Way back in July 2008, ComingSoon.net attended the “Kings” panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego–our first panel of the con in fact–and got a sneak preview of the first 20 minutes of the pilot. A few weeks ago, NBC invited us to attend a special presentation to watch the entire pilot at the Universal Screening Room followed by a Q ‘n’ A with Green and some of the cast.
On the surface, the series is based on the bible story of King David, but in fact, that’s just the groundwork for a much more expansive story that shows the journey of David Shepard, played by Christopher Egan (Eragon), a simple country mechanic who gets invited into the royal court of King Silas (Ian McShane), monarch of Gilboa, a country set on an alternate world of sorts.
As the pilot opens, we meet David and King Silas in their respective environments. Three years later, David is a soldier on the front of the war between Gilboa and neighboring Gath. The naïve young man unwittingly becomes a war hero when he shows bravery on the front, saving the King’s son Jack and facing the enemy’s “Goliath,” a large unstoppable tank that David faces on the battlefield.
The grateful king gives David a first-class ticket to Shiloh and Silas’ royal court where David is promoted to captain and made military liaison, butting heads with the king’s son Jack Benjamin (Sebastian Stan from “Gossip Girl”) and falling in love with his daughter Michelle (Allison Miller). Everyone in Shiloh falls for David due to his small-town charm and innocence, although Silas, Jack and others feel that his presence might disrupt their corrupt system.
Rather than being another attempt to capitalize on the success of genre on television as epitomized by “Heroes,” “Lost” and “Battlestar Galactica,” the show harks back more to adult dramas like “Dynasty” and “Dallas.” Due to its biblical roots, there is a religious angle to the show that’s certainly unique, but this certainly isn’t God or religion being shoved down your throat, as that aspect of the show is mainly used to show parallels to our own country. In fact, some of the things that happen on the show might seem particularly eerie when you realize that most of the show predates our own economy collapsing and all the political changes the country has gone through in recent months.
The writing is sharp and the acting is excellent, as Green has assembled a cast that’s almost unprecedented for a television show. Ian McShane is as riveting in the role of King Silas as he was as Al Swearengen, giving the sort of loquacious speeches that he’s great at giving. Following his starring role in Eragon, Egan is really turning into a terrific leading actor and Allison Miller is great as the king’s daughter Michelle, delivering an on-screen presence not unlike that of Rachel McAdams, and showing strong romantic chemistry with Egan. Two of the stronger supporting roles include Eamonn Walker (“Oz”) as Reverend Samuels and Dylan Baker as William Cross, Silas’ brother-in-law who runs the Crossgen corporation, two warring factions trying to influence Silas from the stance of religion and the corporate world. Baker makes a great devil to Walker’s “angel” and one can only hope we see the two clash eventually.
As one would expect with Lawrence’s involvement, the show has a great visual look, particularly the way New York City–where the show is shot–has been transformed into Shiloh, the orange flags bearing the royal emblem of a butterfly seen everywhere. That image is introduced early in the show in one of King Silas’ favorite stories about butterflies circling above his head forming a crown foretelling him becoming king of Gilboa.
Since we don’t want to ruin your enjoyment of the show, we won’t go beat-by-beat through the entire plot, although the two-hour premiere covers a lot of ground in terms of setting up the characters and relationships between David and King Silas’ family, as well as those around Silas who are trying to influence the king’s decisions. (Silas also has had another son through his mistress, although they’re both kept far away from the kingdom.)
NBC also gave us an early look at the second and third episodes of the series, called “Prosperity” (3/22) and “First Night” (3/29), and bits of the remainder of the season through a sizzle reel. Each episode seems to be telling a complete story that plays a part in the larger tale. Some of the actors introduced after the premiere include Brian Cox as Vesper Avadon, a former king of Gilboa, and Macaulay Culkin as Andrew, the son of Dylan Baker’s character, who has been banished from court. (Incidentally, in “Prosperity,” Premiere Shaw of Gath is played by actor Mark Margolis, formerly of “Oz” and a presence in all four of Darren Aronofsky’s films, while his general is played by Miguel Ferrer.)
You can read our exclusive interviews with Green and Francis Lawrence, done last year at Comic-Con International in San Diego here, and then you can watch the entire Q ‘n’ A presentation that followed the screening to get even more information about the upcoming show:
“Kings” premieres on NBC in a special two-hour TV movie event on Sunday, March 15.