Kingdom, Season 1, Episode 9: “Cut Day”
Written by Tom Garrigus
Directed by Tim Iacofano
Airs Wednesdays at 9pm ET on the Audience Network
The closest Kingdom has come to a bottle episode at this point, “Cut Day” is all about the conditions under which confronting one’s greatest fears and darkest moods is most likely to occur. Christina, whose demons are more than fully documented and discussed at this point, is not present for the first time since the beginning of the season, leaving the men and Lisa to reassess the state of things both emotionally and in regards to the gym. “Cut Day” coops all three fighters up together for the first extended period of time, puts Lisa in charge of the boys making weight while flying solo, and throws Alvey into a spiral while locked away in a hotel. Everybody is out of their comfort zones, and reckoning with mistakes and possible future choices is enough to send all of them into some bad places in their own heads.
The big development in this week’s episode is Nate committing to his return to fighting full time. After weeks of wavering between quitting for good for a life that closely resembles Jay’s and starting his comeback with conviction, a throwaway line about dropping the charges against his assailants seals the deal and he is back in the ring working out. The lack of time given to the possibility of pressing charges and thus his decision making process undercuts the meaning of Nate wanting to return to MMA. Does he see fighting as a way to further bury his sexual exploration and curiosity? Did he at any point acknowledge where he would end up without his success as a young fighter? None of these questions, and more, are answered before he starts working out again, making it concerning that the show spent as much time as it did on this storyline in the first place. There are a plethora of other ways to potentially spotlight the pressure young fighters are under to maintain success and how they deal with their love for the sport in relation to this pressure. Concluding his time away from the gym this way throws most of that potential exploration to the wayside and puts him right back where he was at the beginning of the season. With any luck, the difficulties he confronts as he eases his way back from injury, and his request for steroids, isn’t given the short shrift and gives Nick Jonas more to do.
Ryan and Jay cutting weight for their weigh-ins is a story that Kingdom has already proven it can do well and should do more often, typical training activities morphing into something larger and giving the opportunity to explore the psyche of these men. Other than everything surrounding Ryan’s parole officer showing up to the gym, the scenes between Ryan and Jay are great. His parole officer having a sexual addiction to sweaty things sticks out like a sore thumb in this universe, an out of the ordinary and surreal way to get him out of the picture for good. It comes off as sweeping Ryan’s parole subplot under the rug because that’s exactly what it is. It doesn’t make sense that a fellow parolee would rat him out, and it makes even less sense that no one in the future will catch on and come to investigate his daily whereabouts. The halfway house and parole plots are some of the weakest of the season, so it makes sense to be rid of them but the way it is discarded here draws more attention to how poorly those stories worked rather than the presumably intended aim of shuffling them aside in a subtle manner.
Between their friendly/not-so-friendly banter set against the backdrop of a truly grueling weight loss goal, this is the first time that Nate, Ryan, and Jay, have all not only been in the same place at the same time for longer than a few minutes but look like they even like each other rather than interacting with each other causing personal pain. Nate’s egging on of Ryan to get in the plastic suit is enough to crack the dour forcefield of all things Navy Street, and Jay’s ongoing motivational strategies for Ryan to drop all 18 pounds he needs is the first thing resembling unselfishness from him since he barricaded his strung out mother in a bedroom. By the time he calls Alvey (who is rather boringly holed up at a hotel with Bubbles from the Wire getting drunk the entire episode) at the end of the episode, it is obvious that Jay cares more about taking care of the gym while his dad is MIA and proving he can handle responsibility sometimes than anything to do with Ryan making weight, but with both of them getting opportunities to fight now it is a necessary step for Jay and Ryan to at least communicate.
For Ryan, losing weight puts him into a state most closely compared to excessive drunkenness; fighting with everyone he sees at the drop of a hat, going on story tangents that have seemingly nothing to do with the situation at hand, blurting out confessions he would normally keep to himself. He cares less and less about Alvey and Lisa’s relationship with each passing day, even going so far as to tell Jay that she hasn’t sold the engagement ring he gave her. His anger issues and Lisa’s deteriorating love life are heading towards a collision of epic proportions, likely aided by Alvey acting like an idiot and Ryan punching things for eight hours a day. At this point, the overlapping love triangles involving Ryan, Lisa, Alvey, and Christina are still the least interesting part of the show, but Alvey going off his meds and Lisa considering what she actually gets out of the relationship besides trouble bodes for a change of partners before long.