This review contains spoilers.
Where does homage end and shameless imitation begin? That is the question that pops up, like a severed horse head in a bed, in the final episode of RTÉ's Kin (RTÉ One, 9.30pm).
After a scrappy seven weeks of Dublin gangster banter and luxuriant shots of the Aviva Stadium, the series bows out with a pastiche of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather so blatant it’s hard to tell how seriously the viewer is supposed to take it. Was this just a drawn-out parody all along?
Coppola’s mobster classic famously concluded with unassuming and softly-spoken Michael Corleone attending a church ceremony at the very moment his hired thugs eliminate his enemies. One of his foes takes a bullet straight through the eye.
Kin exits with a beat-for-beat tribute to / rip-off of that iconic sequence. Amanda (Clare Dunne) is at the month’s mind mass for her son Jamie as Jimmy (Emmett Scanlan) and Michael (Charlie Cox) do her dirty work for her. Jimmy kills Con Doyle, the consigliere of the rival Cunningham cartel.
And Michael follows Big Bad Eamon Cunningham (Ciarán Hinds) to Spain and shoots him in a car park. Through the eye. At which point you half expect Marlon Brando to waddle in speaking cod-Sicilian.
Cunningham isn’t the only one to suffer a nasty end. Thoroughly outflanked by Amanda, the increasingly ineffectual Frank (Aidan Gillen) falls to pieces and overdoses on cocaine. It’s a shocking scene (all that blood gushing from his nose). But has Kin done enough to earn it?
Frank was, after all, holding the family together until a fortnight ago. Then came last week’s fateful prison encounter with his bullying older brother Bren, at which Frank was unflatteringly likened to a hair-dresser. And with that he crumpled.
It’s rather a dramatic turn for a character initially presented as the voice of reason within the Kinsella family. And though a fine actor, Gillen doesn’t seem quite sure how he should pull off. It isn’t his fault – the script simply hasn’t done enough to make us believe Frank would come apart so quickly.
Clare Dunne, on the other hand, is utterly convincing, portraying Amanda as grieving mother metastasised into avenging angel. She outflanks Cunningham when he agrees to meet her for one final showdown (she is threatening to burn off the entirety of his stolen drugs stash).
His choice is Dublin Airport, an odd pick until you remember Kin has been trying to show off every major landmark in Dublin (see also the ubiquitous Aviva Stadium and Capital Dock). It’s almost a surprise they don’t stage a Heat-style eight minute shoot-out at Imaginosity in Sandyford.
He agrees to a truce – provided his drugs are returned and the Kinsellas pay a blood price. One of Eric, Frank, Michael or Jimmy must die. Amanda conveys the message to the Kinsellas – but with a twist. She tells the family that Eamon has insisted on Eric’s head on a plate.
Birdy, the Kinsella matriarch, later learns the truth – that they’re all being manipulated by Amanda – in a call to Eamon. It’s too late. Doyle is dead, and Cunningham and Frank are soon to follow. And when the gun smoke clears the real winner is Amanda, a champagne-swigging trophy mummy turned criminal mastermind.
“I’m a Kinsella now,” she informs her appalled mother. She has atoned for the death of Jamie and holds the whip-hand over Michael and Jimmy. From Dom Pérignon to Don Corleone, her transformation is complete.
But can Kin really continue without Gillen and Hinds, its most magnetic performers? A second series has yet to be confirmed so the question may be academic. If there is to be more Kin, though, the series faces a challenge in replacing its two big stars.
However the show-runners go about solving that problem viewers will hope they at least find a way to be original. If there’s one thing long-suffering TV licence payers didn’t need in 2021 it was RTÉ remaking The Godfather.