As a man named Tony once said, “part of the journey is the end.”
Netflix premiered Byron Balasco’s “Kingdom,” which first debuted on DirecTV in 2014, last summer. Before a week could pass, people were all over it, with souls from all around the world putting their schedules in a choke hold so they could watch more episodes. And you bet from the moment a grizzled yet fiery Alvey Kulina (Frank Grillo in his best role ever, past and future) was running down Venice Beach ready to throw down with thugs, that it was going to be a treat.
A show about fighting that shined the brightest when no punches were actually being thrown, where combat of the heart and soul waged the biggest war, lived for three official seasons and forty episodes. The ending was similar to post redemption-flavored fighting dramas. The old lion steps into the cage, battles in the fight of his life, and emerges victorious. But what Balasco did was take us to the bar after the fight, where a wounded Alvey was sinking coins and blood into the jukebox, so it would play some music to heal his heart, which took more of a beating than Matt Hughes could ever wage. In the very end, it took us to the locker room after the fight, where the hurting warrior collapses into an empty shower, awaiting his most merciless opponent: his souls.
I don’t think that needs an ending. Honestly, I was quite enraged when the announcement came down, that “Kingdom” was finished after that last season. Balasco didn’t get to finish his story, but then I spoke with him last year, right after the show got on the largest streaming service in the world. I pegged him for clues about another round, or season, and he said there were no talks. As we retraced some of the show’s steps, the stories that constantly captivated, a realization was found. For the creator, these were just periods of people’s lives. While Navy Street is always fit for a revisit, it’s not begging for one either.
As Grillo told Variety, you try to recapture lightning in a bottle, and it can be dangerous. What if they came back and it wasn’t as great as the last shot of “Lie down in the light?” It’s very possible, and will be rejected at first due to the loyalty that a comeback grows. But when a band of people, from all across the world come together to make a show so special-one that resonated so deeply that a Facebook page grew from 0 to 9,000 members inside six months-one can’t help but play devil’s advocate: is it really a good idea to come back and go at it again?
The cast are in different places, as Grillo mentioned in the piece. It could be tough to bring the band back together, and carve out something magical enough to hold up to the rest of the episodes. Can everybody in that cast carve out a summer to film those episodes at that particular brand of intensity? Can Jonathan Tucker and Matt Lauria get into that kind of shape again? Frank Grillo curls weights in his sleep and shadow boxes during naps, but are they all game to cut weight and become warriors again? Do they want to? Does Kiele Sanchez want to revisit the fiery Lisa Prince, a role that carried real life weight to it?
Hey, if the answer is yes, then game the fuck on! But if not, the finished product sitting before us on Netflix is pretty damn spectacular. In that regard, the Navy Street addicts are winners. Alvey won the fight, and waged a war on his soul with a painful decision in the penultimate episode. That happened all the way back in 2016. Episodes reached THE WORLD on July 1, 2020. I made some good friends and reliable content appreciators before the end of August.
Need proof? Check out the Bring Back Kingdom Facebook page. Just go look at the interactions there, every single day. Pictures, episode shoutouts, interviews with the cast on their Instagram page, and consistent comments. They got Balasco’s attention early on, and soon connected with just about the entire cast. So, in a way, the bond is already formed between maker and audience.
If we don’t receive more episodes of “Kingdom,” it’ll be alright. How often does a great show get to end so perfectly? It’s something the creators of “Game of Thrones” only dream about. My advice to the Kingdomites at this hour: Appreciate what was given, instead of envying what still could exist.