Nick Jonas as Nate Kulina in Kingdom. (DirecTV)
I'll be the first to admit it's easy to get skeptical about a television series' intentions when they tease the audience about revealing something about the sexuality of one of its lead characters and then draw it out without ever really making good on any of that teasing.
However, in last night's first season finale of the DirecTV series Kingdom, the show did, in fact, give the audience a reason to finally believe that Nick Jonas's character, Nate Kulina, is gay.
In case you missed the episode, it was primarily built around the MMA fights by wayward son Jay (Jonathan Tucker) and then the bigger fight marking the return of Ryan (Matt Lauria) to the ring. Both guys won their fights and there was much rejoicing afterwards, but I know my ears pricked up when Mama Kulina (the amazing Joanna Going) sat down with Nate at the after party and expressed her concern over him not appearing to have fun. Nate says to her, "I'm happy, Mom." Mom, wrestling with some of her own demons, replied, "You don’t have to be happy, just be yourself. Or else it’s going to feel like there’s a stranger living inside you and then you’ll never be happy."
Mama Christina has some words of wisdom for Nate in the episode.
Nobody gets through to you like an all-knowing Mother and from a few episodes back, when Nate ran into what seemed to be a former trick (or maybe more), we know that his mother was witness to the awkward exchange and probably added that to her 'my son is gay' mental file.
Later, having had more than a bit to drink, Nate sets out solo and enters a gay bar only be told by the bouncer that he's had enough to drink. When Nate starts to challenge him, the bouncer says that there are two cops inside if he really wants to make something of it. Nate doesn't, leaves quietly but is followed by an eager young man who may or may not have thought, 'Oh my God! It's a Jonas brother! I need his autograph!'
By the end of the episode, as we're enjoying a montage of just how lost and messed up everyone is, we see Nate entering an alleyway with the guy and they're not here to talk. Nate leans up against a wall and stares off as the other guy kneels down and takes care of business.
This is the part where you could at least crack a smile, Nate!
That's unfortunately the end of the episode and we have awhile before new episodes come our way but, in an exclusive interview with Buzzfeed published after the episode aired last night, Jonas said he was well aware of what was going on with Nate from the start of the season and remarked, "And in my prep work, I wanted to be aware so I could properly tell this story.”
Kingdom creator Byron Balasco also told Buzzfeed, “I wanted to tell this story in an environment that would be, perhaps, extra challenging for a gay man...really show somebody who is struggling with this part of his life and reconciling it with the combination of what it takes to be an elite level athlete and how that concentration makes you to block out and ignore real questions that you have about yourself and about the life you’re living.” The creator also added it may be awhile before others find out about Nate. "Just because we’ve seen a truth about Nate doesn’t mean anyone else has,” he said.
Jonas said he's ready to do whatever he needs to do even though he doesn't know what's coming in the next crop of episodes. “I think it would be ideal if Nate could just live in his truth and be exactly who he needs to be and be OK with it, but the reality is that, for him specifically, it’s tough,” Jonas said in the story. “There’s a journey he has to go on, and I hold that with a lot of responsibility and I’m thrilled to get to tell this story.”
Kingdom will return for a second season in 2015 on DirecTV.