It’s a simple fact that Jack Benjamin has tragedy in his blood. No matter what he does, he will never be the son his father wants. David will always outshine him. And the contrast between the two men is interesting: David is very transparent. He says what he means, means what he says, and just by virtue of doing The Right Thing, has climbed his way up the social ladder to the point of becoming the king’s right hand man. He’s never had to fight for his parent’s favor, to feel like everything he says or does is constantly being observed and criticized. Meanwhile, Jack is constantly walking a tightrope of half-truths.
David’s biggest critic is himself, as is Jack’s–but the difference there is that David’s self-deprecation (“I’m not a hero, I’m not brave”) is woefully inaccurate, while the audience is constantly being shown the desperate and controversial measures Jack is willing to take in order to remain in his father’s favor. Not to mention Jack’s negative view of himself has been imposed by his parents, as well as the pressure of his impending role of future king.
So: Jack knows he’s not a good person, and admits it freely. The fact that David is a good person (“he always does the right thing, even when he doesn’t know what that is”) causes him enough irritation; why does David so easily get it right while he constantly has to struggle? When David begins to supersede him it hurts even more because it’s obvious David is everything the king ever wanted and everything Jack can never be.
Also, yes, let’s talk about the degrading treatment Jack received from basically every family member except his sister (who is a precious cinnamon roll). Whenever he tries to speak up–either for himself or someone else–he’s shut down. His mother is only satisfied when he’s the perfect son; his father when he’s the perfect heir; his uncle when he’s the perfect puppet.
Silas resorts to emotionally abusive treatment in an attempt to ‘fix’ what he viewed as a malfunctioning son, culminating in the brutal statement of “Forgiveness is a form of love. And I do not love you.” And then–and then–Silas makes Jack kneel and kiss the ground by his feet, completely on display for his family and his fiancee. This was not just a visual for Silas’ new mindset of ‘better feared than loved’–no, this was meant to wound and dehumanize, to bring Jack’s dignity so low that it was beyond recovery.To break him.
Next in line is his mother’s flippant dismissal of his sorrow after Jack’s partner, Joseph, committed suicide. I mean, honestly. He’s grieving. Regardless of the circumstances of the relationship, Jack lost someone important to him and all his mother does is correct and condescend; the tension between them grows to the point where she even slaps him across the face. Wow. Mother of the year.
Finally, his uncle (who slaps him as well, may I add) keeps promising him the opportunity to be a better king, a better leader, to bring Silas’ reign of terror to an end–but when it gets down to it, Jack is only a figurehead whose rule lasts the grand total of five minutes before his uncle takes over. No matter what he does, he will never ever be enough. Jack Benjamin is merely a stepping stone for more ruthless men to trample underfoot in order to achieve their goals.
And it makes me really sad because he’s never going to get resolution in any way, shape or form. Never. (Especially not since Kings was cancelled. I’m still bitter.)