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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Safe havens are in high demand on Kingdom

Illustration for article titled Safe havens are in high demand on Kingdom
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I didn’t know whether to be worried about Christina’s fate when “Do Not Disturb” began with Jay experiencing housekeeping for the first time. Kingdom has a way of easing you into the episode, so things really could have gone either way. Jay’s shock at having clean towels provided at his door, along with bottled water, reminded me yet again of how fucked up his childhood must have been. I don’t think the Kulinas were ever below the poverty line (it’s never been implied), but they’ve been struggling for some time, so Jay’s probably more accustomed to flop-house motels than hotels with room service. And although Alvey provided for his kids, they weren’t much looked after. They had to grow up fast, especially Jay.

But as mundane an occurrence as it might have been for a hotel maid to drop off fresh linens, Jay’s surprise at having the service provided felt like a nod to Christina’s abandonment. I don’t think Christina’s being criticized, exactly; rather, the scene is just another reminder of Nate and Jay’s unusual upbringing. I don’t think a woman has to always represent domesticity, or serve as the perfect example of motherhood. I think Kingdom has made a point of focusing on less conventional caretakers, or rather, people who aren’t usually viewed as such. Just as the Navy Street gym represents a different kind of family, Jay has been a parent to Nate. Alvey’s made more inroads with his kids as their coach than as their father. And none of the women has been presented as especially maternal, which I just find refreshing.

Of course, Christina wants to return to her family, but it’s still not clear in what capacity. She can’t look after her boys anymore, and not just because they’re fully grown now. She didn’t find hanging around the house all day (when she wasn’t working) very fulfilling or interesting. I know boredom isn’t the root of her addiction, but being uninterested in almost every aspect of her life left her numb, which drove her to look for … something.

But I was relieved to learn that Christina was safe: She reported the sexual assault and—probably because this is TV and not real life–her attacker was charged, and will probably lose his license. His wife is also going to leave him. Although I was kind of surprised that Nate and not Jay was there for Christina, that bit of justice appears to be enough for both of them. Of course, it isn’t really, and Nate will probably never tell anyone about his own assault, but I still think he felt some relief.

My relief didn’t last though. There’s a sweet moment where Nate hugs Christina extra tight and long before heading to the gym, where he runs into Bob’s assistant, who wants to give him more hush money and take him out on a date. And no, just no—Nate should not entertain the idea of entertaining that guy. Will admits to knowing that Bob drugs and rapes men by proxy, but he keeps cleaning up Bob’s messes because that’s the only way to advance in Hollywood. That’s not justifiable, and I think the guy’s just as vile as Bob. But because he can’t hear me screaming through the screen, Nate actually calls the guy and leaves him his number.

Most rapes are never reported, so I’m not surprised that Nate didn’t go to the police. His fear of being outed as a victim or as something other than heterosexual is enough to keep him away from the station, where he isn’t even guaranteed to find a sympathetic (read: doing their job) ear. But Nate is also thinking that he could exact his own justice with his bare hands, should the occasion arise. And that’s believable, too. But there’s something so disconcerting about him wanting to go out with Will, considering Will is Bob’s de facto accomplice. There’s no right or wrong way to react to being assaulted, but this … well, I don’t even know what to say. I just hope that I’m wrong, and Nate just wants to see Will again so he can figure out a way to bust Bob.


The reason Nate had to step up this week is because Jay is still celebrating his victory in that hotel suite with Ava, who extends their stay another day to bask in the afterglow. Jay is impressed by how casually she does this, even as he wonders how she can afford to, which prompts Ava to tell him that it’s rude to talk about money. Their romp is interrupted by Nate, who tells Jay what happened to Christina. Jay’s eyes flutter the way they always do whenever anyone’s talking about his mom, and he quickly leaves with Nate.

