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11 June 2014 @ 02:18 pm
TV Series: Kings (Then and Now)  
Thanks to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, previously obscure films and TV shows that included Sebastian Stan in the cast have gotten a sudden spike in viewership. I first became aware of Stan when I watched NBC's Kings back in, oh...2009? The show was an interesting interpretation of the biblical David and Goliath story, set in the fictional kingdom of Gilboa during ostensibly modern times. I enjoyed the series a lot and was rather disappointed that it lasted only one season. Well, it turns out if you're in America, you can watch all 13 episodes on NBC's site.

For me, Kings was the last high concept show from NBC before Hannibal came into being. The creator is Michael Green who also had a hand in Heroes which you could argue was also rather high concept. But Heroes, for the most part, I think played it safe where it used an existing popular concept (superheroes) and dramatized it. Even Hannibal had the benefit of coming onto to the scene with an existing fan base and a pop culture history. Kings, to me, as an idea was innovative and aimed high with very little backing it. Which probably contributed to why it failed while Heroes lasted several seasons and Hannibal is still going. To be fair, Kings had a lot of problems during its first season, but I'm still convinced that had it been given one more season, it would have settled in. But we'll never know.


Silas Benjamin (Ian McShane) is the King of Gilboa whose rule, he believes, had been divinely anointed when as a young man a swarm of monarch butterflies settled on his head in the form of a crown. His royal family is made up of his wife Queen Rose (Susanna Thompson), his heir Prince Jack (Sebastian Stan), and his daughter Princess Michelle (Allison Miller). At the start of the show, Gilboa is at war with its neighboring countries. During a skirmish against the fictional Republic of Gath, young Gilboan soldier David Shepard (Christopher Egan) single-handedly destroys a "Goliath-class" tank and rescues a prisoner of war who turns out to be Prince Jack. This unexpected feat of heroism catapults David into fame and earns him the gratitude of Silas. David is quickly given the rank of captain and is pushed into the world of political intrigue as Silas takes David under his wing for various reasons (personal and political).

Once David is installed in the Capital, he becomes the focus and potential pawn of many people's agendas. The main tensions of the season surround David's burgeoning secret romance with Michelle, Jack's hatred of David whom he sees as a potential rival, those in the wings wanting to overthrow Silas, and Silas' own machinations when in a private moment, he witnesses a swarm of monarch butterflies settle on David's head in the shape of crown. While David is oblivious to the significance of this, Silas takes it as a sign that God has transferred His favor from Silas to David.

In revisiting the series, I noticed how dated a lot of the show's story arcs now seem. The show is only about 5 years old and already there were certain character decisions that I don't think would have necessarily passed the writers room. For one thing, there are tropes galore. We get the Wise Spiritual Black Man through Eammon Walker as the Reverend Samuels, the Star Crossed Lovers (David and Michelle), and Sebastian Stan's Prince Jack gets the honor of serving two tropes of the Scheming Evil Gay Character and the Tragic Gay Character. Although to be fair, the fact that Jack ends up with both tropes might have ultimately made his character more complex had the show managed to keep going.

The show's main strength was its casting choice of Ian McShane. McShane was the perfect choice for a role that demands the actor say a lot of ridiculous sounding prose in a non-ridiculous way. Kind of like the stuff Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy get loaded with in Hannibal. Everyone on Kings had their fair share of some pretty difficult lines and not everyone rose to the occasion but I'd say McShane was consistently able to sell me whatever he was given. McShane's Silas is a narcissistic, boorish, ruthless leader who always seems larger than life (helped along by the script's Shakespearean-like dialogue) when he is being both cruel or benevolent. In watching him, you can totally see why some people could love Silas with complete devotion while others hate him with the same level of feeling. He's someone who inspires strong emotion which is what you need in a leader. It's clear he loves his family but he loves his power more and if I was going to be kind to Silas, I would say his biggest tragedy is that he feels too much to not suffer when he has to make the choices against his family but doesn't feel enough to stay his hand. The only one Silas seems to even remotely listen to is his wife. But considering Queen Rose is not any less ambitious and ruthless than her husband, Jack and Michelle are completely out of luck in terms of genuine parental affection. In fact, during my rewatch I realized that based on some of the stuff both kids had to listen to from their parents' own mouths, I'm surprised Michelle is as idealistic as she is and Jack is not even more troubled.

