(Screengrab: Kingdom)
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Even though we’re now more than halfway through the second season of Kingdom, I wasn’t thinking we’d see the Kulina vs. Wheeler showdown just yet. Maybe I shared Jay’s doubts that Ryan would go through with it, or maybe I was more worried about Ryan’s knee than he was. But I thought something would happen to derail the fight, or at least delay it for a little while longer.

That was more wishful thinking, though—I just don’t like watching friends fight. It’s so much more brutal. I have a soft spot for Jay, because he’s been fighting all his life. Alvey may have trained Nate, but Jay raised him. And even though Christina’s abandonment is what forced him to do so, he’s never been bitter about it. He was the only one looking for and after Christina when she was on the streets, and he’s still the one who’s most concerned about her wellbeing.

So I was rooting for him going into “Woke Up Lonely,” but that doesn’t mean I was rooting against Ryan. He’s been through so much, and his progress is almost as hard-won as Jay’s. I qualify that because Ryan had more opportunities than Jay from the beginning, and he wasn’t saddled by two screwed-up parents. Ryan’s relationship with his father wasn’t perfect even before he paralyzed Rick, but it was nowhere near as contentious as Jay and Alvey’s. But because this isn’t about who’s the most deserving fighter, I’ll move on.

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We begin with Alvey in therapy, talking about all the pressure he’s under. “Everybody’s looking at me for something,” he says, even though he’s “hanging on by a thin thread.” He mentions missing Lisa, but he doesn’t express much concern about the upcoming fight that will pit his son against his protégé. As usual, Alvey wants to power through his grief and insecurities, a tactic he realizes might be just what he needs to do to survive: “I think it’s keeping me alive.” Then he has another torturous workout before meeting with a detective about Sean’s death.

I’m glad the show isn’t just sweeping that event under the rug, though I think the unofficial interrogation scene was just distracting. But my objections notwithstanding, the exchange reveals that the cops found Sean’s body with Alvey’s gun, which he wisely reported as stolen. He seems to have a solid alibi—he claims he was cornering Alicia’s fight, and has thousands of witnesses. The detective lets him go when he realizes Alvey isn’t going to give anything up on that particular occasion, but we haven’t seen the last of that guy.

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Someone else is also trying to play it cool after doing something awful—no, not Bob (not this week, anyway). Jason, Christina’s therapist, accosts her during breakfast. He doesn’t appear to be even the least bit remorseful about going into her room last week and placing her hand on his crotch. She rightly calls him out for preying on her, saying she was practically dead when she arrived at the facility.

“I’m starting to think you’re not a very good person. You took advantage of me. How many other women have you done this to?”

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It’s obvious Jason doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong, or worse, that he’s somehow canceling out his misdeeds by working as an addiction counselor. I want Christina to get away from him so badly. She doesn’t have much time left in the program, but he can easily wreck things for her.

Elsewhere, reunited sisters Ava and Alicia are planning a post-fight party to celebrate the winner, whoever he might be. They’re not worried about where their loyalties should lie, nor do they appear to be hung up on last week’s altercation at the food truck. We learn their father is in jail, but not what crime sent him there. The girls move on to drinking double tequilas in the hotel suite in the middle of the day. Ava’s really shaping up to be a bad influence on her older sister.

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But she’s charming the pants off of Jay—well, she will be soon. For now, he’s getting ready for the fight, which includes eating oatmeal and otherwise grossing Nate out. Nate’s a total pro, though, and is prepping Jay’s kit. He runs into Ryan and Keith at Navy Street as the odd couple is talking with Alvey. Ryan’s leery of Nate’s presence, and demands that he leave. He’s worried that Nate knows about his injured knee, which yeah—he was there when Ryan hurt it in the first place. Ryan thinks Nate will tell Jay about the knee to give him an edge, information he thinks Nate got from Alvey. But seeing as Ryan is basically on his own—Keith is more hindrance than helpful hand—I’ll cut him some slack.

