Synopsis: A modern day, alternate-reality drama about a hero who rises to become the King of his nation, based on the biblical story of King David.
Creator: Michael Green
Stars: Ian McShane, Christopher Egan and Susanna Thompson
Serious Jest: (Queue It) This is a captivating show about leadership, faith, family, patriotism, politics, loyalty, ethics, duty, and even reading the signs that life leaves for you (those who enjoyed Paulo Coelho’s book “The Alchemist” will appreciate the latter). The series is engrossing in a cerebral way, building its suspense from the mental, emotional, ethical, and spiritual puzzles that its characters must navigate. There are plenty of action scenes, but they are exciting more for their impact on the plot than the actual stunts or special effects–as I said, this is more of a cerebral show.
Setting this show in an alternate world, with fictional nations and cities, allows the series to address the issues it wants, in the ways it wants, while minimizing the risk of making blunders in departures from realism–for instance, I didn’t find myself saying, “That would never happen,” during court scenes, because I was watching a fictional court system, with rules unknown to me. But I do have to say I was disappointed that this alternate reality did not seem very diverse. And the Black people in this show were pretty much asexual…except when Marlyne Barrett‘s character did get a love interest, it was the awkward, morbidly obese palace guard played by Joel Garland…no one else was even interested in her, even though she’s pretty, with gorgeous eyes.
By the way, I have to say I did not care for either of the palace guards, played by Garland and Jason Antoon. They play the role of the unnoticed observers, who sometimes intervene at key plot points, and often serve as comic relief. However, something about these two is not that charismatic, both as individual actors, and in their chemistry together.
However, the rest of the cast delivered commendable performances. There is something very regal about McShane, which was evident even when he used to play a bastard crime boss who struggles against his instincts to be good in Deadwood. In this show, as a king who speaks to God, but has learned to get his hands dirty to accomplish a greater good, he is just as brilliant in illustrating the impossible choices put before powerful leaders. Egan has a promising future as a leading man; in the space of one season, you see his character develop from a wet-behind-the-ears, trusting and optimistic kid, to a stoic hero with a thousand-yard stare. Thompson is the prototypical matriarch; somehow she manages to seem cold and cutthroat, yet driven by love and selflessness at the same time. Allison Miller is another one of those actresses that has a talent for letting the camera into her heart; by the time it’s all said and done, you feel like you know her intimately; this is the mark of a future leading lady. Sebastian Stan did a great job in capturing the duality of his character: half of the time, he has the swagger of a leading man–confident and righteous; the other half, he is scared, indecisive, ashamed of who he is, jealous, and desperate for approval. Macaulay Culkin has gotten pretty good at playing sociopaths. Last but not least, I have admired the fire in Eamonn Walker‘s performances ever since he played Kareem Said in Oz; his character in this show, Reverend Ephram Samuels, has a different background than Said, but is very similar in his personality traits.
A CGI-altered New York City makes an awesome backdrop for the city of Shiloh. The score is spot-on, as well, adding just the right accent to key scenes for the desired effect on the viewer’s mood.
The cancellation of this show after its first season makes me wonder about the population sample used for TV ratings. How does an intelligent and entertaining series like this one fail to get renewed, with so much mundane, uninspired drivel out there getting multiple seasons and spin-offs? This show is worth setting the time aside at some point to watch in its entirety, even though it ends with unresolved storylines because of its cancellation. While the chances of getting this great cast back together get slimmer and slimmer as time passes, I wish the series would get picked up and continued by another network.