What to Watch Verdict
An explosive finale that addresses the big arcs of the season while leaving us wanting more from the Kinsellas.
Clare Dunne delivers another captivating performance
A solid mix of tying up loose ends and dangling new obstacles
Jimmy and Michael's heart to heart
The tension-building score courtesy of David Holmes
The Memorial Mass scenes are powerful but one of the readings is a touch on the nose.
This post contains spoilers for Kin episode 8. Read our latest review here.
The first season of Kin is bookended by an organized hit and the death of someone’s son. Both are collateral damage, but unlike the botched job that took out Jamie Kinsella, Michael (Charlie Cox) doesn’t miss the intended target. Unfortunately, the man who was accompanying Eamon (Ciarán Hinds) in Spain wasn’t a nameless member of a security team, so the consequences are not going to be pretty. That is a problem for another day, as for now, the Kinsellas have taken action against the stalemate they found themselves in.
Amanda (Clare Dunne) is a lightning rod for conflict between the different generations of Kinsellas, and a dividing line has been drawn between Frank (Aidan Gillen) and his nephew’s wife. Despite Frank’s coke-laced paranoia, Amanda isn’t attempting a power grab and her choices are a result of wanting to save her child. She knows this feud will only come to an end with every Kinsella in the ground or fleeing the country, which is no way to live.
The final straw came last week when Con Doyle (Keith McErlean) entered Anthony’s (Mark McKenna Jr.) school and threatened to set him on fire. Michael doesn’t need any convincing after Anna (Hannah Adeogun) was mere seconds away from being pushed into the trunk of a car. Killing Eamon is a practical choice rather than one driven by vengeance or ego, but Frank can’t wrap his head around this reasoning without thinking Amanda is a viper waiting to strike.
The events of the finale follow directly from last week’s episode, so when Frank finds out what Amanda has set up, he is still smarting from the way his brother spoke to him during the prison visit. Frank’s sentences are littered with c-bombs, and his fury at the way Bren (Francis Magee) talked to him is palpable. Not only did he emasculate him but he also refused to look out for Eric (Sam Keeley), which means Frank’s son has to endure living in the isolated protection unit. Eric refuses this option at first and he is furious about living in a wing associated with “rats and pedos.”
Unfortunately, you don’t get to pick where you live in prison and he briefly succumbs to this solitude. The guards can’t stop him from bashing his head against the metal door until he has to be taken to the medical wing, where he gets the opportunity to tell Nikki (Yasmin Seky) his plan to get out involves finding the eyewitness and paying someone to kill them. Having secret money stashed in the ceiling has its uses and Nikki is likely to comply as this new reality of her boyfriend doing time is already making her miserable.
The reason Eric kicked off this whole feud with an impulsive drive-by came after what he believed was inaction from his father when dealing with other gangs encroaching on their territory. Frank’s leadership (or lack of) is at the heart of this descent into violence and he is plagued with indecision. Last week’s conversation with Bren got to the heart of his insecurities and his spiral in the finale is a direct result. It isn’t that Amanda wants to be in charge that is the problem, rather, she is making hard and decisive choices to save what they have left and he can’t bear to acknowledge this. “Stop being so f***ing pathetic,” Birdy (Maria Doyle Kennedy) tells her brother after he has another Amanda-related meltdown, and his inability to see the big picture has made him vulnerable.
Underestimating Amanda’s negotiation skills is another mistake he makes, scoffing at the notion that Eamon would ever entertain giving her a meeting. He didn’t factor in that she would directly threaten to burn all Eamon’s drugs if he refused — I am no expert, but it seems burning pure coke and heroin give a contact high, yet Michael and Amanda seem unaffected — and she has all her bases covered. A neutral safe spot is picked and an airport lounge is a smart and practical choice for Eamon, who is flying to see his son in Spain. Little does Eamon know that his drugs are in a van in what looks like the airport parking lot. So close!
In terms of thrashing out a settlement, Amanda drives a hard bargain, but he simply cannot let her leverage the value of the drugs against him. She is smart enough to know he has someone to answer to when it comes to the supplier, however, his entire reputation is built on toughness and he needs one Kinsella dead. He turns the decision over to her and while his first pick is clearly Michael, Amanda is never going to pick one of the men she loves. Instead of telling Birdy and Eric about the choice she was given, she informs them that Eamon wants Eric dead. Frank is incredulous as this is his son after all. “You're the boss, Frank” Amanda calmly responds to his rage and then gives him a speech about losing a child. Dunne has been the MVP throughout this season of Kin and remains so in the finale when steadily dealing with the men who wage war.
