Animal Kingdom – Season 2, Episode 11: “The Leopard”

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 2, Episode 11: “The Leopard”
Directed by Michael Morris
Written by Eliza Clark

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Treasure” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “You Will Be Gutted” – click here
Pic 1Craig (Ben Robson) and Renn (Christina Ochoa) are off gambling, having fun together like before; before he left her for dead to OD in a bathroom by herself. Not sure if that’s something someone can ever get past, though she did get him back pretty damn good. Either way, they’re having a ball. For now.
Back at the bar, Deran (Jake Weary) is flat off his ass busy. Then Adrian (Spencer Treat Clark) shows up, he’s got something for him: a picture of Deran surfing a wave. He found it while packing, heading out for “one last shot” at a competition. The picture’s from the last competition Deran won. They remember younger days, perhaps in many ways better times. The two kiss, and then Adrian heads off. These two are so sweet together, man. I want Deran to fully embrace his own life, his sexuality, and it’d be great to see the two of them last.
Hard to when things are going so sour. Baz (Scott Speedman) is looking through a bunch of Smurf’s (Ellen Barkin) belongings from storage. In a suitcase he finds fake IDs for her, a bunch of things. Including a file marked BLACKWELL, evidently containing police photographs of marks on a young Barry’s barely teenage body, bruises and strap marks all over the back. Like walking back into the past, into a nightmare.
Great juxtaposed pictures, from the better times in Deran’s life to Baz and the darkest moments of his own. Impressive, emotional visual that sort of weaves through the opening ten minutes here.
What’s more interesting? Last time Smurf was at Barry’s place, she left a bug. She hears everything he and Lucy (Carolina Guerra) are saying, about her, about Pope (Shawn Hatosy), Marco (Joseph Julian Soria); all of it.


Speaking of Pope, he and Amy (Jennifer Landon) are closer, but they’ve each got issues. She laments her mistakes, the situation of her son that she put him in. And strangely enough, in a weird irony, Pope’s the one giving her moral support. While his own morality is a topsy, turvy sea of shit.
Things between J (Finn Cole) and Nicky (Molly Gordon) are changing. She and Craig are officially not together. But that doesn’t necessarily mean these two are falling into a relationship, though it looks more possible now. J has other things to worry about, grandma’s rushing around rambling about cash, so he helps her dig up a box in the yard with a nice few stacks. She tells him about Baz ripping her off, too. Scared to see how she’ll manipulate her grandson here, if she’s going to find out his part in it.
Marco finds Craig in a pile of naked women, they were supposed to meet. He’s got keys for Craig, to take a car for him, bring it to another location. Drugs, he assumes. Until Marco leaves and Craig hears someone, muffled, calling from the trunk. Oh, fucking great! The Cody boys have got themselves in some bullshit again.
At the house, Baz comes over to talk to Smurf. He admits to stealing it, straight up. Even gives J a share before he heads out for the day. Baz is trying to cut a deal with her, to keep the family together. Essentially it’s a take the deal or not-type situation, except for the fact she doesn’t have much else left to lose, does she? What’s Baz really trying to do here?
Oh, and Pope, he’s following Catherine’s cop friend Patrick (Dorian Missick). Hope he ain’t thinking what I think he’s thinking…
Pic 2Not knowing what to do Craig takes the guy in the trunk to Deran’s bar. When they tie the guy down to take off his gag, the young guy tells them: “Youre dead.” Seems he’s got an important father. The gruesome behaviour he describes, sounds like a cartel sort of man.
There are big moves happening in the family. Baz has long had power of attorney over the family’s ultimate finances. Now, Smurf’s handing that over to J; he holds that power from here on. This could turn ugly. And I’m not totally convinced that she isn’t playing it that way.
Pope confronts Patrick at a restaurant, blaming him for putting too much stress on Catherine. Of course the cop believes Baz killed her, and he already knows that Smurf had her oldest son torch Catherine’s parents and their house. Pope is playing a dangerous game. Afraid he might be going a bit far off the rails.
Baz meets with his dad down at the scrapyard where he works. Pops is sober three months, working again obviously. His son shows him one of those Polaroids. Then he’s told about Smurf having him worked over with a pipe brutally back in the day. Deserved it, though. No happy reunion in this family’s future.
We see that the kid Marco took, Alejandro (Gustavo Gomez), has a dad who’s a cop. Likely a dirty one, by the sounds of what we’ve heard so far. A particularly nasty one, too. Simultaneously, Renn shows up; perfect timing! She’s there to get money she floated Craig for their trip to Vegas. “Baller” shit went down, apparently. Private plane, all that jazz. At the same time, Deran isn’t happy with his newer life being infringed upon by their family and their madness. This leads to arguments over him not being able to have anything individual, it’s always a Deran-Craig thing, from surfing to the bar to all their criminal idiocy. Deran says once he’s fully bought the bar, he’s out. Finito.
Pic 3Then they discover Alejandro escaped in the time they took to yell at each other. Good job, lads! They’re able to chase him down. In the process Deran takes a rusty nail to the leg, before Craig lays a beat down on him. But Alejandro says it’s only because he believes he’ll be killed in the process of him getting handed over. He’s afraid for his life. The plot thickens.
Pope brings the new information on Catherine, via Patrick, to his mother. He boils over with anger, screaming at Smurf that she didn’t talk to the cops. He’s so angry he could nearly kill her. It’s almost as if he wants to, then when he grabs hold of her he breaks down in tears. A tortured fucking soul.
Baz makes a call to the Sheriff’s Department. Is he about to drop a bomb(/a dime)?
Elsewhere, Pope meets with Amy. He asks if “forgiveness is possible” and says he’s done something horrible. He reveals that he killed a woman he loved. HOLY FUCK! This horrifies Amy rightly. This will only serve to alienate Pope further, and I can’t blame her for her reaction one bit. Also can’t believe he said that to her.
Later that night, Craig and Deran hand the kid over with Marco to the people waiting. Alejandro’s dragged away pleading. The Codys get a fat envelope of cash, for their morality. Before they can leave a woman returns to pistol whip Marco. Far cry from the family just thieving, not hurting others.
And on her way home, Smurf gets pulled over by the cops. You guessed it, they’ve got her surrounded. Back at her house, Baz walks in. Getting a beer from the fridge. Like he owns the place. Maybe he does now. We’ll see.
Pic 4Fuck, there’s so much happening at once, and the major bit is what will happen to Smurf next? Baz has really put her in a corner. I worry she’ll come out swinging harder than he expects, harder than he can parry. Who knows.
“You Will Be Gutted” is the penultimate Season 2 episode. Great to know already we’ve got a Season 3 coming. Bring it, baby!

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Animal Kingdom – Season 2, Episode 10: “Treasure”

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 2, Episode 10: “Treasure”
Directed by Josef Kubota Wladyka
Written by T.J. Brady & Rasheed Newson

