Every fighter believes they are the alpha in a gym-or they have to carry this belief. In order to survive in a world of combat, they have to assume they are #1. If not, a weakness sprouts out of the tree like an ulcer would inside a stomach. In the latest episode of Kingdom, the AT&T Original DirecTV series, Ryan Wheeler (Matt Lauria) made an attempt to put his foot down on Navy Street, taking charge against Frank Grillo's Alvey Kulina.
Let's dive into this week's episode with my five rounds:
Round 1: It was a great episode all around for Lauria, who showed the tender and rougher sides of Ryan's personality inside one hour of television. Earlier in the hour, he is the backbone for an imprisoned Keith, telling him that no matter how long his friend will be in jail, he will be there for him. Three hours ago, Ryan was complaining to Lisa about needing to get away from Keith, and now he loves him. The way Lauria plays him, he keeps you guessing as to which statement is actual truth. We want to believe that Ryan is sincere in caring for Keith, that his words at the confessional meeting at the church about Keith's life trek are real and heartbreaking.
A few scenes later he is unloading punches on his coach in the ring-and there are real trademarks laid in this encounter. You see, ever Alvey decided to come back, the definition of gym alpha was thrown into question. Wheeler has won five fights in a row, but a Kulina carries the kind of weight that a million dollars can buy. The tension heightened when Ryan climbed on Alvey's fight card, so this was a long time coming. Alvey comes Ryan a headcase, and that is true. Audiences may never know what the real Ryan Wheeler is all about.
Round 2: Was I the only one who wants to see Alvey pound Christina's (Joanna Going) boss, Cody (Chris Coy)? Terry is going to be in the hospital for a bit, and he doesn't trust Queen C to handle the rigors of the house of women, so here arrives Cody. He is first class scum, and doesn't sleep one night in the house before making Christina cut a girl and shake up the house. Coy shined last year on Cinemax's Banshee, and inflicts Cody with an instant disdain for everyone around him. So when he bumps into Alvey at the end of the episode and Kulina follows them back to the house, you have to think something is coming. Bad news for Cody
Round 3: The episode begins with Jonathan Tucker's Jay asleep in a truck with needles lying around, and the last time we see him, he is injecting Alvey's drugs into his system. Or at least we think, because he steals them. Earlier in the episode, Alvey takes Jay home, and the next day offers him a job. That job is going to be Dom's (Kirk Acevedo), and it's a perfect fit. Jay gets back in the gym, earns some cash, and his mind is taken off the missing wife and kid in his life. It's like rubbing healing ointment on a wound, but only if Jay doesn't mess it up. With three hours left, will we get time to see Jay recover? Tucker is making every scene count.
Round 4: Nate (Nick Jonas) is getting closer to being ready to tell his father that he is gay. It helps to have a great boyfriend like Will to give him a newfound confidence. He also needs his big brother Jay to be there for the reveal, because there's no support like brotherly backup. Nate also donates the 5,000 dollars he received from the knockout of the night to charity, but doesn't want his name on it. Another lingering plot thread that I wonder if the time exists to get resolved. If anyone can do it, Byron Balasco can.
Round 5: Alvey thinks admitting weakness is the last course of action for a fighter, and he's not wrong. Every athlete deals with something as they progress in their careers, but is it something more sinister with Alvey's numbness. I love that Balasco is incorporating this common trend in older fighters battling the admission of weakness as their bodies break down. Will Alvey win his fight, but realize a different pain afterwards? Grillo leaves so much dangling in front of our heads with his portrayal of this old lion, and it makes us cheer for him. Alvey isn't a good guy, but he tries his best to care for others while keeping himself in pain. He's a classic anti-hero.
Will Jay allow others to aide him in his recovery, or slip backwards? Conquering Mac Sullivan is a step in the right direction.
Will Alvey go after Cody due to his newfound love for Christina, and put his own fight at risk?
Can Ryan realize that Dom is getting inside his head, and pouring poison all around in order to burn bridges? Finding out that he slept with Lisa (Kiele Sanchez) won't help Dom's-who is soon to be jobless-cause.
Will Lisa accept a position that puts Garo (Bryan Callen) out of a job? Lisa could make two decisions that puts two guys out of jobs in one week. Who said women play second fiddle in a fight world?
Will Nate tell Alvey about his sexuality-or will he hear it somewhere else, thus engulfing their relationship in flames?
So much juice on this strip of meat, and three hours left. You might want to wrap those hands for the final run.