Debuting on the 15th of March, 2009, NBC's Kings is like some bizarre tonal clash of Gossip Girl and Battlestar Galactica. It tells the biblical story of King David, but set in another world not unlike Present Day Present Time, in which the kingdom of Gilboa, where King Silas Benjamin (played by Deadwood's Ian McShane) has just inaugurated the new capital of Shiloh. Two years later, when Gilboa is at war with the neighboring kingdom of Gath, a plucky young soldier named David Shepherd goes behind enemy lines to rescue hostages, singlehandedly destroying a Goliath tank on the way. Then one of the hostages turns out to be Jack Benjamin, the crown prince... and so David's political life begins. Also stars Susanna Thompson (the second Borg Queen), Christopher Egan, Eamonn Walker, Sebastian Stan, and Allison Miller.Canceled due to extraordinarily poor ratings (no episode ever placed higher than 4th regardless of which night it aired) and an extraordinarily high budget (estimated at $4 million per episode with the pilot coming in at a staggering $10 million), although the series creatordisputes the second part.On a side note: the story of David and Saul comes from The First Book of Samuel, not Kings.
Meet Abadon, the king of one of the nations existing before Silas unified them into Gilboa, a real tyrant and monster, or so it is implied. He's played by Brian Cox, chats amiably with Silas, gives him advice on kinging, and shows real depth of humanity at one point...as well as a severe lack of it at others.
Similarly, Cross, during an outbreak of plague, offers every medical lab he has in the city to the public, free of charge.
To a degree, Silas himself.
Alternate Universe: Either that, or a particularly enigmatic Alternate History. It avoids being a Never Was This Universe thanks to several references clearly linked to our real historical Earth (Franz Liszt apparently existed as a music composer in the show's setting as well, etc.). And there's even a theory that... Well, take a look at the WMG section.
Ambiguously Jewish: Everybody, sort of. The specifics of religious life in the kingdom aren't addressed, although the line in the episode "Prosperity" wherein Rev. Samuels says to Capt. Shepherd "dreams are a sixtieth part prophecy" is a direct quotation from the Talmud, specifically Berachot 57b.
Anachronism Stew: Given that the real King David is estimated to have lived in the 11th century BCE, only to be expected with a modern retelling.
A particularly intriguing and possibly deliberate one occurs in the fifth episode (sixth, if you count the two-hour pilot as two). Jack references "cutting babies in half" as a somewhat cynical reference to supposed Solomonic wisdom. The Biblical King Solomon, however, was David's son.
Deal with the Devil: For Michelle to live, Silas has to give up his crown to the better man, whoever he is, or face his name being wrought to the ground and dragged in the dirt. And general bad stuff.
Depraved Homosexual: Subverted with Jack. He's both gay and a pretty bad guy, but the one thing has nothing to do with the other, and most of his Pet the Dog moments come when he starts to come to grips with his sexuality.
Deus ex Machina: Some of David's escapes are a little too lucky to be anything else... but then, this being the story it is, that's only to be expected. Deconstructed when David is charged with treason, as his constantly being in the right place at the right time looks awfully suspicious to the court.
Disappeared Dad: David's father was killed in combat, apparently on Silas's orders.
Fake American: Oh so many. We've got three Englishmen (Silas, Helen, and Rev. Samuels), an Australian (David Shepherd), an Italian-born actress (Michelle), a Romanian (Jack), and a Scotsman (Vesper Abaddon) all playing characters that are rather American in nature.
Gender Flip: Jessie Shepherd takes her name from the biblical David's father, Jesse.
General Ripper: Abner, who constantly argues in favor of escalation against Gath in any situation and begins secretly arming terrorists to attack them after Silas signs a peace treaty.
Gilded Cage: Jack is confined to his well-appointed bedroom after his unsuccessful coup, in stark contrast to the dungeon Abbadon inhabits.
Grey and Gray Morality: There is one character who seems to be white and one who seems to be black, but the rest fall somewhere in between. In the end, not even the Reverend Samuels is completely pure, and even the vile Abbadon has someone he cares enough about to relinquish his hoarded gold.
