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Kings – Judgment Day
Kings continues to build on its established storylines with new twists and new stories. This week we saw the king’s Judgment Day, a day in which case he will hear 10 cases which were not decided to the satisfaction of all parties in the courts and appeals system. On Judgment Day, God will speak through Silas to the petitioners and His judgment rendered will be final. The three-day event (one day to select the 10 cases and two to hear them) is an important symbol for the citizens of Gilboa: it represents hope to them. The hope of having their voice heard, their grievance aired to the king.
This episode, more than most of the others, was entwined with moments of humor to offset the bleakness of the main story: the trial of David Shepherd’s brother Ethan.
Judgment Day opens with Silas in bed with his wife but imagining his mistress. He is then denied anything “unhealthy” for breakfast and grumbles about being the king but denied life’s pleasures. On this same morning, Ethan is found guilty on all counts for his part in the insurrection against King Silas. He is to be sentenced in two days–on the second of the two Judgment Days. David assures his family that he will speak to the king, but they do not want his assurances. David is not allowed to join Silas at breakfast, but Michelle runs into him in the hall and takes his predicament to her father, who says he is sorry but he cannot do anything.
The first case Silas hears regards a male pig who wandered onto another farmer’s land and mated with some of his sows; the male pig’s owner wants recompense for the stud services. Silas asks what he did in the last livestock case–”Ruled in favor of the cow,” says his aid; “Then let me see the pig,” he says, and they move on to the next case until the pig can be brought in. He adjudicates a couple more suits, and then David Shepherd is introduced to the assembly. David is there to be awarded the highest medal of valor Gilboa has to offer, for his conduct at the Port of Prosperity. In an undertone he begs Silas to help his brother, but Silas tells him that he cannot interfere with a ruling of the lower court without a reason (meaning beyond his personal inclination). The last case of the day regards the Reverend Samuels, who is accused of embezzling congregation funds. He swears his innocence, that if he signed an order for their distribution he did it unknowingly; Silas finds him not guilty. The reverend hopes it was not done with expectation of favors in return, and Silas invites him “to table” as a gesture of goodwill.
At the family table that night, the son of William Cross (Queen Rose’s brother) is finally returned to Shiloh from exile. MaCaulay Culkin plays Andrew Cross, and plays him with the perfect edge of good manners and barely restrained mischief and/or sadism that Culkin can pull off so well. We don’t know yet what he was exiled for…or what kind of trouble he’s going to cause now that he’s back. The reverend sends his regrets and does not come.
The next day, the second day of hearing cases and the day Ethan Shepherd is to be sentenced, one of the 10 cases has been dropped, and Christina Gent–the new Minister of Information, who is letting Prince Jack make all her moves and decisions for her behind-the-scenes–allows Princess Michelle to present her health care petition to be the new 10th case heard. Jack also brings David in to see if his brother’s case can take the last spot. Michelle (at David’s request) asks for her petition to be withdrawn, so that David’s can go forward, but Christina Gent insists that since both were heard she will choose between them…and she chooses Michelle’s as having more “merit.”
Jack tells David that someone on the prosecution is pushing for the death penalty. When Michelle confronts Jack about why her suit was not taken off the table, and accuses him of trying to ruin David Shepherd, he acknowledges it. But it’s not out of jealousy, he insists; it’s for his own survival because “even though you can’t bear children, my father could still choose you out of preferment. With one marriage, he could make a king and queen of you and Shepherd, and I would be…I would become the court jester.” He indicates that Christina Gent could buy off one of the judges to go lenient, if David will pay her price. Michelle takes the offer to David: that in his next press conference he publicly say that he thinks King Silas is wrong to give up the lands north of the river.
Meanwhile, back in the hearing room, King Silas sees his mistress in the crowd. There is a suit regarding a doctor who had killed someone while driving under an influence years ago, and he is asking not to serve his jail time because his time is better spent saving other lives. The mistress is there as a character witness, to attest that her son is in good health despite his chronic illness because of the doctor. Silas rules against the doctor, insisting that as much as it hurts, the right thing must be done–he must pay the penalty for his actions.
David sees this from the back, and at his press conference speaks in support of Silas. He says he is glad to have a king who recognizes “the difference between what is right and what is expedient” and is proud to learn from him. Jack and Christina Gent storm out, and Jack tells her to call the judge and say Jack Benjamin is asking for the death penalty. David takes off his medal of honor and puts it in one of the petition envelopes, telling Michelle that he does not want it. Not, presumably, at the cost of his brother’s life.
At the end of the day, Michelle’s health care bill passes (finally), and David witnesses his brother sentenced to the gallows. Jack and Christina share a drink, and Jack hits on her. She smiles at him and gets up to leave–an obvious refusal. He laughs in surprise that “someone like you would judge me.” She puts him in his place (and about time someone did!): “It must hurt, when someone like me won’t even have you.” On her way out, she finds one petition envelope that had fallen off the trash cart. It is the one with David’s medal in it. She takes it to Silas and tells him that she had come to him looking for all the trappings and power of a position, but that someone who had them didn’t want them and was instead merely Silas’s friend. He picks up the medal and looks thoughtful.
Silas brings Shepherd in and tells him that his brother is being moved to a jail, where he will serve no less than 6 months. The lower court’s sentence had been so extreme, he comments, that it justified the king’s oversight.
David gets a visit from Michelle that same evening, who tells him that she owes him “the truth” about why she keeps running away any time things get romantic between them: that she is “promised to another.” She does not say to whom, and reading between the lines from her prior conversation with Silas about a vow she made and the conversation with her brother, she most likely promised her father she would marry the man he chose…but Silas hasn’t chosen him yet.
Another great episode about the intrigues of the court and the developing relationships between various characters. Especially strong this week, I think, was that between David and Silas. I think one of the strengths of Kings is its story (which a friend told me is based on the story of King David), because even if it is not a story we haven’t seen before it nonetheless is a timeless story. It plays to our cultural biases–we want to see someone like David Shepherd succeed where someone like Jack Benjamin does not. It is great to see Silas make wise and just decisions, and it’s sweet to see the inevitable love developing between David and Michelle. David’s support of his king, even under such circumstances, is noble and heroic, and it makes all the rest of the court look even worse. David’s tragic flaw, if he has one, is that he’s too naïve and too trusting.
And Silas’s? According to Reverend Samuels, that he asked God to make him king.