For any series, balance is a delicate thing. Balancing drama and comedy, balancing characters and plot, balancing dialogue and silence, and the list goes on. But what tonight’s episode of Kingdom demonstrated is quite simple: This show could easily walk a high wire.
Example A: The juxtaposition of the simple opening sequence of Keith walking down the road with the height of drama that came about three-quarters of the way through the episode when Nate was knocked out cold. Both moments worked beautifully, and that’s due in large part to the fact that Kingdom lives most of its life in the in-between. And in that in-between is where we spent most of this week. Let’s get to it.
We’ve already touched on Keith’s epic return, which only got better when he finally met up with Ryan at the house, resulting in this exchange:
Keith: “Hey, Ryan.”
Ryan: “Jesus! F—, Keith. What are you doing?”
Keith: “It’s me, Keith.”
Seriously, Keith is the best, particularly when you combine that comedy with the heartbreaking moment that follows when Keith re-enters the house where his father killed his mother. Paul Walter Hauser’s ability to shift to and from (and balance) those emotions is so understated and so very magnetic.
Across town, Alvey and Christina are signing their divorce papers. Staying true to form, Christina finds herself getting emotional, and Alvey does not have time to deal with it. He’d rather get to his gym, make Ryan pee in a cup, and get Nate ready for his first fight back.
Also thinking about Nate’s fight is Jay, who’s so in love with Laura that he asks her to join him at the fight. This way, she can finally meet his brother…and his mother. It might not have been the original plan, but if there’s one person Jay cannot say no to, it’s his mother, especially when she’s upset. Following her emotional morning, Christina decides she wants to spend the night with her boys, even if it means watching one of them get punched in the face.
And with that, Jay is going to endure a very awkward ride to the fight with both Laura and Christina in the (very small) cab of his truck.
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But before we get to the fight, we have to check in with Garo, who has a new proposal for Jay. To put it simply, he wants Jay to fight Ryan. And as much as that would be a nightmare for Alvey/the gym, it’s a title fight, so in Jay’s mind it’s a brilliant idea. (And in terms of the show, it’s a brilliant idea because it has already resulted in a great scene when Jay runs into Ryan at the gym and starts sizing him up. Just saying.)
Alvey, however, hates the idea. From his point of view, the fight would result in the gym losing one of its top fighters regardless of who came out the victor. So as far as he’s concerned, if Jay wants this fight, he’d have to fight unaffiliated. But Lisa warns him to think on it before giving Jay the news. Alvey needs to take things one son at a time. And first up, is Nate, who’s been doing his best to get his mind straight for his fight.
NEXT: Nate’s one weakness in the ring… [pagebreak]
Nate is in the best shape of his career and so ready for this fight he can barely stand it. But the greatest part of his training scene has to be Alvey telling him that girls never make it though training camp: “Don’t bother with girls. They’re not good for you.” Oh Alvey, you have no idea.
With one last pep talk, Alvey and company head to Nate’s fight. Well, everyone except for Ryan, who spends the evening with his father. When his mom called him, she informed him that she was moving in with Ryan’s aunt Robin. But Ryan’s dad is quick to tell Ryan not to give his mom a hard time about everything. Further, he makes sure Ryan will never give her a hard time by making Ryan spend a solid 30 seconds thinking he was going to have to literally wipe his father’s ass. “If you ever start to resent your mother, remember that moment,” his father told him. (Trust me, he will.)
Instead, Ryan helps put drops in his dad’s eyes, and the two of them agree to see more of each other moving forward.
At the fight, Jay decides he’d rather be back with Nate than endure the awkward evening that’s surely ahead for Laura and Christina as the two of them try to find common ground through art. Well, Laura tries to find common ground. The best thing to come out of this set-up has to be Laura asking how Lisa and Christina know each other and Lisa responding that Alvey “put babies in both of us.”
In the ring, Nate comes out ready to fight. In the first round, he’s got his opponent on the ground all but defeated, but if Nate has an Achilles’ heel as a fighter, it’s that he doesn’t like to hurt people. And despite begging the ref to end the fight, Nate doesn’t get his wish. Instead, he finds himself letting his guard down just long enough for his opponent to get one lucky shot — a kick to the head instantly drops Nate, and you can feel the tension in the room as everything goes silent.
Not surprisingly, Nate has a concussion, but at least it leads to the greatest father-son moment we’ve seen between Alvey and his youngest (for now). Telling his son that it’s just one loss, Alvey pulls Nate in and makes sure he knows that he’s proud of him and that he loves him. And the emotions don’t end there…
Back home, Alvey tells Lisa that he and Christina signed the divorce papers before making the mistake of asking Lisa if they should get married. It’s certainly not the sort of proposal most women dream of, and for Lisa, it just generally might not be what she wants.
Another thing this show does so well is letting silence and emotion tell the story. In this moment, it’s not what they say that tells the story. It’s the moment when Alvey grabs Lisa’s hand and she realizes what he’s asking and how it makes her feel. It’s the moment when Alvey drops his head just before the show ends. That’s powerful. That’s balance.