Kin series two: The best Irish drama in years gets even better

KIN 5/5

Clare Dunne as Amanda and Emmett J Scanlan as Jimmy in RTÉ crime drama Kin

Pat Stacey

One of the glaring deficiencies of gangland saga Love/Hate was the feebleness of its female characters.

They were woefully underwritten, either passive wives and girlfriends or one-dimensional lingerie models, there to look sad or look sexy.

In Peter McKenna and Ciaran Donnelly’s excellent Kin, which opens its second season with a late-night assassination in a deserted supermarket, the smartest person in the room has always been Amanda (the superb Clare Dunne), who’d married into the criminal Kinsella family.

Patronised by most of the Kinsella men, including her own ultimately weak-willed husband Jimmy (Emmett J Scanlan), Amanda ended season one having engineered a Michael Corleone-style coup.

With the help of the one man in the family who didn’t underestimate her, Jimmy’s brother and her old flame Michael (Charlie Cox), Amanda organised to have seemingly untouchable gang boss Eamon Cunningham (Ciarán Hinds) and all of the Kinsellas’ enemies wiped out in one fell swoop.

This was in revenge for the death of her son Anthony (Mark McKenna Jr), who got caught up in the crossfire of the Kinsella-Cunningham war, but also a blow against nominal family head Frank (Aidan Gillen) and his hothead son Eric, aka ‘Viking’, whose reckless attack on one of the Cunninghams is what sparked the feud.

Amanda is now very much running the show. The Kinsellas have taken over Cunningham’s turf, but she’s the one who takes care of business while Jimmy plods dutifully along behind her.

It’s just as well someone is taking the lead, because Frank is incapable. He’s racked with guilt, doing far too many drugs and, like Lady Macbeth, hallucinating blood on his hands.

He goes to mass and receives communion, but stops short of taking up a priest’s offer to hear his confession.

Frank’s sister ‘Birdy’, played by the wonderful Maria Doyle Kennedy, is revelling in the success of the family business.

She greets Viking, a free man again after the case against him was dropped (the victim of the supermarket hit was the sole prosecution witness), with a gift: a shiny new BMW with a boot full of cash.

But there’s a new cloud on the horizon. Cunningham may be dead, but he left behind a €70m debt to a Turkish cartel. Since the Kinsellas were the ones who killed Cunningham, the cartel leader thinks they should be the ones to cough up.

A little bonus is also demanded: Michael’s head on a plate. It seems one of the men Michael killed when taking out Cunningham was the cartel leader’s son, who Michael assumed was just another of Cunningham’s bodyguards.

In keeping with the strong women theme, writer Peter McKenna has given Amanda a female adversary, Nuray, the daughter of the cartel head, played by Oyku Karayel, who threatens to be even more ruthless than Amanda is when necessary.

She gives Amanda a couple of days to think it over. In the meantime, Michael, who’s lying low in a rural location, has to kill a couple of hitmen sent by Nuray.

Amanda – who midway through all this discovers the baby she and Jimmy conceived through IVF has no heartbeat and has to be aborted – offers a deal.

The Kinsellas will pay the cartel €90m over four months, on condition the contract on Michael is lifted. Nuray accepts. But as Hollywood mogul Sam Goldwyn once said, “A verbal contract is not worth the paper it’s written on.”

Nuray confides to one of her aides that she wants to see every last one of the Kinsella family dead.

There’s trouble brewing within the family too. Viking resents the fact that a woman is in charge – and a woman who’s not even a blood relative at that. “Her time is coming,” he boasts to his girlfriend.

Amanda could no doubt deal with Viking. But Frank and Birdy’s eldest sibling, and the anointed head of the family, the ferocious Bren (Francis Magee), is about to be released on parole.

We saw Bren humiliating Frank last season for being weak – and even worse in Bren’s view, gay – so how will he react when he finds out his daughter-in-law is calling the shots?

This episode suggests the best Irish drama series in years has just got even better.