When Kingdom kicked off its third season, there was one character who seemed to have found success inside the cage, and that was Ryan Wheeler. After defeating Jay in the season 2 finale, Ryan spent the following year winning every fight he had, and now that his contract with King Beast is finally up, he has an opportunity to make some real money. Furthermore, he’s hopeful that the UFC will want him. But how will he handle success, particularly when one of his best friends, Jay, has started down an entirely new path in life? Now that Jay’s a father, he’s left the gym behind for a career in real estate, leaving Ryan more alone than ever.
“We’re seeing two dear friends’ lives going on opposite paths and perhaps each one longing a little bit for what the other has,” showrunner Byron Balasco says. “In one sense you would say Ryan’s in the better position — the fighting’s going great, he’s coming into some money — but he’s completely isolated and alone. He doesn’t have what Jay has. He doesn’t have family. He doesn’t have people who need him and love him. So he’s a little bit adrift and searching.”
That searching could return Ryan to his old ways. And by old ways, we mean the Ryan that Kingdom viewers never met: The Ryan he was before he went to prison. “You start getting this creeping notion that he’s going back to who he was before we met him in the pilot, the guy who put his dad in the chair,” Balasco says. “You start seeing him slowly being pulled down that path, as is his default setting when he can’t handle success and can’t trust anybody and doesn’t know where he fits into the world. I think a lot of fighters feel this: That they’re a commodity and things are going well but it’s hard to trust that, because things will inevitably turn the other way and then who’s really going to be there?”
Kingdom airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on DirecTV and DirecTV NOW.