Saturday, January 29, 2011

Kingdom Reveiw

I’m an English Major with a Theatre Minor. So my first reaction after seeing something is to analyze it and in extreme cases, write about it.
Okay, recently I found a TV series that had an ensemble cast of actors I respected. I decided to try it out.
The series beings with Stephen Fry’s character, Peter Kingdom. He is a lawyer in a small town. He has never married. He has no children. We learn through the course a quick dialogue in the first fifteen minutes that Peter makes a habit of visiting his aunt in an assisted living home. That he took care of his late father during his dying days, worsened with his father’s Alzheimer’s. Peter has two younger, half-siblings: Simon who recently disappeared, and Beatrice, who is mentally ill, has practiced substance abuse, and shuffles from one institution to another.
We care about this man. He sacrifices for his family. This is noble of him; his nobility of spirit is increased when we see that it appears no one appreciates the sacrifices he makes out of love.
The second character we really care about is his secretary, Gloria, played by Celia Imrie . Gloria is kind and quiet. She is a single mother, her husband passed away a year ago. Peter is the only thing holding the ring of characters together, but Gloria is the only one who appreciates what he does and supports him in it. She holds Peter together.
The character we love in spite of ourselves is Beatrice, Peter’s half sister. She is played by Hermione Norris, who steals almost every scene. Beatrice is often used as the foil for Peter’s character, because in many ways she is his complete opposite. Beatrice’s behavior is completely not understood by the other characters or by most rational human beings. She has the emotional maturity of the average eight year old. When she is upset with Peter or Gloria she lashes out by stealing their possessions, vandalizing their property and throwing temper tantrums. No one knows if this behavior is because of Beatrice’s mental and emotional illness and a reaction to her brother Simon’s disappearance… or because it is simply how she gets what she wants.

Then there is Simon. The half brother of Peter and the brother of Beatrice. He is missing presumed dead. He was last seen walking out into the sea. Peter goes every day to the beach he was last seen in a vain hope that remains or a clue will wash up. The abandonment that Peter and Beatrice feel and struggle to hide is heart breaking. As the series progresses the Peter and Beatrice learn that they didn’t know their brother as well as they thought. He owed money to a mob, he fathered a child. He ran away from these problems and from them. He left them. But not matter what they uncover about their wayward brother they still forgive him, and wish that he had somehow allowed them to help him.
We care about these characters and themes. We have all have people, or want to have people; we would give anything to and do anything for. These are often the people we feel the most unappreciated or least understood by. We all feel lonely. We all feel abandoned. We all have people in our lives that we will… against our better judgment and past experience forgive for anything.

But the show loses what makes it so beautiful about half way through the second season. This happens for several reasons.
Firstly Simon is not only alive, but he returns. He takes advantage of Peter and Beatrice’s love and forgiveness at every turn. While we sympathize with the ideal doing anything for a brother, no matter how wayward when we see Beatrice and Peter lay down so Simon can step on them we feel resentment. Not at Simon for being cruel, but at the other two for being so gullible and stupid. Traits they never have in any other situation. The writers neglect to let us see, even for a moment, the Simon that Peter and Beatrice love. These two siblings love their brother unconditionally, we need to see why. We need to see the redeeming qualities that blind them against all his faults.

Gloria begins to go out with the town quack. I think this was done in an attempt at comic relief, but it fell flat. These two characters had not motivation towards to begin a relationship with one another. When their relationship begins the viewers are confused.
Another choice made that distracted from the theme was Lyle; Peter’s assistant. In the beginning of the series Lyle is funny and caring. He isn’t always motivated, and isn’t always hard working. In fact through much of the first season Peter wants to strangle him. But he cares for the
underdog and fights tooth and nail once he finds a battle. But then his character becomes watered down to a post grad boy who is (how does one say this diplomatically) is looking for an easy hook-up.

So what started out as a series that probed into the complex, tangled, beautiful relationships between families and friends. About sacrifice, love, difficult choices and hope against all odds. However the series ends with themes of half finished thoughts and actors treading water against a script that has lost its edge.
Am I being to judgmental? Possibly. I can recommend the first season of this series without reserve. The second and third series still have golden moments; I simply wish they pulled heart strings as skillfully as the first season.

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