The show also hinted at a lot of very interesting relationships which sadly never got fully fleshed out. You had the obvious ones like the clandestine but ultimately bland David/Michelle relationship and the contentious one between Silas and Jack, the former knowing his son is gay and bluntly telling him he best stay in the closet if he hopes of ever becoming king. It probably says something that this is Silas being comparatively kind to Jack given some of the other shit he says to him. I ended up caring a lot more (both back then watching it and even now) about the less obvious, more complex relationships. For example, the relationship between Jack and Thomasina (Marlyne Afflack), the unmovingly loyal aide de camp and palace secretary. Or just Thomasina in general with everyone else. Thomasina does just about everything at the palace to make sure the Benjamins and their reputation remain sterling. She also seems to be freaking EVERYWHERE when needed. We also know she's been at the palace since Michelle and Jack were born and demonstrates a rather surprising level of empathy toward the latter. Which is why their last conversation in the series I found rather chilling and disturbing. I won't spoil it but it really made me wonder a lot about not only their history but also Thomasina. What's her story? I really wanted to know.

The show was also beautifully shot. From the lightening to the costumes to the incredible sets, Kings did a wonderful job of making the setting realistic and yet otherworldly. I could always connect with what was happening on screen but also never forget that this took place in a world that does not exist which made some of the dialogues and later more supernatural touches seem less incongruous.


Overall, I can see why the show ultimately dwindled away. And yet I still continue to feel it wasn't given a completely fair chance. With one more season it could have worked out its kinks. I also say this because the first and only season ends frustratingly with many threads left hanging. So just a warning to anyone who wants to give this show a try: you will be left with many questions and no answers.
 
 
 
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on June 12th, 2014 12:50 am (UTC)
I sort of vaguely remember hearing about this show when it was on, but I never watched it. It sounds interesting, though. Sebastian Stan seems to play a lot of gay sons of political leaders.

I really feel like all shows should be allowed two seasons before cancellation, or at least enough time for it to air, and get feedback so it knows what people like or don't like and has a chance to improve it. Like previews for a play. There are very few shows out there that didn't get better during a second season. By then, you know which characters people want to see more or less of, what your characters are doing, what their major traits are, and what kind of stories people respond to. When I show people the first season of Merlin I always say 'just get through this, I swear it gets better'. Everything gets cancelled so quickly these days.
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on June 12th, 2014 01:04 am (UTC)
Sebastian Stan seems to play a lot of gay sons of political leaders.

Who knew this was a character niche?

I really feel like all shows should be allowed two seasons before cancellation,

Yes! I understand about budgeting and everything but I feel like producers can perhaps create shows with the idea that they need to finance at least two seasons.

When I show people the first season of Merlin I always say 'just get through this, I swear it gets better'.

I had similar words of wisdom back in the day when I got people into Torchwood.
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on June 12th, 2014 02:06 am (UTC)
Who knew this was a character niche?

Well, make yourself a commodity, I suppose.


Yes! I understand about budgeting and everything but I feel like producers can perhaps create shows with the idea that they need to finance at least two seasons.


Two seasons is enough to tell a full story, too, if you find out season one didn't do well. You'd have time to wrap up loose ends and finish with a satisfactory ending.

I had similar words of wisdom back in the day when I got people into Torchwood.

Yeah, Torchwood Series One was basically 'what can we get away with this week on Adult Doctor Who?' and Series Two made a concerted effort to tell meaningful stories. I did a lot of face-palming during Series One. Especially the first episodes.
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on June 12th, 2014 02:11 am (UTC)
Two seasons is enough to tell a full story, too, if you find out season one didn't do well. You'd have time to wrap up loose ends and finish with a satisfactory ending.

At the very least this will allow the viewers not to feel completely frustrated and annoyed. But torturing viewers is like a thing.

I did a lot of face-palming during Series One. Especially the first episodes.

I feel like I hate-watched a lot of season 1 and started to warm to it by season 1's later episodes.
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on June 12th, 2014 02:15 am (UTC)
But torturing viewers is like a thing.

One thing I love about Once Upon a Time is that it contains the stories within the seasons, so there's always a hook at the end, but you're not going 'come ON!' each time a season ends. Just looking forward to the next one.

I feel like I hate-watched a lot of season 1 and started to warm to it by season 1's later episodes.

It was one of those shows where I just wanted to take people aside and be like 'you can do this, you have the resources. You don't have to be like this. You can do more!'

And, you know, remind John Barrowman he could just emote like a normal human being and we can see him fine. He doesn't need to play the audience in the back row on the moon.
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on June 12th, 2014 02:17 am (UTC)
It was one of those shows where I just wanted to take people aside and be like 'you can do this, you have the resources. You don't have to be like this. You can do more!'

