TV Review: Kingdom

You can take a fighter out of the fight… But you can’t take the fight out of the fighter.

This is just one of the inspirational quotes referenced in DirecTV’s successful MMA drama, Kingdom. The show, which premiered last October, received positive reviews and was renewed for two more seasons almost immediately. Season 2 is expected to air this coming fall on DirecTV’s Audience Network (in the U.S.), and Bravo (in Canada).

Set in Venice, California, the story follows ex-MMA champion Alvey Kulina (played by Frank Grillo), who owns and runs Navy St. Gym with his girlfriend, Lisa (played by Kiele Sanchez). As part of his job, he trains up-and-coming fighters; including his sons, Nate (played by Nick Jonas) and Jay (played by Jonathan Tucker), who are both struggling with their own identities. Alvey’s protege, Ryan (played by Matt Lauria), used to be a great fighter… until he was sent to prison for a few mistakes in his life. However, Alvey wants him to fight again (with his assistance), as it would be good publicity for the gym. Lisa doesn’t want this to happen, as she and Ryan used to be engaged, but she eventually goes along with the plan for the sake of the gym. Meanwhile, Alvey’s estranged wife, Christina (played by Joanna Going), goes in and out of his and their son’s lives due to some challenges in her own life.

It’s a complicated storyline, to be completely honest.

I heard about this show last summer, through social media, and wasn’t sure what to think of it at first. I’m not a huge fan of any sport, especially fighting, so I didn’t think I was going to like Kingdom. But after seeing the extended trailer for the series, my viewpoint changed immediately. What I thought was going to be a terrible, violent show… turned out to be extremely well-written, effectively acted, and even inspirational in a way.

Yes, there’s a lot of swearing and violent content, as well as a few inappropriate scenes you probably wouldn’t even see on MTV. But all that aside, there are some hidden messages: Keep fighting and never give up on your dreams. Stand up for what you believe in (in the context of the show, even if that means beating someone up– though I would personally never recommend violence as an answer to conflict ). And most importantly, everyone has a story in their lives as to why they behave the way they do.

As a soon-to-be Drama student, I especially liked the acting. From experience, I know it can be hard to portray a character if you can’t relate to them. However, I think the actors/actresses in Kingdom did an amazing job making the characters seem real. Some TV shows have characters who are one-dimensional, with no personalities or motivations. That’s not the case with this series.

I should also mention Nick Jonas’ acting skills are surprisingly good. Although the 22-year-old singer/songwriter has been in several movies and TV shows– and even starred on Broadway before– he’s still relatively new to the acting business. Prior to Kingdom, I had never seen him in any movies or TV shows besides Camp Rock and Jonas L.A. on the Disney Channel. So I must admit, I (along with everyone else) was surprised to see him in the extended trailer for the show before it premiered. But his portrayal of Nate, an up-and-coming MMA fighter, is exceptional. On this TV series, Nick isn’t portraying just a typical fighter; he’s portraying a character that most viewers can relate to.

And that’s where the writing comes in. Whoever wrote the script for Kingdom, did an amazing job. The term fighter doesn’t just apply to the sport; the main characters are all fighting battles in their minds; whether they’re trying to figure out who they are, or where they fit in. Many of these characters are even struggling with addictions. With that in mind, the writing for this show is very well-done and realistic. There are people in the world who are fighting with their identities or addictions.

As someone who has struggled with my identity (finding myself) in the past, I applaud Byron Balasco, the creator of Kingdom, for coming up with something that’s so true-to-life, so inspirational. I can see the demographic consisting of people who like mixed martial arts, but there’s more to the story than that. There’s a hidden inspirational message somewhere in the first episode (and all the following episodes); to keep fighting.

And at the end of the first episode, when Nick Jonas’ character won his first fight, the first thought that came to my head was a quote from one of my favorite bands, Unspoken: “Keep fighting the good fight.



Created By: Byron Balasco
Premiere Date / Original Run: October 8th 2014 — present
Executive Producers : Byron Balasco
Running Time: 60 minutes
Original Channel: DirecTV's Audience Network (U.S.) Bravo (Canada)
Starring: Frank Grillo as Alvey Kulina
Kiele Sanchez as Lisa Prince
Matt Lauria as Ryan Wheeler
Jonathan Tucker as Jay Kulina
Nick Jonas as Nate Kulina
Joanna Going as Christina Kulina

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