Animal Kingdom Review: Beginning of the End

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They dropped a couple of bombshells on us, and the stress is real.

Just when it seemed like Pope found some semblance of happiness with his skate park, we learn that Thompson is on the Catherine case, and she’s relentless and not one to play by the rules.

By the end of Animal Kingdom Season 6 Episode 3, she spoke to darling Lena, and by the close of Animal Kingdom Season 6 Episode 4, we found out she has an informant getting close to Pope at the skate park. It’s not looking good for the eldest Cody.

We have never seen Pope this happy and stable. It makes the buildup to Thompson coming after Pope feel more nerve-wracking as a result.

His skate park has brought him such joy, and while he was resistant to the notion of sharing it with others, he quickly realized that if you can’t, or rather shouldn’t, literally beat them, then join them.

His silent sequence of grabbing and then abandoning the crowbar in favor of his skateboard, kickstarting another board session on the ramp with the teens, was such a great one.

In fact, now is the time to point out that Shawn Hatosy took another spin in the director’s chair for the first hour and excelled, as he always seems to do.

The series has always been this kickass love letter to Oceanside, but the past couple of seasons have really taken that and ran with it.

Pope could’ve saved that ramp for only himself, but there was something special about leaving this mark, a more positive one, contributing to the culture of the area via something that was one of his first and purest loves.

And it gave other skaters a spot to chill in a way that none of the other Codys had growing up, something Deran and Craig pointed out when they visited the place.

Of course, J only thinks about how they can clean cash through it because everything must have a deeper purpose. For someone as brilliant as he is, he hasn’t seemed to grasp the significance of this lot for Pope or that maybe the one person remaining who spent the most time with Smurf may just need this little piece of something for himself.

Deran: All of our asses are tied up in this at this point, if anything happens to you, it happens to us.
Pope: Hm. You’re starting to sound like him.
Deran: Just saying.

But passing it off as a nonprofit and going from there could feasibly work, although J and Deran are right about the liability they’d face if kids sue for getting hurt.

Little do they know, there’s some truth to the words that if Pope goes down, then they’ll all do. They have no idea that Thompson is right behind the corner, and the woman is relentless and not afraid to bend the hell out of the rules.

Outside of the fact that she’s coming for our favorite curmudgeon, she’s likable. She seems like a worthy enough opponent; from her perspective, she is merely trying to solve a tragic cold case of a mother.

She doesn’t have all the history of the area or subscribes to all the politics that have either kept people coming for the Codys, running for the hills, or under their thumb. And there’s something refreshing about that.

Thanks to a surprise discussion with Lena, and it was so good to see her as we haven’t seen her in ages, Thompson is directing her attention to Pope.

She knows that he was also there the night Catherine died, and she feels like blaming Catherine’s death on Baz, another dead person is too easy.

But it’s a bit troubling that she didn’t follow protocol. She spoke to Lena, a child, without her adoptive parents’ permission, and she tried to use the intel to get a warrant for the Codys’ home to search it.

Anyone in their right mind would nip that in the bud right away, so I don’t understand her line of thinking if she wants to build an airtight case against a man whose family has THREE boxes of files on them.

Thompson: Tell me what you remember about that last day, Lena. You saw your mom and dad together, right?
Lena: Yeah.
Thompson: Was there anyone else there?
Lena: Uncle Pope was there too.

What happened to the other cops that J and Deran had in their pocket? The Codys accessed their files during Animal Kingdom Season 5 to read them for themselves, shouldn’t one of their dirty cops be giving them a head’s up about Thompson?

Thompson has alternative means of getting what she needs, though, and that’s already making her interesting and one to be concerned about here.

Go figure the kid Pope encouraged to fight for himself at the skate park is reluctantly working for her as some type of informant. I don’t know what she expects to get out of him or how she feels he’ll aid in her investigation against Pope since he’s unlikely to get any closer to him.

But he very well could be the person who tips Pope off about Thompson, so in that regard, her tactic may backfire on her.

Other things about Pope came to light during these two installments, too. It seems we may get to the origins around his nickname of “Pope,” and it’s probably because of how drawn he was to church and whatever happened when he likely couldn’t stop Smurf and Baz from robbing it and the nice priest.

We’ve seen Pope have connections with religion and church before, but with this background, it makes sense. It sucked when Smurf was working overtime to discourage him from attending the prayer meetings with the father and other teens.