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Custody” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Leopard” – click here
Pic 1J (Finn Cole) finds grandma Smurf (Ellen Barkin) in his bed, drinking. She’s worried about who robbed her storage unit. Naturally, the kid’s nervous. He helped uncle Baz (Scott Speedman) break in, though he wasn’t the one who told him about it; Barry did that all on his own.
Speaking of him, he’s checking out the haul from Smurf’s safes. Quite the goddamn loot, too. From jewellery to stacks of bills, it’s impressive. This is one time Baz is truly off on his own. He and the other lads are in two different directions. While he’s robbing his adopted mom, Craig (Ben Robson) is heading up the next actual job. He’s still dragging Nicky (Molly Gordon) around while doing shady shit. They’ve got it all planned. But I keep seeing her winding up in handcuffs. Meanwhile, Renn (Christina Ochoa) turns up again, warning the young lady about Craig not being “worth the ride.” She’d know, she nearly died after overdosing and being left in the bathroom to die by him. My only fear, that I know is justified, is that Nicky won’t figure that out before it’s too late.
Pic 2At the bar, Pope (Shawn Hatosy) goes to see Deran (Jake Weary) before they’re supposed to get going on their end of the job’s preparations. He’s not happy, he doesn’t like that Marco (Joseph Julian Soria) and Nicky both – outsiders – are part of the job. And these are genuine, smart concerns.
The younger brother doesn’t see it as anything more than simple risk. He also believes they “owe” Craig. But, if you look at the dude’s track record he’s a junkie, one who’s caused the gang a good deal of nonsense. Remember the first we really saw a lot of Craig he got himself shot? Yeah.
J goes to see Baz, worrying about the Smurf trouble. Knowing he went back on his own after the kid was gone. Baz suddenly plays the family card, after usually keeping J at arm’s length. Now he’s ready to trust him. Hope the kid is up to the task. Playing in the rough game his uncles do is dangerous shit.
Then there’s Smurf, going off the deep end. She has a cattle prod, pumping the storage locker attendant full of voltage to get answers about what happened during the robbery. She discovers it was indeed Baz, that he was alone. She also shows the guy a picture of J, but he didn’t see him there. “Thank you,” Smurf says before heading back to the car. Where little Lena Roo (Aamya Deva Keroles) sits with headphones on. Lord, what a piece of work.
The Cody gang are now pirates. Heading out to jack a boat. Craig leads them on the job, acting more responsible than we’ve ever seen him. He isn’t exactly the hard, heavy handed leader that we see in his mother. I guess he’s trying, at least. He wants to be taken seriously by his brothers, to prove to Smurf he isn’t useless, either.
And Smurf, she’s plotting the next step in her conflict with Baz. The father, as usual, isn’t around to take care of his daughter. He’s actually watching the place. He heads inside after Smurf leaves, to find the gun stashed in the fridge. Shit, man. He’s really escalating this little war. Would he go so far as to implicate Smurf in something, or perhaps turn in evidence to drop the law on her? Whoooa, if so.
Out on the open sea, Craig plays his role as member of the staff. Pouring drinks, being polite and tending to the newly married couple celebrating. All is well. On the boat he rented under a fake ID, Nicky is practising her lines, then she calls out to the response of the US Coast Guard. A nice distraction while there’s trouble on the ocean elsewhere. Craig’s setting everything in motion, throwing lines over the side and heading down below to cut off the boat’s communications, the rest of the sabotage required.
Pic 3All the while Baz is taking a walk out to a hill in the middle of nowhere. Looks very familiar. Maybe like the place where Javi was shot in the head, buried. Is he going to dig up the body? Seems to have brought the right gear – a shovel, a suit to keep from getting anything on him. Oh, my. Baz… this is fucking intense, dude. He digs the body out, puts a bullet in the head with the gun from the fridge, then covers it all back up. Not what I expected exactly. Still wild.
Simultaneously Smurf is at his place, searching for anything at all. She looks everything, top to bottom. Wonder if she’ll come across anything. Barry was dumb enough to let himself be seen at the storage unit. What else did he forget?
The ship is stopping, just like Craig planned. Out on the smaller boat, Nicky fumbles around acting innocently dumb for the Coast Guard who are towing her back. Then we’ve got the rest of the boys, Sea-Dooing to the ship. They’ve even got clear, creepy masks! They zip tie the crew, Pope controls the captain and the bridge, as Deran looks after the crowd with Marco, using his Spanish speaking skills. Then Craig is used as a decoy, getting his face and ribs beat in by Pope and Marco; the latter seeming to pile on more than agreed.
Nevertheless, the job goes over after the money, the jewellery, everything’s collected. When one woman will not give over her ring, Marco cuts the finger off with the ring intact. Fuck, that is horrifying. This went from a robbery to a bit of torture. Craig seems fine with it. Glad they’ve got shit done. I only wonder how far the Cody gang is willing to go morally. Doesn’t sit well with Pope afterwards, though. Of all people!
Pic 4What’s with Baz spending up cash? He’s bought a car, a house for him and Lucy (Carolina Guerra). Well, the house is a place for him to stash all his earnings. As well as the massive haul from Smurf’s storage unit. Although I’m not sure if Lucy’s down. It semi-impresses, and also freaks her out, I think.
And J, my lord, J! He’s become such a jaded part of the gang. When Smurf asks if there were any problems on the latest job, he dumps the ring finger out on the table. Then watches her throw it down the garbage disposal with some bleach. Also, he took a picture of the loot on his phone. Yikes. Not a good idea, bro.
Later he goes to see an old friend, his previous neighbour Dina (Karen Malina White). They’re having a bit of dinner together, for old time’s sake; something they’ve been doing lately, apparently.  Then he goes to her bathroom. Under the sink, in a secret stash he hides some jewellery. Where there’s already several stacks of cash. Hmm. Maybe the kid’s planning not to be part of the Cody shit show much longer.
Celebrating at the bar, J gets closer to Nicky while Craig rails coke, Pope goes home for an early night, and Deran swipes around on Tinder until he finds a guy to fuck. All’s good in the land of the Codys. Although Pope isn’t actually gone home. He’s off to see Amy (Jennifer Landon), having grim visions of making love to her mixed with killing Catherine. He isn’t doing so hot after all. And J, he runs into uncle Deran giving a blowjob this time rather than getting one; no animosity anymore, since he’s come out of the closet. Oh, and Craig’s trying to get a second chance from Renn. A very tenuous, rocky one, but a second chance nonetheless.
Not to mention he asks Renn on a trip to Vegas. Maybe he’s turning a leaf. Or maybe he’s just finding other ways to be irresponsible.
Pic 5Now, Baz tells Lucy he wants to leave with her. Go to Mexico, move in her with her, her son, Lena. A happy little life, away from the family, and away from Smurf.
Goddamn. Is this the ultimate plan? To get Smurf put away, then take off down south of the border? Might be a good plan, if I didn’t think she was slippery enough to get out of it all unscathed. There’s no telling to what lengths she’ll go in order to save herself. And Baz might’ve been adopted by her, taken in from a terrible family.
But remember: he ain’t real family.
Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 12.19.31 AMWow, this was another intense slice of Animal Kingdom! A couple real interesting developments happening, from Nicky and J, as well as J and Deran sort of getting closer and less fist-to-fist, plus Pope’s mental state and now Baz v. Smurf. SO MUCH GOING DOWN. It’s unreal. Great Season 2, can’t wait to see how it closes out. We already know Season 3 is a go, that leaves me excited for how we’re going to head into a third outing. I’m feeling there’ll be a very suspenseful, suspicious, paranoid third season if things continue this route.
“The Leopard” is next week. Can hardly wait!

Animal Kingdom – Season 2, Episode 9: “Custody”

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 2, Episode 9: “Custody”
Directed by Gary B. Goldman
Written by Etan Frankel

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Grace” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Treasure” – click here
Pic 1Oh, the Cody lads are at it again! Having a bit of extreme sports-style fun, racing Sea-Doos together. Well, at least J (Finn Cole), Deran (Jake Weary), Pope (Shawn Hatosy), and Craig (Ben Robson) are having a laugh together. They’re actually scouting out the boat where Craig got the job, their next target for the upcoming job. Baz (Scott Speedman) isn’t around, though. The boys aren’t entirely pleased. At least Deran isn’t, Pope is fairly sure their adopted bro isn’t going to be down for the job. Not with the way his life’s been lately. Troubling things beginning to come to light.
Then there’s Nicky (Molly Gordon), she’s out looking at guns in a shop. As in serious fucking guns. You know who she’s starting to act and sound like? Smurf (Ellen Barkin). Only she’s not as smart as the older woman yet, she isn’t as experienced. This might either be her corruption, or her total downfall. I worry and wonder.
Pic 1AThe gang gets together talking over the job, Baz doesn’t take the thing hugely serious knowing Craig is behind the brains. But the dude’s got things covered, he’s trying to pull his weight in the family to prove he’s not a total fuck up. The crowd’s a bit bigger than they’re used to, though the man with the plan has an idea: he’ll get the shit kicked out of them to control people. Lucky for one of his brothers. Except for the fact Baz is out. Neither are the rest happy with the fact Nicky’s supposedly part of the job. Risky shit.
Suddenly Pope is willing to defend Smurf, saying she might’ve taken Catherine out for him, to protect them all. Not knowing the truth, Baz insists on not letting her “get away” with all she’s done. He wants Pope with him. Reluctantly, the adopted brother agrees. Knowing in his heart what he’s done. What Smurf had him do, what they conspired to do together.
Deran isn’t ready to accept Nicky working with them. He also isn’t sure they can pull the job without Baz, the only one of the group who can speak Spanish. Other than that they’ve got no one to trust who speaks the language. Deran knows a guy from juvenile detention who might fit the bill.
Oh, and Baz? He’s readying to pull a job on his own: ripping off Smurf.
Speaking of the big boss lady, she’s assuring Pope there is no heat coming for Baz. Per a “cop friend” she says. The look in Pope’s eyes, you can just see how confused and tortured and twisted up he is inside. He gives mom a hug, but there’s this vacant look that shows the guilt, bottled up down in the darkness of his gut. It’s powerful. She enjoys the hug, the first in a long time. She doesn’t recognise what she’s done to him over the years. She made a monster.
Pic 2The boys go to mom to get their money laundered. Deran would rather not, Craig wants to get the job done, one way or another. Meanwhile, Baz is trying to keep at least one person on his side, as he picks J up to help him with his shit.
Craig tells Nicky a story about 8-years old, pulling his first job with dear ole mom. Afterwards they went to Toys-R-Us with a $1K wad. Jesus fucking christ, no wonder he’s absolutely messed up. His life’s been a goddamn mess. Smurf’s truly and wholly corrupted her family, just about from day one. Later, he and Deran go meet Rafael (Scotty Tovar) for a hopeful Spanish connection. Their lives are on completely different paths now. “You see me turn into that guy put a bullet in my head,” says Deran. It was a hot minute ago he was talking about getting out of the life of a thief.
Baz takes J with him to the storage unit; yeah, that one. Doesn’t the kid already know this is where grandma has a space? He reluctantly helps his possible father cut a way through to the safes inside. Tons of money just sitting there, waiting for the taking. Baz uses this opportunity to make sure the kid knows: “Smurfs needs you, not the other way around. Remember that.”
What about Pope? He’s headed to the sheriff’s station. Almost as if he’s about to turn himself in. Then he goes to see Amy (Jennifer Landon). Calling himself a coward. He tells her he worries about his family falling apart, that he’s not strong enough to keep it from happening. And that it’s all his fault. Part of that’s true.
Pic 3Smurf gets a call and has to run out. Down at an apartment building in town she’s found Jake (Jack Conley). She gets the jump on his ass, Tasering him in the shower. Ouch. Bad enough getting the shock, really rough to get it while totally wet. More than that she makes him choose a knee, before popping a bullet into the other one. No more running, Jakey.
Pope gets an upfront view of Amy’s life, her mistakes, her failures. This is why he’s fallen in love with her, he sees the warts and all view. He equates what he’s done with what she did, and they’re not on the same level. Not in the slightest. When he’s willingly murdered; not in self defence, but out of self preservation in the most selfish sense. Amy made a mistake that forever altered her life for the worse, one she’s dealing with and accepting every waking moment.
Deran and Craig are trying to get their buddy Marco (J.J. Soria) to help them on the boat job. They need their Spanish connection. He’s not so willing, not anymore. These aren’t the old days. So the Cody boys pump liquor into him to get their answer. Relying on them agreeing to help him move some drugs. Uh oh. That ain’t their wheelhouse. Could mean bigger heat, bigger trouble than they’re used to with robberies. Also equals bigger consequences.
Now Baz has himself a shadow, as J follows him after their storage unit job. I can’t tell if he’s going to tell grandma. She’s just discovering the theft of every single bit of her stash. Baz is ready to hit her where it hurts, deep. A civil war amongst the gang. Gonna get nasty.
COVERAnother excellent episode in Season 2. Recently, TNT confirmed they’re giving Animal Kingdom a Season 3, so we’ll see plenty more of the Codys, what drives them, where they’re headed. So much more. And there’s still plenty of deviousness left in these last episodes of this season. It’ll get wilder yet.

