There’s one thing we can never forget when watching a show like Kingdom: We’re not dealing with typical, rational human beings. We’re dealing with guys who fight for a living because they love it. We’re dealing with guys who get their fix by causing others physical pain and by being the most physically dominant person in any given room. They have anger issues. Yes, that’s what makes them so interesting to watch both in their daily lives and in the cage, but it’s also what gives this show an edge. Because I don’t know about you all, but for a second, I thought the opening of this episode was the real deal.
When the episode opens on Alvey’s discussion about how fighters take up nicknames—his was King Kulina—and how he hated his father, I figure it’s a dream based on the fact that you can hear what sounds like an audience laughing. But when the camera pans out and you see his blood-splattered shirt? That’s when I start to freak out. Could Alvey really have murdered the two gangsters who beat up Nate… and with a kettlebell and a sledge hammer no less? Okay, so the answer turns out to be no considering that it’s a dream, but like I said, you can’t forget who these guys are. And as Alvey later tells Lisa when he asks her to hide his gun from him, he would’ve chopped these guys to pieces 10 years ago. Now whether that’s a literal statement, I’d rather not guess.
Regardless, it’s a great way to jump-start the hour, which finds Alvey dealing with his inner demons while also dealing with Lisa’s father, who is less-than-approving of her new match. As he puts it, Alvey is “old.” However, old guys still know how to have a good time. Well, at least temporarily.
After Alvey spends a bit of time at the gym training Ryan, he puts on his monkey suit to head out to dinner alone with Lisa’s dad. From there, drinks are imbibed, strip clubs are visited, and Ron—the dad—has a bit too much to drink. By the end of the night, Ron gets a little too hands-on with one of the nice stripper ladies before telling Alvey that Lisa’s late mother would not have approved of her choice of mate. (Clearly, Lisa’s mother was blind.) Also, according to Ron, Lisa does want kids. So this should be interesting.
But Lisa has her own stuff to deal with this episode, from keeping Ryan from destroying the photographer who won’t get out of his face at the gym to putting Jay in his first fight. And let’s not forget about Jay’s busted hand, which he hurt (rightfully) beating up his mother’s pimp. After Alvey puts Jay in the cage with Ryan and let’s them spar, he quickly asks Jay why he isn’t throwing his right hand. But Jay has a plan: He’s going to get through tonight’s fight—with a welterweight, mind you—and then claim he hurt his hand in the fight, therefore making Bucky pay for it. It’s not a great plan, but it’s one that Lisa forces herself to get behind.
By the time the fight rolls around, Jay gets his ass kicked. Like, there’s-so-much-blood-on-his-face-you-can’t-force-yourself-to-watch-it-anymore kicked. But somehow, Jay rallies and is able to get his legs around his opponents neck just long enough to win the fight. And after Lisa steals a wheel off of Bucky’s car in exchange for the $700 he owes Jay, all’s well that ends well.
That is unless you’re Nate, who, in the span of one episode, sleeps with Tatiana, ignores her in order to stay home and watch his mother, and then effectively gets dumped. But to be fair, he is dealing with a lot. After all, there’s no telling what listening to your mother go through detox will do to a young man, and it clearly affects Nate, who nearly opens Jay’s bedroom door at one point before thinking better of it.
But the youngest Kulina isn’t the only one dealing with some emotional trauma. Poor Ryan spends “family day” at the halfway house with Keith, who is quickly becoming one of the most interesting characters on the show. The dynamic between these two is just gold. From the way that Keith clings to everything Ryan says to the way in which he talks about his penis touching fruit, you never know what to expect from him. He might not be one of the fighters on the show, but he’s just as unpredictable.
Example A: After Ryan returns from the gym to find out that Michael came in and ruined Keith’s puzzle like he’s 7 years old and on a playground, Ryan tries to give Keith another lesson in confidence. Only, Ryan mistakenly uses the saying “throw your d— on the table,” which leads to Keith’s brilliant response: “Ryan, that got me in trouble.” Ryan tries to explain that it’s not a literal saying, but when Lisa shows up to visit Ryan later, Keith literally puts his d— on the table. This is television magic, people.
Speaking of Lisa visiting Ryan, she decides to do so only after Alvey claims that Ryan hates himself and needs someone to talk to. “Eventually, you gotta forgive him,” he tells her. So she heads on over, and Ryan instantly starts talking about how his mother won’t answer his phone calls. Of course, their conversation is interrupted by Keith’s penis, but afterward, Lisa offers to call Ryan’s mother for him. She hasn’t talked to her in years, but she’s willing to give it a shot. It’s a simple statement but one that carries with it a lot of weight, much like most of this show.
This show never goes too far with its drama—these characters are rich enough on their own, and with further exploration into the likes of Keith, as well as Lisa, there’s not a whole lot that needs to happen for this show to craft another solid hour of drama. Its characters might be unpredictable, but so far, Kingdom is consistent in its delivery.
Bonus: Keith’s best line of the night was spoken to Ryan about the two of them putting together a puzzle of dolphins and whales: “I’m going to save you the Orca, because you’re a killer.”