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‘Kin’ 1.02 Review: The Grief Cycle

Revenge is a priority for some in the aftermath of a tragedy.

Charlie Cox in AMC Plus Drama Kin
(Image: © AMC+)

Our Verdict

Clare Dunne steals every scene while depicting a mother's heartbreak and rage in an episode that builds on the pilot.

For

  • *Grief has many faces as Clare Dunne proves.
  • *Knockout performances from this cast continue to enthrall.
  • *Strong use of close-ups.
  • *Information about the family's past is revealed at a good pace.

Against

  • *A lot of theories came true and reveal expected plotting.

This post contains spoilers for Kin Episode 2.
Read our latest review 
here.

Grief cuts through almost every choice made during the second episode of Kin in the aftermath of teenager Jamie Kinsella’s (Cian Fitzsimons) murder, which sees a family divided over what to do next. It was the impulsive reactions of the hot-headed Eric (Sam Kelley) — who is also referred to as Viking — that led to this tragedy and Jamie is an innocent bystander in a disagreement over turf. Now, Eric’s father Frank (Aidan Gillen) is juggling a precarious situation that could result in the deaths of them all if he is not careful. However, the thirst for revenge trumps pragmatic decision making and this powder keg is ready to blow. Michael (Charlie Cox) has barely tasted freedom and he is already getting pulled back into old habits by his persuasive brother tugging at the guilt strings.

Amanda Kinsella’s (Clare Dunn) screams of anguish fill the frame in the opening scene and the second episode shows the raw emotion of this loss through his mother’s eyes. Early on Birdy (Maria Doyle Kennedy), speaks from experience and likens the death of a child to madness taking over. This nugget of information about Birdy’s loss is not referenced again but points to something in her past that we will no doubt be privy to in a future episode. This conversation between the Kinsella matriarch and Michael reinforces his role of looking out for his brother Jimmy (Emmett J. Scanlan). The message is to sacrifice instant vengeance gratification to preserve the family’s long-term interests (and overall safety). 

Clare Dunne in Kin

(Image credit: AMC+)

In her initial response, Amanda clearly lays the blame at her husband’s feet. This is less to do with the dangerous business this family is embroiled in and more to do with the fact that he let their son have a car. She didn’t want him driving that night and the first stage of her grief journey is to vocalize who she thinks is responsible beyond the man who shot the gun. Even though he was driving Michael to the gym, she doesn’t hold him accountable for what happened. When she goes to see him in the aftermath, all she wants to know is a play-by-play of their conversation before he was killed and whether Jamie said anything after he was shot. Michael recounts how it was, which is to say it was a pleasant chat about what Jimmy was like as a child. He isn’t a big talker but he also didn’t stonewall his nephew, and he paints a vivid picture of jovial final moments as they were laughing at how annoyed Eric would be about the puncture. “That’s something,” Amanda says through bittersweet tears. Jamie wasn’t scared and he didn’t suffer as it was over so quickly, and this provides some comfort in the horror. It is in these scenes that Kin is at its best, which lets the actors tap into sorrow and deep shared history.

The Kinsellas’ relationship with the police is unsurprisingly combative, which also stretches to the family liaison officer who is deployed to accommodate requests and keep them informed of the investigation. All Amanda wants is to see her son and has no interest in what this officer has to share until she gets to see Jamie. When this moment comes denial hits Amanda like a gut punch, and she is convinced this body is not her child. A tattoo she didn’t know he had gotten after his birthday (Jimmy knew) and the different smells emanating from his body add up to this being an imposter. It is a haunting moment of a woman coming to terms with this loss. Far from a neat cycle of emotions, her anger spills out when another driver berated her and she drives into the back of his car. She also has grief sex with her husband in the middle of the night and breaks down crying midway through. It all culminates in her telling Jimmy that someone has to pay for this crime and she is team “Fuck Frank” when it comes to playing the long game. 

