The following contains spoilers for Episode 1 of the Irish crime drama Kin on AMC+
I was drawn to check out Kin (2021) primarily due to its cast. The Irish crime drama features, among others, Aidan Gillen, Charlie Cox, and Ciarán Hinds, all of whom have turned in what I consider to be exceptional performances in past projects. Plus, here is a TV show where it is clear that they will get to be Irish, as opposed to putting on a different accent as called for by the character. (Yes, I know, Charlie Cox is British, but I found myself dreaming of seeing him reprising his role in Boardwalk Empire, or it at least feeling like it.)
Unfortunately, I can’t say that Kin is great television. It’s about family (get it?) and the name of that family is Kinsella (get it?). Moreover its style has a way of feeling a bit too on the nose, with some of the dialogue in Episode 1 breaking into the kind of melodramatic space where I had trouble avoiding the thought that people simply do not actually speak to one another this way. Of course this is a common issue with TV shows (and films) so let’s look past it. By the time I reached the end of the pilot Kin’s plot had its hooks in me. So let’s talk about that.
The narrative of Kin Episode 1 does require a little piecing together, as the show begins with a scene presaging where it will end, culminating in a gunshot which at that point lacks real significance, before cutting backwards in time to lay a lot of groundwork. Overall, I think this works nicely, as the opening scene of a young man buying some licorice before catching a ride on a motorbike, only to roll up on some unidentified someone and pull the trigger of a gun, plays more as a vignette opening the vibe of the show than anything. We don’t know who this young man is, and we don’t know at whom he may be shooting to such a degree that this cold open doesn’t quite hang over Episode 1 as a mystery. At least, it didn’t for me. Rather as the pilot ultimately circled back to this event I felt myself reminded as if of something almost forgotten. Now I find myself wanting to know more about the kid who pulled the trigger.
There is a nonchalance to his violence, as there is to much of the violence in the first episode of Kin. The show dances along the line of melodrama throughout this first hour, but the opening scene is on the right side of it. It feels possible and real that this guy would buy some candy and then hop over to do a murder—this is the tone that Kin wants.
At other points, though, the action doesn’t land as well, as with really everything that Eric does to bring this event on. He’s mad about what Caolan Moore has been doing to encroach on his family’s business. It’s unfortunately not quite clear enough to me what Moore has done. Eric mentions some arson and such to Frank, so I suppose that’s probably what happened. But then Eamon’s response to Frank feels a step too glib, unless perhaps he wasn’t just allowing Caolan to do what he’d been doing but had been actively behind it.
We know that Eamon wants the Kinsellas to run their business solely through him, which I guess they have not done in the past, so it could be possible that Caolan’s actions were all a part of Eamon’s power play. Indeed, that almost has to be the case if we are to reconcile what Eamon says to Frank with his later conversation with Caolan, when the latter is asking permission to kill Eric.
On the other hand, Eric is clearly a buffoon to such an extent that I am prone to simply disbelieve what he says about what Caolan did. Frank is taking it in relative stride, after all, even if he isn’t happy. Eric is likely overreacting even before he goes to do violence. This makes the culmination of the pilot all the sadder, if there really was no good reason for Eric to be so upset in the first place.
Jamie’s arc is a little trite, as he’s the rebellious teenager who doesn’t want to go to school and dreams of a life of crime, and Amanda railing on him about going to college feels a bit stale, but the way in which Jimmy steps in to show young Jamie that his father’s life isn’t what he wants worked for me.
Perhaps this had something of the air about it of the parent who makes a kid smoke a whole carton of cigarettes, but the difference is that cigarettes are indeed quite enjoyable, whereas beating up a junkie and taking a hot iron to his face in order to collect on a debt is not, or should not be.
Jamie’s discomfort is palpable, but it’s also not entirely clear that this was the result Jimmy was after. It’s possible he would have been fine with it going the other way, and you could view the outing with Jamie as something of a test for the young man, that he either failed or passed depending on your point of view. To the extent that I can see Jimmy holding both points of view and being happy enough with either outcome, I am finding him to be the most intriguing character in Kin so far.
Michael is unfortunately a bit less intriguing coming out of Episode 1, at least in terms of his character dynamics. Plotwise it’s clear that he is the locus of Kin’s narrative. Fresh out of prison, he wants to stay clean to see his daughter again. What exactly happened in the past to make Amanda suggest this might not be such a good idea? Does this have something to do with the hole in the wall that Michael leaned over to examine earlier in the hour, and the way that everyone says he doesn’t have to go back to that place if he doesn’t want to? I’m fairly sure it does.
Being at a crime scene seems unlikely to help his cause with the authorities, but I wonder if this will be enough for him to stop washing cars and go back to work with Frank and Jimmy. None of them know that it’s really Eric’s fault that this happened, though I’m sure Frank suspects that Eric and Nikki were indeed lying to him.
To some degree that’s bound to become irrelevant because Jamie is dead. That’s the kind of thing you go to war over, and even though I know as a viewer that Eric had it coming, it’s unforgivable that this boy was caught in the crossfire. And of course it would seem that Eric has survived, so we’ll have him asserting a false version of events as the action proceeds. Things are bound to get increasingly messy.
Despite all of its melodrama, Kin has made me want to know what happens next. Perhaps the issues with the tone of the pilot stemmed in large part from the work it had to do. First episodes are often bumpy. Here’s hoping that moving forward Kin finds its stride.