Two episodes in, it's increasingly clear what sort of series Kin (RTÉ One, 9.30pm) is and what sort it isn't. RTÉ's new crime show is a cagey mood-piece. But it is generally disinterested in the clichés of Irish gangster drama – some of them established by the broadcaster's own Love/Hate a decade ago.
Under the gangland trappings Kin is ultimately a mediation on grief – and the ripple effects that ensue when a person is caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. That is, at least, the take away from the second instalment, as the Kinsella clan recoil in shock after the killing of teenage scion Jamie.
The question is whether this is what audiences wanted from Kin? Peter McKenna’s script is brooding – some might find it monotonous – and lacking as yet in the cranked-up energy that some viewers might have hoped for when it was announced RTÉ was making a new series inspired by Dublin’s internecine criminal underworld.
For better or worse it’s more Plodfather than Godfather – though all of that tension will surely be released sooner or later.
Jamie's death was a consequence of his bad-boy uncle Eric's off-the-books feud with the Cunningham cartel. The Cunningham's thuggish lieutenant, Caolan Moore, had shot Jamie in a botched retaliation against Eric's drive-by attack on their gang. This lands Jamie in a morgue, Eric (Sam Keeley) in the hospital, and leaves Kinsella patriarch Frank (Aidan Gillen) facing the doomsday scenario of a scorched earth struggle with Eamon Cunningham (Ciarán Hinds).
Frank knows such a confrontation will end in only one way: total obliteration of the Kinsellas. As does Eamon Cunningham who summons Frank for a blunt exchange of views on an industrial wasteland away from prying eyes.
He presents Frank with a grubby plastic bag full of cash. It’s blood money in restitution for Jamie’s death. Cunningham explains that this had best be the end of the matter.
Frank assures him an unhappy chapter is indeed closed. But Jamie’s father – Frank’s nephew – Jimmy (Emmett Scanlan) is planning revenge. He makes this obvious to Frank when urinating all over Cunningham’s cash. And he has co-opted reluctant brother Michael (Charlie Cox) to help. Michael has woes of his own – we learn he is forbidden from seeing teenage daughter, Anna, because he is responsible for the death of her mother.
So the powder-keg is sizzling nicely. And that’s before we consider Jamie’s grieving mother, Amanda (Clare Dunne) who, in anger and frustration, rams a stranger’s car. She wants her pound of flesh – as does the rest of his family with the exception of Frank. Yet there’s more to the elder lemon than meets the eye as he is shown in flagrante with one of his male hired guns.
Kin is a long way from thrill-a-minute. It appears to be aiming instead for an atmosphere of slowly rising dread. And in episode two, most of the menace continues to emanate Hinds’s Cunningham, who seems destined to go down as one of Irish TV’s great villains.
Otherwise, the series proves once again to be all about the set-up. As yet unclear is whether the remaining six instalment can deliver a worthy pay-off. On that may hinge the fate of the show and whether Kin is judged a triumph – or a brave effort by RTÉ .