Kingdom is a mixture of drama and sport series that is swinging between male-dominance competitions and fragile relationships of its characters. Unlike most series with this theme, Kingdom prefers to explore characters in situations rather than telling stories. This approach leads the series to be character-centered instead of relying on one long story or episodic stories.
Even imagining of creating a fiction TV series with 30 episodes that don’t tell a story is challenging. That is what Byron Balasco has faced in creating Kingdom, but the question is how he managed to keep the audience engaged and satisfied to follow the series? Let’s have a look at the elements and details.
Alvy (Frank Grillo), an MMA trainer and his martial arts gym, is the hub that connects all the characters and events of the series. Not only his gym and career as an MMA trainer but also his relationships with women creates the challenging environment of Kingdom.
Alvy has two sons of a failed marriage with Christina: Nate (Nick Jonas) and Jay (Jonathan Tucker). They are following his way of life to become professional fighters, but their broken family has a significant impact on each of them. Jay is a violent and unstable man who can be a brilliant fighter. Still, his strong emotions towards his mother and any other woman in his life make him a fragile emotional kid looking for a reliable connection to a missing feminine.
Nate, on the other hand, is struggling with his gender identity. Some part of him wants to be a masculine fighter, but the other parts like to explore same-sex relationships. This inner conflict is evident even in the way he fights. As Alvy says: Nate doesn’t want to hurt people, and this is what a fighter should do. Lack of a reliable mother and having a dominant, aggressive father make him swing between a dominant masculine personality and a submissive gay character.
Besides his broken family that is still getting hurt by an addict wife/mother who is a sex worker now, Alvy has Lisa (Kiele Sanchez ) in his private and business life. A beautiful young woman who is smarter than Alvy in managing the gym and its fighters. Lisa and Alvy have another mutual connection besides the gym. Alvy has been coaching Ryan (Matt Lauria), Lisa’s ex-boyfriend and bringing him back to the gym shapes a romance triangle.
Alvy is not the most attractive character of Kingdom, particularly in the first season. Lisa, Ryan, Jay and Nate are more charming, and they create more empathy in the audience. But in season 2, when Jay and Ryan look unstable in many ways, and sometimes their actions contradict their characters, Alvy begins to shine.
He who has suffered from a tough childhood is still trying to be faithful, fair, caring and understanding. His reactions to the crazy behaviour of Ryan and Jay and stubbornness of Nate is not destructive. Even when he is under extreme pressure and tries to relax by heavy drinking, still he doesn’t quit from his responsibilities as a coach and father.
With all Alvy’s endeavors to put things in order, what we see in his kingdom, is a group of drunk and cocaine users who don’t have an athletic lifestyle but can win the world’s championship in MMA. It seems that Kingdom is promoting drinking alcohol and using drugs as a way of life for fighters.
Fights are short, and they don’t look like a championship competition. Some parts of the story discontinue without any explanation, and some characters suddenly disappear in some episodes. Still, despite these flaws, Kingdom can drag the audience to the end of the series. Maybe because unlike other movies and series, Kingdom is showing the daily lives of its characters without showing a real sudden change in anything. Even fights are only used to create excitements and empathy rather than showing the route of the championship. Still, we empathize with characters, and we live with them in the Kingdom.