TNT’s Animal Kingdom
5×01: “Red Handed”
Directed by Nick Copus
Written by Daniele Nathanson
* For recaps & reviews of Season 4, click here.
* For a recap & review of 5×02, click here.
The boys are back in town. But what’s life like now without Smurf?
Craig and Renn are still doing the mommy-daddy thing, but the “blow back” from Smurf’s last ill-conceived job is now threatening that existence. He’s telling her everything about it, even if it’s a bit late. Either way things are going to get bad. Deran’s on high alert, too. They all are, and they’re preparing for whatever madness comes next. The brothers and their nephew have the stash they robbed, and Pope suggests they give it back. Craig’s not ready to give up the “million dollars in gold,” whereas Pope and Deran are trying to speak reason. J knows it’ll never go away now. The only solutions? Kill everybody, or give the gold back. Pope doesn’t want to kill his cousins, despite all that’s gone on. So the gold’s going back.
We get more flashbacks of young Janine with little Julia and and little Andrew a.k.a Pope. The two siblings looked after each other clearly. Even from a young age Pope was surly, though maybe for good reason. Somewhere along the road Janine stops and talks with her kids; not quite the typical mother and children relationship, as she shows off her recent spoils. Julia was thrilled with her mom, but Pope didn’t seem as excited about her, not without a bit of prompting.
In present day, Pope’s remembering the past. Will he be able to keep it together without Smurf? For all the woman’s faults she was a kind of rock for her oldest son, even if she did a psychological number on him. We know Pope doesn’t do so well on his own. Right now he and Craig are finding that the men on their trail are sniffing around. They’re also discovering Smurf had an apartment neither of them knew about—for what? Did Smurf need privacy? Or, is there something more to it?
“Can’t believe we’re still dealing with Smurf’s shit.”
J asks Deran about what Smurf told him, that Adrian was talking to the cops. He asks if they have to take care of that, for their own sake. Deran says he handled things, and he doesn’t take kindly to J asking a few too many questions. There’s also the fact that, in spite of J saving Pope he did, in fact, put a bullet through their mother’s head. Is that going to continue to sit well with all the uncles?
But we can’t get too nostalgic about Smurf, considering we watch little Julia in a flashback rolling up a joint for young Janine. I wouldn’t call that a great instance of motherhood. Not to mention Pope was already counting out candies like they were drugs and putting lotion on his mother’s back; the latter wouldn’t be troubling without the context of the suggested incest between Smurf and Pope. Also we see younger Smurf sending Pope after someone for the first time, when little Andrew nearly drowns another kid for messing around with Julia. The twisted family history continues to unfold.
J and his uncles go to the secret apartment. There, they spot Odin. Upstairs are more of the gang, including Jeremy (Ronnie Gene Blevins) and Mike (Nick Stahl). They’re going through everything to look for any clues as to the whereabouts of Smurf. Jeremy finds IDs and passports sewed into the couch, one of which belongs to Pope. Downstairs, Pope and Craig roll up on cousin Odin, taking him upstairs at gunpoint. At the same time J and Deran sneak around to get the jump on the others. This results in a tense standoff between the extended families. Pope says they’re giving back the gold. But the men want revenge for their dead father. So J tells them about shooting Smurf. Jeremy doesn’t believe them. He wants to see “a body.” Pope attempts to reason with them, telling the cousins they had no idea what Smurf was going to do. Mike says they’re fine if they get the gold back. He decides to go with Pope to get the gold.
Now they all wait. When Mike and Pope return they have a brief chat about the latter’s dad. Mike suggests he should come by to pay respects, seeing as how Pope’s dad is buried on their land. The gold’s been returned, so Mike picks up the others and they’re all off. Is this actually going to be the last of it? “It’s done,” says Pope. However, I’m not quite so sure. It’s interesting to see the uncles go back and eat a cold lasagna Smurf left in the fridge, because they’ve existed so long with Janine looking after them, cooking for them, cleaning for them, that it’s going to be a shock to the system without her, regardless of how they ultimately felt about her. Then there’s J, who’s got copies of Smurf’s will for everybody.
It’s upsetting the hold Smurf has on Pope. He’s putting her ashes away for safekeeping. What makes his character most troublesome is to see the flashbacks here, watching Janine weaponise her son for her own aims. We see them checking out of the motel where little Andrew almost drowned the boy. Janine had one last thing to do before they left. She used a coat hanger, a shirt, a self-serve bottle of liquor, and a lit cigarette to blow up the car of the woman whose boy Andrew tried to kill. Saddest of all is seeing little Pope smiling when they drove away.
Smurf’s will named Pamela Johnson as nearly the sole owner of everything she left behind. This has the boys concerned. They have bigger problems, though. The power goes out just as the cousins return and storm the property’s gate. What ensues is a gunfight in the dark between the fractured extended families. Plus, the cousins come from doomsday prepper stock. That means they’ve got night visions goggles and serious weaponry for this battle. The uncles and the nephew retreat inside after J nearly gets blinded from bullet ricochet, pushing the fight into closer quarters. Maybe the MOST PULSE POUNDING SCENE in Animal Kingdom thus far as the Cody family do what it takes to survive. Pope and Odin fight tooth-and-nail in the pool—eerie to see Pope so calm underwater, choking a man to death—while Deran shoots one of the cousins through the throat and J fires back, too. Jeremy almost gets the drop on a wounded Deran and J, but Craig manages to pump a shot into him and then they all wrestle him into submission as Craig chokes him out. Messy, but they get the job done.
Sirens are everywhere. Deran has to patch himself up, and drug himself up, while his brothers and nephew cart the bodies, and still breathing victims, off the property. How’s Deran going to talk his way out of this one? The cops arrive and Deran blames everything on a loud TV and video games. Deran talks a good game, not letting the cops inside without a warrant. Hopefully it’ll end there. Seems that one of the cops is conducive to being paid for his silence, having known Smurf; he tells Deran this kind of thing never happened “when Smurf was alive.” He does, in a way, have a point. Elsewhere, Pope, Craig, and J are getting rid of the evidence, including a still breathing Mike. Pope tells the other two to leave, deciding to finish things off himself. Hmm.
Pope takes Mike to dig a hole at gunpoint. Simultaneously, we see a flashback of Julia talking with her mom about their nomad lifestyle. Even that little girl knew her brother needed “more something,” not a constantly moving sense of ‘home.’ But Janine didn’t want to listen to anybody else, or notice what was happening to her own son. We skip to current day with Pope making Mike load his own family into the makeshift grave. This leaves only Mike now. He’s made to kneel in the dirty grave and Pope means to shoot him. But now that Smurf’s dead can Pope still bring himself to do horrible things, and to family? No. Things have changed. Pope lets Mike live, telling him to leave. Only question now is, will this somehow come back to haunt the Cody brothers and their nephew? Considering Nick Stahl plays Mike it’s possible we won’t see the last of him this season.
Animal Kingdom has been great since the beginning, in my humble opinion. Season 4’s finale changed the entire show, and now Season 5’s starting out very, very interesting. Excited to see how things go from here, and how messy/bloody it’ll get by the end.