ABC’s new Biblical drama Of Kings and Prophets has largely been panned by critics as a “swords-and-sandals slog” — a dizzying world of epic drama that fails to achieve the sharply drawn narrative of the show it’s repeatedly been compared to, Game of Thrones.
In case you missed it, the show follows King Saul as he tries to unite the 12 tribes of Israel. When a shepherd/lute player crosses his path in the form of young David, the prophet Samuel withdraws his blessing of Saul. As we now know from next week’s teaser — and the Bible, too — David is the future king.
But while so many of the main characters thus far feel watered down or over-reaching, one character has achieved enough emotional investment to have viewers form a strong opinion: Saul’s wife, Queen Ahinoam.
Various reviews and recaps have described her as scheming or manipulative. She is painted as a power-hungry woman just trying to pull the strings as though she is her husband’s puppet master. Clearly, she is emerging as a polarizing character.
Watching tonight’s episode, though, I couldn’t help but wonder, would Ahinoam be considered so unlikable now? And the more I watched, the more I began to feel that viewers are seeing her through an anachronistic lens.
Many of the things that Ahinoam does would not have been viewed kindly during ancient times. In fact, some likely wouldn’t have even been allowed. At the time, women were still considered second-class citizens. Actually, less than that really — we were essentially property or commodities.
Women weren’t expected to have a voice.
So when Ahinoam interjects during a particularly tense meeting of the tribes tonight to speak on her husband’s behalf, she is cast as calculating.
Really, though, I found the moment to be pretty empowering. She was able to articulate the needs of her people in a way the king could not manage. She struck me as a strong and capable woman standing there unflinching as she faced a sea of angry men.
Sure, she comes off as stern with her daughters at times. This seems to fall in line with the notion that she is tough because she has to be — for a woman in a position of power, any softness during that time would have been interpreted as inferiority or weakness.
Of course, Ahinoam arguably created the most controversy at the episode’s end when she propositions and subsequently beds David, the very man her youngest daughter is obviously falling for.
She’ll likely be lampooned for this by viewers, but c’mon. For starters, her husband openly lives with his concubine and routinely chooses to bring her into his bed over the queen. To Saul, Ahinoam is a political pawn or a placeholder of power.
So in a seeming moment of vulnerability, she reaches out to a man she sees something desirable in. As for the connection between David and her daughter, correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t know that Ahinoam realizes what’s been brewing there.
A complex woman who is sexually liberated, smart and strong? Today, she’d probably be branded a badass or a feminist. She’d be viewed in a favorable light in all likelihood (at least the portion of her character we’ve seen so far; it remains to be seen if she turns truly nefarious).
Does the fact that Ahinoam comes from the Bible have further bearing on the negative perception of her actions? If this show took place in modern day — imagine Ahinoam as a political figure — would she still be considered so polarizing?
It’s interesting to look back and consider how the passage of time has shifted the narrative on what is deemed appropriate behavior for women.
All of this to say I’m kind of digging Ahinoam. As a modern woman, I admire her moxie and wonder what history would have looked like if more women were allowed to flex theirs or given due credit for the accomplishments their moxie netted the men in their lives.