Kingdom recap: 'Cactus'
Nate finally comes out to Alvey, and the result will change everything
Over the past three seasons, we have learned that Kingdom is many things: It’s funny, it’s powerful, it’s moving, it’s shocking, and the list goes on. But this episode combined everything the show is great at, and the end result is a truly remarkable hour of television.
We start with one of my favorite things this show has ever done: a training montage with Alvey and his sons. So much is said without any of them speaking a word. For the first time, we’re really watching the three of them be a family as Jay and Nate come to Alvey’s aid while he deals with the emotional turmoil of what’s going on with his mother and the physical turmoil of preparing for a fight. The montage even ends with the three of them joking around, and though we’ve always known that Alvey loves his boys, there’s something so important about watching them all interact, and specifically about Jay being there for the father he blames for many of the bad things in his life.
But before we get too far into what’s happening in Tucson, I want to talk about the goings-on back at Navy Street. First up, Dom — after having been rejected by Ryan — goes to Mario Goldsmith to share his side of the story, which is all about sleeping with Lisa and how Ryan hates himself after nearly beating that guy to death. Translation: He says too much.
And when Mario brings the story to Ryan, it sets Ryan off. After he stews in his own anger (and sweat) in the sauna, Ryan marches into Lisa’s office unable to contain his anger. As Ryan tells Lisa, she could sleep with Mario in order to convince him to kill the story. After all, Ryan tells her, “That’s what you do.” Needless to say, Ryan and Lisa’s relationship isn’t at a great place right now, but this moment isn’t just about them. This is the culmination of Ryan’s arc all season: feeling like he’s nothing more than a fighter to the people he loves, and being unable to control the anger within himself.
So you can imagine Ryan’s reaction when Dom later shows up at the gym. After realizing he said too much to Mario, Dom tried to get him to kill the story, but when Mario wouldn’t play ball, Dom panicked. Fun fact: He has no need to, seeing as how Lisa got the story killed by offering Mario the exclusive on her decision to leave Navy Street to run King Beast. But Dom doesn’t know that when he shows up at the gym to talk and Ryan punches him in the face. The kicker? Ryan hurts his hand in the process.
After Lisa takes Ryan to the doctor, he tries to apologize for his outburst, but she doesn’t fully let him. “He’s just beneath you,” Ryan finally tells her. “We all are.” And I don’t disagree.
Okay, back to Tucson, where precious Nate leaves Amy a message asking that she call Jay back while Alvey heads to the hospital to sit down with his mother. There, he reveals to her that he, too, suffers from depression, but because he takes a pill, he feels okay. “Why won’t you try that?” he asks, to which she tells him she might be willing to try some of the new meds that don’t have any major side effects. Alvey, finally hopeful, then leaves to get his mother a hamburger – at her request — but that’s the last time we see her. While at the burger place,
Joe Alvey gets a call from the hospital saying that his mom no longer wants to see him.
With that, Alvey heads home and tells Nate to move up their flights to tomorrow morning. Defeated, Alvey then heads into his room for some alone time, where he falls asleep. After dreaming about the time he found his mother in the bathroom after her first suicide attempt, Alvey wakes up and convinces his sons they need to go out and get a drink. But seeing as how they’re in Tucson, the best bar they can find is something called Cowboy Palace.
(Next: A tragic end to a night out)
Inside Cowboy Palace, Alvey attempts to propose a toast, but Jay’s far more interested in the beautiful woman sitting at the counter. So, alone with Nate, Alvey says he’s “glad you’re here with me.”
So while Jay gets to know Luanne — the woman he hopes can kick his ass in a very specific way — at the bar, Nate and Alvey get some time to talk. First up, they talk Jay, and they both agree that they want him back in the cage. Alvey admits, “If he loses hope, I’m afraid,” especially considering what they deal with in their family. Then, Alvey asks his son, “You got no problems, right?” We watch as Nate, constantly struggling with telling his father the truth, continues the lie, telling his father he’s good.
Alvey then reemphasizes the importance of family, once again furthering Nate’s struggle. “I am proud of you,” Alvey says of Nate’s recent success, but Nate can’t handle it. And eventually, it all comes to a head.
After too many more drinks, Nate heads to the bar to get some waters. There, he watches Jay slow dance with Luanne, a simple moment that serves as the final straw. Nate heads back to the booth, hands a very drunk Alvey a bottle of water, and tells his father the truth: “I’m gay,” he says.
Alvey doesn’t hear him at first. Then he thinks it’s a joke. Then he tries to tell his son he’s wrong. But when Nate repeats himself — “I’m gay. Your son’s gay” — Alvey snaps. “You’re really gonna f—ing do this right now?” Nate asks what he’s doing, but as both men grow angrier, it’s clear this isn’t going to end well. Alvey points out the poor timing with everything that’s going on with his mom, but when he calls his son a “f—ing faggot,” Nate storms out of the bar.
Instantly, Alvey realizes what he’s done and yells for Jay to go get Nate. Together, they head outside, but now Nate’s the angry one. Nate goes after Alvey, throwing punches, but Jay breaks it up. And while Jay holds Alvey back, the bouncer at the bar makes the very poor decision to touch Nate’s shoulder.
Nate, reacting like an angry fighter, flips the bouncer over his shoulder and starts to hit him. So, the bouncer defends himself… by shooting Nate twice. The hour then ends with Alvey holding his son as Jay screams for someone to call for help.
As shocking and as heartbreaking as this moment is, this is one of those television moments fans will never forget. I love how they shot this scene, from the camera angle on Nate flipping the guy over his shoulder to the decision to leave Nate’s blood on the lens as the scene ended. And as for Nick Jonas, he beautifully navigated Nate’s many emotions, from the pain of not being truthful to the fear of Alvey’s reaction and even the brief moment of relief Nate felt before he was overcome by anger.
I actually have trouble putting my affection for this hour into words, and I’m a writer. Suffice it to say, this is the kind of storytelling that leaves a mark on people. And this show — and this hour and this moment — has certainly left its mark on me.
In this DirecTV drama, Frank Grillo stars as an ex-MMA fighter who splits his time between operating a gym and being a father to his two sons — one played by Nick Jonas.