Animal Kingdom – Season 2, Episode 8: “Grace”

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
Pic 1Pope (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 cant 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.
Pic 1AIn 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.
Pic 2 (1)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.
Pic 3But 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: “Thats a lot of free cash, man. What are you gonna do with it?”
J: “Nothings 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.
Pic 4Pic 4AThis 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.

Animal Kingdom – Season 2, Episode 7: “Dig”

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 2, Episode 7: “Dig”
Directed by David Rodriguez
Written by Eliza Clark

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Cry Havoc” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Grace” – click here
Pic 1In the aftermath of Javi (Alex Meraz) attacking J (Finn Cole) and Nicky (Molly Gordon), what will Smurf (Ellen Barkin) do? Will Pope (Shawn Hatosy) and mom join together at least momentarily to take care of this family problem?
Meanwhile, J took a good beating. That nasty wound on his leg got opened up. Just vicious stuff. While he washes off, Pope and Smurf watch the security footage of Javi and his boys raiding the house. At the bar, Deran (Jake Weary) and Craig (Ben Robson) ignore mom’s calls, talking about their new, upcoming job, something they’re keeping secret until the time is right.
Smurf comforts J who’s feeling “shame” for not being able to protect the place, or Nicky. He wants to go after Javi. At the same time, Baz (Scott Speedman) is picking up Nicky over where she was dropped off. She doesn’t blame J for anything, it’s just him being hard on himself. Feeling the traps of faux masculinity knocking at the door. Hope it doesn’t drive him to do anything stupid, anything he doesn’t think real damn hard about first. Grandma’s doing her best to keep a lid on that temper.
Pic 1AFinally, Smurf has to explain to the boys about Javi, his father, all the tragic story from back in the day. Manny supposedly put Javi’s dad out of his misery, then he was buried at a construction site. That’s now on the street where they let Nicky go earlier. So, do the boys ride or die for big mama? Probably not. They aren’t too eager to help mom, particularly not Deran who feels “foster care” would’ve been better than being in the Cody family. That pretty much puts an end to their conversation. Although Smurf cautions: “This doesnt end until we end it.”
While normally I’d say she’s full of shit, J is involved, he was beaten, tortured. Now his uncles aren’t willing to help, when he’s put work in for them, done robberies, so on. Baz and Pope are a little more willing to entertain the idea; Craig and Deran say fuck that. What I see most is the breakdown of loyalty. I don’t know how J will take this going forward. Either way, the boys figure instead of killing Javi, they’ll move the body of his father so the cops can’t put a case on mom. Plus, Craig and Deran want cash. Yikes. The stake is driven deeper.
Furthermore, Baz – after getting pulled over by Catherine’s cop friend – brings up doubts, thoughts about her disappearance, and now thinks she’s dead. When he mentions this to Pope, the latter’s struck very uncomfortable. No telling how long his secret will last, sooner or later it’ll come out. Then there’s the fact Pope and mom have their dark little secret(s) to boot, that’s a dangerous fucking mixing pot.
Pic 2Pope worries that the cops may arrest Baz on suspicion, something he possibly can’t live with, though it’s difficult to know what he can or can’t live with in the end. Then there’s J, constantly worried that he didn’t do right by Nicky, even if she doesn’t actively blame him. Everyone is preparing to go dig up Javi’s dad, as well as figuring out their own shit simultaneously.
Out on the beach, Baz goes to meet Javi, they go way back; Pope, too. Baz tries reasoning with him. Making clear nobody is going to touch Smurf. Javi feels a lifetime of lies bear down on him, having believed his father merely ran off on him ages ago. That’s gonna cost a lot of money.
Javi (to Baz): “Youve come a long way from cryinyourself to sleep and pissinthe bed, man. Good for you. Yknow shit didnt turn out so well for me, or my dad.”
The Cody family archaeological dig’s about ready to happen, no matter if mama’s a tad sketchy on a few details. Everyone is on edge. Things are more tense between Smurf and Baz after he questions her on where she got all the money before to pay Javi, knowing that she’s been skimming on their jobs. Now the two of them opt to use money from the church job to do the payoff. Only hope is Baz can get it back before the boys figure it out. That might not go over so well with the gang.
J and Pope head into the backyard of the house where Javi’s dad was buried years prior. First, they need to take care of the people living there. So they’ve got to fake a gas leak, set things up to get at the old corpse. Outside, uncle Pop tries to steer his nephew away from doing horrible things, like he’s done: “It doesnt feel like you think it will.”
Pic 3Baz goes with Smurf to take care of the drop off and the cash. But I wonder, maybe they’re walking into something bad? Maybe. Out in the middle of nowhere, they meet Javi, who’s brought along a friend. Just seeing Smurf makes the dude’s blood boil.
The rest of the boys get down to business in the basement of the house. They’ve got all the gear to make it a quick, safe, smart job. They get down into the concrete a little ways before it looks like they’ve found the remains. Just boots, a gun, tattered clothes, and a skeleton. Only they’re missing a foot. A bit of extra digging, they locate the tootsie, and then they’re off. Another successful, greasy mission.
In a dumb move, Smurf tells Javi he’s “worthless” and “stupid” among other things. Insulting his dad. Holy shit. When Javi goes for his gun, his own buddy shoots him in the head. Looks like Smurf’s got friends in all sorts of different places. He gets the payoff cash, too. Whoa, what a sly motherfucker this lady is! Doesn’t sit so great with Baz, who doesn’t see that Javi would never stop, he needed revenge. I mean… she’s not wrong, though she is quite cold.
Baz: “I mean, cmon, Smurf, we grew up with that kid. He was like family to us.”
Smurf: “And like family isnt family
After all’s said and done, they have a mini reunion, all together out on the shore. While Javi’s dad’s remains are stuffed into a barrel, ready for burning. A weird moment, sort of bringing them all back together in a way. A fresh start for Smurf, for them all with this chapter behind them.
Pic 4Only problem is there are many bad things lurking underneath, specifically that dark secret between Pope and Smurf, the one that if it’s discovered by Baz the Cody family will be obliterated. I wonder how long more until things start unravelling. My guess is in “Grace” next week, we’ll see a bit of his come out.

Animal Kingdom – Season 2, Episode 6: “Cry Havoc”

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 2, Episode 6: “Cry Havoc”
Directed by Larry Teng
Written by Jonathan Lisco

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Forgive Us Our Trespasses” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Dig” – click here
Pic 1Smurf (Ellen Barkin) talks with her old pale Jake (Jack Conley). He’s been paid a visit by Javier (Alex Meraz) and the boys, about back in the day with Manny. The tapes. They tortured information out of Jake, threatening to do the worst. He wants Smurf to just pay up.
Meanwhile, J (Finn Cole) has his own injuries, after their semi-botched yet successful robbery at the church. His leg is cut up bad from the vents, so he takes care of it, just like he helps take care of Baz’s (Scott Speedman) little girl Lena (Aamya Deva Keroles). J and Nicky (Molly Gordon) are also still floating around one another, flirtatious though nothing overly wild. I sense it isn’t the end for them.
Pic 1AOh, and uncle Craig (Ben Robson), he’s in the slammer. Out on bail, though. That’s one good thing for him. He gets picked up by Nicky, who used her dad’s credit card to free her boyfriend. What’s clear is, juxtaposed with her, he’s so much less mature while being a good deal older. We can’t see how much of a boy he is, amongst the gang.
J: “Is everything okay?”
Smurf: “Everythings fine. Bring your gun.”
Smurf’s got her grandson with her again, requiring further help in her latest personal troubles. At the same time, Baz is back to being dad again, for now; I love him as a character, but I’m starting to get mad at him for how he’s handling his fatherly duties.
Then there’s Pope (Shawn Hatosy), watching Amy (Jennifer Landon) deal with the police. Her past bringing up a few issues after the robbery. There’s a small glimpse of regret in his eyes. As he embraces Amy there’s this look that you could almost mistake mistake for a blank, vacant stare; it’s the weight of everything weighing on him, heavy. Another great shot: Pope watches a bunch of police officers stroll by, they look at one another and it’s like the perfect pair of opposites, criminal v. cop.
Grandma takes her boy down to a storage unit, one the brothers and Baz don’t know about apparently. “And neither do you,” she advises J. She heads in by herself leaving him on watch. Oh, Smurf! You and your fucking secrets.
Pic 2My favourite brother? Deran (Jake Weary). He’s trying his best to fit in with the business community, going to meetings and playing the part of proper business owner. He comes up against a bit of shit when finding out there’s a suggested fee to help with services in the community. Sensing he’s being shafted, Deran opts not to pay. My guess is the head of the whole business owners group will turn up dirt, forcing our man into a tough spot.
Meanwhile, Baz and Pope are at the bar drinking. They talk like pals again, their relationship feeling as if it’s smooth like it used to be a long time ago. But Pope’s falling in love with Amy, they’re together. This doesn’t sit well with Baz, particularly seeing as how Amy knows quite a deal about her man, his time in prison, his real name. Shit, this might lead somewhere nasty instead of back to a normal friendship.
Plus, the whole gang is heated. Deran won’t allow them to launder money through the bar, pissing the other two off. There’s always a divide working between them. Standing on the outside is Craig, too. He’s in a weird little space, half in, half out. And totally irresponsible.
Smurf and Jake have a load of cash, they’re ready to meet with Javier. Then we see her get double-crossed, and hard. Jake pulls a gun on her, then the tables have turned. They briefly discuss something we’ve already heard about briefly: that Jake is Cragi’s father. Now he’s taking the cash, leaving Javier up shit’s creek, as well as starting a blood feud with Smurf after all those years.
On the road, Baz is pulled over by a cop. That friend of Catherine’s, Patrick (Dorian Missick), and he’s not happy. He thinks that her disappearance is due to Baz. Now there’s fucking heat, man! What’s of most interest to me is the fact that he still has no idea what truly happened to Catherine. The closer to the truth anyone gets, the closer to Baz discovering what his friend, his adopted brother did to the woman he loved.
Pic 3Craig’s trying to get a legitimate job. He needs to give a piss sample at a nice place, so he pulls a gun on a guy in the bathroom to get a bit of clean stuff. What a way to try going straight. What a piece of shit. Not hard to tell that lowlife Jake is his real dad. Not that any of the boys are upstanding citizens. And not as if he’s actually doing it for the work. It’s to help on an upcoming job, of course.
After getting to the phone Smurf calls who? Pope. He goes to her, freeing her from where Jake left her tied. The eerie tension between mom and her oldest boy so palpable, so scary. Simultaneously, Javier’s still at the beach waiting for her to show up, not knowing what’s happened. This is gonna bring some bad mojo the Cody family’s way.
While J and Nicky get close again, intimately so, windows shatter. They see someone breaking in. Javi and his men are there to play. J and Nicky hide as the men toss and trash the house, looking for any money, anything at all valuable they can find. When he gets the chance J goes for his gun, winding up in a fist fight with one man, beaten down by the others quickly. They tie him up. Dunk him underwater in the pool, pressing for info on where grandma keeps the cash. A couple of the men also come across Nicky. To try getting them out of their predicament J tells Javi about the storage unit. Then they leave with the girl, tossing J into the pool.
Right as Pope and Smurf pull into the driveway. Only they’re too late, all that’s left is the ransacked house, a beaten, bloody J having nearly drowned. Luckily Nicky’s left unharmed by the men, dropped off in a strange neighbourhood, at the corner of Trailhead and Ash. The location where Javi’s father was buried those years ago.
Shit, this is a war right here.
Pic 4What an intense episode, one of my favourite of the entire series to date! Action, emotion, revelation, brutality. Wow. Seriously, just a great episode all around. Can’t wait for “Dig” next. Will surely get wild.

