Warning: The following interview contains spoilers for AMC+’s Kin Season 1 finale, which aired on Oct. 31.
AMC+‘s acclaimed Irish crime drama Kin ended its first season in October, with the Kinsella family seeing a shakeup amongst their ranks as others pursue their vendetta against a bigger crime syndicate in the streets of Dublin. Amanda Kinsella‘s obsessive drive to avenge the death of her son Jamie resulted in her seizing power from the family patriarch, Frank. Jamie’s father and Amanda’s former paramour, Michael, resumed his reluctant role as the Kinsella family enforcer. While there is a shift in Dublin’s criminal underworld, the Kinsellas are far from safe by Season 1’s end.
In an exclusive interview with CBR, series co-creator Peter McKenna and star Charlie Cox unpacked the implications of Kin‘s Season 1 finale. The duo delved into the various character arcs across the AMC+ show’s debut season and teased potential directions for the show to explore, should Kin be renewed for a second season.
As we’ve reached the end of Kin Season 1, this show was really been about Amanda Kinsella’s rise as the new kingpin of Dublin. While she delves into the dark, Michael Kinsella tries to cling to the light. How has it been charting those two trajectories?
Peter McKenna: We always planned that the two main characters would have characters that reflected each other. They were both the inverse of each other in a way. That’s the idea for their multi-season story. We always imagined that Amanda’s journey, from the beginning of Episode 1 to wherever she ends up, is a journey from lightness to darkness. Michael’s journey would be the inverse. As he discovers his humanity and becomes a parent and a father, he moves away from the criminality and darkness of this world. Amanda loses a child and goes in the opposite direction.
Those were always our touchstones when I was writing it and doing it and that’s the hope we hope to take them on. Now, Michael is still involved in criminality by the end but he also discovers being a father. In Episode 7, he does the selfless thing and is willing to give up his access to his daughter because he knows it’s best for her, which is something he was not at a place to do at the very beginning. You can see his change as he’s becoming more responsible as a parent whereas Amanda’s journey is becoming a darker and much more ruthless figure in this world.
Charlie, you have a heartbreaking scene in pharmacy in the finale which, on the surface, looks like Michael is just getting medication to balance himself out but really shows how vulnerable he is and how much he wants to feel normal.
Charlie Cox: One of the things Peter and I talked about when we were talking about Michael and his relationship to epilepsy was that for anyone it is an incredibly frightening, traumatic ailment for them to live with. For Michael, he comes from this family and he’s the kind of person that doesn’t educate himself on what’s really going on and, for a long time, tries to sweep it under the rug and hope that no one finds out. Not to talk about it or really accept it on some level. The other thing for most people, but especially for Michael, it massively impacts his identity because the person he has been up until that point is completely reliant on his ability to not have an epileptic fit in the middle of a moment that is life-or-death.
From what I understand from a lot of people who have epilepsy is that there’s a stigma around it. You walk down a street and you don’t know if you’re going to fall over or be okay: it’s hard to fathom how unsettling that must be. What I loved about Michael is that life has humbled him through a number of things, but particularly the epilepsy. The man that we meet is, in some ways, a shadow of his former self but also, hopefully in the eyes of the audience, someone we actually feel for.
Despite what he’s capable of and what he’s done in the past, we feel for him and we recognize what’s underneath everything is someone who just wants to live a pretty normal life — have his daughter in his life, be a family man and make a living honestly. Peter constructed that so delicately and beautifully that we just hint at it in Episode 1. There are no labels on it. Episode 3, he has his first fit and we start to see what’s really going on, and then in Episode 5, you see how bad it can get in a moment and how scary it is.
I wanted to talk about Aidan Gillen’s character Frank: if Kin Season 1 is about Amanda’s rise to power, it’s also about Frank steadily losing command over the family culminating in his overdose. What’s going on in his head at that moment?
McKenna: With Frank, I feel like he’s somebody that had leadership thrust upon him. He’s not a natural leader. I don’t think it’s something he particularly wants because his brother is in jail and he has to step up and take this role. He’s basically a decent, pragmatic kind of man and that makes him ill-suited for being a leader because he’s reasonable and tries to see other people’s points of view and the people are more impetuous, headstrong, violent and ruthless seem to thrive more and he’s not any of those things. He’s like a peacetime leader, when things are good, he’s a good guy. When he gets into a war situation, he’s not a good war leader.
