Spoiler alert: This post contains details from the Aug. 3 finale of Kingdom.
After 20 episodes, Kingdom‘s second season came to an end with one emotional scene after another. Jay, in the midst of mourning Ava, lost the belt to Ryan, who ended the hour trying to feel less alone with Lisa. Then there’s Nate, who finally told his brother that he’s gay, only to find that it changes nothing between them. Christina apologized to Jay, and as for Alvey, he said one final goodbye to the man he will never be: his friend, Sean Chapas.
EW spoke with Kingdom creator Byron Balasco and actors Jonathan Tucker and Matt Lauria about the emotional hour. Let’s break down some of the key scenes:
Jay asks Nate to leave
Even though Jay just lost the woman he loved, he still has to fight. But when Nate attempts to get his brother ready for the fight by stopping by his hotel room, Jay can’t even look Nate in the eye. “My thoughts go to Nate and his fear and his feeling of abandonment, of wanting to do good, his shame and hiding,” Tucker says. “I have such an excruciating love for him, but right now, he’s a liability to me in this moment, because I can’t see his shame and his fear right now, because I’ve got too much to deal with myself. So he has to go away. I’m too vulnerable to feel his pain as well as my own, essentially.”
Jay and Ryan’s rematch
“In many ways, it’s like the Christians walking into the Colosseum,” Tucker says of Jay entering the cage with Ryan. “[I’m] desperately trying to hold onto some sort of faith, but at this point, I don’t know if my God hears me.”
As for the fight itself, Tuckers says it was like an “out-of-body experience” for Jay. “A lot of these fighters talk about how they love to fight because they feel alive. I wish I could say that that was the case for Jay at that point. I’ve been emotionally torn asunder, and now it’s almost like God is telling me that I need to be beaten physically. There’s a sort of self-flagellation. There’s some religiosity involved where the body has to be broken along with the spirit in order for one to come to a place of healing, and we ultimately get a bit of that in that bed at the end with my mom and with Nate. I think that letter that Joanna [Going, who plays Christina] reads to me is almost like a hot piece of metal that is, in many ways, violently attempting to cauterize me.”
In terms of what the fight will do for Jay’s emotional journey, Balasco says, “I think perhaps it refocuses him on what he thinks he might need in life. It cures him of this disease of thinking that winning a fight will change something. He saw the result of that after the first fight and perhaps it will make him realize that he’s going to have to fill out other parts of his life if he’s going to survive. I don’t know how successful he’ll be.”
For Ryan, Lauria says that Jay coming in at five pounds underweight was an insult of sorts. “It’s insulting when Jay shows up half in it, but Ryan understands the emotional trauma,” he says. “I strongly believe that any day of the week, unless I’m unhealthy, Ryan beats Jay. That’s not an emotional thing, there’s nothing personal about it. Ryan is just a different skill level. You have to remember, Ryan went to the very top of the world. That’s why he refused to tap [in their first fight]. He was in some ways sticking it to Jay.”
Lauria says this rematch was about “setting the record straight” more than it was about vengeance. Because at the end of the day, “He loves Jay with all this heart. Jay’s the closest thing he has to the brother.”
And when it comes to Ryan’s big win, Balasco says it’s a “goal accomplished,” but he warns, “I don’t think winning will ever really fill the hole in these people. It’s just some temporary relief, but then the next day you’re still left with yourself. Everybody has to reconcile that. The life these people live a lot of times is very isolating, and winning keeps you in the tribe, and losing hastens your exit. But you’ve got to find more things in your life than just what happens in the cage, and I think all of these guys and girls struggle with that.”
As to whether we’ll get another Jay-Ryan rematch in the future, Balasco says, “Well, it’s one and one right now, isn’t it? We’ll see what happens.”
Nate tells Jay
After 29 episodes of Nate keeping his sexuality a secret, he finally tells his brother the truth. Well, technically, Nate realizes that Jay found out his secret without him knowing, but the finale saw the brothers talk about it for the first time. And according to Balasco, it was always going to be Jay who found out first. “Jay finding out first was the most natural thing, because I think he’s really the only person that really knows Nate, and there’s obviously great parts of Nate that Jay doesn’t even really know,” Balasco says. “Nate’s constantly retreating into himself for good reason. But it felt like Jay had to be the one to know. I think Christina’s always kind of known, but officially it had to be Jay. God knows what’s going to happen if and when Alvey finds out.”
Balasco says Alicia has officially gone off to train with Greg Jackson, but there’s always the possibility she could come back. “She’s part of the show and part of the family, and so I’d love to see her back,” he says.
Ryan and Lisa kiss
After confiding in each other, exes Ryan and Lisa end the season with a kiss, though fans maybe shouldn’t read too much into it. “I think it’s two people who were just so incredibly lonely. They both needed something that night. In a weird way, I kind of can see that scene as a goodbye between them on a certain level rather than a beginning, because it felt like they were giving each other what they need for that night, but it kind of remains to be seen,” Balasco says. “Everybody has their own opinions about what the nature of their relationship, but I think you have people that come in and out of your life, and I think that’s what they are to each other. A lot has changed in both of their lives since they were really together, so they’re not necessarily the same people that they were in relation to each other.”
Alvey says goodbye to Chapas
Unlike Kingdom‘s other two finales, this one didn’t end with an Alvey voiceover — something Balasco decided when a certain image came to him. “I got the image in my head of Alvey being alone, faced with that box of his friend’s ashes, and I think his fear is ending up in a box like that,” Balasco says. “I like the idea of him trying to honor his friend for a second and then self-preservation and his fight-to-the-death instinct kicks in, to which he says, ‘This guy was f—ing weak; he doesn’t deserve to be in here. I’m not like this. So this guy gets thrown away. I don’t need to feel like this is my fate, because it’s not my fate. This is this guy’s fate. And I don’t want it around me.’ Once again Alvey is going to be the last man standing; he’s going to fight until the f—ing end.”