Oscar® winners Jamie Foxx (Collateral) and Chris Cooper (Breach) and Golden Globe® winners Jennifer Garner (Daredevil) and Jason Bateman (Smokin’ Aces) ignite the screen in this high-intensity thriller about a team of elite FBI agents sent to Saudi Arabia to solve a brutal mass murder and find a killer before he strikes again. Out of their element and under heavy fire, the team must join forces with their Saudi counterparts. As these unlikely allies begin to unlock the secrets of the crime scene, the team is led into a heart-stopping, do-or-die confrontation.
An elite group of FBI agents clash with local authorities in Saudi Arabia while investigating a terrorist bombing of a Western housing compound. Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper and Jennifer Garner star in this action-packed political thriller. Jason Bateman, Ashraf Barhom, Ali Suliman, Jeremy Piven. Directed by Peter Berg.
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One of the reasons why we do this Stream It Or Skip It column is that the first episode of a series has a lot of heavy lifting to do, including all the characters and what their situations are in relation to the general premise. When there are a lot of characters, that becomes tough to do. And when that information is missing, it makes a show too hard to follow and impossible to connect with. That’s what we found when we watched the Argentinian drama The Kingdom.
THE KINGDOM: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: In the window of a massive school/dorm building, a lantern light goes on. A boy climbs a lot of stairs to an attic, where a younger boy is hiding.
The Gist: We’re introduced to Emilio Vázquez Pena (Diego Peretti) by way of his daughter Ana (Vera Spinetta), who is in one of the student dorm rooms with Julio Clamens (Chino Darín); they’re engaged in a secret affair that’s led to Ana getting pregnant. They have to be discreet because Julio is still in debt to Emilio, a well-known televangelist who is running for Argentina’s vice president, on a ticket with Armando Badajoz (Daniel Kuzniecka).
As Ana sneaks back to her room, she runs into her mother Elena (Mercedes Morán), who knows Ana is up to something. When Elena rejoins Emilio in their room, he’s nursing a black eye. Elena wants Julio out of the residence, but Emilio still wants to have him close by.
In preparation for a big campaign rally that night, Badajoz tells his campaign manager, Rubén Osorio (Joaquín Furriel), to tone down Emilio’s speech, touting love of Jesus above any Republic. Badajoz hates Emilio’s religious rhetoric and regrets that Rubén insisted that the pastor be on the ticket.
We cut to a bed with a number of weapons laid out on it. A seemingly deranged man, with a massive cross tattooed on his back, chooses a dagger that is sheathed in a cross; we see him leaving Emilio’s school, and he heads towards the campaign rally.
Despite protestors trying to disrupt the rally, both candidates insist it should continue. The two of them are on stage, when Emilio suddenly drapes the cape he’s wearing, that says “JESUS SAVES” on it, over the back of Badajoz. Suddenly, the deranged man bounds onto the stage and stabs Badajoz in the back. We’re not sure if he just saw the cape and the attack was meant for Emilio or not. But Badajoz collapses and can’t be revived.
Roberta Candia (Nancy Dupláa), the district attorney investigating the case, is respectful of Emilio and his family but something about the murder that doesn’t sit right with her. She at first thinks that the killer is a deranged nut, but her assistant comes back with information that he was a churchgoer and teacher at Emilio’s school.
Rubén feels that the best thing the campaign can do is damage control, which means that Emilio will ascend to the top of the ticket, despite his lack of political experience.
It’s really hard to get a handle on what is going on in The Kingdom (original title: El Reino) during tis first episode. There are a ton of moving parts, and the main moving part isn’t well defined. That moving part is Emilio and his family. By the end of the first episode, we don’t know much about him, his ministry or his school. We know that there are kids there, and that one of the students is harboring what can best be described as a stowaway. We know that the killer worked at the school and may or may not have had it out for Emilio.
But none of that comes together well enough for us to have an idea of what Emilio will bring to the campaign as the head of the ticket. He’s a zealot, to be sure. But how much of a zealot? Is he a Jim Bakker-level nut that peddles fake COVID cures 30 years after he embezzled from his old ministry? It feels like Elena runs the show from behind the scenes, but what is her influence, and is Emilio more of a figurehead? How did he get that black eye?
We understand how the show’s creators, Marcelo Piñeyro and Claudia Piñeiro, may want to keep the family’s secrets under wraps for a few episodes, but we’re given so little information in the first segment that trying to figure out who’s who and what their relationships are to each other is tough. There’s just too much going on with too little information. In fact, by the end of the episode, we seem to know more about the DA, Roberta Candia, who has been frustrated over failed IVF treatments.
With no sense of what’s really at stake, it’s hard to connect with any of the characters. And, if you can’t connect with the characters, the chances of watching more episodes are pretty much nil.