Animal Kingdom – Season 2, Episode 5: “Forgive Us Our Trespasses”

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 2, Episode 5: “Forgive Us Our Trespasses”
Directed by Laura Innes
Written by T.J. Brady & Rasheed Newson

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Broken Boards” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Cry Havoc” – click here
Pic 1J (Finn Cole) is learning to shoot, under the tutelage of a professional friend of Smurf’s (Ellen Barkin); they set him loose on a training course, the range. With grandma’s help, her physical and emotional closeness, J’s able to pop off the impressively aimed shots. Their relationship gets deeper, even while indulging in gun violence. Dangerous sort of thing.
Meanwhile, Deran (Jake Weary) is stealing a truck from the airport long term parking lot. He’s not quite a full-time business man just yet. At his place, Baz (Scott Speedman) is working on his own part of the latest job, though he gets a visit from Lucy (Carolina Guerra) out of the blue. He has $15K for her. Their relationship’s not one of stability, sort of all over the place. Certainly would be different if he knew exactly what happened to Catherine, at the hands of his adopted brother Pope (Shawn Hatosy).
Speak of the devil, he’s half paying attention to the church and all it entails, including Amy (Jennifer Landon), half paying attention to their coming robbery. He and Amy are getting closer all the time. She’s got her own demons, though as I’ve mentioned before despite how bad they are they’re not AS bad as the ones lurking within Pope. Either way they’re propelled into each other’s arms. I wonder, will this cause him to mess up on the job? Or perhaps change his mind? One thing I do love about his character, it’s hard to predict what he’ll do from one moment to the next.
Amy: “You might have a special reward coming your way tonight
Pic 1AEverybody’s doing their thing and managing to keep their eye on the job, their little side things. At least for now. Craig (Ben Robson) isn’t as keen on J’s involvement as the others, even after quitting the job. He’s being a big “baby about it.” So Deran calls him out. And let’s face it, Craig IS a piece of shit.
J and Nicky (Molly Gordon) are still flirting around one another, both living at Smurf’s place. Grandma has her own worries, as well. A couple men jump out of a plumbing van and pull her inside. Kidnapped, like that! Shit. But don’t put her out, she’s a tough fuck. She taunts her captors, acting nonchalant about the whole ordeal.
The boys are at home, plotting for the job. Pope confirms the times, during which Baz and J will be waiting in the ducts. “You do not kill anyone,” Baz explains to the kid. Yet uncle Pope reminds him, if it’s necessary, it’s necessary.
Smurf is brought to Javier (Alex Meraz), he asks about Community South. A job she did with his dad. Says he ran off with the cash. Javi says she killed him. He wants “$300 grand in cash” within twenty-four hours. Or else tapes concerning the dark history of Smurf land in the hands of the cops. So, does she have a plan? I don’t think she has $300K lying around, not cash on hand. Might make her do something… stupid.
Pic 2At the house, Craig whines about not being on the latest job, although he quit. Nicky talks truth to him. And he’s too immature to take it serious. Doesn’t want advice from a teenager, doesn’t mind fucking one, either. Idiot. That relationship is going to cause a rough situation at some point. If they follow the film’s plot, it’ll be particularly tragic.
In the church service, Baz and J fit in, as does Pope acting as if he belongs there alongside Amy; in a way, he almost looks like he does. All appears set for the job to get underway. I’m always interested to see Baz and J together, because I keep wondering if he’s father to the kid. There’s always that thought in the back of my mind. When the collection plate passes by, they slip a bit in. Stuff they’ll get back soon.
Is it coincidence the church has raised about $335,000? Makes me curious. When Smurf needs just shy of that to take care of her debt. Perhaps we’ll witness a brutal divide between her and the boys brought on by her robbing THEM? I don’t know. Just a thought. She’ll do anything as it is, let alone when jail time is on the line. And serious fucking time, too.
Baz and J head for the bathrooms, as Pope goes for Bible study. When the hall is clear, the pair head into the ducts and Pope seals them inside before heading back to his little group. Thus begins the next phase of the robbery. They head further into the ducts, outside the building Deran stands watch. Pope has to stall, talking with Amy about the possible sex she suggested earlier. Sly, dude. Then he slips back to make sure the lock on the door is jammed. Game, set, match; right?
Drunk, Craig shows up in front where Deran is waiting. The two of them get into an argument. Also, in the vents, J scrapes himself deep on a metal edge; uh oh. If that leaves blood they’re fucked. At the same time, Deran causes a distraction outside, in between his fighting with his brother. Baz realises J’s bleeding, the metal dug into his leg. He rips the kid free, using duct tape to cover the wound. Only problem I’m curious about is, when J was helping the cops for that brief time, did they put him in their database in terms of DNA? If not, that’s no problem. I just keep feeling that bad things are headed for the Cody gang. In many, many ways. Certainly, in many ways, the bad things are already here.
Pic 3These dudes are sophisticated, using every modern technique at their disposal. Deran keeps an eye on the situation outside with the security guard, while J and Baz get themselves into the safe under the floor. They certainly leave behind a mess, between the soundproofing foam they spray to drops of J’s blood in the ducts. But, for the time being, our boys are off with another bit of money, another heist in the books. They try continually dropping the safe from a crane to break the locking mechanisms. Soon, they do, and they find bags filled with cash. An actual heist that was worth the effort.
Then there’s Craig, hammered and high on cocaine, flying through traffic on his bike. He whizzes through traffic, down to the beach. Then wipes out in the sand. Lucky he’s alive, really.
Celebrating the robbery, the boys also have a look at J’s leg. It isn’t good. They can’t take him to a hospital, either. It’s “staple gun” or “cauterise the wound” and J goes with the former. Uncle Deran holds him down while Baz closes the wound. He’s a tough enough lad. To which Deran responds warmly: “Welcome to the family.”
Pope and Amy wind up at her place. Naked. She asks him to touch himself. They move closer, nearly touching. Almost more sexual than anything they could’ve done. This relationship is massively interesting to me. I keep wondering how it’ll play out. I keep wondering if Pope can have true intimacy, after what’s gone on between him and Smurf.
Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 1.21.33 AMOn the beach where he crashed, Craig is found, unconscious, fucked up. Simultaneously, Nick helps poor J tend to his nasty wound. And fresh off a hitch hiking journey, Smurf makes it home with serious regrets from the past. All ain’t well.
Smurf (to J): “Once you decide to shoot, you keep shooting. You understand me?”
“Cry Havoc” is the next episode. We’re about to see fallout from the church robbery, as Pope falls deeper in love with Amy, into their intimate relationship. And we’re also going to see what Smurf chooses to do about her serious situation involving Javi.