I also constantly found myself thinking, "Look, writers. Stop telling me these people are awesome and start having them do awesome things rather than things that make them seem like the dumbest people ever."

And, you know, remind John Barrowman he could just emote like a normal human being and we can see him fine.

Haha! "I see you, John. Just...take it down one notch. Or six."
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on June 12th, 2014 02:22 am (UTC)
"Look, writers. Stop telling me these people are awesome and start having them do awesome things rather than things that make them seem like the dumbest people ever."

Torchwood is so inept. No wonder the Doctor hated the organization so much. "It's not that you're not doing good, Jack, it's just that you suck at it."

Haha! "I see you, John. Just...take it down one notch. Or six."

The episode, I forget the name, is it 'Adam'? *Googles* It is Adam. That episode, where Jack is sort of brainwashed into not being as Jack-like, John did that really well, and I wish he'd do that all the time, because he can, and I want him to know he can.

You know what I could be? Star Reassurer. They could hire me to sit on set and reassure actors that they're very good, and to keep going like they are.
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on June 12th, 2014 02:24 am (UTC)
The episode, I forget the name, is it 'Adam'? *Googles* It is Adam. That episode, where Jack is sort of brainwashed into not being as Jack-like, John did that really well, and I wish he'd do that all the time, because he can, and I want him to know he can.

Okay, I thought Barrowman did well when he was being brainwashed Jack. But that scene where Jack began to recall his brother was vintage Barrowman over emote.

You know what I could be? Star Reassurer. They could hire me to sit on set and reassure actors that they're very good, and to keep going like they are.

Awww! That job also is known as Production Assistant. But your title is better.

awanderingbard: Naming Guru, Daemon Selector, Star Reassurer.
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on June 12th, 2014 02:29 am (UTC)
But that scene where Jack began to recall his brother was vintage Barrowman over emote.

I wonder if he's better onstage? Like, does it seem less hammy if he's on stage and projecting to the back row?

Awww! That job also is known as Production Assistant. But your title is better.

Maybe the Assistant Production Assistant, specializing in Star Reassurance.

awanderingbard: Naming Guru, Daemon Selector, Star Reassurer.

Speaking of daemons, I am working on that Loki and Thor fic you planted in my head, and that's how I spent, like half an hour finding a daemon for the palace cook who never actually appears on screen. I blame you!
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on June 12th, 2014 02:34 am (UTC)
I am working on that Loki and Thor fic you planted in my head, and that's how I spent, like half an hour finding a daemon for the palace cook who never actually appears on screen. I blame you!

Eeeeexcellent... *rubs hands*

Actually, I've been meaning to ask you if you're okay if I write a fic that has Issie in it. I don't have anything substantial yet but I found myself picking away at a story with her after one of our chats (damn your hearts and rainbows!) and then it dawned on me that she's not my character. I'd obviously show you the fic if it develops into anything before I post it anywhere.

No pressure at all and please feel free to say no. It'll spare me writing something fluffy. :D

The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on June 12th, 2014 02:55 am (UTC)
No, please feel free to borrow her! You don't need to show me, I trust you. I'm sure she'll be different enough from my version that she'll be her own character, anyway. It's just the name and form you'll be borrowing.

I don't mind a bit. You fluff away, babe!

(damn your hearts and rainbows!)

I don't know what you're
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on June 12th, 2014 03:01 am (UTC)
I don't mind a bit. You fluff away, babe!

Yay, thanks! I think...
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on June 12th, 2014 03:10 am (UTC)
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on June 12th, 2014 03:26 am (UTC)
*insert a thumbs up here*

I fail at putting things in comments boxes that are not text.
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on June 12th, 2014 03:31 am (UTC)
If it makes you feel better, it took me like twenty minutes to figure out how to do it the first time.

Also, you did not just spend half an hour putting a meerkat in a waistcoat, so, your life is at least much more productive than mine.
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on June 12th, 2014 03:33 am (UTC)
Also, you did not just spend half an hour putting a meerkat in a waistcoat, so, your life is at least much more productive than mine.

I spent the last half hour studying photos of black bears carrying bear cubs in their jaws. We both fail at productivity.
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on June 12th, 2014 03:36 am (UTC)
Also in my research I came across this photo which I thought you'd appreciate: http://blog.newscom.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/zumawirewestphotosfive059195-20110511_zaf_x99_338.jpg
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on June 12th, 2014 03:42 am (UTC)
I just laughed so hard at this that I had to explain to mum what was going on, and she said 'you guys are very silly'.

That poor baby panda looks so concerned.