Soon everyone, including Christina, is at the arena. Alvey asks Garo to recommend a lawyer, because the cyclist he doored is suing him. (And Garo’s the kind of guy who’s been sued a lot.) Then he retreats with Alicia to a nearby bar for “real drinks,” and because he can’t bear to watch the fight. During their tête-à-tête, Alicia tries to get Alvey to tell her who he’s rooting for, but he just says that as Jay and Ryan’s trainer—and the owner of their gym—he can’t pick. (I think he’s rooting for Ryan.)

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Then he gets Alicia to open up about her past, implying that a shitty childhood is a prerequisite for a fighter—and Alvey would know about being a bad father and being raised by one. But Alvey couldn’t have guessed that Alicia’s dad would be a convicted rapist, who attacked one of Ava’s friends, no less. And there are really no good parents on this show, are there? Well, Lisa’s dad could be worse, I guess, but he skeeved me out last season when he got kicked out of the strip club.

Like Alvey, Alicia’s just pushed through the setbacks, though, which include losing her mother at a young age. They’ve had plenty to drink, but Alicia’s gaze is perfectly clear when she says she feels “pretty in control of [her life].” And I have to hand it to her—it wasn’t that long ago that she had an average record and was freaking out before fighters. She’s focused and talented, a real contender. But then Alicia says something about “not being cracked out with a bunch of kids,” and I remember that she supposedly has at least one kid. That’s what she told Lisa earlier this season. And if Ava is in Los Angeles, and both of their parents are unavailable, just who has her kid? Or was she just trying to wring some sympathy from Lisa?

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For now, though, Alicia heads ringside, where Ryan and Jay are ready to throw down. I couldn’t make out the song that played Jay into the octagon, but Ryan made his entrance to Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” which seems appropriate given his upbringing and all his recent late-night Bible studying. Ryan and Jay hug after touching gloves, and I get a lump in my throat.

Once the bell rings, though, Ryan is all business. Jay looks shocked after the first few blows land, and they are wallops. Jay seems to be doing everything wrong—he even gives Ryan his back a couple of times, which is a big no-no. Nate told him about Ryan’s knee, but Jay said he couldn’t think of Ryan as being in anything other than perfect health. That says so much about the character—Jay needs to think that Ryan is formidable, because he thrives in adversity. He needs to face overwhelming odds, because that’s when he fights harder. But Jay’s also worried about his friend, who he knows isn’t fighting in peak condition.

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But Ryan’s bad knee doesn’t seem to be slowing him down, so after watching his brother barely survive round two, Nate tells Jay to ignore his conscience (well, “fuck it”) and go after Ryan’s knee. The third round begins, and so does Jay’s assault on Ryan’s knee. He kicks Ryan’s leg repeatedly, which slows him down. They grapple, and Jay gets Ryan into a triangle choke. He begs Ryan to tap out before his arm breaks, but Ryan ignores him. The crowd chants “tap out,” but Ryan won’t. He eventually passes out, and Jay is declared the winner.

Jay’s victorious, Alvey’s proud, Christina’s relieved, and Ryan’s furious. While Jay parties with Ava, Alicia, and Nate, Ryan limps home with Keith, who sobs as he talks about ordering a pizza. Alvey drops by to check on him, and Ryan gives him an ultimatum—he can train Ryan, or he can train Jay. Ryan doesn’t believe for one second that Alvey didn’t tell Nate about his knee. Alvey leaves without answering.

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Christina makes it back to the group home, and is fixing a late-night snack when Jason stumbles in from some award ceremony. He owns up to being a fraud—he only became an addiction counselor/social worker because it was the only job he could get. Christina doesn’t gloat; she can tell she’s in danger, so she heads to her room. Jason follows her, and when she won’t agree to have sex with him, he tries to rape her. The attack is far more vicious than the previous one, as he gets her robe’s belt around her neck. Thankfully, Christina isn’t victimized again. Jason gives up because he can’t get an erection, then has the nerve to say that he didn’t actually rape her, so they’re all good. Christina clubs him with his award, striking a blow for herself and—even though she doesn’t know it—Nate.

Stray observations

  • I don’t have many this week. This episode was a doozy, especially that last scene which, after Nate’s attack last week, was just unnerving. But I applaud the show for not trying to excuse or diminish anyone’s actions.

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