Animal Kingdom – Season 2, Episode 4: “Broken Boards”

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 2, Episode 4: “Broken Boards”
Directed by Emmy Rossum
Written by Etan Frankel

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Bleed for It” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Forgive Us Our Trespasses” – click here
Pic 1An unusual thing for Smurf (Ellen Barkin), being alone in that big house. All her boys except for J (Finn Cole) having left, and even he’s teetering. But while he’s out at the crack of dawn working hard to stay fit, she’s at the house pulling a gun on the darkness. And of course Nicky (Molly Gordon) is still there, too. Awkward. She acts like it’s no big deal, though you can tell it weirds him out. Not as much as he should be unsettled by his grandma’s tightening grip.
Meanwhile, Baz (Scott Speedman) is figuring out the gang’s matriarch changed all the codes, security, bank, otherwise. Deran (Jake Weary) is working on getting his bar ready to open, he has to refuse underage Nicky coming even with Craig (Ben Robson) whining. Trouble’s brewing between that couple, has been for a while. The new bartender might speed all that along.
And Pope (Shawn Hatosy), oh Pope… if he weren’t a murderer, I’d genuinely feel for him. He’s a fish out of water, coming out of Folsom and into the world, especially the world of the Cody gang, he can’t even really live life correctly. He and Amy (Jennifer Landon) are going out on a first date, so he ends up getting matched for a lavender shit that goes well with his “skin tone” according to a saleswoman. Seeing him in a store, picking out a proper shirt, so jarring in a humorous way.
Pic 1AAfter letting slip about Deran’s bar to Smurf, Nicky says “sex and drugs” are the only way she relates to Craig, they don’t truly love one another. Even though she acts as if she does. She’s more in for the romanticised version of Craig, the tough thief who likes to fuck and has blow all the time.
Smurf gives her this piece of advice: “Do you have any idea how powerful you are? Yknow what that power is? Its the one thing you have that every man wants. You just have to let them think they have the power. But they never do. Ever. Unless you give it to them. And dont ever give it to them.”
On the latest job, J offers to help the gang when Deran isn’t there. The boys gear up, putting together a length of air ducts, hose and all. Into which J and Craig are cramped until the heist is ready to go. Baz mainly wants the kid in on it because he knows about J pulling a job with Smurf, worrying she has her hooks in deep already.
Deran’s busy telling mom about the bar. It’s a tense conversation. Although it ends with him inviting her to the opening. She agrees. However, I’ve got to wonder: is she going to do something, make a scene? Can’t help thinking she’ll be compelled to nastiness, lashing out in anger at one of her boys branching out on his own. She’s already being vindictive with Baz, about the code to their storage unit where he’s got his tools. She’d go to any length to make herself feel better. Actually starts turning him slightly against the others, using his status as outsider to fuel his paranoia.
Screen Shot 2017-06-21 at 1.24.02 AMCraig’s always thinking with a criminal mind. He steals a beer truck on a whim from a store while the driver carts a load inside. It’s like he unconsciously needs to fuck up his brother’s new business, ’cause you know that’s where he’s headed with the beer. When he does bring it to the bar Deran refuses to take it, he doesn’t want anything to ruin this venture. He’s serious about making a change, separating this business from the thievery of his family. Above all, separating himself from his mother.
Amy and Pope are bonding, particularly after she revealed to him the situation with her son, the mistakes she’s made, what brought her to God. He wonders how she “lives with herself” because he wants to know how he can live with himself, as well. After all he’s done. Despite her situation, it isn’t the same or as dark as Pope’s sins. Not even close.
Baz calls the boys out to the beach. He apologises for his “bullshit.” He wants the old days again, when they were close, hanging out, loving life together. So, what’s the plan? A bit of extreme fun. You know how the lads get down! They climb a massive crane over the shore, jumping stories to the waves below. A nice, quick thrill before beers. Baz even says he’ll do the “shit work” and get in the duct for the next job, proving he isn’t like Smurf.
At the same time across town, Smurf takes J up to see a nice apartment she owns. A beautiful loft looking out over the ocean. Janice Brown owns the place, actually. Among other fake tenants who own other apartments, so on and so on. Money laundering. Looks like grandma wants to start bringing J into the fold with her, pulling him away from the others. She’s letting him on everything behind the family business. Almost grooming. She wants him to help with the books, unlike any of her boys.
Screen Shot 2017-06-21 at 1.40.48 AMThe bar is starting to get going, people pile in. Smurf heads out, but on the way feels like a small plumbing van is following her. She readies a gun, just in case. But off they go. Why so paranoid? Is she waiting for somebody to come?
Baz and Pope both head down to the bar, along with a crowd of surfers and others. Deran says he’s named the place The Drop from now on. And then Smurf arrives, a look of disbelief on her face, tender words for her baby. Not so nice chat for Baz, though. “Were never cominback, Smurf,” he replies. She replies: “I didnt ask you to.”
More tension when Deran finds Craig snorting cocaine with people in the bathroom. He kicks them out, throws the coke away, prompting a brief fight. We’re seeing so many different fractures, the various relationships. Craig is probably the biggest piece of shit out of them all, purposefully acting like an idiot.
Then a familiar face shows up – Adrian (Spencer Treat Clark). Long time, no see. You can see Deran lights up when he comes to the bar. Truly hope these two will get together again. Now that he’s trying to get away from Smurf. And LAAAWD is she ever making it easy to hate her, telling an embarrassing story about his failed dreams of surfing in front of the bar. God, it’s brutal to watch.
Smurf: “So heres to the runt of my litter, my beautiful baby boyto Deran.”
He confronts his mother afterwards Admitting to her he’s gay. Then the real harsh truth comes out. Does she like having the boys around because she, deep down, wants them sexually? Clearly there’s a strange connection with Pope, something happened there. Now Deran wonders if she never loved him because he can’t fuck her.
YIKES! We knew this possibility of incest was all a part of the Cody family. Just hearing it aloud in this scene is… compellingly disturbing.
Screen Shot 2017-06-21 at 1.52.37 AMFunny how the one to comfort Deran, after all that’s gone on in this episode, is Craig. Maybe he’s not a piece of shit, merely unaware of his idiocy and the kind who tries making up for it later. He and his brother take the broken boards the surfers brought in and put them up on the wall, still close, even if the fractures are starting to split the Codys to pieces slowly.
Great episode! My favourite so far this season. Disturbing, also touching and emotional in a way. Pushes a lot of things forward. Love that Emmy Rossum directed it, too. She’s fantastic, as an actress and a director. “Forgive Us Our Trespasses” is next week.

Animal Kingdom – Season 2, Episode 3: “Bleed For It”

 

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 2
Episode 3: “Bleed For It”
Directed by J. Michael Muro
Written by Megan Martin

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Karma” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Broken Boards” – click here
Pic 1A (1)On the road, Smurf (Ellen Barkin) takes J (Finn Cole) to the wake for Manny after he’s finally passed. She hadn’t seen the guy for about 20 years. I wonder how things will go for grandma and her boy. Meanwhile, Baz (Scott Speedman) calls Pope (Shawn Hatosy) to go pick up his daughter, neglecting things while he’s in Mexico with Lucy (Carolina Guerra). Baz meets with Marco (Joseph Julian Soria), who’s helping on a new job, without the Cody matriarch’s knowledge, of course.
Over at the bar he’s purchasing, Deran (Jake Weary) makes plans for construction on the bar, he wants it to be old school like before all the new money moved onto the beach. He’s interviewing people for jobs and trying to get the place off the ground.
And Pope, he’s getting to know Amy (Jennifer Landon) and the rest of her Bible study group. He actually seems to have read the Bible. Weird seeing him amongst a bunch of normal people, of any sort.
Nicky (Molly Gordon) is still kicking around at the house, though it’s clear Craig (Ben Robson) is tiring of their relationship, which was actually clear awhile ago. Might be that she’s starting to realise it now.
Pic 1A (2)At the wake, J and Smurf meet Manny’s old crew, including old buddy Jake (Jack Conley). Looks like before the guy passed, there was big trouble with his crew. Being run by Javier (Alex Meraz), apparently a real “sick piece of shit.”
It’s also becoming painfully obvious that Craig has no ambition, or at least no sense to make ambition reality. He and Deran are at odds over the bar, what to do, how to do it. Most of all, Deran worries about being an ex-con and that it might make things problematic come inspection time.
J has a chat with Javier, the guy’s got issues with Smurf, which isn’t hard to tell. He thinks she’s there for other reasons, not out of the goodness in her heart. There’s something very, very eerie here. They have history; dark stuff. They were once like family; Manny, Javier and his dad, as well.
In Mexico, Lucy’s brother Marco offers Baz up a bit of business on the side, though he doesn’t want much part of it. Lucy later tells him she thinks Marco’s in trouble. Back home, Lena’s being watched over by uncle Pope. Seeing him with the girl is tragic, in a lot of ways. For the fact he killed her mother, and loved her, for the fact he’s clearly got a nurturing side to him, even if it’s buried by all the worrisome history he has with his mother. Great moment where a pigeon hits the window; Pope is about to put it out of its misery, then it flies away. A humanitarian lesson there for him, so often quick to take action.
Pic 2In the motel room J and Smurf kick back. She receives a late visit from Jake, apparently Manny was recording things near the end of life to keep his memory strong. That’s going to be a large problem for her. If he said anything troubling, could mean jail time. Or worse. What’s she planning on doing about it? Will she look for the tapes?
Nicky, alone at the Cody palace, snoops around the house, finding cash, trying on Smurf’s clothes. She accidentally knocks a pair of sunglasses to the floor and finds an automatic weapon under the dresser. She pretends to fire it like a child with a toy gun.
Alone together, Lena asks her uncle: “Is mommy dead?” He’s caught off guard, answering slow in a reassuring tone. She’s also curious why her father doesn’t show his sadness the way she does. Pope tells her he’s “secret sad.” Certainly he can’t tell her the truth, so he talks about not having a dad as a boy; problem is he DIDN’T turn out okay.
Smurf tells J more of the story concerning Manny, how he was a mentor to her after she got out of her first little stint in jail. She was a young, impressionable girl, learned to steal and grift and lie with the best. She then asks J to put a bullet in her if she loses her mental faculties. And she’s serious, too. So he promises. Then she kisses him on the lips. Yikes. I hope she doesn’t take him down the same path as Pope.
Now with so much at stake, Craig decides he’s dumping Nicky. After she knows about the guns, money, his love of drugs, and she knows about the bar. Dera wants to keep it from Smurf until the grand opening. Not sure if that’ll happen at this point. I worry, deeply, for Nicky.
Pic 3Using a story Smurf told him about Manny, J does an impromptu robbery at a diner using grandma as the perfect pretty bait. Uh oh, this is not good. Not just the fact he’s becoming closer with her, I worry that her strange affections will spread further over her grandson. It’s terrifying, really.
Smurf: “Youre a natural. Not like the other boys.”
When Craig talks with Nicky, she asks about what her dad helped them with, what sort of bad shit he got into before leaving for Guam. She demands respect, seeing as how he enjoys all the perks of their relationship and not the fact they’re actually in one together. He doesn’t break up with her. Yet.
Deran gets inspected finally and he’s nervous. He tells the man upfront about his time in jail, the charges. He also tells him about being a competitive surfer, and when that went south he went off the rails. It all looks good, especially with him choosing not to offer a bribe and remaining honest. Looks like the possibility of a new life for Deran.
Amy goes to see Pope. She wanted him to know about her past. She had a son who was in the car with her while she had a drunk driving accident and she hasn’t yet forgiven herself. Wonders if he’ll hold it against her. Little does she know who she’s talking to, the type of person he’s become over the years, what he’s done. He can accept just about anyone.
Pic 4Baz goes to Gia (Karina Logue), their fence. He finds out that the Cody matriarch doesn’t want them doing business with her. Cut off. This will cause a good deal of grief in the long run, right now it’s pushing the gang further apart.
He gets back home to Lena and Pope, glad to see his little girl. He also fills Pope in about the latest problem involving Smurf, they have no buyers and a job coming up in two weeks. So they’ve got to figure something out. Baz turns up after Gia leaves work, to speak with her employee Monica (Tembi Locke). They might be able to strike up a deal.
What scares me above all? Javier’s going to listen to the tapes Manny made. He’s going to find out something terrible, something he’ll hold over Smurf. Perhaps something that might make him angry enough to kill.
Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 8.52.37 AMStunning episode. So much happening. Particularly, I’m worried constantly about Smurf exerting a strong, bad influence over J. He’s already falling into her lap, as a boy lost after losing his mother. It only gets stronger with every passing day, the more they spend time together.

