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Kingdom ” Set Yourself on Fire” & Glass Eye” Review

Self-destruction is self-obsession.

When a TV show starts asking the big questions, you know you must remain to hear the answers. And Kingdom is all about the ballsy questions.

My first cinema experience with Mixed Martial Arts were the Van Damme B-movies I saw growing up. Usually, they featured underground fights and a far-fetched soap opera revenge that the hero had to take. At that time, it satisfied my appetite for a HERO, since he was always undefeated, against all odds, but the truth is that those films were plain bad.  Years later, I encountered Warrior (2011) which, no coincidence, featured Frank Grillo. Suffice it to say that Warrior is, to this date, one of my favorite films ever and the only film I know that makes guys cry.  In this light, I decided to give Kingdom a chance expecting little of it. Big Mistake.

kingdomKingdom is not only a show about MMA. It may be set in the MMA violent world, but to describe it as such is an injustice. The show is full of testosterone, yes, you might say so!  There is so much male adrenaline that you can almost smell it, yes! But the core of the story has something shakespearian in it that makes the story universal and humane regarding of its setting. And that is something that each show strives to achieve. Kingdom is really a triumph.

Alvey Kulina (Frank Grillo), ex-MMA legend, father of two and owner of a gym located in Venice Beach, California which he runs with girlfriend Lisa, has financial problems and needs a champion, a great fighter, to keep his business afloat. Jay (the amazing Johnatan Tucker), his older son, could have been his salvation, except for the fact that he’s a burnout drug-addict with a lot of demons to put at ease. And one of this demons is Alvey himself. The only real affectionJay feels is directed towards Nate (Nick Jonas), his younger brother, who’s living with him and towards his mother, Christine, now a junkie prostitute. To this pile of problems for Alvey, add Ryan Wheeler, his friend who’s just got paroled from prison.

Kingdom is no Kingdom at all. The irony of the titles lies in the fact that heroes are few, there are only people left in their place. People with scars, with pasts, not sure if there will be a future. Lisa, Alvey’s girlfriend, used to be Ryan’s girlfriend before he went to jail and civil as relations may be, there is some burning fire left. Both with Alvey and Lisa. Ryan, who is described as manipulator, untrustworthy, seems to have returned a changed man from the imprisonment, and is difficult to read. There is a journey ahead of them. The two episodes aired so far – “Set Yourself on Fire” and “Glass Eye”-  enter into the characters with intensity that makes the show addictive at once. Not only due to the fighting scenes, but also to the complexity of the drama that is unfolding under our eyes. I haven’t seen something so compelling in terms of feelings and emotions since Friday Night Lights. Kudos Byron Balasco!

Fighting is mind f**k. Fighting hurts. […]Most guys run from fights ‘cause they don’t want the answer to the inevitable question that they whisper to themselves: am I one of the weak, am I one of the strong. Where do I lie in the pecking order of it all? Fighters need that. it lifts them up. It feeds them. And it’s the truth they gotta have.”

Byron Balasco, creator and executive producer of the show, who worked previously on Detroit 1-8-7 and Without a Trace toldScreen Shot 2014-10-21 at 6.59.08 PM TV Guide this fall that he had the idea of a MMA related show long before MMA entered the mainstream. One other interesting fact about this show is that Frank Grillo, who’s been in MMA almost all his life, had serious doubts about Nick Jonas’ presence in the show. According to him it was ” not gonna happen”, but Nick showed some serious backbone and he was the best at audition “Cut to 30 guys, coming in for the role, including Nick, and he was the best. Hands down.”

I agree, the cast is terrific. Matt Lauria, the tormented Ryan, and Jonathan Tucker are scene stealers. But doesn’t mean that anyone else is not great in their parts. Cause they are. The nuances they bring to the scenes make this series what it is…A GREAT ONE.

DON’T MISS IT!!! ‘Cause next time you’ll gonna hear about this show, it’s gonna be from an presenter at the Golden Globe awards.



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