HaMelachim b'Malchut Gilboa

Last week a new show premiered on NBC called Kings. No one watched it. Except me, apparently. You should too. Here’s why. (And here’s the episode, embedded from Hulu, to boot!)

The show is set to a tone of magical realism, in the fictional modern-day kingdom of Gilboa (the name of the place when King Saul committed suicide was Gilboa). Following a Unification War (the unification of the Twelve Tribes of Israel), two leaders, Reverend Ephram Samuel (the Propjet Samuel) and King Silas Benjamin (King Saul, who was from the Tribe of Benjamin) forge the new Kingdom of Gilboa, establishing a gleaming Manhattan-like capital city called Shiloh (the name of the central Israelite religious site in the pre-Jersualem period).
After a brief period of peace, a war breaks out with the northern state of Gath (the name of one of the five main Phillistine cities, the Phillistines being King Saul’s main adversary). David Sheppard (King David was born a sheppard) enlists in the army, where he encounters Gath’s new line seemingly invincible tanks, the Goliath tanks (Goliath being the giant Phillistine that David faced in order to become a national hero). The army, led by King Silas and General Abner (Avner being King Saul’s cousin and leader of the Israelite army), seems poised for defeat.
The platoon that Silas’ son, Jack (playing the role of Ish-Boshet, the son of Saul that David must face to become king) is in is taken hostage. David mounts an ill-advised one-man rescue attempt, in the process become the first Gilboan to destroy a Goliath tank.
Et cetera.
Beyond the straight biblical allegory, the story also features the fascinating political machinations of King Silas, the intriguing, but mysterious character of Reverend Samuel–who does not always approve of Silas’ actions, the growing love story between David and the King’s daughter Michelle (Saul’s daughter was Michal), and the non-biblical (as far as I can tell) story of the powerful coporation the footed the bill for the rebuilding of Gilboa. David, of course, is a prodigee piano player as well (while the biblical David was known not only for the Psalms, but for his gift for the lyre).
David is quickly swept up into the national politics of Gilboa, a new national hero and media darling.
Not to mention some pretty good writing and a beautifully-designed show. So watch it, yids.

18 thoughts on “HaMelachim b'Malchut Gilboa

  1. i was pretty disappointed, all in all. way too blatant, but a friend pointed out it may be less blatant for those not intimately familiar with the story. Anyone understand the butterfly imagery? I can’t figure it out.

  2. I think the deal with the butterflies is twofold – it gives the show a way to have God act in the world without being all scary voice in a cloud, and it also conjures up a vague connection to chaos theory, making us wonder how each decision made might be affecting the bigger picture. That’s what I read into it, anyway.

  3. i tried watching it but when the King started talking about Rev. Samuels being late it was too much for my 1-to-1-correspondence detector and my corny alarm started blaring. so i turned it off. may be trying again on sunday, though.

  4. I was assuming that Jack was supposed to be Jonathan, who’s probably better-known among Saul’s sons. His hostility to David therefore seemed surprising, so I figured that the show would focus on their forging a friendship (or more?) despite Jack’s initial dislike of David. But maybe it makes more sense for him to be Ish-Boshet, who actually does want to be king (as opposed to Jonathan, who doesn’t). In that case, we’ll have to see what they do with the David-Jonathan stories, such as the shooting of the arrows. Perhaps Michal/Michelle will fill some of those roles?
    One critique of the show is that it seems to have Samuel’s reason for taking away Saul/Silas’s kingship backwards: because he’s too warlike, as opposed to his failure to annihilate Amalek. And David’s stirring anti-war speech doesn’t square so well with the Biblical character, who’s anything but dovish. I’m curious to see where they go with this.

  5. not to be a snot-nosed jerk or anything, but…
    “prodigal” means lavish and reckless
    “prodigious” means remarkably awesome, like a prodigy

  6. I happened to watch it, too. It’s pretty cheesy (cheesy writing, cheesy acting), but I like the fun use of Manhattan locations (Jazz at Lincoln Center as the king’s court, the Apthorp as his palace, etc.) and the Biblical story does have good structure for building a dramatic series. If nothing, it got me to read the Wikipedia entry on David and learn a bunch more about his story (much of which I was unfamiliar with–mainstream liberal Jewish education doesn’t spend nearly enough time on the Nevi’im!).
    One curiosity: who is NBC’s target demographic? Had I not watched I would have said “Bible story = conservative Christians (and I suppose Jews).” But there were two little monologues by the king that came out of nowhere and seemed calculated to piss off both liberals and fundamentalist conservatives. In one, he gave a little speech to his kids over breakfast about how evolution is clearly true and “one of G-d’s tools.” In another, he snarled in his gay son’s ear about how homosexuality is disgusting and unacceptable, “no matter what G-d made you.” Both had me scratching my head (and rolling my eyes).
    Oh, and Mr. Wilensky, to put on my pedantry hat for a moment, I don’t think “prodigal” means what you think it means.

  7. D’oh. I walk away from the computer for a couple hours and return to hit send, and jesse has made me look like a second-rate pedant!

  8. I think it’s very fun for the simple reason of extrapolating what a modern kingship could look and feel like, with corporations and religious movements still at play. It’s entertaining just to consider.
    The funniest touch to me is the scribe who follows the king and writes the king’s history. Favorite quote from the King: “Let it be written: ‘He governed wisely and patiently. Then went home to shower.'”

  9. I liked tonight’s episode a lot more than the pilot, in no small part because the story has begun to deviate from the biblical story in some major ways.

  10. Apparently it was groomed to take over ER’s Thursday time slot, but the poor ratings of the first week have put that in jeopardy. On the other hand, my DVR can record two things simultaneously, so that rarely matters to me anymore. (Also, haven’t watched the Simpsons in years.) (Also, Kings is available for free online at Hulu and I think

  11. I found myself very drawn to Reverend Samuels’ character. It’s obvious there’s a special relationship brewing between him and David.
    I, too, believe that “Jack” is Jonathan. Jack is, afterall, a nickname derived from John (John F. Kennedy went by Jack). I think the initial coldness that Jack displays toward David is natural for any child of privilege who was supposed to be a military leader, but was captured and eventually rescued by a private who used to be a farmer. Jack obviously likes something about David, but isn’t going to run up and hug him. It’s not the rich-kid’s style.

  12. NBC has rescheduled the show to Saturday nights at 8, one step closer to its cancellation. (Although the show has apparently done well on iTunes. It also got great reviews. Maybe it will get rescued by one of NBC’s sister networks (SciFi?) or otherwise find a better home…)

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