The Worm In the Apple

I’m watching my way through Kings right now, mostly because one of Yglesias’ commenters asked me to, and I must say it’s outrageously good in the early going. I’ll have more to say about the visuals, theology and dialogue later, but one of the things I like about it is the consistently surprising casting. There’s Jason Antoon as a palace guard! There’s Eamonn Walker, with a dignity that’s almost overwhelming. And there’s Dylan Baker, in a role that’s just absurdly suited to him as a sickly, manipulative industrialist.

Baker’s got a fairly undistinguished resume. He sparred with Hugh Laurie on House recently as a cranky CDC doctor and consults with Peter Parker in Spider-Man 3. He was a cult leader on Ugly Betty, and a murderous crime lab scientist on Law & Order: Criminal Intent. There’s a perpetual sourness to the man, a cast of someone who is disappointed before he ever has the chance to be pleased. I’m always interested in actors who have a distinctive look, one that probably precludes them from exhibiting great emotional range, who can’t be protean in the way true characters tend to be, but who make it, none the less, who corner certain kinds of roles on the basis of a downturned mouth.

Baker’s wonderful as William Cross, a powerful, petulant financier with uncertain motivations for tormenting King Silas (it seems someone close to him was banished, is about where I’m at). One of the things I like about the show is the way things unfold slowly. It’s got a bit of a novelistic sense, not so much in that I think the plot is going to expand, as in motivations, promises, obligations, and old debts don’t get explained immediately: if two characters both know what they’re talking about, the show isn’t going to explicate it all for an audience. It forces us to watch in a serious and sustained fashion, to see if we’re going to catch something we missed, or that we’d very much like to know.