Lace up your gloves, Kingdom addicts, because we are going five rounds in my recap of this week's episode, All Talk.
The Audience Network's pride and glory drama series kept the roller coaster of its final season roaring straight ahead with major character leaps for all of its main players. Nate Kulina (Nick Jonas) climbed back into the ring while Jay Kulina (Jonathan Tucker) fell deeper into despair, and Ryan Wheeler (Matt Lauria) couldn't let go of a tragic event. We also got to know the past of Frank Grillo's Alvey Kulina.
Let's get into it. I am not going to bore you with every single detail of this week's episode, because that is just a drag. What I will do is give you my five biggest takeaways; the juicy goods that will carry weight into next week's hour. Ring the bell!
Tucker's Jay is right back to where we saw him in the first season, breaking out the Star Spangled Banner speedo, pouring large drinks, ranting loudly about the world's trap against him, and being very mean to the wonderful redwood dartboard that is Mac Sullivan (Mac Brandt).
Is it wrong that this version of Jay is my favorite? The man is just at odds with himself from the jump, and that makes him compelling. Like most characters on this series, when Jay is at his worst, viewers get the most entertainment. Without Amy and the baby to hold down his morals, Jay is a wild one unleashed.
He's also a man who is unusually right about a lot of things, including the makings of a Kulina male family history featurette aimed to bring out the marketing firepower in the fighting careers of Alvey and Nate. While he doesn't show visual hurt, Jay does feel offended that Alvey left him out of the video shoot that aimed to tell the Kulina tale.
Tucker's gift is making you feel contempt for his character while being addicted to his next move. He's gone through the motions of lost cause, recovered fighter, champion, lover, family man, and now lost cause, snorting drugs along the way. Who knows where he is going next?
Nate returns to Kingdom's screen and wins his latest fight by a TKO in the second round. Look, was there ever a doubt that he was going to win the late staged bout? No, but considering what he is battling outside the ring, it's a nice comfort to see Jonas' double life wheeling avenger crack a half smile. He is hiding his sexuality, serving as the backbone for his brother, trying desperately to please his dad, and also saving some time to actually do something for himself. Creator Byron Balasco's master tool with Jonas has always been minimal aggression and full-blown internal boiling. The pot is simmering.
If you are still wondering why Alvey is canceling his neurological appointments, just consider his backstory. His father-who makes Alvey look like Gregory Peck in To Kill A Mockingbird-made the young man his lackey in his early years, throwing the kid into the ring to help settle scores and collect debts. Alvey has been fighting for blood since he could walk, so there's no doubt why he wants to go out on his sword.
There's a bit in the trailer where we see a bloodied Alvey walking down the hall in what must be the aftermath of his fight with Matt Hughes. I watched that part five times and was enamored by it, because you see an old lion refusing to give in to the cards that life is holding over him. Alvey is going down eventually, but he's doing it his way.
The episode opens with Lauria's Ryan shrieking from his close encounter with killing a man. The home intruder isn't dead, but Ryan's hands are only a little bloodier than his conscience. He can't train, but he can throw back beers with the poisonous Dom (Kirk Acevedo), who is edging closer and closer into Ryan's trust circle. First, the prayer circle and now his recluse lair buddy. This isn't good, but I absolutely loved Lauria's performance in that interrogation room with the detective, who made an effort to take it easy on our prize fighter. Kudos to Steve Turner and Jennifer Ames for their writing there.
Christina (Joanna Going) bonded more with the troubled Kayla this week, starting the episode by grilling her about being lazy to getting insulted by her, to allowing her to watch Nate's fight. Whether she likes it or not, Kayla is attaching herself to Christina's hip, and it's not just advice on being a callgirl. The girl is reaching out to the woman who has lived a thousand lives. I spoke to Going this week on my radio show on WGNU 920 The Talk of St. Louis, and she has taken pride in the larger scope her role on the show has taken in Season 3. Balasco's gift is spreading the bread on the dinner table to each and every guest without overdoing it.
Knockout of the Week: While Nate got 5,000 dollars for his big win, I'll hand the big punch award to Tucker's Jay for cold-punching the fighter who shot a nasty sexual remark towards Nate before his fight. Jay can be down in the dumps, but he always has his brother's back.
Scene of the week: While Lauria's work in the first episode was tough, I am a sucker for any Alvey-Jay confrontation, and the bar scene to close out the hour was so well played by each actor. There are no warm embraces or knowing nods; just two men coming to grips with the fact that they are mirror images of each other. Grillo and Tucker don't overplay a single word, and it's beautiful.
There's so much good acting on this show, and only four hours left before the gym doors close, which is bittersweet and exhilarating at the same time. Come on back next week for another five rounds with Kingdom, but in the mean time, check out my interview with Mrs. Going right here. Skip to the 40 minute mark and enjoy. She's a talented woman and giving with her time who answered the question we've all been wondering: Do Christina and Alvey have a shot at getting back together?
Real Life Update: What has happened to Hughes in real life proves that the only thing that does hit harder than life itself is a train. His car was struck by a train in his hometown of Hillsboro, Illinois, which is just 90 minutes from where I live in St. Louis. The good news is, via Hughes' sister, he is being taken off the ventilator to breathe on his own. Slowly but surely, Matt Hughes is getting better. Take a moment to think about his family.