The key to any great soap is a believable hero and a complex villain.
Biblical tales typically involve both. NBC was smart enough to take a story we all know and wrap it in a shiny
new package. NBC's Kings is an ancient story with Biblical
roots whose relevance could not be more timely. David (Christopher
Egan) is a simple but patriotic mechanic who is more than willing to
fight for his county. In a kingdom which bears more than a passing
resemblance to New York City, King Saul’s (Ian McShane) war rhetoric
sounds strangely similar to what one might hear on any news network.
the story of David and Goliath in a contemporary alternate reality. The
warrior giant Goliath has been given a makeover and is now represented
by a massive tank. This is an unfortunate change because tanks are
destructible and we see them destroyed all the time on TV. It's hardly
the stuff of legend, which makes the ultimate destruction of Goliath an
afterthought. Comic book heroes like Iron Man can destroy a tank with
the flick of a wrist. I expect more from David, but with a wrench and
grenade, Goliath is disposed of in the first 15 minutes of the pilot.
The series quickly transitions to David's ascent from
simple war hero to great king. Christopher Egan has looks
tailor made for The CW but his acting chops are not enough to carry
the series. Egan imbues his character with nothing representative of a man who will one day be the greatest king the world has ever known. David should be a smart and savvy kid but he instead becomes a one-note wounded puppy. Egan's performance is painfully flat and the series suffers as a result.
The standout among the younger cast is Sebastian Stan as
Saul's closeted son, Jack. Jack craves power. He believes that he is
ordained by God to become King, therefore he believes that he must hide his sexuality in
order to ascend to the throne. David poses a threat to Jack's power.
Great soaps need a conflicted villain. Jack is not a "bad" person. He
is simply a man who was taught that his kingdom should always be
priority above all else, including his own humanity and happiness.
David's rise to power is a foregone conclusion and is the
least interesting thing about the series. Saul's descent, however, is
the heart of the story. Saul could very easily become a caricature of
a paranoid royal, but McShane ensures that the character has heart and
humanity. Kings will be successful if it is able to focus on the downfall of the conflicted royals and Egan is able to create a sense of greatness in David.