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Kingdom, Ep. 1.08, “The Gentle Slope”: Why don’t we get drunk and…

Kingdom, Ep. 1.08, “The Gentle Slope”: Why don’t we get drunk and…

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Kingdom, Season 1, Episode 8: “The Gentle Slope”
Written by Tom Garrigus
Directed by Dennie Gordon
Airs Wednesdays at 9pm ET on the Audience Network

For an episode filled with a lot telling rather than showing, it’s no surprise that “The Gentle Slope” feels slightly undercooked on many levels. The episode progresses from character moment to character moment with few through lines, any action serving more as tie-ins from previous installments, rather than helping move the story forward. Even the dramatic moments, like Lisa’s showdown with Alvey that closes the episode, rehash pre-established quarrels without escalating or diminishing the situation in any meaningful way. The twisted family portrait of Christina sitting on a couch smoking pot in a party dress with Nate and his recent hookup is included just for the sake of being included in the episode, to be provocative or weird on screen, not for any reason integral to the relationship between mother and son.

The show finds itself unable to commit to certain character traits it keeps teasing, yet revisits already covered territory repeatedly, much to its detriment. Committing half an episode to the currently bland love triangle of Ryan, Lisa, and Alvey, instead of Nate’s ongoing struggle with his sexuality and lack of desire to fight, is a case of mishandled devotion of screen time, and a sidelining of the talent Nick Jonas continues to show in the scenes he does get. This episode uses parallels in a rote, if not altogether boring, way. It opens on Jay spinning a series of lies to a municipal clerk who is smart enough to not believe a word he says, immediately setting him apart from the rest of the episode. Of course, her intuition doesn’t stop him from accomplishing his goal of acquiring the address info of the men who beat up his brother, setting him on a path of retribution, independent of everyone else.

The rest of the episode takes the opposite tack of Jay’s behavior, in that every other character decides to be truly honest and open with themselves and those they care about for the first time all season. There is minimal double speak or pulling punches, thanks to the liquid courage that alcohol provides. Lisa is fed up with both Alvey and Ryan’s shenanigans, telling them both off without mercy. After being forced to spend time in the same circles as Ryan while he trains at the gym, it is not shocking that she finally reaches her breaking point after his overt confession of love. His efforts to restrain himself when around her last only until they break out the liquor and have as much of a heart-to-heart as two ex-lovers can feasibly have, putting her in the unenviable position of being brutally honest with him, in hopes of smothering his feelings for her once and for all. The press conference for his upcoming fight sheds some light on why he really wanted Lisa to come to his parents’ house as moral support, as a reporter’s inquiry confirms what was alluded to during that trip. Ryan’s split with his parents is not solely due to his irresponsible behavior and imprisonment, but also because of those actions causing his father’s injury and subsequent handicapped state. The reporter fills in an earlier, alluded to gap in Ryan’s story, and the way Matt Lauria plays the moment is with a suitably restrained exterior, as he buries anger and regret. That he doesn’t then bring the press conference incident up with Lisa later on, whom he trusts with these problems, feels like a false fencing off of threads that are meant to work in tandem.

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The problem with the one-sided nature of this relationship is that it is a relationship that clearly should have ended, and as such, doesn’t have any will-they-won’t-they spark. They aren’t star-crossed lovers separated by prison, they are two people who were young and in love because, as Lisa says, it was fun until it wasn’t. He bought her a ring with his winnings, which she would now rather sell if it weren’t for the lingering sentimentality, and there is no reason for the audience to disagree with her point of view. Ryan treats her like an object he pined over while in prison, making him an increasingly unlikable romantic pairing for a woman as strong and capable as Lisa has proven to be. Her standing up to her current boyfriend, shortly after standing up to her ex, cements her as the lone Navy Street family member who knows what she wants out of life and will do anything to protect it, even if that means going behind Alvey’s back to speak to a lawyer. The lawyer’s words about her female clients getting caught up in their partners’ lives is a wake up call for Lisa, an opportunity for her to reassess how she feels about the gym and her relationship, and rectify her missteps.

Alvey’s dinner with Christina heavily parallels Ryan and Lisa’s night together, with the only difference being that the former re-ignite their relationship, rather than ending the night on a sour note. Even with this advance in their coupling, the Alvey and Christina corner of things is lacking a direction to root for or against. It’s still unclear whether Christina has a motive besides getting Alvey back, if she is using Alvey to get to the gym, or if she has no particular goal in mind and is truly unhinged beyond any logic. Alvey embracing his dark side has potential to be fun in respect to his coaching relationship with Ryan, especially considering the information dump that was Christina relaying his arrest story to Jay. It’s another layer of Alvey’s rough past and penchant for the dramatic, making his behavior around Lisa seem legitimately scary, as it is unclear whether he would actually lay a hand on her. With only two episodes left in this first stretch of episodes (the series is continuing, but whether the next batch of episodes will be a continuation of this season or not has yet to be decided) there is a lot of recent table setting that needs to lead to something concrete and exciting. So much interesting character work is being woven throughout an interesting setting that wasting it on slow builds to nothing would be a shame.