Here's Hiddles!kat waiting for his guests.

formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on June 12th, 2014 03:44 am (UTC)
That poor baby panda looks so concerned.

She's probably wondering why her parents are walking on two legs and holding her so far off the ground.

Here's Hiddles!kat waiting for his guests.

Awww! He looks like he's worriedly contemplating if he has enough scones at home for everyone.
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on June 12th, 2014 03:48 am (UTC)

She's probably wondering why her parents are walking on two legs and holding her so far off the ground.


I like that she's rolling with it, though. Like, she's not trying to run away. She's just chilling.

Awww! He looks like he's worriedly contemplating if he has enough scones at home for everyone.

Awww. I feel like this is the expression Alec's daemon wears when she's interacting with Sherlock's daemon. Just politely worried.
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on June 12th, 2014 03:52 am (UTC)
I'm so delighted with the idea that the zoo workers put on panda suits. Like that would totally fool the baby panda into thinking they were her parents despite the 2 legs thing and how they're carrying her.

Just politely worried.

Yup. I feel that must be Alec's reaction to Sherlock all the time.
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on June 12th, 2014 03:56 am (UTC)
I'm so delighted with the idea that the zoo workers put on panda suits. Like that would totally fool the baby panda into thinking they were her parents despite the 2 legs thing and how they're carrying her.

I know! It's so cute. And I suppose if you do that from birth, she might just assume that this is normal, until she meets other pandas and realizes that maybe this isn't what all pandas do.

"Wait, your mum and dad don't have synthetic fur?"

I feel like there's a children's book in this.


Yup. I feel that must be Alec's reaction to Sherlock all the time.


Sometimes I just want to write a fic with the two of them talking, because I get such a kick out of how very little they understand one another. Sherlock is just as baffled by Alec as he is by Sherlock. I always enjoy writing them.
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on June 12th, 2014 04:04 am (UTC)
"Wait, your mum and dad don't have synthetic fur?"

"Uh...no. What do you mean two legs?"

Sherlock is just as baffled by Alec as he is by Sherlock.

Hee! I feel like if this were filmed, it would just be the two of them staring at each other in silence.
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on June 12th, 2014 04:14 am (UTC)
"Uh...no. What do you mean two legs?"

"Do you ever think you might be...adopted?"
"No. Why?"

I feel like if this were filmed, it would just be the two of them staring at each other in silence.

Awkward tea drinking ensues, while they wait for Molly get back.


formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on June 12th, 2014 04:17 am (UTC)
Awkward tea drinking ensues, while they wait for Molly get back.

Sherlock: Sooooo...
Alec: Yes...
Sherlock:...Good day at...?
Alec: School. Teaching.
Sherlock: Yes.
Alec:...Uhm. Yes. Good day.
Sherlock: ....
Alec: ....
Sherlock: ....
Alec: Molly should be back soon.
Sherlock: Good.
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on June 12th, 2014 04:23 am (UTC)
Hahaha! Yep, that's totally how it would go.

Alec: And you? How was your...murder?
Sherlock: Excellent.
Alec: Good...that's...nice. Do you want some biscuits?
Sherlock: No.
Alec: Okay.
Sherlock:...
Alec:...
Sherlock: I see you and Molly are trying for a baby. Aren't you getting tired of hav--
Alec: Was that the phone? I think that was the phone...
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on June 12th, 2014 04:24 am (UTC)
Hhahahaha!

And this is Sherlock on his best behavior.
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on June 12th, 2014 04:29 am (UTC)
Sherlock: I was making small talk!
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on June 12th, 2014 04:30 am (UTC)
Oh, Sherlock. Actually, it's more "Oh, awanderingbard's Sherlock." The actual Sherlock would probably be a bit more obnoxious. Yours is always so adorably never on point when it comes to social things.
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on June 12th, 2014 04:36 am (UTC)
Yours is always so adorably never on point when it comes to social things.

Abby 'verse Sherlock at least has had five or so extra years to grow up. I find he's actually growing up with Abby. Like learning to be better through her, a little. Learning along side her.

formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on June 12th, 2014 04:37 am (UTC)
Oh god. More hearts and rainbows just exploded from my eyes. Man.
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on June 12th, 2014 04:43 am (UTC)
I keep picturing you with that little measuring device that measures the Grinch's heart in the cartoon. 'And Joonscribble's heart grew three sizes that day'.
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on June 12th, 2014 04:44 am (UTC)
After I write this fluff fic, I better go and either kill or maim a character in a different fic.
The Writer They Call Tay: Dresden: Harry confusedawanderingbard on June 12th, 2014 04:46 am (UTC)
That's the spirit...?
formerly lifeinsomniac: GhostSqueejoonscribble on June 12th, 2014 04:48 am (UTC)
Your Harry icon makes this extra hilarious. Because I can totally hear him saying that like a question.
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on June 12th, 2014 04:50 am (UTC)
I miss Harry. I was writing a Trio verse OC and realized he was basically using a Holmesian version of my Harry Dresden voice, and I went 'aww, I like Harry'. There's another show that needed at least a second season.
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on June 12th, 2014 04:53 am (UTC)
There's another show that needed at least a second season.

