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Kingdom, Ep. 1.07, “Animator/Annihilator” finds everyone lacking a clear goal

Kingdom, Ep. 1.07, “Animator/Annihilator” finds everyone lacking a clear goal

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Kingdom, Season 1, Episode 7: “Animator/Annihilator”
Written by Byron Balasco
Directed by Dennie Gordon
Airs Wednesdays at 9pm ET on the Audience Network

At the very least, Kingdom uses the questionable decisions made last week to its benefit during “Animator/Annihilator”, leveraging the Keith cliffhanger and the Joanna situation into more believable character moments, which is what it does best. The episode still feels incredibly disjointed and aimless, but watching the characters struggle through issues that have been building throughout the season offers focus on an individual level if not a broader one. Even so, there isn’t enough of a cornerstone in each of the existing plots to make either the escalation of conflicts or the resolution of issues feel momentous. Ryan’s struggles on the road to being ready for a fight is only as interesting as his most recent breakdown thus far, and his manic episode in the gym isn’t all that interesting or new until Alvey comes along. Christina’s motivations are still murky and so are Lisa’s true feelings about her, leaving that whole love triangle all but ineffective. It’s a problem that will hopefully resolve itself before the season finishes, but right now all the stories are up in the air in a way that doesn’t give a clear idea of who to root for.

Keith using a housemate as a butcher block is the most random moment of the season, and it is good to see the show use it as a catapult for Ryan’s arc instead of sinking further into Keith’s mental issues and Ryan’s response to them. In a perfect world, Keith would be written out completely and only discussed when necessary, but his minimal use this week is enough to be happy about. Kingdom has spent plenty of time already on Ryan trying to understand or fix Keith’s problems in the halfway house, so any further devotion to his legal process would only sink the value of that relationship further. Using it as a means to set Ryan off, in tandem with his frustrations over Lisa and Alvey’s relationship, is a smart decision that not only finally pushes him to let loose all of his frustrations but ties into the fighting progress that has been mostly uncommented on. It rings true that he would fight Alvey and trash the gym without thinking twice and that Alvey would not only fight him back, but use it as a measuring stick of his skill level and preparedness for an actual fight. Their actions ring true based on what we know about both men and their tempers so far, and knowing that they are both subconsciously fighting about loving Lisa is just a bonus layer.

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Christina’s continued aimless presence has yet to strike a chord, serving as a second thought in scenes where she is supposedly the main focus. Her miraculous recovery without complication continues to feel false and not only keeps the audience waiting for the other shoe to drop, but hoping for a relapse to happen. She is pointless in almost every conflict she enters into. Alvey and Lisa’s relationship is already tense because of Ryan, the gym’s solvency was a problem before she asks for a divorce, and the danger from Nate’s attackers is just as threatening with or without her in the house. Is she really trying to pull a fast one on Alvey by telling him she doesn’t want anything in the divorce? Are her attempts to bond with Nate and Jay made with pure intentions or does she want to turn them even further against their dad? If the viewer is given some insight into her true goals and motivations it would at least be an opportunity to root for or against her. An outside antagonist may ring false based on the character work accomplished so far, but Christina bridges the gap between being part of the family and an unexpected variable and being able to root against something or someone concrete will light a fire under the show just when it needs it the most. Right now, everyone is just dancing circles around former romances and family members, waiting for an explosion that isn’t coming.

The introduction of Nate’s possible ex-hookup from high school at the thrift store does give his story a small boost after the entire season being about his reassessment of his desire to fight. It also provides some shading to the Tatiana incident, making it more than just a case of standing her up. The possibility of Nate being gay or bisexual is an admittedly obvious way to spice up his character, but if done right it could surpass being just an easy answer to supplementing his fighter persona. Exploring how an MMA fighter with a promising future deals with exploring or hiding his sexuality in a high-octane gym environment is an interesting concept, and the kind of thing that could be done very well on a cable show if the effort is made. Nick Jonas has already been given the opportunity to carry weighty scenes and passed those tests. Incorporating this (very good looking) blast from his past just as he is on the cusp of reentering the ring is rife with potential and arrives at a point where his character desperately needs a chance to show some personality. Just as with his mom’s unclear aims, Ryan’s wavering commitment to the gym, and Jay’s ongoing balance between trouble and a shot at a successful fighting career, Nate’s storyline needs a concrete goal or danger to run from before he and everyone else start drowning in a murky season arc.

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