After hearing Christina talk about what happened to her, Jay just wants to murder the guy. She talks him out it, though. Frustrated at having his hands tied, Jay returns to the hotel, ready to keep snorting and fucking. But Ava recognizes that they both need to get some sleep, which is good; but she gives him more drugs (Valium) to bring him down, which is bad. Jay’s once again surprised by the comfort of the suite, which has been cleaned and now has room service. He seems touched that Ava thought to order food for them, and his eyes tear up. But I think it’s more likely that he’s still angry about what happened to his mom. Although Ava doesn’t know that, she does know to console him.


Ava’s showing a different side, as well as an emotional tenacity that Laura was lacking. Actually, I don’t really hold her leaving against Laura—it’s probably better that she did it before Jay got too attached, because she wasn’t over her previous relationship or whatever the hell it was she had going with that rich guy. And Christina was trying to scare her off, after all. She tried to throw her weight around before last week’s fight, but Ava just ignored her. I can really see Ava doing more than just being a flighty party girl, or someone who starts fights that she needs her sister to finish.

Speaking of Alicia, she finds herself in a tight spot this week, too. As soon as I saw the creepy athletic-wear guy, I wanted her to take Alvey’s advice and decline the photo shoot offer. But Alicia’s confidence is up, especially now that Alvey’s talking to real promoters (well, Garo) about her. And Alicia likes to chase that feeling, so she goes against everyone’s better judgment and goes to the photo shoot.


Of course, it turns out to be a bunch of creeps in a warehouse who want her to pose nude to advertise clothing. Alicia calls Alvey, and even though he’s on a first date with his lawyer, he leaves to help her. This is the only scene in this episode in which a woman needs rescuing—when Nate picked up Christina, it was just to take her home—but it bugged me at first. I know Alicia’s cocky, and that she thought she could handle the schlubs who staked out the gym to pitch the photo shoot to her. But all the talk last week about how she must be damaged to be a fighter, and Alvey’s comments this week about the “broken windows” or glass in the heads of women who would date fighters, felt reductive at best, and a little sexist at worst. Women don’t need a traumatic past to succeed as fighters, and not all star-fuckers are women.

But I wasn’t taking into account just who was saying all of those things. The fact that Alvey thinks he’s in any position to talk about the mental state of anyone else is just laughable. And the writers know this, because when Alvey’s in therapy this week, his therapist challenges him on his external coping mechanisms. When Alvey boasts that his high tolerance for alcohol is an inherited trait, he doesn’t realize that he’s just describing being a high-functioning alcoholic. Rather than seek treatment for his alcohol dependence, Alvey thinks it is treatment. “A dead baby is a depressant, a lawsuit is a depressant. Alcohol is relief,” he tells his therapist. He also grows defensive when his therapist asks about his new romantic interest, pouting that he shouldn’t be made to feel bad about moving on.


Alvey is probably the most fucked-up, and the one who needs to do the most growing up, so who cares what he has to say about Alicia. Alvey isn’t irredeemable, of course, but he’s in no position to lecture anyone else. Sure, he admits to being unfaithful, to being a rotten father, and to being an asshole. That “self-awareness” doesn’t matter unless he’s planning to do something to change, though. And Alvey doesn’t change—his scenery and romantic partners do.

But because he’s not a scumbag, Alvey lets Alicia crash at his place because she’s too freaked out to sleep at the gym by herself. She appears to be coming on to him when she asks about their sleeping arrangements. But I think that after what she had been through, she was just making sure that sex wasn’t expected. That she had to do such a thing sucks, but at least Alvey doesn’t take her up on it.


Stray observations

  • Ryan’s interview with Mario Goldsmith is going to bite him in the ass, just like Jay’s abbreviated interview with Mario Goldsmith came back to bite him in the ass.
  • The “wine and condom store” is a 7-11, right?
  • I’ve edited this post to add that this brings my TV Club coverage of Kingdom to an end. I’ve enjoyed doing it and reading all your thoughts about it. I do think this is one of the best shows on TV.