TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Directed by Nick Copus
Written by Matt Kester
* For a recap & review of the Season 6 premiere, click here.
* For a recap & review of 6×03, click here.
Craig continues to do his best to live a healthy lifestyle, outside of heists and robberies. He’s running, working out, and keeping sober. He arrives home one day to find a couple surfboards and wetsuits outside his house. He heads inside and grabs his baseball bat, only to find his old buddy Rocky with two women fresh out of the shower and a bunch of cocaine. Craig kicks his pal out and decides to hang with the women. Will he manage to stay sober?
On the beach, Deran comes off the water and has a coffee with Ryan, a guy he’s been dating a little recently. Before they get sexy, they’re interrupted by Tre, who’s brought a special surfboard as a gift to Deran for taking care of the loud asshole influencer. Tre is happy to have someone looking out for the locals since Smurf’s gone. It’s not clear that Deran is exactly comfortable, or happy, stepping into his mom’s shoes.
At the old lot, a real estate agent comes by to look around. This pisses Pope off, discovering J put the lot up as a listing online. Why would J be so stupid? He knows Pope doesn’t want to get rid of the lot, at least not yet. Dumb move that’ll have repercussions. Flashback to Smurf controlling Julia’s life, and Julia being mad at Pope for not having her back. There was already so much rage in Pope as a teenager, as we watch him bloody his knuckles pounding on a door in the garage.
Jump back to the present. J gets home to a very angry Pope. He says he only wanted to see what it was worth on the market, and it can’t be sold without Pope’s signature anyway. And he agrees to take the listing down. J says he wants to go through all the properties and businesses in the Cody name, but Pope doesn’t care much about money or assets at the moment.
Craig comes to Deran, asking if his brother will switch houses with him. He’s worried about all the women and drugs and partying surrounding his place. But Deran refuses Craig, not willing to move out of his house. And that sends Craig off fuming. It’s not as if Deran’s never moved in and out of his place before, spending half his time at Smurf’s house and half his time elsewhere. It’s more like he’s totally unwilling to care about his brother’s problems, and that’s simply sad.
Flashback to Smurf taking Pope to talk with a lawyer about the debacle at school. Mom made it out like her sweet Andrew was only defending himself and his sister. The lawyer tried to get Smurf to take Pope to a psychiatrist. Of course that would’ve required Janine to actually love her children properly, not in her twisted vision of motherhood. Janine used her criminal connections to push the lawyer to just sweep everything under the rug. Her advice to her son? “You don‘t talk to anybody, ever.” Janine was raised brutally herself, so she then raised her boys within an environment of pure toxic masculinity.
J meets with the uncles about business, including getting a new lawyer, though nobody’s overly enthusiastic about the meeting, barely listening to what their nephew’s saying. Craig’s too busy battling demons and signing “dead people up for gym memberships” instead of running a legitimate business. Pope drops an $18K bill for J to pay, leaving J and Deran to figure things out between them. At least it appears that Deran is in J’s corner, for now, keeping things cool between J and the uncles. For now, J has to go put on his suit and do a bit of business himself, meeting with somebody about “estate planning.” He explains the family situation to a woman named Penny, albeit without spelling out the criminal enterprise.
At the gym, Craig gets a guy in a biker cut, Vince, asking around about his bike. Apparently Vince owns a shop nearby, suggesting Craig drop the bike by sometime. They go outside and take a look at the bike, talking shop about fuel and eventually sober living. Vince has been sober a while now. Might just be the perfect new buddy for Craig.
At the lot, Pope catches someone trying to steal his tools and he nearly starts beating the guy. Instead he decides to get the man to help him with a few things. Elsewhere, J and Deran are looking for the original invoice (for whatever bill Pope handed off to them) when the uncle sees somebody he clearly recognises. Deran pulls them away. Hmm, interesting. Someone from the Cody past? Back at the lot, Pope puts his would-be robber to work doing carpentry, and he’s very, very specific. The carpenter wants to be paid, walking off, which begins a haggling war over wages before Pope settles on paying the guy $15/hour.
Flashback to Baz and Julia talking about Smurf, as well as Pope. We see how Julia continually fell further into alcohol and hated her mother, whereas Baz was merely grateful to be taken in by Smurf, saved from a horrible family situation at home. Julia didn’t just drink, either. She was taking hallucinogenic drugs and descending deeper into that addiction.
In present day, Deran goes back to see the guy he recognised earlier, a man called Brian who runs amateur surf competitions around Oceanside. Once Smurf paid Brian to make sure Deran lost tournament heats. More awful parenting. Deran uses a taser on Brian, taking out all his mommy issues on the guy before leaving him in a heap.
Craig confronts Vince, believing his random new buddy is actually a cop. That’d make sense. Then Vince pulls out a gun, deciding they’re going to pull a quick robbery at a restaurant, and it doesn’t take much for Craig to join in, forcing everybody inside to pull out their wallets. Not quite Robin Hood. At the bar, J and Deran talk about Pope and his “eighteen grand of lumber.” They talk more about Craig, wondering if he’s actually doing okay. Again we see how disconnected Deran is from Craig, as well as little baby Nick, and it’s so troubling that even J notices.
Flashback to a party at Smurf’s house, more Nirvana blaring. Pope was walking around like a moving statue, completely on edge while others were partying. He only wanted to know where to find his sister. He went looking and found her in the garage smoking weed. They argued about their mother briefly, both having incredibly disparate views on Mom. Julia tried to tell Pope that Smurf didn’t like them being happy. She wanted to encourage her brother, pulling him in a vastly different direction than Smurf, confusing a young and angry Pope who could do nothing but lash out at the world.
In present day, we see Pope’s been building a skate vert ramp, getting back to something he loved, something that made him happy, something that was HIS before his mother sucked the life out of his soul. We hear Pope laugh like we have yet to experience on Animal Kingdom. Maybe my favourite sequence of any episode, just because of the significance. Pope is a bad person, who’s done bad things, but he was crafted into that person by Smurf, so there’s still a degree of sympathy for him as a character, and watching him here is a beautiful moment, in spite of everything.