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Of Kings And Prophets Season 1 Episode 2: Review

There are two ways to drive from Pretoria to Cape Town. The one is straight forward: you get onto the N1 and you drive straight, not turning off anywhere. The other way is to digress constantly, taking the scenic route, discovering small towns and seeing sights you otherwise never would have. The end result is the same: arriving in the Mother City. One of the routes gets you there quicker; the other enriches you. There’s no need to fight about which is the right one.

This week’s episode, “Let The Wicked Be Ashamed”,  were something of a “scenic route”-take, which I assume is going to be par for the course for this series. Again, not necessarily problematic when it comes to interpreting the Old Testament. The Bible tells a lot of things; it also omits a great deal. How would Saul’s sons react to a statement made by Samuel such as the one that he has? How would the kingdom’s people react? What would his wife have said? Why can’t we ask these questions just because the book of 1 Samuel doesn’t? The Israelites did not have silver and had to trade with the Philistines for weapons (1 Samuel 13:19-22). It would be quite plausible that people would try a lot of things to gain the upper hand when it comes to battles and wars. The portrayal of the tribe of Reuben’s effort to betray Saul was quite interesting in this regard. Not included in the original narrative, but also not implausible. This is part of the art of adaptation – and, as all visual renderings of Biblical narratives are, this remains an interpretation and one that this viewer is getting more and more on board with.

Olly Rix continues to give a strong performance as David, setting up quite a few of his far-off future flaws. This man is not necessarily against, well, sexual adventures (Bathsheba anyone? But that is still a long time coming) and found himself this week in a kind-of Joseph-Potiphar’s Wife situation with Ahinoam (Simone Kessell) that he didn’t see coming, prompting his return to Bethlehem, just in time to be anointed by Samuel (Mohammad Bakri), who still annoys the crap out of me. He is not believable as the great man of God he is supposed to be. This oke reminds me of a cross between the Soothsayer in an Asterix-comic and the blind Seer in Vikings, but with a lisp and a nifty little blood-axe. I almost wish he got assassinated, even though I knew it wouldn’t happen. Maybe they are trying to portray him in the same violent way that the Old Testament portrays God? There might be a correlation there. Either way, he doesn’t work for me as a character.

Saul, on the other hand, continues to be absolutely tremendous. Whether Ray Winstone is simply the best actor on the show, or that the writers are nailing his journey as a troubled king – I think he’s brilliant. There were some gems that Saul planted this week (“This is the price of kingship!” – something David will learn in many ways when he is to rule in future) that foreshadowed the trials that he is yet to go through, which works really, really well. Not every little decision he makes gets sanctioned by God – neither does God sanction every decision we make today. It should not come as a surprise to any viewer.

Lastly, Mikhal (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) continues to be intriguing. Along with her dad, they seem to be the only two real believers in Israel. Ish-Baal (James Floyd) and Jonathan (Haaz Sleiman) are still to really turn into something other than stereotypical bloodlusters (I am sure we will see more dimensions to them further on) and her sister is still mourning her dead husband-to-be. So, she is the still small voice of religion that the show opts for, while David is seemingly not yet “the man after God’s own heart”. The show desperately needs to bring some of that in, otherwise we will fail to care for David out of any other reason than that we simply have to. An opportunity for this is very much present in the next episode which apparently will give us the epic battle that inspired a plethora of songs, sayings, pictures and renditions.

This week the show also wisely omitted the explicit nudity that I guess the producers were tempted to show between David and Ahinoam. Less is more, my friends, and suggestion in film is often stronger than simply blatantly forcing stuff down a viewer’s eye.

Building up, setting up, carving away at the marble statue that is to come, this week’s episode scores a strong 7.5/10.

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