Andrew wanted something his alone and a safe space where he could mostly be himself instead of under Smurf’s thumb, Julia’s twin, or in Baz’s shadow.

Sadly, Smurf felt her hold on Andrew slipping away and wanted to exercise her control again. The woman was truly diabolical the more we see her interactions with her kids.

Don’t go back there. They’ll just make you hate yourself. And I love you too much for that.

Smurf

It’s awful how she used Baz to do her bidding with the twins, too, and as irritating as it is that he did it all the time, you can understand from his perspective that he felt so indebted to her for taking him in, that even he operated from a fear of being cast out.

When you consider his fate, he wasn’t wrong for that either. The second he wasn’t under Smurf’s control, he was disposable and suddenly not family.

Andrew was at a critical time where he was still trying to find his way out and how to be his own person, but Smurf’s forces always worked against him.

And he was cognizant of how different he was, especially when he had someone like Baz there all the time who he could compare himself, never mind Smurf, who would tell him nothing was wrong with him but imply otherwise.

What did you make of her badgering him about if there were girls at church he liked and what types of women he found attractive?

She encouraged his inappropriate, muddled fixation on her and Julia but then wanted to make him feel like a freak because they were the only women in his life.

And the whole thing with her going into his room, closing and locking the door to be with him didn’t help matters either. As if kissing them on the lips and often wielding her sexuality on her sons weren’t terrible enough.

The twisted oedipal vibes of Smurf’s relationships with her sons and J have always been some of the most disturbing, and seeing it at its origins is cringeworthy.

Julia: You’re the reason that he’s like this.
Smurf: There is nothing wrong with your brother.
Julia: Baz, come on, I know you see it.
Baz: I mean he’s always been like that, right?

No amount of distracting Julia with a hot car, having one fun, bad girl day with her, and keeping her from her well-intentioned path of working an honest job and having a life outside of Smurf’s reign could keep the twin from being concerned about Andrew.

The Smurf/Julia relationship is so royally fucked up, but you can’t tear your eyes away. It’s like a train wreck where you know how it ends, but the pathway to the crash is fascinating.

Leila George is at her best yet as young Smurf, and she’s truly getting to dig deep and do more playing off of the teen actors. She and Polish are doing so well with the most complicated Cody relationship of the bunch.

Smurf’s obsession with ruining her daughter or only wanting Julia happy if it was by her terms is unbelievable. She flipped her shit when Baz saved the computer for Julia and was making the moves on her.

But she was high off herself when she got Julia that car and the two of them got high and went joyriding, spending the day together and forgetting about Andrew altogether.

Smurf’s love was conditional, and as a narcissist, she wanted to be in her kids’ world and didn’t want them to function without her. It’s twisted.

Can we talk about Deran’s ascent into Smurf? He’s becoming so much like her, and it doesn’t even seem like he realizes it.

Did anyone have Deran being the Jack of all Trades in their crime family and carrying the Cody memory on their Bingo Card? Because I did not.

Historically, he was always the one who either wanted to go off, do his own thing, or bail on the family and the family business altogether.

Interestingly, he’s arguably the one clinging to their family legacy the most. But he’s proving to be a triple threat who dabbles in a few of the roles, and it’s both disturbing and fascinating.

Pope wasn’t wrong when he said that Deran sounded like J. He’s gotten over his issues with his nephew, so it seems he sees the value in what J is trying to do and his line of thinking. He’s trying to think of a smart way to build on their empire, modernize it, and make it uniquely their own.

He’s been good at brainstorming right up there with J, showing that he’s since leveled out a bit and got his emotions in check enough to mastermind.

Whereas Animal Kingdom Season 5 felt like the boys were falling apart until Pope got his head on straight enough to rally them together. Now, it feels like J and Deran are running everything while Pope and Craig do their respective things.

Deran and J feel like partners, something you’d never anticipate. But Deran has also taken on some of Pope’s roles with problem-solving, intimidation, and flat-out beating people up.

It used to be when he called Pope to handle certain things, and now he either does them alone, or he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty.

Deran and Pope’s adventure trying to move Quinn out of the condo provided more than a few laughs. Pope has had some of the best, most hilarious lines this season. His quip about Quinn not resisting if they threw him over the balcony was priceless.

Pope: Craig’s booting all the tenants out of this place?
Deran: Yeah, it was J’s idea.
Pope: He offered this dickhead five grand to move, why?
Deran: I don’t know, path of least resistance, I guess.
Pope: Throw him off the balcony, there’s no resistance there.

