Jay and Ryan reenter the cage for their highly anticipated rematch
Credit: Justin Lubin
S2 E20
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I have to be honest with you: Watching this finale, the longer it went on, the angrier I got, thinking about how the entire world isn’t watching this show. This is the sort of quality television that doesn’t come around every day, and everyone and their mother should be tuning in. I realize this argument is lost on you, because if you’re reading this, odds are you watch the show. So I guess all I’m saying is: Good for you! And also, how phenomenal was this finale?!

Season 2’s final hour deals a lot with the idea of loneliness, and with different individuals trying to find ways in which they can feel whole again. For Ryan, it’s a question of: Will winning this fight and redeeming himself in the cage fill the void inside him? For Lisa, it’s: Will being back in this world help heal her? And then there’s Jay, who’s less concerned with feeling whole again than he is feeling anything other than the loss of Ava.

In the first scene of the episode, Jay leaves the motel room, seemingly to go on a run before lighting a cigarette and finding himself staring into the motel room where Ava was attacked. And in that moment, Jay’s greatest opponent is the blood stain on the mattress that serves as a reminder of what he lost.

From there, Jay spends much of his day lounging by the pool, no doubt trying to wrap his head around the idea that the one place he once turned into a paradise with Ava will now forever serve as the place where she died.

Meanwhile, Alvey heads to the police station to collect his gun but walks out with both his gun and Chapas’ ashes. It seems it didn’t feel right to leave Chapas sitting amongst a random collection of criminals. Heading into the sauna with Ryan — it’s weigh-in day! — Alvey clues us into his internal struggle: the idea that a man’s entire existence can fit into a plastic box.

Ryan tells him his father’s ashes are sitting on his mother’s mantle before asking when Alvey lost his father. Giving us a bit more insight into his character, Alvey says his father died when he was 22, though he was 24 before he found out about the death because, at the time, Alvey was in Japan. To Alvey, his father was a “stranger,” and when Ryan tries to claim the same, Alvey shuts him down. Ryan’s father was there for him, he put a roof over his head. If your father loved you, that’s the end of the story, as far as Alvey’s concerned. (Like I said, this tells us a lot about Alvey, particularly about Alvey as a father.)

After a shower, Alvey gets a visitor at the gym: Roxanne stops by to say goodbye. In her eyes, a relationship should not be this hard. As she tells him, “There’s a reason that your life is like this, and it’s too much for me.” Alvey tries to push back, trying not to lose the only thing he looks forward to, but eventually, he kisses her on the cheek and agrees not to call her.

And while Alvey and Ryan get ready to head to the weigh-in, Lisa negotiates with Garo to get Jay more money and Nate does a little negotiating of his own…with his mother. At this point, Nate doesn’t care what the issue is between Jay and Christina. As his mother, Christina needs to come to the fight tonight and they need to work it out, because it’s time for Jay to come home. Christina agrees, though it’s unclear what she’s getting herself into by attending the fight — Jay just showed up to the weigh-in weighing 150 pounds, five pounds underweight.

Concerned about Jay, Lisa heads to the gym to talk to Alvey, and as worried as he is, he tells her she can’t do anything. Jay’s a grown man, and this is on him. (Let us remember what Alvey just gave us as his definition of being a father.)

Sitting in Alvey’s office having a drink, Alvey asks Lisa what they’re going to do. How are they going to work together if she hates his guts? She’s not sure, but if one thing is certain, it’s that they’ll figure it out. He tells her he broke up with Roxanne, but Lisa leaves before they can start another fight. On her way out, he tells her, “I couldn’t think about you. I was a coward. She was a diversion.” Her only response? “That must’ve been nice for you.”

The next morning, Nate brings Jay his oatmeal at the motel, but when Nate presses his brother to talk to him — about Ava, about the fight, about anything — Jay informs his younger brother he’s going through some emotional sh-t, which is natural. But when Nate gives him those puppy eyes, Jay’s had enough. He can’t look at his brother right now. He can’t let his emotions take over.

So instead, he asks Nate to leave and set up his camp, because Jay plans to win this fight. At least, that’s what he says.

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And cue the beautiful montage. As Ryan gets comfortable in the cage, warms up, and eventually walks out, Jay shaves his head — saying goodbye to the Jay we saw in the cage in episode 13 — puts on his suit, and heads to the fight. In round one, it’s clear Ryan’s winning, but by the end of round two, Jay shows a bit of spunk. However, Ryan has knocked out Jay by round four, and if anything perfectly sums up the feeling of all involved, it’s the look on Alvey’s face. Ryan’s victory doesn’t have Alvey smiling. Rather, it has him dropping his head and going to check on Jay.