Animal Kingdom – Season 2, Episode 1: “Eat What You Kill”

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 2, Episode 1: “Eat What You Kill”
Directed by Christopher Chulack
Written by Jonathan Lisco

* For a recap & review of the Season 1 finale, “What Have You Done?” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Karma” – click here
Pic 1The boys (and mom) are back in town! Season 2, baby.
No telling where things are headed, after Pope (Shawn Hatosy) did the unthinkable to Catherine, leaving Baz (Scott Speedman) to wonder where she’s gone. Little Lena (Aamya Deva Keroles) is the only one who knows for sure. Well, except for that eerie connection between Mama Smurf (Ellen Barkin) and her boy Pope, that provides another tense side of the entire relationship between Baz and the Codys and everything in between.
Speaking of Smurf, she’s been drinking a lot, so it seems. Waking up to a drink isn’t healthy. Meanwhile, her boys – Pope, Craig (Ben Robson), Deran (Jake Weary), and the newest addition Josh (Finn Cole) – and Baz are out doing what they do best: cheat, rob, steal; in no particular order.
Of course J’s been fully indoctrinated. He is a Cody, through and through. It’s troubling. Because these aren’t honest, Robin Hood-type thieves. Smurf is a damaged and dangerous person, as is her son Pope. Although that’s probably much to do with her own… predilections. And as Pope’s mental state worsens, his actions becoming more desperate as the end of Season 1 proved, it’s tough to see a young man like J – a mostly good person – become wrapped up in his family’s brutality. Question is, will he escape it, or will the Codys swallow him whole?
On their latest job, the Cody boys and Baz do a ton of work only to come out with a couple small stacks of cash; barely $500. Yet at home awaits mother with her pie, their family ritual after a robbery. So surreal, how they sit around and chat after a major crime. But things are deteriorating, between Pope and his dark headspace, and Smurf getting fucking hammered as she leads the clan. Mom and her oldest boy are especially having issues. Wonder how that’ll pan out re: Pope’s nasty little secret. Baz tries cooling everyone down, though I don’t know how well his word will stand.
Pic 1ADeran’s got a $50K deal, meeting a woman in a small bar where he hands over an envelope of cash. Not all of the agreed price, naturally. Their recent short-changed job didn’t do him any favours. So, is Deran trying to go straight? Is he making an investment in that bar, or another place? I think he’s trying his best to get out from under Smurf.
Crazy, crazy Pope, he goes out to the place in the desert where he buried Catherine. His psyche is damaged, and it was long before. By killing the woman he loved, something altogether new is happening to him. And for the first time in his life it’s as if he’s feeling genuine guilt, remorse, rather than floating through life like he does usually devoid of emotion.
At a family meeting, Baz leads the charge to try changing things with Smurf, to lessen her iron grip on their gang. She’s drunk and takes it personally. She uses failures from the past, recent and long ago, to bite back at them. Including taking Baz in from his horrible father. Things explode eventually, as he can’t take it anymore. None of them can.
Craig: “No more suckinmommys dick!”
Everyone’s wondering what to do with J. On one hand, Deran suggests he and Craig out to bring the kid in while he’s confused, torn across the family. Maybe Deran’s concern is for his own secret, worrying J will out him. On the other hand, Pope and Baz have their own feelings about him, whether he’s trustworthy.
Smurf gets a visit about her payments to Manny – $5,000 a month. Or, so she thinks. Apparently he’s dying and Smurf has to go pay respects. She refuses to leave. We discover more and more about the Cody matriarch, her well of young men runs deep and there’s so many questions about the destruction she’s caused through her lifetime. Curiouser and curiouser.
Pic 2Turns out that Deran IS looking to buy up the bar. He wants to take over the lease, after the owner died and left his wife with the place. At least, despite his own flaws, the guy has plans outside of robbery for his life. And at home with Smurf, J is trying to figure out his own life. He’s conflicted, about everything. Likewise, he’s complicit in everything in which the Cody family is involved.
What we do see is who Smurf starts favouring. Earlier, Craig’s credit card – paid by mom – is cut off, and Deran, too. But now she’s given J his own card. I worry that either on purpose or inadvertently, she’s going to put him in a bad position with the uncles.
And what about Nicky (Molly Gordon)? She and Craig have been an item all this time. He’s not loving it, though. The difference in age is apparent, yet is it? He’s still depending on mom, she’s still in high school and living on the whim of her father. However, there’s absolutely trouble coming from this end. If the film Animal Kingdom is any indication, and they stick to the character arc where Nicky ended up, she is headed somewhere grim.
Latest Cody robbery? Possibly a yacht job. They’re all on different pages, each pairing’s got their own ideas – Pope and Baz against Deran and Craig. Then, we still have poor Baz going off the rails, yelling at his own daughter, his head too caught up in making money to pay attention to his own blood. And Pope, he makes what amends he can by showing the little girl some attention. Even Deran and Craig at odds, the latter sniffing coke making things even more unstable.
Still, they all go back to Smurf’s house for supper. Despite their relative silence, everyone reaches for a toast: “May we all get what we want, and never what we deserve.” Things aren’t as bad as they seemed before. Mom acts fine with their new efforts to be more independent. When Pope has the chance, he warns J about getting too close to her.
Pic 3A fantastic, low key episode to start Season 2. I’m super curious about Manny, his connection and importance to Smurf, as well as Javier (Alex Meraz), whose history with her clearly goes back a long way. Lots of stuff to mull over! Great start to this new season.
Next episode is “Karma” and I’m hoping to see more of the Cody family problems create tension as time goes by. I wonder who’ll be the first to meet a tragic end? Y’know it’s brewing.

Animal Kingdom – Season 1, Episode 10: “What Have You Done?”

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 1, Episode 10: “What Have You Done?”
Directed by John Wells
Written by Jonathan Lisco

* For a recap & review of the penultimate Season 1 episode, “Judas Kiss” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 2 premiere, “Eat What You Kill” – click here
Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 1.36.53 AM After what Pope (Shawn Hatosy) has done to Catherine, we’ve come to the season finale. What will Baz (Scott Speedman) do if he finds out? Because you KNOW he’s going to. Can Mama Smurf (Ellen Barkin) contain what’s about to happen? Or will the Cody Boys tear themselves apart from the inside?
Now that Lena’s mom is dead, she’s with Smurf. Although the matriarch has other things on her mind. Such as Josh (Finn Cole) “banging” his teacher. She doesn’t want her boys loving anyone but her, though disguises it as concern for their family business, trouble at school could make things bad for everyone.
Meanwhile, Baz is searching for Catherine, as Pope goes about his day – doing work around the house, lying to his adopted brother. The story is Catherine took money from Smurf – true – and then took off somewhere – not true. But Baz is too smart for this to slip away from him completely.
Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 1.38.38 AM Detective Sandra Yates (Nicki Micheaux) and Patrick (Dorian Missick) are all over J. They want him to stick close to the family. However, they’ve got no idea at all what it’s like living under the roof of Janine Cody. Whatsoever. The most interesting part of a wildly interesting series is seeing young Josh between a rock and a very, very hard, dark place.
The other interesting part is that Baz is being leaned on by Smurf, as he tries to figure out what’s happening with Catherine. He questions his daughter about what went on. She talks about a man driving “mommys car” and that’s really all he can get out of her before Smurf interferes. And she knows what happened, even if Pope didn’t expressly tell her; she made it happen.
Craig and Deran (Ben Robson & Jake Weary) are out sitting in the SUV, watching the money. For his part, Craig decides to rail a bit of blow, whereas more level-headed Deran sticks to weed.
So where’s the treachery end? If Baz discovers exactly to what end Smurf has been working this whole Catherine situation, that cannot ever be made right. For anyone who’s seen the original film: will Hatosy’s Pope meet the same fate, but at the hands of Baz? Or will Speedman’s Baz meet the same fate as his Joel Edgerton counterpart and leave the rest of the Cody Gang to go on about their lives? Hard to tell just yet. Either way, it’s why I love this series even more than the movie. Because there is a chance for Jonathan Lisco and the writers to expand upon the original story, characters, plots.
Also, even Pope – the one who murdered Catherine – seems uneasy with the way Smurf is playing things. She’s got Baz convinced maybe Vin (Michael Bowen) could be involved, after showing up the other day.
And don’t forget about Navy Lt. Commander Paul Belmont (C. Thomas Howell). He’s positioning himself for a “bigger cut” of that big, warm robbery pie that he helped facilitate. This may start to spell trouble for the man.
Pope goes to the docks to track down Vin. He claims there’s a job for him to get in on. This only leads Vin into the arms of Baz. Fuck – how is Pope planning on playing this one? He stands by and tries not to watch or listen to his bro beat on the guy; a guy who knows nothing.
Simultaneously, the GPS on the money blows up the radar. Craig and Deran are off. They get into the truck hauling their barrels and start to remove the money, only the driver isn’t stopped long. When he gets going, this starts a huge mess and an almost Three Stooges-esque moment or two with the brothers. Hilarious. Tragic. They wind up having to assault the driver, sticking him right inside one of the barrels. That’s a solution… I guess.


