TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 1, Episode 4: “Dead to Me”
Directed by Regina King
Written by Etan Frankel
* For a review of the previous episode, “Stay Close, Stick Together” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Flesh is Weak” – click here
An episode directed by TNT’s Southland alumni Regina motherfuckin’ King! Yeah, baby. Go on and get it. Let’s do this already.
Uncle Deran (Jake Weary) wakes up his nephew Josh (Finn Cole). He offers a free swing, apologising for the pool incident. J’s fine with things being smooth from here on in, though Deran is still a bit edgy. He’s only worried if Smurf (Ellen Barkin) knows everything is fine again. Downstairs, Baz (Scott Speedman) pulls in and helps poor, helpless Pope (Shawn Hatosy) make coffee. The Cody Boys discover there’s no breakfast. Smurf has been doing her own thing during the night, she had a man over. Nobody is surprised, but Pope doesn’t like the look of it. In other news, it’s his birthday. Everybody has big plans from sky diving to paintball. Pope’s not into any of it. All the while, Deran, Baz, they’re all hiding the fact they’ve made some of their own money since they were supposed to be keeping things on the down low. Upstairs, Josh finds himself in another awkward naked encounter with grandma Smurf; she gives him cash, unaware he also has more of it himself. She tries to get info, but Josh is solid. Probably more concerned his uncles would kill him if he blabbed. Still, Smurf knows there’s something up. She is not at all stupid.
So the boys are all having a fun time. Deran and Baz get the paintball kicking off, as a reluctant Pope gets pulled into it before smashing up the new gun. No fun, dude. All of a sudden Baz gets a text from Smurf: CUTBACK. He takes all the cellphones, switching out SIM cards. There’s something shitty about to happen. Emergency measures are taken. Everyone’s leaving town, or at least hiding out. Cash and anything else necessary is being packed, ready to ship off. Baz wants Pope to stay, but you know that ain’t sitting with the man himself. The Cody Boys and Baz all head to a safe house with food and supplies to wait on a call from their lawyer. As it turns out there’s no emergency. All Smurf. She knows there’s “bullshit jobs” going on without her involvement. Mama offers her boys once chance to come out with the truth. Then she shuts down her sons, telling them no more jobs, no more money. They’re cut off on their own now, so she says.
Josh is having a hard time adjusting to his family. Especially when you consider the fact he’s got school, a normal life, Nicky (Molly Gordon), and that’s tough to juggle. He gets caught smoking a joint at school, by a teacher who’s interest in him is not positively all teacher-like, in my opinion. That could end up going somewhere further. She isn’t exactly professional, smoking the joint and asking him to go to a photographer’s surf exhibit.
The Cody Boys and Big Baz are up in the air, getting ready to skydive. At that very same time, they argue about the side jobs they’ve been doing. Not a nice place to be arguing and pushing each other around like a bunch of animals. Sure enough, one of them gets tossed from the plane and then they all head for the air. This is an awesome sequence involving some GREAT stunts mid-air. These guys are lunatics. Whoever did the stunt work here are a bunch of wild dudes. Makes the whole thing plenty fun.
Catherine (Daniella Alonso) finds Josh coming to check on her, bringing mac and cheese. He’s such a good kid amongst a family of maniacs. In the meantime, Baz is over at his dad’s trailer again. Only dear ole dad is nowhere to be found. And Craig (Ben Robson), he finds his girlfriend Renn (Christina Ochoa) overdosed in her bathroom, dead. So he takes advantage, great guy he is, taking any jewellery and pills and whatever else he can find. What a man.
Josh is having a bit of a rough day, being his mother’s birthday and all. The Codys don’t talk of her “like she never existed” and Catherine knows this all too well. We find out more about Josh’s mother; Baz tried to get her help, but that didn’t work. She stole a lot of money from them, it seems. But mainly I’m sure Smurf couldn’t control her daughter, and lack of control is a problem for Mama Smurf when it comes to her brood. Speaking of her, she’s trying to keep Nicky close, digging her claws in.
