Kingdom premiere recap: 'Wolf Tickets'
Kingdom creator Byron Balasco has always said that this show, at any moment, gives viewers a glimpse at a certain chapter in these people’s lives, and with season 3 picking up roughly a year after the events of the season 2 finale, we’re in a very different chapter… and yet, some things haven’t changed.
We pick up with a couple of cops waking up a very hungover Alvey, who apparently passed out on the beach after winning an award for “MMA Coach of the Year” the night before. Alvey then took his trophy, a gun, and his real trophy — a bottle of liquor — to the beach. But thanks to his detective friend, Alvey is let go to train (and drink away) another day.
It seems fitting that as Alvey’s coaching career seems to be hitting a high, so too is his alcoholism. From season 1, Alvey has struggled with the idea of being a “coach” and what that means for the fighter in him. And that’s a struggle that comes to a head when Garo stops by the gym later in the episode and offers Alvey everything he’s been missing: Another fight. Alvey Kulina has always struggled to recognize himself as a coach, but he sure as hell knows who he is as a fighter. That’s why Garo — who’s come into some oil money thanks to a new partnership — wants to put together a Legends fight. That’s also why Alvey, by episode’s end, asks Lisa to work with Garo to set it up. Alvey’s not done fighting yet.
But the same can’t be said of Jay Kulina who, since we last saw him, has had a daughter and left fighting behind for a career as a real estate agent. Well, career might be a strong word. In this first episode, we watch as Jay struggles to make a sale and even more so, struggles to suppress his Jay-ness. In the moment that rude tenant asks Jay what he’s going to do about him being in the house, it’s as if you can see Jay’s head on the verge of exploding. The Jay we’ve known for 30 episodes would’ve shown this guy exactly what he was going to do about it, but now, Jay turns his back (both on this guy and his old self).
Jay then heads back to the office — Jay works in an office! — where his boss gives him a good talking to about the basic rules of selling houses, and once again, Jay somehow manages to contain his frustration. If you want to see what a struggle this must be for Jay, I invite you to go back and watch the episode where Jay heads to the police station and licks the window — literally — as he waits to talk to the detective working on Nate’s case. That was Jay Kulina holding it in. What we’re looking at now is, in so many ways, an imprisoned Jay Kulina. And it’s only a matter of time before he reverts back to his true self, as proven in the scene when he asks his baby mama, Amy, why she would do something if it didn’t make her happy. (That’s a question Jay surely has to ask himself at some point.) But in that same scene, we realize exactly why Jay is fighting himself so hard. As Amy puts it, “You got a daughter watching you now, Kulina.”
And I will admit that Amy seems to know Jay pretty well, based solely on the moment when he asks what she likes about him and she responds, “That you’re too sensitive for this world.” But like an alcoholic walking into a bar, Jay ends the episode by attending Nate’s fight, where he grits his teeth as he’s asked question after question about when he’ll return to the cage. But this “domesticated Jay Kulina” isn’t done trying to change just yet.
Speaking of fight night, both Nate and Ryan are on the card. This season, we find Nate thriving both inside and outside the gym, where he and Will seem to be doing well. So well in fact that Will gives Nate a key to his apartment. As for Ryan, his success is mostly focused inside the cage. We learn that he’s won four fights in a row, and with tonight’s fight marking his final fight with King Beast — his agreement from that time Garo buried the drug test — he’s looking forward to more money and, potentially, getting back to the UFC. But first, he has to win this fight.
Spoiler: He does, even after his opponent takes a few cheap shots. Now, the question becomes: What will Ryan do next? Will he join the UFC? Will he stay with King Beast? And, most importantly, will he get his own place and leave Keith behind? Speaking of Keith, my favorite, he’s on house arrest because he forgot to register on a sex offenders website. Now, he spends all day every day watching the site and imagining the many scenarios in which a vigilante shows up on his doorstep to kill him. Yep, I still love him.
Fight night doesn’t go quite as well for Nate, who doesn’t even see the inside of the cage when his opponent backs out a mere two hours before the fight. So with that, he heads home, and Jay isn’t far behind.
We end the first hour with Jay climbing into bed with Amy and Maya. With his daughter on his chest, Jay decides they should baptize her — “Just in case.” Just in case life goes horribly wrong, as it tends to for Jay. Or just in case she, like her father, is too sensitive for this world.
This first episode in many ways felt like a reintroduction to this world, mostly because of how many things had changed, but it wasted no time in diving head first back into the murky, beautiful, dynamic waters of Kingdom. This show found its identity a long time ago, and it only gets better at telling stories that bolster it — even in times of change.
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.