Catching up with Direct TV’s Kingdom: “Simulations”


Where-Direct TV on Audience/UVerse

When-Wednesday at 8pm(central time)

*This is not a standard recap or a traditional review. I don’t follow the TV critic playbook. Let’s just call this a reviewcap.

Simulations, round two of this 10 round season of Byron Balasco’s authentic slice of fighter pulp unveiled new faces, hardships and a future that looks anything yet certain. If Season 1 closed with a flourish of victory and Season 2’s opening hour showed some greener leaves in the Kulina family tree, episode 202 reminded the audience that with great things comes a whole new kind of heartache and worry.

It was a kick to the balls that Alvey Kulina(the true tough guy Frank Grillo) found out his prize fighter Ryan Wheeler tested positive for cocaine after his first title defense. It was a shot to the knee cap that Wheeler shorted him on his percentage. Six percent instead of ten! As Alvery told Ryan, who looks anything but stable, he is walking a thin line. Here is a guy who lost everything in a hail of violence and went to jail. He lost his career, his family and the chance to be looked at normally for the rest of his life. He’s out, and after damaging gyms, tempting fate with Alvey’s wife Lisa(Kiele Sanchez) last season, he barely wins his fight and was on drugs. Now he shorts Alvey. Next, we see him buying an expensive couch.

Oh, and there is the investigation into the fruit lovemaking teddy bear BFF’ing Keith, the roommate of Ryan’s who stabbed his bully to death. Wheeler has a full plate but if he pisses on Alvey’s cereal any longer, his world will became a true house of pain.

Alvey and Lisa are looking into all kinds of revenue streams, and that includes time share tutorials to a room full of people who don’t want to be there. Yes, Alvey is helping people “fight” their way through their careers because when a muscle bound fast talking guy is telling you how to live your life, nothing can go wrong. It doesn’t go over too well, with 24 of the 25 walking out. This, ladies and gents, is the life of a fighter after he leaves the ring.

Nate(Nick Jonas) is training for his big fight but doesn’t know who he is or wants to be. In an expansive interview to promote his upcoming bout, the youngest Kulina opens his soul about the true meaning of fighting. How it shapes you and breaks you without ever truly fulfilling your hunger? It was impressive and for the audience, a small cry of help from the kid. His annoying girlfriend(whom is merely a friend who wants to kiss him for Nate) does him no favors. Complaining about the kid eating his post workout meal or passing out in the bathroom wasted. This kid needs a cottage, the ocean and some quiet but it won’t come.

Jay(the live wire Mr. Jonathan Tucker) is training on the beach when a beautiful photographer Laura Melvin(newcomer Jessica Szohr) starts snapping photos of him. She doesn’t just want the image. She wants the story and after a quick lunch of drinks, invites the exuberant Kulina to a dinner date. What starts as a potential modeling gig turns into sex, as Jay finds a woman that isn’t just interested in his body but wants to know what makes him tick. For Tucker’s Jay, this is new territory. Season 1 saw Jay regaining a pulse in his career and helping his mother get clean while giving the show a much needed sense of humor. Now, he has a woman walk into his life that is sexy, demanding, powerful and doesn’t just want a bed romp. Could this be what Jay needs or potential hazardous white hot love boat building? Time will tell but let’s hope the Greek fortress of Jay Kulina finds a fight soon because something to hit, what is a Kulina male?

Alvey finds out that the private number calls he’s been receiving come from an old friend Chapas(Mark Consuelos). Chapas is a former fighter and an alley way from Alvey’s past. I’ll just come out and say that this isn’t going to end well. Chapas may look like a nice caring friend(how about that inspirational chat about Lisa!?) but he’s human gasoline. Ready to set fire to Alvey’s life and everything in it. His intentions aren’t laid out yet but the minute he created that shit eating grin, doom set in for me. He will probably partner with the gym, add revenue and seemingly good will, but it will go to shit. If you were paying attention after Season 2’s premiere, Alvey threatens to kill him. I am sure that isn’t over the drink choice Chapas made. He will be a thorn in this family’s side.

While Jay is getting love and Nate is pumping weights because staring at pictures of hot guys next to his passed out girlfriend may be odd, Ryan is pleasuring himself with some late night porn before a mysterious call comes in. Who is that? What will set the course for this rejuvenated yet still misguided creature of habit? The only problem with bringing Wheeler back into the fight world was you ripped all the band-aids off his old life wounds. All of it came rushing back and it started with him getting back into the ring. Trouble awaits.

Alicia Mendez(Natalie Martinez) is getting more comfortable in her new gym and looks to Ryan for advice. Lisa seeing that this is potential doom with her newest fighter tries to talk her down from getting to know Ryan even though the audience knows the two will be kissing before Episode 4. If Alvey is in the trenches fighting for everything, Lisa is the navigator watching over everything. She is the woman who has to pick up the spilled box of matches before they light on fire.

No Christina or Mac this episode which is fine with the new faces rolling in and the plot of Season 2 starting to develop.

What powers Balasco’s show is the authenticity of everything you see. The gyms. The rings. The performances. The locations. So many shows phone in parts of a production and thus lose the allure that makes people stay. Like most shows like don’t exist on NBC or FOX and actually have a pair of balls attached to its body, Kingdom feels like a ten hour movie. For the cast, it’s a ten hour fight and for the audience, it’s a ride unlike anything you have seen. That is due in part because Grillo embodies Alvey with every ounce of grit he can find. Tucker doesn’t just make Jay a joker but a man with so much to find. Matt Lauria doesn’t just play cold and quiet with Wheeler. With every facial expression and word, he teaches you what real pain is like. What does it feel like to live with a monster inside you who is never full.

Let me ask you something. What other show dares to touch a boxing or MMA ring and actually make the story outside of it more compelling than the one inside it? Creators are scared of that. They don’t know how to accurately depict that so they create another terrorism show or reality skit. It’s sad and depressing. Kingdom allows you to crawl inside the minds of these fighters as they figure out how to live before and after success.

If Season 1 was about the recapturing of glory, Season 2 will detail how you can lose it all.

Stay tuned for more weekly recaps of this show. In the mean time, go on Itunes and watch Season 1 so you know what the fuck I am talking about here.

If you want to catch up and actually understand what I am blabbering about here, catch up with Season 1 and stay in tune with Season 2, whether you have Direct TV, Uverse or not. The release of Kingdom on digital media launched this week. Find out all about it here. 

Photos courtesy of Direct TV Audience/Kingdom

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