TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 2, Episode 8: “Grace”
Directed by Cherie Nowlan
Written by Megan Martin
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Dig” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Custody” – click here
Pope (Shawn Hatosy) heads out late in the night, early in the morning. He seems on edge. What’s he doing? Where is he going? Back at Smurf’s (Ellen Barkin) place the weird vibes between J (Finn Cole) and Nicky (Molly Gordon) continue, as she’s still banging uncle Craig (Ben Robson). Plus, the girl finds out that “Javi can‘t come back” when she inquires about J’s gun. And the whole thing’s just… awkward, tense, strange.
Well, Pope is waiting for mom when she wakes up, watching as she sleeps. Creepy. She’s creepy, too. Naked under the sheets, calling her eldest boy in with just a sheet separating them to cuddle. Although he refuses; this time.
In other news, Baz (Scott Speedman) worries about Smurf and her skimming. He makes the mistake of telling Lucy (Carolina Guerra), because the more people around him know the more they’re at risk. And everyone even near Smurf, or Pope, or Baz, are at risk, at all times. Doesn’t help that Lucy and Pope aren’t exactly friendly, either.
But he’s got issues with Baz, that’s where it all starts. I keep wondering when it’s all going to explode. He loves Baz as a brother, and there’s also a fucked up jealousy.
Deran (Jake Weary) is out of the closet, so he’s experiencing life as a gay man truly for the first time. Banging dudes without worrying. Even feels strange to him to get a compliment for fucking a guy well. I love him, he’s so innocent in a way in terms of his sexuality while simultaneously totally non-innocent in his life as a thief. The guy he’s with right now? It’s the dude from the local business owners meeting.
Pope’s still into Bible study with Amy (Jennifer Landon). During one of their studies the police arrive to speak with her, naturally worrying our man who’s acting so casual, so cool. Problem is the police are looking for Leon, an ex-con working with the church; he’s scared, not contacting them back. Looks like the boys’ robbery is putting others in harm’s way now. I continuously feel curious about whether he’ll be able to shoulder the weight of guilt throughout this whole ordeal, it’s always getting worse.
At the house, Smurf is making bullets, to help show J. She’s also contending with Baz’s prying, trying to keep him happy. And wondering about the self-destructive nature of Pope, how Baz can “take care” of him. Likewise she tells Baz: “I took you in because the minute I laid eyes on you I fell in love with you.” She’s trying to keep him close, close, close. As he keeps an eye on her, tracking her every move.
Craig’s starting to scope out the next job on his own. Ingratiating himself to other employees of the company where he’s working. For a fuck up, the dude is charming. Very charming. And back in the garage, Smurf teaches her grandson to make “loads” for the gun, pressing their own bullets. Ah, family time! Grandma further works to pump him up again, to restore his confidence. She teaches him much more than just how to make a few bullets. They actually talk about his mom, as well. A rare occasion for Smurf, she obviously didn’t love her daughter the same as her sons, for many reasons.
We see a bit of the good in Pope, a glimmer of hope in his personality. He talks with Amy’s friend Leon, levelling with him about their time in prison, what it’s like to come out and deal with the real world. Seems the man’s got a drug problem. During the robbery, he was fixing on heroin. Doesn’t want his parole jammed up. So Pope suggests an alternative plan, to help the guy out. As well as to help out his own conscience from feeling worse.
Baz gets out to the storage place where Smurf’s got a stash. Since 2004. Whoa. That could mean she’s been skimming for quite a long time. He manages to bribe his way into finding the exact number of her locker. Using some shady gear to spy the safe inside.
When Pope arrives at his apartment later he’s got cops tossing his shit, some of the ones from the church. They’re suspicious, naturally. He plays it totally cool on the outside, a simmering anger inside and no doubt a fear of heading back to jail.
But what does Pope do now? So much for that guilt, or that conscience. He plants a bit of evidence he still has kicking around on – you guessed it – Leon. What a low move, man. Just as I thought there was humanity left in him, he puts the frame on someone he doesn’t deserve it. You can tell it weighs on him, but what’s the good of a conscience when it does nothing, when it’s only a vestigial, useless psychological organ?
Smurf tries patching things up. She doesn’t “believe in sorry” so that means she hands over $20K to each of her boys, to make up for being such a control freak and ruining their collective trust. However, she requires something: she needs their cash, to launder through her business. Works both ways, though. Gets them a tax record. Choices to make for everyone. The trust isn’t quite there again, not yet.
Baz: “That‘s a lot of free cash, man. What are you gonna do with it?”
J: “Nothing‘s free, man.”
Now Baz is discovering there was a Confidential Informant file started on Catherine, by her cop friend Patrick. This is starting to lead our boy in quite a scary direction; scary for those who know more than they let on, who are involved more than anyone else knows.
Speaking of scary, I’m worried for Nicky, getting further into the family business with Craig pulling her in on the latest job. Not only that she’s trying to one up on J, to make him jealous. Scared this may lead someplace dark.
One nice bit? Adrian (Spencer Treat Clark) and Deran get together at his bar for a drink. They talk about life, where it’s headed for them both. Deran wants to buy the whole building where he has the bar, to “go legit” – Adrian wonders if his brothers will let him.
Closer and closer Baz comes to the truth. He believes Smurf will do anything, from stealing her boys’ money to having Baz’s wife killed. And expressing this sentiment to Pope isn’t the the smartest move. Little does he know.
This was a good episode because it didn’t have any wild action, or much of the thrilling robbery stuff. It worked well on a character development level, focusing on plot points headed our way in the near future. Specifically, we’re seeing more sides of Pope, more of his guilt, his lack of any morality, as well as Baz starting to discover more of Catherine’s disappearance. Where that leads could irreparably change the Cody gang and the Animal Kingdom series as a whole forever. “Custody” is next week, promising further intensity, as usual.