You had to feel bad for Quinn, though. He was a veteran who didn’t want to end up homeless again. He gave Smurf 20 years of doing whatever she needed and turning a blind eye to things as long as he could stay there with his ducks.

Smurf was a master at picking the people she wanted to work with and use. Quinn was vulnerable, and Smurf knew how to exploit that to her advantage.

She has this way of making people dependent on her, so Quinn felt lost over the prospect of not having her there to house them and shield him from the rest of the world.

You could tell Pope empathized with Quinn and encouraged Deran to find another solution that worked, which led to Deran doing something you’d expect from Smurf.

Craig: What the hell are you even doing here, huh?
Deran: I just want to talk to you.
Craig: You wanna talk? Alright, talk.
Deran: You’re not picking up your phone. You’re leaving family meetings. You’re acting all different, and I don’t even recognize you anymore man.

No help comes for free, and Trey quickly learned that when Deran brought Quinn over to stay with and work for him. It was a classic favor for a favor where Trey had a debt to pay because of Deran’s help.

Even how Deran has behaved with Craig has shades of Smurf’s worst traits. He’s so codependent when it comes to Craig, and now that Craig is trying to do his own thing and get his life and family together, Deran is in his feelings.

He liked Craig better when he was high but also when Craig depended on him, like some package deal of them against the world. But Craig has been focused on his kid and Renn and now this biker friend group, and Deran is freaking out that his brother doesn’t need him anymore.

It seems like such a switch-up that we have Deran as the one who’s drinking too much, being reckless, and just spreading his misery.

He seemed smug and pleased when he saw Craig drink, but he was right back to being frustrated that Craig has been distancing himself and blowing them off beyond job updates and has been hanging with Vince and the bikers instead.

It’s like Deran is trying to manipulate Craig into staying in his life, spouting that same shit about focusing on the family (i.e., the Codys) versus anything else that Smurf always did.

Deran is riding the hot mess express hard right now. And for all his digs about Vince maybe being a cop and not trustworthy, there’s still some shadiness with Great Value Matt Bomer, his utterly confused bang buddy who can’t read a room.

Discount Adrian asks way too many questions and tries to dig into Deran’s business too much, which seems too suspicious. It’s hard to say if he’s someone coming for them or if he’s just a stage five clinger who hasn’t realized that Deran is emotionally unavailable damaged goods.

Perhaps he’ll stop asking so many questions now that some of Deran’s mysterious façade has faded, and it’s a bit horrifying.

The second that asshole started up with his homophobic remarks, it was apparent that Deran had a little something planned for him. He wouldn’t be Deran if he didn’t.

It wasn’t even a surprise that he used his clingy boy toy as bait so he could kick the bar patron’s ass. However, things took a disturbing turn when he went to unbuckle his pants and essentially threatened the homophobe with the very opposite of a “good time.”

Discount Adrian seems a bit too clean-cut and upstanding to see something like that and not want to run for the hills, understandably. It was such an incredibly dark, unnerving scene.

Deran: You really think one brother will turn on the other like that?
J: Yeah, if we play it right.

The two hours heavily alluded to the inappropriate sexual conduct that has always factored into the Codys’ lives. Sexual abuse is a spectrum, and arguably all of Smurf’s sons display some behaviors and lingering effects that pull from that as an experience.

Craig has a full-blown addiction, sex being one of his many vices and one that he’s turned to as he tries to stay clean of drugs and booze. Deran’s aggressive and impersonal approach has always had him fucking like he’s at war with the person, rarely intimate, always rough, damn near violent. And Pope’s sexual habits are the most overtly “off.”

He was the only one not getting laid during these installments. Craig’s hitting the ladies hard since he’s been trying to get clean, and Vince is encouraging it so he doesn’t feel bad about it.

Vince’s approach to things is unorthodox, but he has some positive influence on Craig. However, the bar is so low on providing support that even this stranger who still feels potentially shady is a standout.

Vince: Those are some red eyes, bro.
Craig: Yeah, I messed up, man. Busted my ass to stay clean and just pissed it away in ten minutes.
Vince: Yeah, it’s not a straight path.
Craig: People like me drunk and high. My ex. My brothers. It started with my mom.

If you approach things from the perspective of Vince, maybe knowing who Craig is and the Cody reputation and perhaps trying to lure Craig into HIS illegal activities, maybe we’re onto something.