Over in the midst of torture, Baz gets no answers from Vin. To top off the betrayal, Pope isn’t just doing a horrible thing to Baz. He’s further turning his back on Vin, the man that looked after him in prison and saved him from who knows what.
Then the truth comes out from Josh: he tells Smurf about the cops, plain and simple. They’re waiting for a text to come raid the house once the money’s there. Slippery Janine has him do exactly that. When the police arrive everything is normal, the big happy family sit out by the pool. Like nothing’s happened. Everyone is zip tied and held at gunpoint. At the same time, Baz is all alone at home and Pope is leaving a bloody, broken Vin at the hospital; could cause problems.
Dt. Yates and Patrick are at odds, as she wants to tear the place to bits. He cautions against anything too harsh. They wonder where Josh is, assuming he’s in danger. No, he shows up. And he’s shoving everything right down Yates’ throat, having recorded a conversation between him and Alexa Anderson (Ellen Wroe) after she “raped” him. Whoooooa. Josh Cody: resident bad ass. Turns out J remembers Yates from pulling fast and loose shit with his mother.
Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 1.57.42 AM Josh (to Dt. Yates): “My mom, she hated them, but she hated you more. In the end, shes a Cody, and Im a Cody, too.”


After the cops clear out, Belmont turns up. He’s eager to get the money. A little too eager. He reminds me of Morrie in GoodFellas, always pushing. Janine makes it clear he has to relax until the time is right. She orders him around, as if he’s another one of her boys. Moreover, he’s a first time criminal, he doesn’t know the right way to go about things. He continues to let his life slip away, that old, good life of his – his daughter Nicky (Molly Gordon) is snorting blow and sleeping with Craig. He doesn’t bother to step in. Not such a great dad after all.
Smurf scolds Josh for keeping secrets so long. Last straw, although it seems like he’s a Cody for life at this point. “Play your cards right, you can do well with us,” says grandma before gifting him a gun.
Pope had doubts about Josh, which are now dashed. He’s curious if perhaps Catherine wasn’t saying anything either. So little boy Pope is pressuring his mother for more money, he wants to get away from her. He has finally begun to see the utterly heinous manipulation of Smurf, clearer than ever before. He killed Catherine, but she put the entire thing in motion, goading him towards the act. They have a tense confrontation. Pope perceives the entire situation as Smurf not wanting Baz to leave her side. He feels used to get the “dirty work” finished.


Pope (to Smurf): “Youre sicker than Ill ever be
Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 2.16.22 AM Remember the guy with the car, the one involved with Smurf’s mother back in the day? Well, ole Janine is still following him. The whole time she feels her past right there, fresh in her mind. Then she approaches him in his driveway, pulling a gun on him to blast a few holes in his chest. To leave him bleeding out on the ground, just like he did to her mother all those years ago. A nasty death for him. Might be a little deserved.
Everyone’s getting what they deserve. Or at least, some people. The Codys remain relatively untouched. For now.
Either way life at the Cody residence isn’t all sweet. Josh has his uncle Craig banging his ex-girlfriend, both of them eating together at breakfast with everyone. Pope’s still leading Baz around by the nose, as the now single father is left dealing with a motherless daughter.
And Mama’s just killed a man.
All their secrets are ready to implode the family tree. It’s all waiting for us, next season.
Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 2.24.42 AM Loved the first season. Really great writing, each episode became better than the last. Again, as a huge fan of the original Australian film, I’m impressed with what they’ve done in this adaptation. Season 2 can only mean bigger, better things. Plus, I’m glad they didn’t leave off on a cliffhanger. This leaves things wide open for them, they’re not totally tethered to anything that’ll make it hard to continue the story.

Animal Kingdom – Season 1, Episode 9: “Judas Kiss”

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 1, Episode 9: “Judas Kiss”
Directed by Christopher Chulack
Written by John Wells

* For a review of the previous episode, “Man In” – click here
* For a review of the finale, “What Have You Done?” – click here
Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 9.46.24 AM
After the intense finish of last episode, Josh (Finn Cole) is left pondering a decision with Alexa Anderson (Ellen Wroe). Her suggestion was to call Detective Sandra Yates (Nicki Micheaux). But will he risk that in the face of Grandma Smurf (Ellen Barkin) and her gang?
Baz (Scott Speedman), Pope (Shawn Hatosy), Craig (Ben Robson), and Deran (Jake Weary) are headed into Camp Pendleton. They pass the vehicle inspection, then they’re in.
At home, Smurf is left wondering where Josh is – he’s busy switching the SIM card out of his phone because his grandmother tracks him, plus all his uncles. Now, he’s meeting with Dt. Yates, as Alexa pulls him in deeper into a scary situation.
Out at the base, the Cody Boys head into the paintball course, gear on, masks ready. They get into a pretty good game with a ton of other players. Until they break off from the pack to their target.  Lieutenant Commander Paul Belmont (C. Thomas Howell) slips them a key to open a locked gate from which they emerge dressed in Navy camouflage.
Up at the Cody house, Catherine (Daniella Alonso) shows up with her daughter, as grandma does her daily cleaning. There’s lots of tension, though, and Catherine is trying her best to play into whatever Smurf expects of her. She even tries apologising, mending bridges. I’m not just worried about J anymore. I’m worried for Catherine. Even worse, she steals a bunch of money from behind the dryer while Smurf is in the other room. Scarier still? Catherine’s daughter lets slip that mommy’s friend has a car with “a siren” and she’s not supposed to tell daddy about that. Holy. Fuck. This is getting very worrisome.
The boys are moving steadily through their mission at Camp Pendleton. They’ve made their way into the warehouse and find the lot where the money’s held. Baz, Craig, and Pope get to work bagging money while Deran waits outside the warehouse. The amount of money is staggering.
Simultaneously, Josh is meeting with Yates, as well as Patrick (Dorian Missick), the cop who knows Catherine. Either way the truth is coming out about Smurf, the uncles, and Yates makes clear: “Youre expendable, Josh. And you know it. Youre like the colt who cant keep up with the herd when the wolves arrive. And the wolves are circling, Josh.”
Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 9.48.56 AMScreen Shot 2016-08-03 at 9.52.32 AM
Josh is being pressed by Yates to give up more information. He refuses to talk about Nicky (Molly Gordon) and her father. Yates is offering a way out, however, none of the police ever think truly about what it’ll be like for someone, especially a family member, after they rat out those close to them. And speaking of people in danger, Smurf’s already discovered the cop friend, now it looks as if she’s found out about Catherine stealing money. None of these issues are going to pan out well.
At the warehouse, the Cody Gang find soldiers kicking around. Luckily for them they’re not headed for the cage where the money’s being stolen. A pulse pounding moment or two. Afterwards, the boys load the cage with the dummy money they prepared, they wrap and seal the plastic again, strap the pallet in, and nobody’s the wiser. What a plan, too. They wrap the money in bags, snap GSP locators on them, then dump it into barrels of diesel or something similar. Tricky, tricky.
With J, things are getting sketchier. Yates wants him to wear a wire: “He might just do it for pussy,” she says wondering if Alexa might “open her legs” for J to get things rolling. Although Patrick doesn’t feel morally capable of letting that happen.
Something I’ve not mentioned enough is the music. The score for the show is absolutely amazing, such an impressive addition that works alongside all the suspense, the tension, the adrenaline. Courtesy of Samuel Jones and Alexis Marsh (Preservation).
And after all their treachery, the Cody Gang heads back onto the paintball course, just like nothing ever happened. They head out, have the SUV chopped, each doing their little part to finish the job off right. True professional thieves. Back at the house, Smurf has a nice big apple pie waiting; a tradition after the latest job. She’s glad to have her boys back following their haul. Meanwhile, Baz is taking “first watch” on the money, as Craig and Deran eat their pie, fire up some weed.


Now Alexa is trying to draw J into the web of deceit of the law. They want him to talk, by any means necessary. Yates needs Alexa to seduce the young man, and that may prove to be just as dangerous as anything else. He’s still a teenager. This could do a lot of damage to him. They fall into bed together, though Alexa cries the entire time. She’s not making it better for herself, or for him. The cops need somebody else other than J to make their case. This, none of it, will end well.
At the same time, Smurf tells Pope about Catherine – the money, that she may be talking to police. This troubles him. “Shes a user,” Mama tells her little boy. “We brought her into our family, but that girl she only cared about herself. I watched her lead you on.” Smurf continues dripping poison into her boy’s ear. That’s another dangerous element. She pounds the betrayal of Catherine into him. Worries me how he’ll deal with all that.
So he goes to her place in the night. He tells Catherine that Smurf knows about the money, the cop. Well, she plays it as being nothing. Problem is that Mama Smurf doesn’t believe that Catherine is not a threat. Everything starts to get creepier. The tension mounts and we begin to wonder exactly what Pope is there to do. This sends Catherine into a frenzy, trying to find any weapon possible nearby. That is, until they start stripping each other, kissing, and they wind up between the sheets…
…where Pope smothers her to death, crying as he does. Probably the most intensely emotional, disturbing scene that’s happened in the entire series so far. Not only was that Baz’s girlfriend, she left behind a little daughter, as well.
The cops are really pressing Josh. Things have changed, though. He’s now roped into Alexa and her physicality. He calls Smurf to let him know he won’t be home, staying at a friend’s, all that. But you can see Grandma Smurf is not pleased when Craig tells her that J is banging his teacher. “Hot as shit, Id be banginher, too,” he tells his mother. The look on her face says it all. She doesn’t like when her boys are into anyone else too much; anybody that isn’t her.
One of her boys is being really naughty. Out digging a grave. While he’s hauling Catherine’s corpse out of the vehicle, her daughter lies asleep in the backseat. How infinitely sad and tragic.