Hellhole Prison: Gehenna, the secret prison complex where Abbadon (and eventually David) is housed in 24-hour-a-day solitary confinement. The name is kind of a tipoff.
Holy Halo: The crown of butterflies that bestow God's favor (and the kingship) on Silas and later, David.
Hypocrite: Both Silas and Rose, when it comes to Jack's sexuality. Silas lectures Jack that he must stop having relationships with men because "we give up what we want when we want power," then hops in his car to go spend a few days with the Secret Other Family he was supposed to have given up to become King. Rose, meanwhile, gives Jack a speech on how the one thing she hates most of all is lies. Then he tells her he's gay, and she slaps him and starts shouting that it isn't true. Of course, Rose was probably knowingly demonstrating how one must believe and insist that the truth is a lie to maintain a certain public image, which Jack was refusing to do.
Kangaroo Court: At David's trial for treason, Silas (who trumped up the charges to begin with) is both judge and jury. Jack sets it right.
Knight Templar: Silas. He believes that doing evil things for a good cause makes them good, and is honestly flummoxed when God seems to disagree.
Louis Cypher: Vesper Abaddon, kept prisoner in Gehenna. Was once king of Gilboa's neighboring nation of Carmel until Silas overthrew him in the Unification War, then sent down to reign in his prison. Made deals with Silas; money, knowledge, power, then laughed as he took two bullets to the chest, by his own hand. If that doesn't tell you he's Satan incarnate, what will?
Lucky Seven: David mentions that he has six older brothers, making him the seventh son.
Mega Corp.: CrossGen, which is so rich and powerful that its backing installed Silas on the throne. During the course of the series, its CEO, William Cross, almost singlehandedly bankrupts the entire nation by withdrawing its gold from the national treasury, and blacks out all of Southern Gilboa with a single phone call. In the Grand Finale, he buys control of the entire Gilboan military, in order to install Jack on the throne.
The Messiah: David. To the point that he can impregnate a sterile woman.
Single Precept Religion: The show is maddeningly vague on what sort of church "Reverend Samuels" heads, and why a population of no visible ethnicity thinks that "God gave this land to us."
Smug Snake: William Cross. He plays a mean gambit, but not nearly at the same level as Silas.
The Sociopath: Andrew Cross. After he arranges for pictures humiliating to Michelle to be publicly aired in order to hurt Silas, he describes what he did as "I broke his favorite thing," indicating that he sees her as an object, rather than a person.
Thrown from the Zeppelin: Jack has a government minister who questions his plan to be crowned king, even though Silas still lives shot in the back of the head in front of the others.
Too Dumb to Live: Though informed somewhat by the revelation that she has vowed to do God's work regardless of the cost to herself, Princess Michelle falls into this trope with such stunning regularity that it's amazing she survives a season. One episode she's deliberately exposing herself to an incurable plague, the next she can't come up with any potential downside to David having naked pictures of her.
Transparent Closet: Jack can fool the ignorant masses with his playboy act, but he can't fool his father.
Unusual Euphemism: As hinted by Andrew Cross, and revealed in the final episode, "exile" actually means indefinite solitary confinement.
The Uriah Gambit: Silas sends David on a solo mission to recover the stolen National Charter of Gilboa, armed only with a pistol and an envelope of cash, in the hopes that he will either be killed or refuse to return after failing. Ironic, considering David's Biblical namesake is the Trope Namer.
Utopia Justifies the Means: Belial practically uses these exact words when questioned by Jack on his plan to bring down both Gath and Gilboa, ushering in a new order.
Villainous Breakdown: William Cross has a bit of one after it turns out Silas is alive. And Silas has the full monty when God tells him that David is now his favorite, and a less extreme but more public one when Jack turns against him and accuses him of orchestrating the Kangaroo Court against David.
War for Fun and Profit: William Cross firmly believes that war is good for business, and that's good for everyone. His decision to overthrow Silas is motivated entirely by his desire to keep the war with Gath going.