In the name of Craig’s sobriety, it does seem like he’s encouraging Craig to distance himself from his family and former life while also enticing him into his world of bikes, broads, thrill-seeking, and possibly more crime.

They already hit a diner, and Vince heavily implied that Craig didn’t have to give up his ways of making money to stay clean.

He left a door open for Craig to accompany him in whatever his pursuits are, and he’s been easing him into things with the offer to stay at his biker friend’s condo instead of Baz’s former home and showing off the items he makes.

Who just casually makes a machine gun like that, right? Hell, who doesn’t blink at a guy banging his ex-wife in the backroom of a bar and grill?

Craig is in an interesting position where there is merit on both sides of things. Deran is right to be suspicious of Vince, but because Deran is coming from a selfish, destructive, unsupportive place, it gets lost.

And Vince is right about Craig’s sobriety. It was a bit surprising how close Craig has gotten to Vince in this short time. He already considers Vince his sponsor, and the moment he fell off the wagon after that irritating confrontation with Renn, he went right to Vince to share.

Craig’s path toward staying clean is commendable, especially when you see that despite her puzzling attempt to keep Craig away from Nick, Renn is living the fast life, too.

What’s the logic in her punishing Craig for getting high and not prioritizing his family and also doing the same when he gets sober and prioritizes her and Nick?

And why is she not processing that her lifestyle and drug habit are dangerous to Nick?

The inevitable moment when something happens to Nick and Craig has to save him, as twisted as it sounds, will be so satisfying because Renn is a mess of contradictions and coke.

Even sober, Craig makes some questionable decisions, though. The man looked good while doing the recon at Eddie’s place. But he wasn’t looking delicious enough to not raise suspicions by visibly scanning for cameras and wandering areas he shouldn’t.

Craig needs lessons from J on looking without appearing as though he’s looking. The second he wandered off seconds after arriving at the place, you held your breath, waiting for him to get caught.

The job with Eddie is ambitious as hell and could go pear-shaped a million different ways. J is so adamant about it, though.

So much of this job going well depends on Arthur wanting to stick it to his half-brother. It’s such a delicious thing to explore because J has all the faith in the world that the two of them being blood isn’t synonymous with loyalty.

It had tripped up both Deran and Pope when J made his case. In a way, they can’t fathom that, but then Pope seemingly eased off the notion of it being outlandish when he likely considered his relationship with Baz.

Craig: Bro, I just banged your ex wife and you seriously don’t give a shit?
Vince: Ex, man. Look, she got her life, I got mine.

It also seemed like J’s adamance about this had Deran side-eying him for a second. In J’s mind, loyalty and allegiance can be broken if one party doesn’t treat the other right.

He and Craig saw how Eddie treated Arthur, and while Arthur does all the work, Eddie takes all the glory and lives the best life. Even with that in mind, Arthur seems like a wild card.

But for now, he took J up on that offer, gave them something they could work with regarding Eddie taking $750k worth of goods offsite, and negotiated a deal for himself.

It’s an exciting heist, but it sounds like one that will have us on the edge of our seats and a real nailbiter.

On the other hand, there are so many flags going up with Penny. What is her deal? She sounds like she has a bit of hustle and grift, and you could tell she’s trying to feel J out.

I’ll never forget her reaction to the price of J’s properties.

As a secretary who works at a law firm that handles estates, Penny asking J to meet her to scope out a building she wants to buy and get his advice on what to do with it was so transparent.

And their dinner turned date at the pier was nice enough, but the girl is working angles that feel like more than just having sex with her law firm’s hot client.

Smurf: How’s community service going?
Andrew: It’s not so bad.
Smurf: Really? It’s not so bad? Aren’t you picking up dog shit and candy wrappers?
Andrew: Better than juvie.
Smurf: Don’t get caught. You won’t have to do either.

It seems she’s feeling J out and wants in on whatever she thinks he’s into. She casually shared that she’s a secretary who both has access to and reads through confidential files of clients when “bored,” and shows that she uses that information to her advantage.

She casually tested the waters by sharing a time she stole and got in trouble and tried to see if he’d admit something when he told her he knew about the room they took her to as a result.

She openly expresses how bored and disinterested she is in her deployed husband. She initially seemed to rebuff J’s flirting only to double down on her own and lure him into a date.

Penny is suspect as hell!

Over to you, Animal Kingdom Fanatics.

Were you shocked by that Lena reveal? What’s your impression of Thompson? What do you make of Deran these days? Let’s discuss all the things below.

Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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