Video Clips

Blog August 2009

Kings Episode 7: The Sabbath Queen. I've just started watching the series Heroes and may write about that at a later stage, but I notice that the creator of Kings, Michael Green, was also a producer on that show and wrote some of the episodes (a point made in the interview - clip on left - with Susannah Thompson who plays Queen Rose Benjamin in Kings). Not surprising in a way, as both shows are interested in philosophical issues.
I've started adding the programme titles to these reviews as there is some variation in the episode numbering on various websites - depending on whether the opening double was numbered just as episode 1, or as 1 and 2. The official website doesn't number the episodes, and for some reason leaves out the episode "Judgement Day".
This "Sabbath Queen" episode slowed down the pace. The city of Shiloh is hit by a power blackout and various characters take advantage of the darkness - Jack to resume briefly his gay love affair, David and Michelle to have a one-night stand and an unidentified assassin to make an attempt on the king's life - you'd think these people never got out! I was reminded about various Biblical quotes about sin and darkness - e.g. this one from John 3:19: "Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil", or this from Ephesians 5: 8-13: "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible".
Apart from the assassination attempt, it wasn't clear that the one night stands were seen as sinful - yes, they were furtive, and in the case of David and Michelle, you'd get the impression it was going to come back to haunt them, but you could argue that the programme was portraying these events as good, hardly a Biblical perspective. And again they were portrayed in a way that would make teachers hesitant in using the material in schools.
David still seems to want to do God's will, but wonders which of the voices in his head come from God, and there was an another interesting God-thread in is episode, conveyed mostly through flashbacks - the whole idea of making deals with God. When Michelle was young she was at death's door, in fact what appeared to be a personification of death arrived to take her, but Silas bargained for her life. Ironically, so did Michelle herself, vowing a life of service to humanity rather than to herself, if she survived. She seems to regard this as precluding her from marriage, but curiously not from an affair with David! Not exactly a vow of celibacy. So, which deal, if any, saved her life? Stay tuned.


Gave a plug during the summer to the band L'Angélus who were touring in Ireland and performed at Catholic Underground events. After listening to them on Today With Pat Kenny on RTE Radio 1 I ordered one of their CDs, Sacred Hymns Collection, and it was certainly worth it. There's great music on the CD that is suitable for school use, for meditation, school choirs and folk groups. What I like best is the fresh contemporary arrangements given to familiar hymns, especially the beautiful version of Be Thou My Vision, which I think will help young people discover the value and beauty of songs that have become too familiar in uninspired arrangements. I've often thought that the old hymns needed an uplift. Many contemporary Irish performers have reinvigiorated old Irish folks songs, rescuing them from come-all-ye hell, but I'm still waiting for a similar approach to our heritage of great hymns. This release will help, as did some tracks by Van Morrison (who also recorded Be Thou My Vision) and Beth Nielsen Chaman (on her Hymns and Prism albums), but I'm still waiting for the definitive work! See also my review of the album here.

Kings Episode 6: Brotherhood. Yet another shift of mood in Kings this episode as two new plot lines develop. The city of Gilboa is struck by a plague (very Old Testament!) and King Silas orders a curfew reminiscent of the Passover - he even mentions a passing over and avoiding the "angel of death", as every household is asked to put a candle in the window as a sign of solidarity. Of course the Passover is out of sync chronologically with the Saul/David story in the Bible which provides most of the characters and plotlines, but the writers of Kings are not setting out to provide an exact parallel and there are all sorts of resonances from elsewhere in the Bible and from more modern events. In the plague story for example Michelle annoys her mother the Queen by tending to a young boy who is dying alone from the plague - "she can't be mother to them all", a phrase which brought Mary, the mother of Jesus to my mind at least.
Silas blames God for the plague - He tests me beyond endurance, he complains to Rev Samuels, who suggests the problem is something rotten within his kingdom, a poison that needs to be purged (hints of Macbeth and Hamlet?)
Meanwhile on the political front David and the King's son Jack are on a mission to capture a terrorist - the visual style here, as they fight in the forests, reminded me of stories about partisans in World War II (as in the recent film Defiance).
The relationship between David and Jack (Jonathan in the Bible) develops - Jack resents David, seeing him as a usurper of his father's attentions, yet he says he doesn't regard him as an enemy, in fact he can't understand David. There are hints of the Prodigal Son story here (actor Sebastian Stan as Jacks exudes an intense anguish of jealousy), and it's a plot that figures strongly in films like Gladiator and Road to Perdition - the inadequate son replaced in the affections of the leader by a newcomer, who becomes the son and heir the leader wished his real son had been. The relationship between Jack and David gets more intricate as each saves the other's life during the mission, and both end up in the embrace of King Silas, who has just seen off another challenge to his authority.

Kings Episode 5: Judgement Day: One of the things I like about this programme is the way each new episode (so far) has something distinctive - a change of location, a change of tone, a new character or whatever, so there are always surprises. This episode centres around Judgement Day - a special event in the Kingdom of Gilboa when the King takes on ten cases to deliver his own personal judgement - "divine wisdom my only counsel" he says. Sounds a bit like Solomon, and sure enough his son Jack passes some sarcastic comment about cutting babies in half. Petitioners make their pleas in orange envelopes and the dramatic sight of thousands of these strewn around the palace floors is a powerful image of dashed hopes. David is torn between loyalty to the King and loyalty to his family as his brother Ethan goes on trial for treason. Chris Egan as David (pictured above with Ian McShane as Silas) portrays the pain so convincingly. Struggling with his dilemma he says he doesn't even know if there is a God, but later in an interesting discussion with the king feels he understands the ways of God - he sees God working through King Silas, as he seems to accept Silas' declaration: "I am justice".
The romantic subplot between David and Michelle the King's daughter (Michal, daughter of Saul from the Bible) takes a few interesting twists, while the mysterious Edward (Macaulay Culkin), the Queen's nephew, returns from exile. The best scenes I think are those intense discussions between King Silas and David (as at the end of this episode) and the king and Rev Samuels, usually about faith and God's will. Some of these would be useful for RE teaching. Unfortunately I can't say the same for an unpleasant sex scene, fairly strong by US network TV standards, at the start of this episode.

Kings Episode 4: As expected, a much more political episode this time and quite a political thriller, with lots of tension crammed into the 45 minutes. Lots of Holy Land suggestions with the people of Port Prosperity rebelling against the King's decision to hand back this land to neighbouring Gath as part of the peace process. The locals don't want their God-given "promised land" to be handed over or divided. You couldn't help but see parallels from Bible times to the modern Middle East. And in the portrayal of the shipyard riots there was surely a visual reference to the Solidarity protests in Poland.
Ian McShane continues to excel in the role of King Silas while Chris Egan perfectly captures the pain of the innocent David - trying to be loyal to his King and to his family in Port Prosperity. A political coup is thwarted, the King's son Jack (presumably a parallel for Saul's son Jonathan in the Bible) is even plotting against him. There's even a possible dig at CNN - the TV news in the Kingdom of Gilboa is UNN, and there's interesting talk of the news being "crafted"! Fascinating stuff, and if you weren't aware of the Biblical connections you'd probably find it so and even more intriguing.