What do you get if you take The Sopranos and mix it with Animal Kingdom and place it in Ireland? That’s pretty much the best way I’d go about describing the first season of the new AMC television show Kin. The show only runs for eight episodes, but I have to say this is the most satisfying gangster story I’ve seen in some time. No, I’m not about to say it is better than The Sopranos, but it definitely has the potential to be in the same league if the show continues with the momentum it has going for it. What’s a shame, though, is that with so many cable channels and streaming services out there, this is a show that has gotten lost in the mass of content, and it deserves to be recognized. The Kinsellas family is a small-time crime family based in Dublin. The family runs their business under Eamon Cunningham (Ciaran Hinds) who is pretty much The Godfather over all of Ireland. Mostly Cunningham deals with drugs, but literally if you are involved with any sort of crime, he’s still collecting on it. Then there is Frank Kinsella (Aidan Gillen, aka “Little Finger” from Game of Thrones) who is in charge of the Kinsella family and their small ring of criminal activity. Frank is a fun and complicated character who is a crime boss with a bad habit of using coke but also gay dating apps. Frank is also a family man who not only is trying to do what’s best for the Kinsella family, he has to also deal with his hotheaded knucklehead of a son, Erik “Viking” (Sam Keeley). Amanda Kinsella (Clare Dunne) runs a car dealership that is used to help launder money for the family. Her husband, Jimmy (Emmet J. Scanlan) is one of the heads of the family who works beneath Frank. Frank’s brother, Michael (Charlie Cox) is recently released from prison, and he we can assume was the “heavy” for the family as we find out he’s responsible for a lot of deaths before his stint behind bars. And finally there is Bridget “Birdy” Goggins (Maria Doyle Kennedy), who is basically a family advisor. The power dynamics of this crime family are interesting, and how the show balances the “family” drama with the “crime” drama is definitely one of the show’s strengths.
Now that you’ve met the family, what is the show all about?
As I mentioned, Erik is a bit of a hothead, and he gets into a feud with one of Cunningham’s men which escalates to a drive-by shooting. Erik denies being involved, but Eamon still gives the go-ahead to have Erik killed, only things don’t go as planned. Erik gets shot, but worse, Amanda’s son is killed by mistake. Yes, as you can imagine, this only ignites a larger feud, and everyone is out for bloody revenge, but thankfully there is more going on here.
Michael we meet in the beginning as he’s being released from prison. It takes a while to get the details, which I don’t want to spoil, but I’ll say that it leaves him estranged from his daughter whom he hasn’t gotten to see during his eight years behind bars. Michael wants a clean start, and most importantly he wants to work on his relationship with his daughter, but his criminal past and being in a notorious crime family definitely is going to complicate things. His relationship with his brother is a strained one, and it’s obvious it may have something to do with the strange sexual tension between Michael and his brother’s wife, Amanda. To complicate things more for Michael. he discovers that he has developed epilepsy, and that can be a dangerous thing when running with a criminal element.
With Amanda and Jimmy grieving and being told there is nothing they can do about their son being killed, we just know this is going to get worse. Eamon tries to pay Jimmy off, but this seems to only make matters worse, and it comes as no surprise that Jimmy and Amanda concoct a plan to get their revenge. You can’t blame Michael for his reluctance to help his brother and Amanda, but at the end of the day he still decides to help, and as expected things get worse, and it’s not long until a full-on gang war is waged and bounties are placed on the Kinsella family.
The first half of the season a lot of focus it put on what ignites the gang war, and as much as you can sympathize with the Kinsella family, they do enough morally corrupt things to remind us they are criminals and that to a point they brought the bloodshed on themselves. While the Kinsella family is outmanned, outgunned, and out-financed, the second half of the series is about how the family fights back and evens up the odds. This is where the show gets really fun and even more morally corrupt.
While Charlie Cox gets top billing, really the star of this show is Clare Dunne, and what she does with her character is pretty great. The arc we see Amanda go through the season is an enjoyable ride as we see her go from obedient wife who dabbles in the criminal element to showing that she could possibly run the family business. Where the season leaves us hanging I’m more excited about seeing what direction this character will go, and to be honest, I’d like to see her get dirtier and see a Walter White-like journey for her into the dark side of the criminal element.
For the violence and profanity, I’m glad AMC doesn’t seem to be trying to censor this show. The writing is great. Creators Ciaran Donnelly and Peter McKenna have delivered a top-notch, authentic modern gangster tale that has me hooked and eager for more. All I can ask for is hopefully in Season 2 we’ll get a chance to see Charlie Cox doing the kind of action we’re used to seeing from his time on Daredevil.
Kin is presented in the aspect ratio 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average of 24 mbps. The show has a very cold and drab look about it; even when there is sunlight it seems there is a thick layer of haze. This works to set the tone of the show, because there is little in the way of warmth seen between these characters. There is plenty of detail in the faces, capturing the slightest ticks in expression. Textures come through nicely, from the costumes to the rugged facial hair of the characters. The black levels are nice. Whether it’s with the clothing, the cars, or even the night exteriors, there is nice separation and depth. The two times color seems to stand out are with a certain characters red puffy jacket and later in the church with stained glass windows. These are significant scenes in the show, and the introduction of vibrant colors definitely signals that these are important characters and moments.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is well mixed and definitely gives this show the dynamic boost that you’d expect from a gangster film you’d catch in the cinema. The music is relatively subtle, but what makes the biggest impact is the sound design from impacts of gunshots to the simple sounds of the neighborhood. As for the dialog, I have to admit I needed the subtitles at times because the accents are so thick I couldn’t understand what was being said if they were talking too low or even shouting at one another.
There are no Special Features.
There is a lot out there to stream and check out on cable, and I understand there are only so many hours in the day, so when I say Kin is worth checking out, I really mean it. It’s only eight episodes, and if you like crime stories and especially gangster tales, this delivers, and it is a fun ride. This is one of those gems I feel will keep getting better as the show progresses, and I know I’ll be watching.