Aidan Gillen and Emmett J. Scanlan in Kin

(Image credit: AMC+)

Jimmy has already shown his displeasure at the bundle of cash (€150,000 to be precise) he is given to supposedly pay for Jamie’s life — he urinates in the plastic bag — and Frank is relying on Michael to stop his brother from going against his orders. The long story short is everyone knows Caolan Moore (Lloyd Cooney) is responsible, but because he had Eamon’s (Ciarán Hinds) approval to target Eric there is nothing Frank can do without starting a bigger war. Frank knows Eamon controls every gang in Dublin and they would gladly eliminate the Kinsellas to take control of their business. It is a fool’s errand to contemplate doing anything to Caolan in the next year and patience will serve them well. The issue is that it is Frank’s son that started it and Frank’s son is not the one lying in the morgue — his injuries required surgery but he will recover.

One aspect Frank is counting on is that Michael will keep a level head because any criminal act will put his chances of seeing his daughter Anna (Hannah Adeogun) in jeopardy. Anna finds out her father has been released from prison after someone sends her a link to a news story about Jamie’s death — which mentions Michael as an unharmed witness to this crime. She goes to what turns out is her old home, but doesn’t knock on the door and Michael doesn’t realize how close he was to a reunion.

Last week, I made a couple of predictions including Michael’s role in Anna’s mother’s death, and it is confirmed by his lawyer that he was responsible. The how and why are not mentioned but he keeps staring at the hole in the brickwork. He puts on a nice clean shirt to see his solicitor and looks like an upstanding member of society, but it is going to take more than a legal job to get a visitation. The odds are stacked against him because he hasn’t seen her in eight years — he notes it wasn’t his choice — and his arrest history is a big issue. Sure, he wasn’t charged for any of those murders but it isn’t a good look. The final nail is that seeing him again might reawaken historical trauma and the latter is almost too much to bear for Michael. At her home with her grandmother, Anna also receives a visit (after she has ventured into her old neighborhood) and is told he cannot come near her without the court’s permission — but it seems likely she will defy this mandate before her father does.

Aidan Gillen in Kin

(Image credit: AMC+)

Frank thinks Michael can stop Jimmy from doing something stupid, but he is putting too much pressure and far too much faith in the guy who has just been released from prison. Frank knows he is in a no-win scenario and heads to a bar in a bid to escape. The bartender asks if there is anything else he requires and the cut to Frank getting a blowjob in a car reveals his sexuality is perhaps not as straight as his family thinks. Considering his son’s aggressive masculinity and the traditional role Frank holds, this might be the kind of information that could be damaging to the Kinsellas. Sexuality is a fraught topic in other gangster-driven family shows (like The Sopranos and Animal Kingdom) and this story arc is not one I foresaw — there are some surprises within this narrative.  

Fatherhood is a topic broached by several characters, including Jimmy mentioning that his wife doesn’t have a monopoly on grief because his son died too. Or rather, the boy he raised as a son, which all but confirms Jamie’s father is the man he thought was his uncle. This comes as no surprise and Kin still suffers from predictable plot twists. The one surprise is that Jimmy is aware of this fact, and tension regarding the brother’s tangled love lives bubbles to the surface when trying to convince Michael to help take part in the hit. It turns out that Michael used to kill people for money but he is hesitating to kill for his family because of the Anna factor. The news that he might not get to see his daughter no matter what he does is enough to tip into agreeing to help Jimmy kill Caolan Moore and he agrees with this abstract notion of ‘putting it right.’ 

Close-ups are deployed during these difficult conversations making use of Cox’s subtle expressions in reaction to his resigned fate. But it is Scanlan who is impossible to look away from during this conversation as his tears refuse to stay locked in his eyes and he talks about his failings as a parent. Putting it right is all he has left and he desperately needs Michael’s help to achieve this. His brother is powerless to say no because of duty, guilt, and grief — television’s most potent motivator.