What I really wanted to do, particularly with the middle of the season on, was to see him unravel and see his decisions having consequences — like covering up for Viking and how that begins to bring the family down. You can see he’s losing his grip on everything and I hope that when you see him in Episode 7, with his brother in jail, you kind of get it. This is the leader, this is the guy who should be in charge and you can see Frank is cowed. I wanted the sense of a man who is having everything taken away from him and all of his decisions having negative consequences and just seeing him unravel and getting worse and worse.
Amanda does outflank him in the end. She’s smarter than him. That’s a huge turnaround. He’s lost the support of Michael and Jimmy. His son is in jail and he’s very isolated and even Birdy turns on him in the end. The consequences of everything take a toll on him. I wanted to bring him to a place where he’s just getting more and more reckless. His closest friend Dotser is killed protecting so, over these last few days, he’s gone through a lot of trauma. I wanted to bring him to a place where he does something really reckless and overdoses.
With Michael in the season finale, there’s a lot of him trying to figure out how he and the family got to where they’re now at. How was it playing that progression?
Cox: It was quite tricky. I couldn’t quite figure out early on how you go from someone in Episode 1 saying, “I’m washing cars now and can’t get involved in anything you guys do or anything I used to do,” to pulling a trigger in Episode 3. That’s a leap. I think there’s a couple of things that happen and he realizes very quickly that all he’s got is his family. Anna is his family but so is Jimmy, Amanda, Jamie. A massive catalyst is finding out that not only is Jamie his son but also with Jamie dying, there is an element of responsibility there as well. I remember thinking that, early on Michael feels kind of impotent to make the changes that he wanted to make.
There’s a great scene with his solicitor where she lays it out for him saying there’s no hope and it’s not going to be like how he thought it was going to be. Even if he makes the changes wants to and can make, it’s not going to be any different. I remember thinking that if Michael is going to have any relationship with Amanda and if Amanda and Jimmy are certain that they want to take revenge on Jamie’s killer, the only chance Michael is going to have of ever seeing his family is if he takes matters into his own hands because he’s the only person he trusts to do that.
He doesn’t trust the others to get that right. He knows he has an ability in that area that others don’t have. His reasoning for saying, “I’m doing it,” is that we’re going to do it his way because he can trust he can get it done in a way that will cause the least amount of damage and mayhem. That’s a very bizarre rationale but, in a way, it kind of makes sense to me. It’s all he knows and there’s this little part of him where, even if it jeopardizes him having a relationship with Amanda, it feels familiar and nice and bizarrely comforting because he knows how to do that. He doesn’t know how to wash cars or sit behind a desk. He knows how to be the family enforcer.
While Kin reaches an ending by the season finale, there’s plenty of room and directions to potentially explore. Do you have some ideas where you would like the series to go next?
There’s some closure at the end of Season 1 but there’s a lot of potential and a lot of things setup with Michael when he kills Eamon Cunningham. He kills the son of someone we don’t know yet but we do know that the man he kills is the son of a very powerful person. That will have consequences. We also setup Michael’s father Bren: I think that’s an interesting dynamic and he brings a different energy into the family that I’d really like to explore. When you meet Bren, I think you get to understand Jimmy and Michael a lot more. They’re the two sons and personalities that were brought up by this man. That’s something I’d really like to explore as well. And, of course, what happens to Viking and Frank, all those kinds of things that we’re going to do with these characters, I think there’s loads of potential. It’s very exciting. I hope we get the opportunity to do it again and explore these characters in greater depth.
Cox: I trust Peter so much to have those thoughts and make those decisions that I wouldn’t want to put something in his mind. I’d rather let the great brain go and do it himself. If you’re going to make a second season of a television show, as one of the actors — this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s best for the show — but the actors in general want to see our character go on a journey, transform and do something different. Whether they progress or regress, either way, as a performer, that’s exciting. The best shows are the ones where the characters are on some sort of journey. Sometimes it’s important to have someone who is a bit stagnant because it reveals the journey the others are on with a bit more clarity.
I don’t know what that looks like but what I really loved about what we did is I love that Michael is in opposition to so much of what the family is doing. I’m interested in him going further in one of those directions but I don’t know which one. Either there’s more resistance and pushback in opposition to what the family are doing or he grabs the bull by the horns and says, “You want to go in that direction? Strap on and I’ll show you how we get there!” One of the things I love about Michael is he recognizes Amanda’s intelligence and savvy and the ability in her to run this family better than anyone else. He can be the fuel that fans that fire and allows it to go even further.
Created by Peter McKenna and Ciaran Donnelly, Kin is streaming now on AMC+.
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