It’s been a good week for Kings. First, the ratings bleed has finally clotted, and the writing for Sunday night’s episode, the fourth installment so far, has taken a turn for the better. For one, all the teen drama of last week has been replaced with the political drama the pilot had promised: what seemed like a reasonable peace settlement has the kingdom erupting with street insurrections, military coups, and the emergence of a semi-free press. As one of history’s great assholes put it, we’re witnessing the birthpangs of democracy.
That said, what’s so interesting is that our empathy lies with an aging monarch with despotic tendencies over the earnest masses (and here, credit is owed to Michael Green, Ian McShane, and maybe even David Milch, for creating a character so magnetic). Even in spite of the iconic signs of illicit state action (workers being mowed down by cops in riot gear), somehow, we’re still with Silas. Is Green revealing our own complicity with state hegemony in some meta way? Are we all willing to prostrate before power if the charm is right?
Those questions would carry more weight if the slogans of the insurrection at the Port of Prosperity (whose land is being given up to Gath) actually made some sense. After all, the people aren’t clamoring for a broader democracy in Gilboa, or secession from the two bordering states; they’re just saying (unless I read it wrong) that they still want in. (As an aside, there have been some real echoes of the India-Pakistan partition throughout the series, which, themselves, echo the entirety of the post-WWII birth-of-nations. Green could raise the political stakes by hinting at the displacements caused by the wars that opened up the series, four weeks ago).
But back to the characters. David won some points by not being the most annoying character this week. That distinction goes to his brother, Ethan, who not only killed his own comrade-in-arms, but who had the gall to turn his back on David even after he saved his ass from execution. Trailing right behind Ethan is his mom, who, the folks at MoveItMoveIt lucidly point out, “doesn’t do much besides stand around with [her] hands on [her] hips acting indignant.”
Those quibbles withstanding, things are on the up for Kings with more political murkiness on the horizon. Silas’ right hand man has now defected to Cross. Jack has returned to the dynastic fold. And Silas is finding his inner Swearengen.