having been killed in the war with Gath—but many other parts are retained.

King Saul is King Silas Benjamin, played well by Ian McShane, whose rugged good lucks reminds me of Al Pacino in another tale of political intrigue, City Hall. Silas has risen to the throne of Gilboa after conquering rivals and uniting the tribes. His troops have been in a long stalemate with the forces of Gath, the latter using a host of super tanks known as Goliaths, to hold back the forces of Gilead. Although his family seem to lack any religious faith, King Silas ascribes his ascent to the throne as a divine appointment. He constantly loves to tell the story of butterflies encircling his head and then settling upon it, forming a crown.

During one night young David, serving with his brother Eli in the army, disobeys orders and sneaks off toward the enemy lines to rescue two captive fellow soldiers being held as hostages. Earlier we had seen that this had been a major problem with his council and the public. Sending the two soldiers, one of whom is badly wounded, back to his lines, David stays and wipes out two of the Goliath tanks, one of them with a device made from a bomb attached to a wrench he had contrived—we see in an earlier sequence that he is an auto mechanic, well trained by his father.

David wants to settle back into his life as a common soldier, but it turns out that one of the soldiers is the King’s son Jack Benjamin (Sebastian Stan). King Silas brings David back for a triumphal celebration, at which David meets the beautiful princess Michelle (Allison Miller), and falls for her. Like the biblical character, David is musically gifted, as we see when he leaves the party being held for him and sits down at the King’s expensive piano to play a composition by Liszt. Of course, his new fame brings him into conflict with the King, and in this version, also with the prince. I will be interested to see if the two become the fast friends that David and Jonathan were in the original.

The world of Gilboa is intriguingly realized, the capital city being Shiloh, as it was originally for the tribes united under Saul’s reign. The stand-in for the prophet Samuel is a minister, the Rev. Ephram Samuels (Eamonn Walker). He has been a strong backer of the king but is now having doubts about him. In an episode taking part two years before David had joined the army, he stops at the family garage where the young mechanic patches the leaky hose of his car. He thanks David with the gift of a broken watch and what seems to be an anointing.

Two years later, after David is being wined for his rescuing the King’s son and taking out the Goliath tanks, he meets him again. How he and all of the different characters will interact in this new version of the ancient story will be interesting to behold. The producers, apparently fearing to scare some viewers off, have claimed that this is not a religious show, even though it is based on the Bible, with a touch of Shakespeare thrown in. Although the overall production is good, there are parts that do not ring true. The combat scene in which David rescues Jack and takes out two Goliath tanks; the huge size of the New York-like metropolis of Shiloh, supposedly built within just a few years of the consolidation of the King’s power—these are hard to accept, but once you ignore them, the intricate plot and excellent acting takes hold. Also, some will take issue with the secret as to the nature of Jack, barely mentioned in an encounter between father and son, but bound to be brought up later. As I said, I am looking forward to where the writers take us next, including a future appearance of Macaulay Culkin in four episodes. So take out your Bible, open it to 1 Samuel, and enjoy the show.

If you missed the premier, you can watch it at http://www.nbc.com/Kings.