Spoiler alert: This post contains spoilers from the series finale of Kingdom.
For three seasons, Kingdom told the story of Alvey Kulina (Frank Grillo), an MMA fighter and coach whose gym was the focal point for every character on the rugged, violence-prone drama. But Alvey’s greatest struggle was being a father to Jay (Jonathan Tucker) and Nate (Nick Jonas) — a struggle that culminated in him losing his younger son.
In the show’s penultimate episode, Nate finally came out to his father, but when Alvey reacted to his son’s revelation with anger, it launched a chain of events that ended with a very upset Nate fighting a bouncer and getting shot. The series finale revealed that Nate did indeed die from his gunshot wounds. “It was important that it felt like one of these freak accidents or moments of violence that Nate has had in his history where the consequences become very real very fast,” Jonas tells EW exclusively. Adds show creator Byron Balasco: “I wanted there to be real consequences for Alvey in terms of the mistakes he made as a father and as a man. You have to be mindful of the way you treat the ones you love because you do not always get a chance to go back later and fix it.”
The decision to kill Nate came about when Balasco was mapping out the third season (which, at the time, he didn’t realize would be the series’ last). When he brought the idea to Jonas, the actor says he knew it was the type of story that would “elevate everything” on the show. All that was left at that point was figuring out how the death would happen, and ultimately Balasco decided to tie it to the moment Nate finally told his father the truth to underscore that they had never learned how to communicate with each other. “I wanted a tumbling of emotions that gathers momentum where things get away from the control of our characters,” Balasco says. “I didn’t want his death to be cloaked in any kind of shame. It’s not about Nate being gay; it’s more about the inability of these two men to understand each other and to be honest with how they truly feel about each other.”
But that’s not to say that Nate’s interaction with his father was all negative. “What I tried to play in the midst of the anger of Alvey not being accepting right away was that also there was a release for Nate,” Jonas says. “I do think that amidst this anger and whirlwind of emotions that he was feeling, there was a release for him in finally being able to be totally authentic with his father. As hard as that is, I think it’s a very real thing. When you’re totally authentic, you can be at peace a bit.”
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Nate then dies, in many ways, defending that authenticity, physically fighting his father for not accepting him. As Balasco puts it, in that moment, Nate’s “finally calling [Alvey] out. Nate’s always been more forgiving of Alvey than Jay but the truth is, that was self-preservation. When it came down to it, I think he was really hurt that his dad couldn’t even notice what was going on.”
The aftermath of Nate’s death resulted in the show’s most emotional hour, and, fittingly, its last. “The last shot, where we’re tracking Alvey and then we’re on his face, I said, ‘This really feels like we might’ve just ended the series,'” Balasco says. “I don’t know that I would’ve ended it any other way, to be honest. The only regret about us not coming back, besides loving making the show, is that I want people to know the Kulinas are surviving out there in the world one way or another.”