Kin Season 1 Episode 1 Review: All In The Family

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It's all about family on Kin Season 1 Episode 1.

These days, for a crime drama to set itself apart from the rest, the characters and relationships have to be deeply compelling because it ups the stakes of the action. If the characters care about each other, we care about them. Such is the case with Kin.

The love on display within the Kinsella family stands in sharp contrast to the sordid business in which they deal -- drugs, violence, murder, money laundering, and God knows what else.

A Risky Meeting - Kin

Kin boasts a tight-knit ensemble cast of Irish power players. The acting is superb and grounded, but with this cast, that's to be expected.

Charlie Cox (Daredevil, Boardwalk Empire) is Michael, the most subdued member of the Kinsella family, fresh out of prison.

Why Michael was locked up remains a mystery, but I suspect it has something to do with the conspicuously absent mother of his daughter. Did he kill his wife? If that's the case, why is everyone so happy to see him? Is there more to it or less?

A bullet hole in the brick wall of Michael's apartment suggests that something terrible happened there.

He appears to have some PTSD attached to his place -- both his brother Jimmy (Emmett J. Scanlan) and Birdy (Maria Doyle Kennedy) offer him rooms, so he doesn't "have to go back there."

Kin - Michael & Eric Season 1 Episode 1

Cox is quiet and soft-spoken, but his eyes betray his trauma. It seems inevitable that his family will pull him back into the business, where he is needed, but at what cost?

Nikki: Michael. He's quieter than I thought. He's real shy or something.
Eric: He's not shy when you cross him.

Aidan Gillen is another familiar face on the small screen -- he's been on Game Of Thrones, The Wire, Peaky Blinders, Queer As Folk, Love/Hate (in which he also played a Dublin crime boss).

As Frank, head of the Kinsella family, Gillen's got such a still, dignified power about him that it's almost distressing to watch him lay into his overly impulsive son, Eric (Sam Keeley).

Eric 'Viking' Kinsella is a firestarter.

He's brash and immature and always thinks he's right. Every crime show needs a character like this, and every family has one -- but when you're the Kinsellas, actions like Eric's can have fatal consequences.

Don't tell me to calm down, you know that winds me up even more.

Eric

At the Car Shop - Kin

Somehow, at the center of it all is Amanda, Jimmy's wife, brought to life with maternal ferocity by Clare Dunne. Amanda is the beating heart of the Kinsellas -- everything flows through her. She keeps the "legitimate" side of the family business running.

Amanda is a desperate woman on the verge, trying to stave off the violence, trying to get through to her kids. She holds it together with coke and alcohol, but what will happen when Amanda finds out that her beloved son has been caught in the crossfire?

Will Amanda blame Jimmy, Eric, or Michael? My money's on Eric, but I still suspect this will cause an irreparable rift between her and Jimmy.

Emmett J. Scanlan portrays Jimmy as a proud father and loving husband.

We see his tender, caring side as well as his eccentric tastes (Snakes! That has to be a metaphor for something...) before we see the violence of which he's capable. Unfortunately, it's violence that he's not afraid to show his son.

Jimmy & Jamie - Kin Season 1 Episode 1

Jimmy: How do you know when a junkie's lying to you?
Jamie: I don't know, dad.
Jimmy: He's talking.

It's still up in the air whether Jimmy actually wanted Jamie to follow in his footsteps or if this was just his way of scaring him straight and getting Amanda what she wanted.

Either way would make sense for Jimmy's character, but now I doubt we'll ever truly know.

There's something tacitly unspoken between Amanda and her brother-in-law Michael. They seem to get along well enough, but there's tension there. She is blunt with him when it's something that really matters -- the well-being of his daughter, Anna.

Michael: You know what teenagers are like.
Amanda: Arseholes?

What was Michael alluding to -- what happened when they were kids? Do they have a romantic history? That would explain the tension. If they do, does Jimmy know about it?

The other women don't get nearly enough screen time for how intriguing they are. Let's hope Birdy, Frank's sister (Maria Doyle Kennedy), gets more to do.

Birdy - Kin Season 1 Episode 1

In her few short scenes, Birdy is already cementing her power. She clearly knows how to weaponize her warmth, like when she attempts to guilt Michael into re-joining the fold. It's refreshing to see a woman use something other than her sexuality to be manipulative. 

Nikki (Yasmin Seky) is a mystery, too. What does she see in Eric (other than the obvious)?

Detective Breslin: Fuck's sake, Eric. Put some clothes on, will you?
Eric: What? It's just a huge fuckin' cock. Some of us have one.

Is Nikki just in this relationship for the prestige, for the lifestyle, or does she really love him?

She's made it clear she's willing to lie for him but is it out of fear or loyalty? Could Frank conceivably hurt Nikki to punish Eric if it came down to it?

Is Nikki 'family' enough to warrant Frank's mercy? For that matter, is Eric?

Eric & Nikki - Kin Season 1 Episode 1

Another brilliant aspect of Kin is its look.

There's strong film craft at play here, with the use of unusually framed shots to heighten the unease. The cinematography and camera angles are all bold and deliberate.

One example is the visual parallel of the scene between Frank and Eamon Cunningham (Ciaran Hinds) and the scene between Birdy and Michael.

They appear isolated, tucked into the corner of the shot. This highlights the similar tactics being used by different characters -- attempted coercion of an unwilling subject.

Watch the use of light, framing, and color and how these aspects inform the scenes. 

Drinks Up - Kin

The deepest theme of Kin is, true to its title, family. Families can be dysfunctional, but they have to be rooted in something deep and real, or else there's no reason to care about them. 

There's a whole lot of love here, which feels unusual for a crime drama, but it only serves to up the stakes.

Love gives weight to violence.

Overall this is a solid debut for a new series. Kin is a well-paced drama with high tension, depth of character, and a strong cast.

The show treads familiar territory, but then why re-invent the wheel when you can do it as well as creators Peter McKenna and Ciaran Donnelly?

Where does it go from here?

Will Michael inevitably feel compelled to take up arms again?

Will the family self-destruct after this first episode's insurmountable loss?

Who will triumph in this criminal feud, and what does triumph look like in this sordid world?

Share your thoughts in the comments!

Episode 1 Review

Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 (6 Votes)

Mary Littlejohn is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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Kin Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

Don't tell me to calm down, you know that winds me up even more.

Eric

Nikki: Michael. He's quieter than I thought. He's real shy or something.
Eric: He's not shy when you cross him.