NEXT: Christina apologizes to Jay

After the fight, Alvey shares a beer with Ryan and tells him to enjoy his win. Yes, he hates it was Jay he had to beat, but Alvey assures him that doesn’t matter. He won the fight. That’s all there is to it. As for the belt, Ryan asks Alvey to keep it at the gym to encourage him to keep pushing like he doesn’t have it.

Alvey agrees before Lisa enters and Ryan asks if she wants to do something. With no party to go to, this champ is just looking to not be alone, so the two of them head to her hotel room.

At the hospital, Christina tells Nate to go to Jay’s motel, get his clothes, and bring him home. Then, in the scene Jay and Christina’s entire relationship has been building toward — and which both actors execute so poignantly — Christina reads Jay an apology she’s written him. She tells him she knows the things he does to hurt himself are because of the choices she’s made. When he begged her to get clean and stay home, she didn’t choose him. “I didn’t care if I was alive,” she tells him. “I wanted to die. For a child to feel that they are not reason enough for their mother to live is beyond cruel.”

Christina tells her son she doesn’t expect forgiveness, but she is sorry. “I am so deeply sorry for the pain I have put you through, for the innocence I cost you, and for not truly being your mother. I can never love you enough to make up for it, but I’m going to try.” Jay says nothing, but when Christina lays the letter on his stomach, he quickly grabs it with both hands, which says more than enough.

As Nate cleans Jay’s motel room, he finds Will’s business card and immediately knows his secret is out. Heading to Jay’s hospital room, Nate explains that he didn’t tell Jay he’s gay because he doesn’t want anyone to know — not the people at the gym, and especially not Alvey. And in the moment you know it’s all going to be okay, Jay sarcastically asks, “You don’t think he’ll be cool with it?” Both of them start laughing, and Jay tells his brother that his being gay doesn’t change a thing between them.

Jay’s only request? That Nate be on top, because “you’re my brother” and “you better be doing the f–king.” Jay claims he always knew thanks to all of Nate’s “gay qualities,” but all jokes aside, he loves his brother. And as someone who has been waiting for this moment since the day that guy touched Nate’s chest at that thrift store, I’m so very happy it was Jay who found out first, and I’m even happier this moment felt 100-percent true to their characters, jokes and all.

Back at Lisa’s motel room, Ryan tells her about his dad, about his newfound interest in God, and about how long it took him to heal. Lisa starts in on all the therapists, psychiatrists, and grief specialists her father had her see after she lost her son, claiming her father had her on full suicide watch. But she says she never considered it. “But I do fantasize about being dead with my son,” she says.

Ryan questions how something so awful could happen to her, and she tells him, “Sometimes I think I caused it. I didn’t want him.” But once she moved to San Francisco, she says everything changed — she fell so in love with him. She imagined their entire life together.

I love this moment because it takes into account the comfort factor and the trust you always have with someone you’ve loved, no matter what’s happened or how much time has passed. We haven’t seen Ryan open up about his dad like this all season, nor has Lisa admitted to feeling these things to anyone. She can talk to Alvey, but it’s not the same. She can’t help but hate him for what’s happened, whereas Ryan was removed from the situation that caused her pain. So it’s no surprise when the two of them lean on each other so much that they end the night by making out. Neither of them wanted to be alone, and in many ways, they’re each a safe place for the other to land.

As for Alvey, he finds himself alone at the gym with Chapas’ ashes. Thinking about his own future, Alvey pours some of the ashes onto the canvas as a way to honor his friend. But Alvey quickly changes his mind, cleaning up the ashes and tossing them in the trash. As Alvey walks back into the gym, the door that slams behind him reads “Members Only,” as if to signify that the weak are not welcome here. The weak belong in the garbage. This gym is for members only. That door might as well read, “Only for the strong.”

It’s the question Alvey posed in season 1: “Are you one of the weak or are you one of the strong?” The part he left out was: “If you’re one of the weak, you can see yourself out.”

With that, Kingdom wraps its strongest season to date. I don’t know how this show does it, but in its continued exploration of these characters, their demons, and their relationships, it only gets better.

Episode Recaps


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