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.
Kings reimagines 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.