Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched the Dec. 9 episode of Kingdom, you might want to stop reading now.
For Kingdom fans, their introduction to Christina Kulina may have involved her standing on the side of the road working as a prostitute, but seeing her through the eyes of her eldest son, Jay, it was evident that there was more to that relationship than a life torn apart by drugs. There was also a very deep love.
That love drove Jay to kidnap his mother and force her into detox in season 1. And for a while, it worked. She lived a clean life with her two sons. However, one thing became clear as season 2 began: The sober life was no longer living up to expectations.
“[In season 2] we’re exploring the now what? How do you proceed, especially without the proper support,” says Joanna Going, who plays Christina. “Now we’re down to real life, and is this better than the way she was living before? How does a woman in mid-life with this kind of history join a productive society?”
As Christina began to lose the attention of her sons in season 2, audiences watched her slip back into the life she left. “A lot of her identity is based on her reflection off of a man,” Going says. “She’s always finding her self-worth attached to men or what she can get from men.”
And it just so happens that Christina can get more from men than from hard work. Or at least, that’s how she sees it. “I don’t think she intends to go back to her old life, but she can make a hell of a lot more money in 15 minutes than she can working two weeks at Patty Palace,” Going says. “That’s just pragmatic.”
However, as she found out this week, money isn’t always enough. When she tried to apply for an apartment, she came to the realization that she doesn’t have the necessary qualifications. And when Alvey refused to co-sign on a lease, “that despair drives her to the drugs,” Going says.
With the hour ending on Christina’s overdose, one of the biggest questions surrunding the scene is whether she did it on purpose. “She’s really crashing, wondering is there any point to her existence,” Going says. “She’s trying to get her life together and does not know how.”
But how will this overdose affect her relationship with her sons? “If it’s not the last straw, it’s pretty close to the last straw,” Going says. Jonathan Tucker, who plays Jay, says the day could come when his character gives up on his mom. “The character arc for his season is one of humility, and when you come to a sense of humility, there’s a sense of clarity about yourself and about others and how you’re going to deal with others,” Tucker says. “Often times, the angels in our lives are the ones who shut the doors in our faces.”
However, Jay might not be there just quite yet. Instead, it’s Nate, the younger, quieter brother, who finally makes his feelings known. Jay, meanwhile, will find himself questioning whether he has what it takes to help his mother, and whether trying to help her will hurt his relationship with his brother.
Calling the overdose a “wake-up call,” Tucker says Jay will start to ask, “How much muscle is it going to take to save you, and do I have that strength? Is there anybody who is strong enough to save you? And if so, will that sacrifice someone or something else in my life that maybe can be saved or helped, like my brother, for instance.”
Is there hope for Christina? Or is she doomed to repeat her mistakes? According to Going, “If she can find something useful to do, there is hope for her.”
Kingdom airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on DirecTV’s Audience Network.