Kin review: Let’s hope the finale is better than the uneventful penultimate episode

It’s hard not to feel that episode 7 could have been efficiently compacted into episode 8

We are introduced to Michael and Jimmy’s father Bren (Francis Magee) in prison

We are introduced to Michael and Jimmy’s father Bren (Francis Magee) in prison

 

Given RTÉ’s uneven track record in scripted drama, it was entirely possible that Kin (RTÉ One, 9.30pm) would be an expensive calamity. Yet to date it has defied the cynics and kept the quality threshold reasonably high. It’s no Succession. But nor is it a cack-handed jamboree at the level of the South Westerlies.

By the standards of Irish drama, it feels like a startling improvement.

But in the penultimate episode the cracks come through slightly. It isn’t that anything goes amiss, exactly. The hour does, however, feel like filler, the story stretched out so that Kin can reach the eight-episode minimum beloved of streaming services (in the US it airs on AMC+).

By the end of the instalment, Amanda (Clare Dunne) and Michael (Charlie Cox) have vowed to take the fight to their bête noire, Eamon Cunningham (Ciarán Hinds). This is after Cunningham ratchets up his threats against their children. His goons try to snatch Michael’s daughter Anna (Hannah Adeogun) in the street.

Meanwhile, Cunningham’s consigliere, Con Doyle (Keith McErlean), visits the posh school of Amanda’s surviving son, Anthony (Mark McKenna Jr), and threatens, not to put too fine a point on it, to set him on fire. Enough is enough: they’re taking the fight to him.

But this is where the Kinsellas found themselves a week previously. And so it is hard to avoid the feeling that the series is doing the story-telling equivalent of pulling donuts in a petrol station forecourt rather than speeding towards the finish line.

The episode isn’t completely superfluous. Amanda reminds us of her steely deviousness when she recruits the wife of slain Kinsella goon Noel to pretend her dead husband was running a secret money laundering scam through the family’s car dealership. Her solicitor flat out disbelieves the ruse. Amanda, however, is pushing ahead with it anyway. She will do whatever it takes to stay out of pitons.

There’s also gripping scene in which we are introduced to Michael and Jimmy’s father Bren (Francis Magee) in prison. As Bren prowls across screen, Michael’s manic introversion and Jimmy’s impulsiveness suddenly make sense. With a da like this, who wouldn’t be messed up?

Kinsella snr is the raw, in-the-wild embodiment of the family’s criminal lifestyle. Where his brother, Frank (Aidan Gillen), puts on a veneer of South Dublin respectability, Bren is a cheat-thumping monster- and a sweary, hairy negative image of Eamon Cunningham. And he makes no secret of his disdain for his sibling, whom he insults by likening to a hairdresser.

It’s a riveting turn by Magee, who comes across as a sort of gutter-dwelling Brendan Gleeson. Kin, in addition, belatedly gives Maria Doyle Kennedy an opportunity to shine as Kinsella matriarch Birdy. She tries to talk Cunningham around and receives a gun to the head for her troubles. War means war and he isn’t taking prisoners.

So key characters are fleshed out. And the nightmare in which Amanda and Michael find themselves as parents is underlined. And yet it’s hard not to feel that all of that could have been efficiently compacted into a previous episode.

The hope must be that this is merely a wobble – and that part eight delivers on the potential the show has demonstrated through the season.

For Kin to fall at the final hurdle would be seriously anti-climactic.