It is a smart move picking the person who started it all as this is a plausible choice, but she didn’t bank on Birdy contacting Eamon to try and negotiate for Eric’s life. Eamon is quick to tell her that he gave Amanda the deciding vote and no doubt Birdy will hold onto this piece of information as another sign of a power grab. In reality, Amanda has a different scheme up her sleeve and she keeps news of this alternative solution to a tight circle.
Michael has been her confidant since day one, but Jimmy (Emmett J. Scanlan) is also brought in on this very special assignment. The only other person who knows anything is Kem (Ryan Lincoln), as she needs him to dangle the life of a Kinsella in front of Con Doyle’s face. Kem is a reluctant participant who only agrees to help when Amanda threatens to rat him out regarding his part in warning Michael.
Jimmy has been kept in the dark about Kem’s betrayal and his response to finding out that Michael knew is tinged with sadness, not rage. “You could’ve just told me that you loved her ... that she loved you,” is Jimmy’s way of addressing the past and the love triangle they have been trapped in for nearly two decades.
It would be easy to play a conflict like this with fury, but series creator Peter McKenna makes a far more nuanced choice by leaning into heartbreak and regret coupled with brotherly love. Michael didn’t want to hurt his younger brother way back when, and yet not saying anything has prolonged the saga. Sure, Jimmy would’ve been gutted at the time, however, he could’ve moved on and been happy. Instead, he has to put up with whatever this is, and the trust Michael and Amanda share is going to be hard to surmount.
The reason Amanda has turned to Michael throughout this is he is more methodical and less driven by impulse than her husband. She does need Jimmy to cross a line he has so far avoided, and it almost leads to his downfall. I was convinced Jimmy was going to die after his heart-to-heart with his brother as that conversation has dead man walking written all over it. I am glad I was wrong, but a moment of hesitation did almost cost Jimmy (and Kem) their lives. When he offered to kill Caolan Moore in the packed pub, Michael said no because he didn’t know how he might react when it came to pulling the trigger for the first time.
Clearly, Michael made the right choice and his prediction came true. He did kill Con Doyle but only after Kem caused the car to crash. Michael’s lack of hesitation in Spain is in contrast, and unlike last time he has medication to prevent a stress-induced seizure.
Another medical emergency could spell the end for the Kinsella boss, as Frank’s self-pity coke party ends in a bloody collapsed mess. This is what happens when you essentially smear your whole face in drugs. His unresponsive state when Birdy finds him suggests that another Kinsella might be heading to the morgue after all. It is not confirmed either way and even if he isn’t dead there could be some permanent neurological damage instead.
There are a number of loose threads left dangling for another season of Kin, including Frank’s status, Birdy thinking she has Amanda pegged and the fact that Michael killed the son of someone more powerful than Eamon. Somehow, the target on their back just got even bigger.
During these various developments, Amanda is ensconced in the local church where Jamie’s funeral took place. It has been five weeks since he was killed and the Memorial Mass provides the stunning backdrop that director Tessa Hoffe cuts between as other violent events are occurring. The Confiteor is a prayer said at the beginning of Catholic Mass, which centers on the act of confessions pertaining to sins. Amanda’s guilt is palpable at this moment, but so is her ownership of these transgressions. The rhythm of these words while cutting to other scenes emphasizes the potency of the words Amanda speaks along with the priest:
“I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters that I have sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my grievous fault; therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.”
The church setting is once again an effective choice even if the later reading about vengeance is a tad on the nose. When her mother finds her lighting a candle it is in this moment that Amanda asserts her role within the family she is willing to do anything for. “I’m a Kinsella now,” is her response when she is offered an escape route. She has done too many things to extract herself from this clan and she is committed to this lifestyle and all it takes to stay safe. Of course, she doesn’t know the big mistake Michael has made and she might change her tune when they have a different bounty on their heads.
One element I would been remiss in not mentioning is David Holmes’ score that has dialed up the tension at every turn. Holmes is perhaps best known for his work with Steven Soderbergh on the Oceans trilogy and Out of Sight, and more recently the addictive Killing Eve electronic music. As the stakes continued to rise, Holmes added to the foreboding atmosphere and elevated the potency of the action unfolding on screen.
Throughout the first season of Kin, the gangster backdrop delivered familiar beats that are bolstered by the strong ensemble. However, by focusing on Amanda and expanding the role of a wife beyond the Lady Macbeth or beleaguered tropes, McKenna has made a strong case for the arrival of another crime family series.
Emma Fraser spends most of her time writing about TV, fashion, and costume design; Dana Scully is the reason she loves a pantsuit. Words can also be found at Vulture, Elle, Primetimer, Collider, Little White Lies, Observer, and Girls on Tops. Emma has a Master’s in Film and Television, started a (defunct) blog that mainly focused on Mad Men in 2010, and has been getting paid to write about TV since 2015. It goes back way further as she got her big start making observations in her diary about My So-Called Life’s Angela Chase (and her style) at 14.
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