Kings (2009)   4 comments

Above:  The Royal Family of Gilboa with Captain David Shepherd

Image Source = NBC

KINGS (2009)


The Royal Family and Close Relations:

Ian McShane as King Silas Benjamin

Susanna Thompson as Queen Rose Cross Benjamin

Allison Miller as Princess Michelle Benjamin

Sebastian Stan as Prince Jonathan “Jack” Benjamin

Dylan Baker as William Cross

Macaulay Culkin as Andrew Cross

Sarita Choudhury as Helen Pardis

Other Principal Characters:

Chris Egan as Captain David Shepherd

Becky Ann Baker as Jessie Shepherd

Eamonn Walker as Reverend Ephram Samuels

Wes Studi as General Linus Abner


The Bible is full of excellent stories ripe for modern adaptations, not just costume dramas.  The former is frequently the best way to go, I am convinced, for such an approach makes the story in question fresher than it would be otherwise.  Consider, for example the power of Clarence Jordan’s Cotton Patch versions of New Testament books, including Gospels. Transplanting the world of first century CE Roman-occupied Palestine to the U.S. South of the twentieth century works well.

To that column we can add Kings (2009), a short-lived (a two-hour pilot plus eleven other episodes) series from NBC.  The writers and producers rearranged elements from 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel (mostly from the former) and set the series in the Kingdom of Gilboa, based on the Kingdom of Israel yet resembling the United States of America.  Gilboa, in its current form, is a new nation, just three decades old.  Its new capital city, a gleaming metropolis complete with skyscrapers, is the rebuilt Shiloh, which resembles a CGI-altered New York City.  (The series did film in the Big Apple.)  Silas Benjamin, once a general, united three kingdoms–Gilboa, Carmel, and Selah–via war.  He is now the absolute monarch.  Yet he is not all powerful.  His brother-in-law, industrialist William Cross, is a leader in the military-industrial complex and an ardent opponent for peace with the neighboring Republic of Gath.  Peace is bad for business.  Yes, this is the story of Saul and David updated and told with allusions to the Second Iraq War.  There are even allusions to the Israel-Palestine conflict, for a land-for-peace deal is a plot element throughout the series’ brief run.

In the pilot episode, Goliath, we meet David Shepherd, a farm boy whose father died in the Unification War.  David is in military uniform during a follow-up border war with Gath when he rescues the captured Prince Jonathan “Jack” Benjamin from the forces of Gath and destroys a Gath tank, a Goliath, with a well-thrown wrench.  This is a retelling of sorts of 1 Samuel 17.  David, now a national hero, goes to Shiloh and becomes an unwilling pawn in the hands of King Silas, whose glory, he is stealing.  And David falls in love with Princess Michelle (1 Samuel 18:17-30) and even plays the piano.  (The biblical David played the lyre in 1 Samuel 16:14-23.)  The troubled Silas-David relationship in the series ends with David having to flee to Gath (1 Samuel 27:1-28:2) for fear of his life.  The story would have continued had the network not cancelled the series.  (The ratings were low.)

Other interesting parallels occur in the series.  Silas makes an unlawful sacrifice, as in 1 Samuel 13:1-22, but in the show the sacrifice is allowing soldiers to die needlessly.  So the Reverend Ephram Samuels, who helped Silas forge the united Gilboa and install him in power, relates God’s rejection of the monarch.  And Silas has a mistress, Helen Pardis, as Saul had a concubine, Rizpah (2 Samuel 3:7).  Instead of the spirit of Samuel (1 Samuel 28:3-25) Silas consults the deposed King of Carmel, officially dead yet imprisoned at a location code-named Gehenna.  Furthermore, the head of the military is General Linus Abner, a warmonger who betrays Silas and dies by the monarch’s hand.  (Joab killed Abner in 2 Samuel 3:22-39).

There is a Jonathan analog, but Prince Jack in the series is more like Absalom than the biblical Jonathan in some ways.  This Jonathan, like his biblical counterpart, has a troubled relationship with his father.  In the series he resents his father, who dislikes the fact that the crown prince is a homosexual.  That would be acceptable in a second son, Silas says, but those who would have power must surrender what they want.  And Jack is not willing to do that.  The Prince Jack of the series is also a sulking, back-stabbing character who is willing to kill innocents and to frame David for treason–until he is not.  But the guiding rule for Prince Jack is his perceived best interest.

I encourage you, O reader, to find the series and watch it legally.  So I will not reveal all the plot lines.  I also urge you to think deeply about the moral implications of decisions the characters make.  The characters in Kings are flawed; David Shepherd is especially flawed while being very heroic.  These characters make bad decisions.  Sometimes they reap the consequences of these decisions; on other occasions other people do.  But God still acts through many of these same characters.

King Silas, in the pilot episode, tells Reverend Samuels, who has just announced God’s rejection of the monarch,

To hell with God.

In the last episode Silas informs the ghost of Samuels (Silas does not know that he is speaking to the Reverend’s spirit) that he (Silas) and God are at war.  Silas, the rejected chosen one of God, has embraced his rebellion against God.  He does not even labor under the illusion of being on God’s side.  And, with actor Ian McShane playing the part, the scenes are a pleasure to watch.  Yet that pleasure comes mixed with the knowledge that the monarch’s fate did not have to come down to this.










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