And boy, does Craig have big trouble. His painkiller supply is in danger of drying up. At least he’s got plenty of other drugs kicking around. Well, that isn’t exactly good. There’s a chance he could burn out quick. Especially because he’s got addiction and guilt all rolled into one, all the while keeping secrets from mommy. Tsk, tsk.
We find Baz being a dick now to Josh. He doesn’t want the kid poking around. But it’s only because Baz is paranoid. About the Codys, about what Josh might want to know concerning his mother. About everything. He’s letting that tear his own family apart, as Catherine hates that Smurf controls him the way she does. Because that’s the bottom line, he’s worried about being “iced out” by the matriarch of the gang.
The birthday celebrations are still going hard. And the boys are all fretting over what their mom knows, even while sitting in a strip club. Deran is fronting hard trying to convince everyone, mostly his nephew, that he’s straight. Pope hooks Josh up with a lap dance while Baz tries to give Pope a nice time with a lady of his own. Except Pope has some issues – what exactly, I’m still not sure, though I have my guesses. Alone with the stripper, Pope reveals: “I can‘t remember the last time I had an erection.” Not just that, he seems so unbelievably wound up inside that it’s scary. Then he makes the woman say “we can‘t, Andrew” – and now I’m sure he’s had intimate contact with his mother. He and Smurf have had sex at some point. There is no doubt. Good fucking lord. I expected the incest, but still a shock.
Most interesting? Craig gets a call from Renn, alive and in the ER. Whoa, this could be a devastating turn.
Later on, Pope takes Josh out with him into the woods somewhere. He talks about the Seven Seals, the Horsemen, et cetera. He thinks maybe the Cody Boys and Baz are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. An eerie conversation. Just goes to show his warped, strange way of thinking. Then Uncle Pope takes his nephew over a fence to a graveyard. They’re headed for Josh’s mom, to pay respects to her grave on her and Pope’s birthday. There’s a side to Pope that is also gentle. It rarely comes out. More now I begin to think he’s so messed up because of things that have happened in his life. Things that could have, and should have, been prevented. The root of all the evil might just lie in Smurf. For the time being, Pope reminisces about his and his sister’s birthday, how they made wishes and told each other, keeping their secrets; the whole Cody family’s foundation is built purely on secrets, lies, hidden truths. Josh comes out and asks Pope about Baz and his mother. “Baz has a way of getting what he wants,” replies the uncle with an acidic tone. Moreover, we see that Pope has lingering feelings about what happened to his sister, and that he knows more than he lets on. No telling what happened to Julia for her to fall into such despair. Just being part of that family is enough to make a person an addict, as we can also see by looking at Craig.
At home, Smurf kicks everybody out. She is really putting that foot down. And then Baz snitches to Smurf, about Pope. He reveals the job Deran and Josh did with Pope. Ah, more ammo to fuel the fire between the brothers, between Pope and Baz, between Baz and the Cody Brothers. So many things coming together, pulling apart. There’s only so long this can last. I wonder how Smurf’s going to react to all this going forward. You can never tell with her devious behaviour.
In the hospital Craig finds Renn. She’s okay, though took a hard overdose. She also thinks there was a robbery. No idea that it was her supposedly sweet manfriend. Renn wants Craig to take care of who stole from her: “You hurt him and I‘ll make it worth your while.” He is a piece of shit for letting this happen.
Once Josh gets back home Smurf is waiting with a cupcake, a candle in it. She also wants to know the truth about her boys and what they’re doing behind her back. Further than that she makes clear that Josh needs to do right by her. Or else.
Everything is so intense and suspenseful within the wild Cody family. I love seeing Finn Cole in the midst of it, he does well with the character. I can’t wait for the next episode “Flesh is Weak” because there’ll be plenty more intrigue, excitement, and disturbing shit. Stay with me, fellow fans!