With so many good shows amidst an ocean of original content, we can’t blame you if you missed out on the first two seasons of DirecTV’s show ‘Kingdom’. For true MMA heads that want to relax on the couch and recover after a hard evening training session, the show is a must.
Written and created by Byron Belasco and set in the Venice beach area of Los Angeles, Frank Grillo is the lead star in ‘Kingdom’, you may recognise him from the 2011 original film “Warrior”. Grillo plays Alvey Kulina, a former champion of mixed martial arts whose career leads him to open a gym, named ‘Navy St.’,training young aspiring fighters. Ryan Wheeler, played by Matt Lauria aka ‘The Destroyer’ and his two sons, Jay played by Jonathan Tucker and the youngest son, Nate played by Nick Jonas.
The character of Wheeler is a strange one indeed. He plays a clean-living, straight shooter but as the first season progresses we get a look into what was a shady past character that was jailed. We see that part of him come to power in his attitude as the episodes roll by, with flashbacks and regressions featured in latter episodes.
You may have heard about ex-boy band member Nick Jonas. Alvey’s shining up ‘n comer and son Nate. Jonas’ first co-lead role was well suited to his new acting career. Nate is a quiet, controlled, disciplined fighter with clear vision on his goals and intentions. A lot of his internal dialogue is narrated which allows for the writing to do the work for him.
Alvey’s bad seed of a youngest son is a drug addict and a drunk, the bad boy that always makes poor decisions. We can’t help but become immersed in his character with every bad move he makes. Tuckers plays the role with real flair and character that’s keeps us rooting for Jay all the way.
Lisa, the hollowest of all the characters, plays a love triangle between Alvey and Ryan adding the drama and providing the tension in the training environment and giving the show its edge that makes it not just for the boys.
As a show, ‘Kingdom’ has had strong themes of family and character and closely relates to a lot of events in the real MMA industry that reflects in the characters. The end of the first season had a few nail-biting cliff-hangers that drove suspense though the roof with Ryan getting it together and fighting in his first fight since his release from prison and Jay winning a surprise contest fight that upped his ego even more than ever. Lisa Prince played by Kiele Sanchez, was in a relationship with Ryan before going on to hook up with Alvey, decided she would continue her job as manager of Navy St but dropped living with Alvey.
As season two starts, we focus in on Nate, who is still injured an unable to fight but looks forward to the day that he sets foot inside the cage again, the more surprising is that although he is living with Casey, played b (Alisa Allapach, he’s having trouble coming to terms with the fact that he may be bi-sexual and the consequences of this lifestyle choice in the macho, MMA community, is playing with his head. Nate’s anchor, Christina, played by Joanna Going, picks up her habit and begins using again displaying self-destructive behaviour that shows her empathy with Nate’s internal conflict.
(Former UFC champion, Lyoto Machida, on the custom-built McBryde Mats setup created for Kingdom, giving instruction to the actors)
Belasco does a great job of bringing a dramatic element to a sport that’s seen as rough and tough and wouldn’t capture a broad audience that isn’t sport specific. He creates real characters backed by a solid storyline played out by compelling characters with outstanding performances by Grillo, Tucker and Sanchez delivered with real finesse.
In a show that’s core theme is MMA, you might expect some gratuitous violence, however, you will be disappointed as the show really does focus on delivering overall quality rather than shock value. The fight scenes add to the plot and storyline well and none of the fight scenes hold to much gore. The fighting simply enhances the theme, which is what we imagine was the vision of Belasco and is played out well by the cast. Jonas has notable performances and continues to grow into the roles and develop as an actor as the episodes fly by and we have no doubt that his skills are destined for further roles on the silver screen someday.
The second part, of the second season of ‘Kingdom’ aired on Wednesday, June 1st and was titled ‘Lay and pray. Ryan and Jay are caught up with promoting their championship bout and miss out on Alvey receiving some very tragic news diverting his attention from Alicia as she prepares for her first fight as a member of the Navy St. team. The first episode was great and sets the tone for another fantastic season of ‘Kingdom’ to come. We look forward to watching Frank Grillo and the talented cast of the show bring us some quality entertainment over the course of the season. Keep watching! We sure will! Don’t forget to check out McBryde Mats in the show next time you watch.