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Kings: Goliath (series premiere)

by Danny Gallagher, posted Mar 15th 2009 10:34PM
Christopher Egan and Eammon Walker in NBC's

(S01E01) - "We give up what we want when we want power."

The two-part premiere of NBC's new political morality drama Kings kicks off in ways you would expect.

It's not just a political soap opera. It's a war epic. It's a family drama. It's a historical fantasy, even though such a thing sounds completely improbable. At times, it's even a comedy. All of these genres get their chance to shine in the show's first episode, "Goliath," and not all of them work, but they make for an interesting mix of television conventions.

King Silas Benjamin, played by the perfectly cast Ian McShane, speaks to the people of Gilboa on the inauguration of their rebuilt capital city Shiloh that he oversees in a golden high rise building that would look gaudy and over-the-top on the campus of Oral Roberts University. He tells them of the many blessings God has bestowed on him and his people, and the "crown of butterflies" speech, a speech that the exposition tells us has become the viseral equivalent of the "Weapons of Mass Destruction" speech to his family, but has become the cornerstone of his rule.

Of course, not everything is all roses and cherries. Gilboa has been trapped in a costly war with the neighboring land of Gath, and Silas finds himself as the flag in a tug-of-war between his gung-ho military allies led by corporate enforcer William Cross, played by Dylan Baker, who urges him to get medieval and fast, and cautious retractors, the chief voice of whom is Silas' spiritual advisor Rev. Samuels, played by Oz's Eammon Walker.

Baker becomes the King's corporate loanshark as he strives for peace and steals the show as the series' chief villain. His company fronts the nation's treasury and knows all of Silas' secrets, including the mistress and illegitimate son he hides away in a modest country home outside of Shiloh. He has had plenty of practice as the evil white guy in a $300 suit in movies like The Matador and The Hunting Party. Here, however, the level of douchebaggery his war mongering character exudes is almost visceral.

Despite its heavy overtones and thick political layers, the script does have brief and fleeting moments of wit and charm. The jokes mainly come down to two Laurel and Hardy-esque royal guards who should get some heavier screen time in future, less serious episodes, and the beleaguered king who, at heart, is still just a man in search of a comfortable pair of shoes and a chair that doesn't turn his spine into a pretzel.

Hostages are taken and Silas, initially refusing to give in to demands for their safe return, is forced to make an even tougher decision when his son, a "Paris Hilton with a penis" heir named Jack and played by Sebastian Stan, is one of the bargaining chips. Enter David Shepherd, played by Christopher Egan, a Midwestern-esque country boy who leaves his family days as an armchair mechanic with his older brother to join the war effort on the front lines. When word gets out about the hostages, he disobeys orders and mounts a rescue effort to get their boys back "all on a hunch" without knowing that one of them is the son of the most powerful man in the land. After defeating the almost impenetrable tank nicknamed "Goliath" (David, Goliath, get it?) and bringing Jack and his only remaining squad member back alive, the King turns the young soldier into his nation's newest hero and throws him everything but his own crown in his honor.

Egan does his best when he's the "aw, shucks" shy boy who doesn't know how to enjoy the hand that life has dealt him, but his heavy moments feel just that. David is supposed to be the moral rock of this story, the soldier who is hopeless devoted to his country and his troops no matter what corruption he witnesses or wrongdoing he sees. His heavier moments feel more melodramatic than genuine as he develops a flame for Silas' do-gooder daughter Michelle, played by Allison Miller, and reluctantly solidifies his hero status while trying to do the good thing in the face of overwhelming death and tragedy.

Still, he's a necessary and pivotal character in this "David and Goliath" parallelogram, even if he sometimes shifts the show's shape into an uneven trapezoid, but the entire script doesn't fall on his shoulders. It's one of many smart moves in the story, written by its creator Michael Green. It's an eclectic blend of scheming and political maneuvering that's full of hard curves that digs its tires into the road with every twist and occasionally loses a little friction along the way.

It may take a couple of tries for the show to land its mark, but it eventually hits its goal right between the eyes.

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I watched the first one and then deleted the next 5 off my Tivo. What a joke. A modern city and WW2 Tanks,Trench warfare from 1915 and current guns? This show is like a b movie gone bad. If they would have used space ships and ray guns I could see it (Maybe) Will never get past 13

April 19 2009 at 8:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Great first episode. I loved it. It also doesnt hurt that the main start is a hottie, nice eyes and knows how to act!

March 17 2009 at 3:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

the first episode is available on itunes for free. so there is no need for a rerun or for a rerun.. ;)

March 17 2009 at 10:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Scott R

I like the show, and will be tuning in. I think it will go around two seasons, and only because there's only so much source material. Pseudo historical dramas tend to do that, see HBO's excellent Rome for an example. I also don't see them doing the Bathsheba storyline either.

I was kinda annoyed that the show continues in the standard tv formula that all 'good' religious characters have to be black, and 'bad' ones have to be white.

March 17 2009 at 10:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well David and Goliath only scratches the surface of the David story that this show covers. Just in the first episode...

1) David was the youngest of seven sons anointed by a prophet (Samuel) many years before actually going to war.

2) After defeating Goliath, David is promoted to a commander by the current king Saul.

3) Saul offers his daughter as David's wife (didn't happen though)

4) David becomes more popular in public opinion than Saul and Saul tries to have him killed (as foreshadowed in previews)

Also, Saul's son and heir in the Bible, Jonathan, is theorized to be gay (depending on who you talk to).

The writers have definitely stuck by the source material.

March 16 2009 at 8:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I thought the show was solid and hopefully will get even better with time. I just hope it doesn't get overly soapy. I can't stand that stuff.

March 16 2009 at 8:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Forgot to include the link, sorry.


March 16 2009 at 7:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well, I guess we better enjoy it while we can. According to this article from E! it totally bombed in the ratings, "...Sunday's two-hour premiere bombed with only 6 million overall viewers, per preliminary Nielsen estimates, ...."

I wonder if NBC will give it time and support it like "Friday Night Lights?"

March 16 2009 at 6:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I really enjoyed it heres hoping they get a good run and can keep the quality of the shows at this level or better.

Who else kept wait to here McShane say "Gath c@#ksuckers"? LOL

March 16 2009 at 4:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

A very promising start. McShane is fantastic, as usual. I really liked the portrayal of David. The innocence in there, but with a certain fire in the spirit that reminds that innocent does not necessarily mean meek and harmless.

And Jack's character is shaping up very well. Petulant, entitled, angry, ambitious. His betrayal is entirely apt and promises a good turn in the story.

There were beats that could have been better played, but nothing that broke the show at all badly.

The best sign of all was that watching it, the two hours felt like half that time.

March 16 2009 at 3:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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