Nothing new under the sun

I’m not a religious person, but watching Kings, I found myself remembering an oft-quoted (even in secular contexts) passage from the book of Ecclesiastes: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

I’m not a religious person, but watching Kings, I found myself remembering an oft-quoted (even in secular contexts) passage from the book of Ecclesiastes: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

Well, at least that last line is repeated time and again.

What’s so amusing about this maxim is the myriad ways in which the very significance of its message can be expressed. Not only is there nothing new under the sun, there’s no way to originally convey the idea without it becoming a platitude.

Thing is, the whole it’s-all-been-done deal is particularly relevant in the case of Kings considering the not-so-subtle inspiration behind the show’s premise, the Old Testament story of King David.

Of course, David Shepherd (Christopher Egan), Kings‘ protagonist, lives not in an ancient kingdom torn by religion, politics and philosophy. Rather, he lives in the fictional modern kingdom of Gilboa, a nation that resembles what would happen if the dignity of the Brits fucked the excess of the Yanks.

In the opening scene of Kings, the nation of Gilboa is celebrating the recent conclusion of construction on the sparkling capital city of Shiloh. The veneer of towering skyscrapers, sun-lit streets and ancient-looking architecture inspire sophistication in a metropolis where the halls of power are painted with the blood of detractors and enemies.
Gilboa’s government is a monarchy led by King Silas Benjamin (played by Ian McShane), a man whose legacy and image is built, like so many other politicians, on deception and corruption. His power appears absolute, as he easily orders the covert assassination of a member of his staff, but it is soon revealed that the wealth of Gilboa, and naturally the power of King Silas, is tied strongly to the military-industrial complex. Sounds sort of familiar ….

Two years later, David is fighting his for his country against Gilboa’s neighbor and enemy, the nation of Gath. At the front, where he’s stationed, David and the other soldiers in his battalion spend their days entrenched in mud on a World War I style battlefield while Gath Goliath-class tanks (you see where they’re going with this) take pot shots at the Gilboans.

One night, on what seems to be a complete whim, David decides to go behind enemy lines to rescue two fellow Gilboan soldiers who have been taken as POWs.

Conveniently enough for our hero, not only are the POWs being held a comfortable 300 feet from the front, they’re also being kept in a nigh-impenetrable canvas tent. David sprints across the muddy battlefield hiding behind the Goliaths as if they were sleeping giants, avoiding Gath patrol, and deftly slices a huge fuckin’ hole in the side of the tent.

As David and the POWs sloppily make their way across the war-torn earth, one of the many Goliaths idling near the conflict border awakens from its dormancy and begins firing on the three soldiers.

David draws the tank’s fire by jumping into a nearby ditch and quickly assembling a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, which he was apparently carrying with him, and promptly fucks the tank’s shit up.

Turns out that one of the men he has just rescued is none other than Prince Jack Benjamin (played by Sebastian Stan … yeah, it totally sounds like a porn name), son of King Silas, and David is promptly whisked away to the capital city for a dinner party in his honor.

And thus David is thrust into a life of politics, exciting, fast-paced, break-neck speed politics … or not, at least not in the first episode. The pilot, a two-hour premiere, is extremely slow in its establishment of the central characters and their variety of issues.

For me, the most interesting parts of the show are the parallels drawn to our world, with such topics as war, politics and, quite specifically, health-care reform. Of course if you’re going to have a prime-time television show on a major broadcast network, it’s only going to be successful if there are plenty of relationship-type issues tackled.

See David is hot for Princess Michelle (Allison Miller), King Silas is hot for his mistress Helen (Sarita Choudhury) and Prince Jack is hot for boys instead of girls, meaning he is, according to his father, not king material.

It’s unfortunate that every goddamn show out there has to have these soap opera elements to them but it’s particularly sad with a show like Kings, which could potentially serve as a potent criticism of our own political system.

Ostensibly, the only programs that can effectively comment in a critical manner on current events take place in fictional worlds, where parallels are not so obvious. The SciFi network’s Battlestar Galactica effectively commented on and criticized terrorism, responses to said terrorism, religion, religion in politics, military politics and more simply because it took place in a fictional reality.

A show like Kings shows promise in this regard. Sure, it’s a little closer to home than Battlestar (which I should mention had plenty of relationship drama in it as well) but it’s still a fictional reality, one that has the potential to offer commentary on our reality, as long as the producers take a chance, and keep the personal dramas of their characters to a minimum.