AMEN.

Okay, I'm off to bed. As always, it was lovely chatting with you! Thanks for permission to write Issie!
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on June 12th, 2014 04:54 am (UTC)
No worries, I'm anxious to see what you come up with. :-D G'night! Have happy writerly dreams!
aelfgyfu_mead: Molly Hooperaelfgyfu_mead on June 12th, 2014 08:12 pm (UTC)
Y'all are both so funny!
The Writer They Call Tay: MERLIN: Merlin finds you weirdawanderingbard on June 12th, 2014 08:30 pm (UTC)
I think you spelled 'insane' wrong...
aelfgyfu_mead: Torchwood-Jack Ianto Gwenaelfgyfu_mead on June 12th, 2014 08:09 pm (UTC)
"Look, writers. Stop telling me these people are awesome and start having them do awesome things rather than things that make them seem like the dumbest people ever."
YES.

ETA: I think John Barrowman does tv as if he were on stage, in a fairly big theater. And I do believe that I saw him onstage, when he was an understudy for the lead in Miss Saigon and was called in to play the lead. It worked there. Brilliant Husband says always to blame the director in such cases, because indeed, someone needs to remind such an actor that he can be seen.

Edited at 2014-06-12 08:10 pm (UTC)
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on June 12th, 2014 08:43 pm (UTC)
I feel like a lot of British actors have trouble judging how big to go on screen. I wonder if they don't get the right training in drama school, or maybe there's too much emphasis put on the stage. There should be a class on how to adapt your style to the screen.

I remember seeing an interview with Will Smith where he talked about how he and his agent discussed the difference between TV and movies when he started on the big screen, and how he had to act smaller there. Everyone should have that conversation.
aelfgyfu_mead: Winter Soldieraelfgyfu_mead on June 12th, 2014 08:17 pm (UTC)
I never saw Kings and thought it was about a crime family! So all of this is news to me. I was reading along about David and Jack and thinking, "Oh, it's David and Jonathan! They really went there? They really made Jonathan gay? And he's in love with David, right? Surely he's in love with David!" I was then very disappointed to read that Jack hates David.

Forgive me if you already know this, but in case you don't: In the Bible, Jonathan and David are totally best buds, and Jonathan repeatedly chooses David over his own father. When Jonathan is killed, David goes into mourning. And I'm pretty sure there's Biblical slash fic about them, in the category of "I think I saw something like this once and closed the tab, or maybe the entire browser, in the hopes that I would forget."

As an outsider who never saw the show (and probably won't commit the time when it would only end in frustration), I feel as though the writers missed an opportunity to make things really interesting: wouldn't it be more interesting to have Jack in love with David than just hating him? And what if David loved Jack rather than Michelle?

Yes, I'm now rewriting a show I've never even seen as slash. I have a whole list of friends who should get credit and/or blame for this. I just had to share.
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on June 13th, 2014 01:25 am (UTC)
Yes, I'm now rewriting a show I've never even seen as slash. I have a whole list of friends who should get credit and/or blame for this. I just had to share.

Actually, I feel like your version of the show may be where the actual show might have gone had it lasted more than one season. It's true that season one's Jack started out hating David. Not because David himself was a bad person. In fact, I think personality wise Jack might have liked David but he was constantly afraid of losing his place as Silas' heir. But the conclusion of the 1st season set things up that I could see how season two might have featured David and Jack joining forces eventually.
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on June 15th, 2014 04:30 am (UTC)
Hi, just dropping off an otter in a flat cap.

Carry on.
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on June 17th, 2014 12:08 am (UTC)
Otter!Batch looks like he observing something rather interesting.

Also, never stop these.
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on June 17th, 2014 02:21 am (UTC)
Otter!Batch looks like he observing something rather interesting.

I think it's because I lightened his eyes a little to make him more cartoonish, and now he has an expression. I orginally had his eyes very light, but he just looked creepy, so I toned it down. This is a kid's show!

Also, never stop these.

I feel like I can promise I never will. As long as there are celebrities who look like animals, there shall I be.