A day late and a dollar short: it applies to today's recap of Kings, a.k.a. "Fodder for Brilliant But Cancelled in the Year 2050", but not to the show itself. We knew this show was dead on its feet when it got moved to the Saturday night timeslot — hell, I may be the world's biggest Kings fan and even I've been catching up on it via DVR (and thanks to Zack and Josh for handling the last few episodes so I can have a semblance of a social life). Its ratings, understandably, have gotten even worse, which is to say about as bad as they can possibly get, but it continues to look and feel like a show that fully justifies its expensive budget, and whether this is due to vocal support by we unhappy few who love the show or due to some insider shenanigans to which we're not yet privy, the network has done a possibly meaningless but conceivably heartening backpedal, referring to the final airing — scheduled for two weeks from yesternight — not as the series finale, but as the season finale.
If they know something we don't, I sure as hell wish they'd come out with it. Kings has been absolutely tear-assing all over the screen for the last few weeks; though these last few episodes were written far in advance of when the producers could possibly have known they were done for, they certainly scan as if they knew they were finished and their only goal in the final days was to make sure we all knew exactly what we were going to be missing. Tonight's episode, the first of an extra-long two-parter meant to illuminate the final days of Silas' reign and set us up with a killer cliffhanger about who would next lead Gilboa, is no exception: it's one of the most compelling pieces of television I've seen all year. If it means a brief hiatus until someone else with deep pockets and more risk tolerance picks up the show, it'll be an agonizing wait; if it meansthe end of Kings, we'll have the imminent DVD release to remind us of what we lost;
The opening scene is a go-for-the-throat chiller, the likes of which the show has gotten surprisingly good at delivering: a conversation between Silas and Abbadon — and if you haven't seen them already, this entire show's existence could be justified by the fantastic scenes between Ian McShane and Brian Cox alone — sets the tone for how the former king thinks Silas should be handling his affairs of state. The eye and hand that offend Silas are David and his own son Jack, and Abbadon recommends striking both of them down at the soonest opportunity. We don't have to wait long to see how Silas will act on this: David is shown moldering in the next cell, and Silas informs him that his end is near.
Away from the machinations of Abbadon, though, Silas appears to soften: Queen Rose seemingly convinces him to spare their son Jack, and the pregnant Princess Michelle coaxes him into giving up David's location. This appears to be a bit of gamesmanship on Michelle's part, and her character has always struck me as a bit of a weak link in the show, so I'm not sure whether Silas really buys her rap that she'll fly right in public, or if he's just convinced that David's imminent execution has made him a non-factor and that there's therefore no harm in letting her see him. If it's the latter, it may be Silas being astute: when she goes to visit David in prison, he snubs her dead. She tears off rather petulantly, but David's neighbor, Vesper Abbadon, is much less easily dissuaded: assuming a creepy Multiple Miggs/Hannibal Lector dynamic, Abbadon lays down some seductive words for the young man, admitting that he's playing some kind of devious game with Silas and that he's grateful for David's existence, as it's helped him return his mind to razor sharpness — something that's well conveyed by Cox's terrific acting in the scene. Giving David contrary advice to what he gave Silas, he settles in with a serpentine smile. It's one of the more gripping scenes in the show's history.
At the transferral of Port Prosperity, things aren't going well. There are riots, beatings, and a few state-sponsored killings. Michelle shows up to ineffectually try and herd things along as painlessly as possible, but the real action takes place when son Jack turns up and attempts to get back into Silas' good graces. The son fares about as well with the King as the daughter did with Jack: Silas absolutely crushes him, making it clear he detests him, humiliating him, reminding him that he was seconds away from being killed, and throwing in some cruel shots at his homosexuality just for kicks. At the end of the scene, though, we're doubtless led to wonder if Silas didn't make a mistake by letting him live, as Jack's face is twisted and murder's on his mind.
There's a brief bit of clumsy chatter from William Cross, but then things really start to get hairy: William, who expects (nay, demands) that Jack act on the murder in his heart, is shocked when the young heir doesn't pull the trigger, but not for long, as an unidentified assailant springs from the crowd during Silas' handover speech and begins firing madly. Silas takes some hits despite Jack's apparent (and sincere?) attempts to intervene, and the mad gunman is taken down with suspicious slowness. Meanwhile, the government death squad sent to take down David themselves get gunned down, leaving his future in doubt. Doubt, indeed, is everwhere: Queen Rose doubts that Silas is dead, because a king does not die without signs and wonders to foretell it. She also doubts that the wounded Jack claiming the throne is a wise idea, because if Silas really isn't dead, he'll surely have all their heads on his return. David doubts everything, but he accepts with some reluctance the position of chief advisor, reckoning it was the king's son who was responsible for his last-minute reprieve. William Cross doubts that he gives a shit whether Jack ascends to the throne or not, reckoning he's the one in charge and there's no reason that should change just because there's a new ass on the big seat.
And then, immediately, the two big themes of the show come crashing together, as doubt turns immediately to fear: the ambulance transporting Silas to the hospital is found, and he's not on board. (Shades of Silence of the Lambs #2!) Everyone is thrown into a panic except Michelle, who, with the help of our good friends Boyden and Klotz, sneaks David out of the palace to the familiar rendezvous where the king hides out when he's looking to escape the pressures of the throne — or, in this case, the hell his own death will unleash on the kingdom. In a scene that would by highly emotionally charged if only Christopher Egan was a better actor, David confronts Silas, who luckily is still being played by Ian McShane, and angrily insists that he has caused so much pain and misery that he has no right to die mourned by his family and his nation. Still wearing his prison garb, complete with chalked-on target for the firing squad to use, David wonders if, if Silas was truly chosen to be king, God didn't make a big mistake. In another moment of doubt and fear, Silas' response — after a looming, panicky stretch of silence — is to rise and confirm his kinghood.
- "I would have bet my life on you — I did bet my life on you."
- "I'd rather live miserable."
- "Forgiveness is a form of love, and I do not love you."
- "I do not speak the backwards words of kings."
- I have no idea if the last episode can top this one. It's one of the best pieces of episodic TV of the year. But if you gotta go, this is the way to go. See you in a few weeks, fellow die-hards…I have a feeling we'll be left with, if nothing else, a lot to talk about.