The greatest fear in life is being alone. Pure isolation. In the world of AT&T’s Kingdom, that’s the 24/7/365 fear.
The idea of being alone in the end with only your whispers and weathered body to spend the final hours with. Throughout Byron Balasco’s powerful and entertaining MMA series, each of his characters biggest foe is loneliness. You can win every fight in the world, but if you come home to nothing what have you really won? Not much. The quiet theme of Kingdom is how these people feud off loneliness and isolation.
Take Jonathan Tucker’s Jay Kulina. He fears being alone so he ties himself to several people, including his brother Nate(Nick Jones, brooding like a brown eyed panther) and the new woman in his life, Ava(Lina Esco). He is a product of his environment, getting equal parts misery and rage from his mother, Christina(Joanna Going), and father, Alvey(Frank Grillo). A man who has inherited a drug addiction problem from his mother and a need to tear himself apart from his father. He’s more like Alvey in every way except for the fact that he cares too much about his mother.
When Jason(Billy Lush, who got roughed up by Ray Donovan this past weekend) comes along to “apologize” to Christina for raping her, he gets a drug aided and wildly unhinged Jay instead. Picture your worst possible nightmare. If it isn’t a highly trained MMA fighter with cocaine, nicotine, and natural born aggression raging through his veins, your fear is weak. Jay beats him up and punishes him but can’t kill him.
This is where the marvel of Tucker emerges. The actor can do so much with just the right amount of dialogue and push. Whether it’s sitting Indian style on the floor drinking a Capri Sun or pointing a gun at Jason’s head in an inferno of rage, Tucker is a wonder to behold. He’s unstoppable. He may break but he’ll go back together. Jason lives but not without a permanent stamp of Jay Kulina in his cerebellum for future bad decisions.
Ryan Wheeler may be the most lonely man on the show. He’s lost a huge fight. A journalist twisted his words to disgrace his friend and opponent’s victory. His sometimes lover Alicia(Natalie Martinez) doesn’t want to stay at his house but doesn’t mind Ryan’s coach’s place. He’s got one friend and it’s Keith. He isn’t making much money and oh yeah, he had to end his father’s life earlier this season per the old man’s request. He’s in a glass case of emotion.
Wheeler finally goes to therapy where we find out he has dealt with rage most of his life and that he has a college degree yet he fights like a mad man for a living. Remember in the beginning Ryan didn’t want to fight but he crawled around Navy Street until the wolf(Alvey) got a large enough sniff of the talent still sitting inside the Destroyer.
With this training for the rematch(yeah it’s happening, duh!), Ryan is starting over and Lauria doesn’t hide a thing. Every emotion is there, like a severed wire uncoiled right next to a puddle of water. He’s lonely as ever and just wants a friend but no one’s home. Isolation is something you can’t punch.
Alvey and his lawyer Roxy(the lovely and fierce Wendy Moniz) are getting frisky very quickly, and the man hasn’t even told the woman about Lisa Prince(Kiele Sanchez, please come back to add MORE drama). Roxy looks at Alvey like a ride on a motorcycle. Cool, sexy, tough, and fun but unsure of how long it will last. He looks at her like a fairy tale from a completely different life. One he left behind decades ago. He even looks at her this way when he finds out the injured bicyclist wants 150,000 dollars to settle. The elder Kulina couldn’t even earn that if he stepped back into the ring.
Nate takes a lunch with the innocent beer loving Will. Jonas doesn’t get a lot of dialogue but through the 65 looks he flashes Bob’s assistant, he also sees a different life that he may never get to be a part of. A life where he can come out as a gay man and still be given the same respect inside the Octagon and around the gym. Every time Nate thinks about telling someone, he gets the fear of Alvey’s reaction to scare the idea away. That’s what I think. Poor guy.
As much as fighters love what they do, I bet they sit around at some point and imagine where they could be if they went a different route. Once you climb inside the ring and get a thirst for victory, can anything else replace it and once you have it, is that enough? That is what Kingdom chases down every week with every episode. The endless struggle to be satisfied.
- No Mac Brandt this episode. Not cool Byron. We do need more Bryan Callen though.
- What kind of shape will Jay be in for the rematch? He hasn’t stepped inside the gym yet and that’s okay. He’s snorted everything in Santa Monica and that’s not good. Now he’s in a motel with Ava in some weird neck of the woods. Bad decisions…
- Christina sees the life of her son and must think she was the artist in this tragic painting. Drugs, booze, and bad decisions. All around.
- She doesn’t need to help any other drug addicts out either. Stop that lady.
- The song choices were stellar as usual. Deer Tick’s “Smith Hill” closed the episode out and Sharon Van Etten’s “Every Time The Sun Comes Up” aided the departure of Jason. I download a song per week from this show.
Next week, more brooding, fighting, bad decision making, and all together mad men and women filling the streets of California with white hot rage. Be there or lose dignity.
Kingdom airs every Wednesday on AT&T’s Audience Network at 8 p.m. CST. At some point, DirecTV was involved but they are not anymore.Find UVerse and get into this show.