Kingdom, Season 1, Episode 3, “Piece of Plastic”
Directed by Michael Morris
Written by Alex Metcalf
Airs Wednesdays at 9pm ET on the Audience Network
Everyone has their own threshold for pain, whether it’s barely a pinch or an agonizing round in the ring that makes them go over the edge. The third episode of Kingdom, “Piece of Plastic”, spends most of its time giving a long, hard look at the maximum level of emotional and physical pain each member of this gym family can go through before it becomes too much. Each of them reach or come close to their breaking points in the span of a few days, but each tribulation is woven together in such a way that they don’t seem like everything is going to hell in a hand basket. These stormy seas seem like something the Kulinas routinely go through at least once a year and manage to make it out of without sinking altogether.
Nate and Ryan’s journeys continue to parallel each other in a way that works, as long as they aren’t actually in the ring together. Putting Nate on the back burner for the most part again this week works to balance out all of the various stories, but if he continues to only interact with the new hot physical therapist or ask people how soon he can fight, it could table him more than the show intends and undermine the character that ties everybody else’s motivations together. Where Nate’s time in rehab sheds light on his high threshold of pain, due to a history of fighting injuries, Ryan’s time back in the ring betrays how low his threshold has become after half a decade away from fighting. His attitude is that of someone with no confidence and no belief that his talents will return, no matter how hard he trains, putting him in the same position as Nate to scrap back to his glory days.
Jay finally gets an opportunity to show he isn’t a complete idiot around the clock, and possibly sheds some light on why he is how he is at all. After what may be months or even years of slipping his mom money for food in poorly lit convenience store parking lots and checking in on her, he finally makes a move that could generously be described as misguided when he tries to get her away from the life she is living. His naiveté when bypassing Terry at the motel and leaving his mom with a burner phone to contact him betrays how much of a blind spot his mom’s well being is for him. His actions are reckless, even for an irresponsible junkie and drunk, and despite the best intentions, this plan is heading straight to pain and suffering for one or all of the parties involved. He is not the solution to all of his mom’s problems, and in fact is only making things worse by getting involved so blatantly with her business with no real plan. Such is a son’s love for his mother and the lengths a protective instinct will take him, even when all signs point to that being the wrong decision. His personal decision that she has suffered enough is all he needs to take the steps necessary to save her.
Joanna Going gets her first true showcase this episode, and her pressure points are wide out in the open for everyone to see. Christina is a trampled woman, getting by in life with a hardened exterior and a melted spoon. Her ability to force a smile in a situation as tough as half a dozen boys half her age hiring her for “all of them” proves that she has a high tolerance for degrading situations. Which makes it all the more tragic is her inability to have a conversation with her son in her current condition without embarrassment and shame. It is safe to assume she has made attempts to leave Terry in the past, which is why his power over her has such an effect on her general demeanor. The way she asks after Nate is timid, almost reticent, in a way that speaks to how closed off she has become from her younger son, whether it’s her own choice or his. But after so much time as a distant mother in circumstances that are dangerous to her health, Jay’s continuing attempts at intervention may finally convince her her sons are important enough to try extricating herself one more time.
The Ryan/Lisa/Alvey situation is a tricky one, but much more straightforward than the high stakes surrounding Jay and Christina. Once again Kiele Sanchez digs into meaty material as Lisa’s emotional threshold for pain reaches its breaking point after hours of drinking at the dive bar to conquer all dive bars. It says a lot about her and Alvey’s relationship that she says outright (even while wasted) that she can’t handle Ryan being in the gym and he’s faster to accept her denial that she feels that way the next morning than he is to apologize the night before. Combine that lack of communication with his lack of hesitation when lying to her about the whereabouts of his trophy ($4000 for an MMA trophy from 20 years prior? Plausible enough, but barely) and their relationship is officially heading to a shaky area, even if it might not be bound for a full split. Her willingness to get in bed with Jay, in a business setting rather than literally, is flush with opportunity for going behind Alvey’s back and getting her own past-his-prime fighter to rehabilitate. Just how long will this Alvey-proclaimed “gym family” last when mommy and daddy are fighting over the kids?