The thing that Kingdom did so beautifully in season 1 was letting its characters breathe. There was no sense that the show was being pushed toward a certain goal. The drama wasn’t forced by any sort of end game. It was just a show about a group of people who love each other, sometimes hurt each other, and occasionally fight in cages. And the season 2 premiere is another chapter of that same story.
By simply dropping the viewers back into the lives of these people, it feels as if we left them on a Sunday and now we’re talking to them again on a Monday. Only, the days are six months apart.
Specifically, we pick up with Jay yelling “f— him up” as Mac participates in a fight in the middle of a junkyard. Needless to say, it’s not the prettiest fight you’ve ever seen. By the end of round one, both fighters are stumbling around bloodied. But thanks to Jay’s epic pep talk between rounds — “P—y hates a loser” — Mac finds the strength within himself to take home the victory. And as his reward, Jay humps him. Feels good to be back, right?
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Meanwhile, Alvey is with the (literal) big guns. Apparently his idea of embracing success is spending $5,500 on guns. Let’s just hope we don’t watch him use them at any point.
Back at home, Lisa is sick because — surprise — she’s pregnant. Also sick? Ryan, who’s now living at Keith’s childhood home, otherwise known as the place where Keith’s dad murdered Keith’s mom with a hammer. The twist? Today is fight day for Ryan, the first time he has to defend his title. And right about now he’s really regretting the chicken he had after the weigh-in. Thankfully, we have Jay, who continues to dish out the motivational speeches. “The champ does not pull out of a fight over a few juicy poops.” Just like that, Ryan is ready to go to the gym. (Not to work out, though. He can barely stand.)
At the new and improved Navy St. Gym, Mac gets Ryan hooked up to an IV while Jay finds out some bad news from Lisa: His fighter has pulled out…and this is the second time in four months that this has happened to Jay. Lisa tries to explain that it’s a business decision, but, well, it’s Jay and he’s pissed.
Channeling his anger into motivation (to get high) Jay tells Ryan that he’ll be at the fight to support him, but first, he and Mac are headed back to his house. And you know things are bad when Jay tells Ryan he loves him and then turns to Alvey and says, “I might even love you.” As Alvey puts it, “Oh s—.”
NEXT: Ryan’s title defense isn’t pretty [pagebreak]
So while Mac and Jay enjoy some cocaine and talk about the “f—ing amazing” Freud, depression, and suppressing impulses, Christina enjoys a drug of her own: She smokes pot in the freezer of the fast food restaurant where she now works. Oh, and it gets better: She’s sharing the joint with her teenage boss who’s informing her that she needs to work another double. Welcome to your new life, Christina.
She’s finally saved when Nate picks her up to grab some food and informs her that she’ll have the house to herself tonight. And apparently, that means she’s dressing up, heading to a bar, and working as a fake escort? That woman’s a mystery.
Speaking of mysteries, we meet a new fighter when Lisa heads out to grab lunch with Alicia Mendez. So far, all we know about this girl is that she’s a hot mess who has lost her last three fights and needs some guidance. Luckily for her, Lisa wants to sign her. She even invites her to Ryan’s fight, where Jay is struck by her beauty and, in typical Jay fashion, lets it be known.
As for Ryan, well, he wins the fight, but it’s not pretty. And matters are only made worse when he takes the mic and tries to explain that he had a fever, promising to give a better show next time. But as Alvey later informs him, it’s not about the sponsors. He just needs to take the win. (And yes, Jay did get in a fight in the crowd. So there’s that.)
Back at Alvey and Lisa’s we find out that he’s still sleeping on the couch, but the two of them are making a go of things. Alvey promises to take a look at Alicia, but odds are he’s going to be a bit occupied for the near future because the next day, Garo shows up to inform him that Ryan failed the pre-fight drug test. He tested positive for cocaine. As a result, Garo agrees to bury the test if Ryan signs with King Beast for his next six fights…for the same price as his last fight.
The final shot of this episode is so representative of this show. There’s nothing special about Alvey yelling “f—.” But it’s the most realistic reaction from his character, and when combined with Frank Grillo’s execution, it can give you chills. That’s Kingdom in a nutshell. Nothing’s overdone. It’s aim is simply to be real, but when done well, nothing’s more powerful than reality. Glad to be back.