In the morning, Deran takes over the money watch post, as Baz heads back home. To nothing. Simultaneously, Josh is finding the cops applying more pressure: they want him to wear a wire. Yates says he wears the wire, or maybe Smurf finds out where he’s been all night, talking to the police. She spins a hard tale about the Cody uncles. You can see that Patrick isn’t as keen as Yates, he doesn’t like to see Alexa clinging onto Josh and pushing him to a decision. I’m thinking this will make everything more difficult at some point.
When Baz gets home in the morning, he finds no Catherine. Only their little girl.
And Smurf is left alone with her thoughts, imagining what sort of madness comes next.
Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 10.31.53 AMScreen Shot 2016-08-03 at 10.33.32 AMScreen Shot 2016-08-03 at 10.34.00 AM
Another near perfect episode! What an awesome penultimate Season 1 chapter. The last one is titled “What Have You Done?” and I’m betting all the Cody secrets are about to spill forth. Stay with me.

Animal Kingdom – Season 1, Episode 8: “Man In”

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 1, Episode 8: “Man In”
Directed by Larry Teng
Written by Megan Martin

* For a review of the previous episode, “Goddamn Animals” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Judas Kiss” – click here
Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 12.14.41 AM
Craig and Deran Cody (Ben Robson & Jake Weary) are doing a little job at the local arcade. You can be damn sure Mama Smurf (Ellen Barkin) knows nothing of this one. Or does she? Doesn’t seem to me she’d want them doing such petty shit.
At the same time, Baz (Scott Speedman) and Paul Belmont (C. Thomas Howell) are laying out the plans for their military base job coming up. Although Smurf and Pope (Shawn Hatosy) aren’t as keen on things as Baz. But we’ve seen Belmont get pulled right into the criminal world of the Cody Gang; hook, line, sinker.
Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 12.17.48 AM
Josh (Finn Cole) talks with Alexa Anderson (Ellen Wroe), letting her know exactly how wrong what she did to him is, how bad things could get for him if he becomes any further involved. Alexa has this rosy-coloured glasses view on the world, somehow, even after being a junkie herself. She thinks there’s a way to get J out of there, to take down his family without hurting him. However, he lets her know plain and simple: “You have no idea what theyd do to me.”
There’s more convincing needed to get Paul to crossover the last threshold, and Baz greases the wheels, best he can. In other news, Nicky (Molly Gordon) shows up, so Craig distracts her. Only I worry to what ends that may lead.
In regards to Paul, he and the Codys aren’t exactly all on the same page. You can see the scepticism in Pope’s eyes, though that isn’t exactly new. After Belmont leaves, J gets questioned by his family. About whether he has criminal charges. He has none and they’re ready to get him more involved. Or at least that’s how it looks.
Detective Sandra Yates (Nicki Micheaux) is pushing up further on the Codys, now talking to Baz’s girlfriend Catherine (Daniella Alonso). Yates tells her that Smurf killed her parents. Seriously? That’s the fire Yates was telling Alexa about previously. The one Pope set. Oh, god damn. So now Catherine’s being offered Wit-Pro, all the usual things. Yet there’s no way to pull her away from Baz. Not so far, anyway.
Down on the beach, Craig and Nicky sit smoking a joint, which soon devolves into doing cocaine. That’s great. Who knows what happened there, as we only see Craig go back home alone later. There’s a possibility maybe Uncle Craig has a crush now.
Meanwhile, Uncle Pope takes J out near Camp Pendleton, the military base. He rides in on bike, backpack over his shoulders. They scan his ID, his bag. All clean. Then inside he heads.
Again we see Baz back at his old man’s trailer. He keeps cash there. Out of nowhere his father Ray (Dennis Cockrum) shows up. Last time Baz was there he’d been locked up for a drunk and disorderly. Says he’s trying to stay off the booze. Although none of that impresses Baz after a lifetime of shit.


J is one hell of a sneaky bastard. He gets to Building 13, past a bunch of aircrafts. Climbs a couple ladders, hiding from a helicopter lifting off. Bad ass. He gets to a vent then tosses some paper with a lit cigarette attached inside before running off frantically. Yikes.
Out in a scrapyard, Baz and Pope are meeting Vin (Michael Bowen) to pay him off with $10L. Pope wants the guy out of his life. Except it doesn’t feel like Vin’s ready to “move on” like Baz suggests. More of Pope’s prison life slips out, as the old pal and protector mentions a guard who liked to “play a little game” with the Cody brother. That sounds terrifying, and ugly.
On the base J gets cornered by two MPs. They let the kid go without any trouble. Dumb asses. There’s a possibility they might’ve headed off something big if only there was a bit of action on their part. If only.
There’s always friction in the Cody Gang. We see the need for Pope to always try and be the man, the top dog and most useful member of their clan. To the point of alienating his own kin. Still, he is crazy, so you can’t really get in his way too much. Afterwards when Josh finally gets home he discovers the job is done, everything worked out. His family waits with open arms, shots, congratulations. He gets a cut for doing his part. That’s what being part of this family means.
Pope knows there’s something bothering his mother. It isn’t simply their upcoming job. Little Andrew knows his mother better than she knows herself. Their relationship has been more than close for far too long.
Catherine is also trying to hide all those emotions re: her parents, their death. What may have truly happened. When she talks to Baz about it he’s only demeaning to them. Could there be truth to what Yates said? Was he complicit in any of it? That night when they burned, he called her to sneak out. You just know there’s a deeper, darker deception hiding in Baz.

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When Baz and Pope sit alone together, ironing bills, they get talking about “Hilty” – the guard Vin referenced earlier. Seems Pope beat up a guard, so they all kicked the shit out of him. Hilty used a bit of Abu Ghraib to make things worse, chaining him naked in solitary, blasting music. Definitely ugly stuff. The conversation soon switches to whether Paul is trustworthy. And Baz is sure. Well, that’s what he says.
Next day the Codys are gearing up. J isn’t exactly feeling great. He is not only further into the family business, he’s in worse danger concerning the law due to the direct involvement in crimes. Moreover, he straight up asks Baz: “Are you my dad?” There’s not much love coming from Barry. Mostly a bit of asshole talk, as we’re seeing more of lately. Not to mention he’s alienating someone that could bring everything down on their heads pretty damn easily.
Deran worries about the family mental state. “Theres just something in the air,” he tells Craig. The risks involved with the Camp Pendleton job are the main worry, and what the family mental state will do to it, in turn what it can also do to their freedom. One bit of good news? Catherine isn’t planning on snitching. For the time being.
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Daddy issues of his own, Baz goes to see the old man again. He sits a bottle of whiskey in front of him. He talks about all the things he hates, his father trying to make amends in the tiniest ways, admitting to his issues. But it all prompts Baz to attack him, forcing the liquor down his throat in an act of rage. Yikes.
The other Codys are fitting out a vehicle to get the job set. Everything’s looking in the right place. Even Pope thinks so, too. That’s a nice sign.
J tries to tell Nicky she and her father need to stay away from the Cody Gang. She lashes out, though, saying she did coke with Craig before fucking him. Whoa, if that’s true then things are already bad enough.
Lieutenant Commander Paul Belmont oversees a shipment of money being locked up at the base. He eyes it with more caution this time. Outside in his car, he calls Baz to let him know the game is on. When he heads off then Catherine starts packing. Has she made a decision?
The Codys are all getting smooches from Smurf, each dressed in military green and tan camo. Off they head to start the infiltration.
After the boys are gone Smurf finds Vin sniffing around their gate. At least she has a shotgun. Well, he doesn’t like being paid off. He felt he was “family” because of what he did for Pope in jail. Mama ain’t got time for his shit, though. Vin pushes his luck pretty far until the trigger nearly gets pulled. I only wonder if he’s going to cause the Codys more trouble with what he knows about them from his prison time with Pope. Wait and see.
And Josh? He’s all but ready to break down, rushing into the arms of Ms. Anderson once more. Dangerous.


Josh: “Everything good, they destroy.”
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Another solid episode. We’re closer to the end of the season now, only the penultimate episode and finale left. Episode 9 is titled “Judas Kiss” and that name makes me think there’s about to be lots of trouble rearing its head. Legal trouble, specifically. Who will be the Judas?

Animal Kingdom – Season 1, Episode 7: “Goddamn Animals”

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 1, Episode 7: “Goddamn Animals”
Directed by Tim Southam
Written by Eliza Clark

* For a review of the previous episode, “Child Care” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Man In” – click here
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Mama Smurf Cody (Ellen Barkin) is headed off to do her own thing. She leaves Baz (Scott Speedman) with a regular salary for her and the boys, rather than the full amount they’re owed for the last job. Nobody’s happy, though she doesn’t care. She runs shit her way. Craig (Ben Robson) and Deran (Jake Weary) are likely going to not do what they’re supposed to. Pope’s (Shawn Hatosy) too busy sparring his punching bag to care about anything.
Meanwhile they’re all wondering about Josh (Finn Cole). He spent the night over at the house of Alexa Anderson (Ellen Wroe). When he tries leaving she wants more information. Then he opens up a little about his uncle Pope, the family business. Uh oh.
Pope is pissed that Baz knew about mom slipping him pills. “I kinda think you like me crazy; less competition,” says Pope.
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Of course there’s still the clear love of Deran for Adrian (Spencer Treat Clark). Just the way he looks at him, you can tell the dude is shook. He simply can’t come out; to himself, or to anyone around him. “Maybe we should go back to Belize,” he suggests to Adrian. However, there’s an obvious rift between them that won’t ever close. Adrian’s friend that Pope threw in the ocean has an infection, so that doesn’t sit well with the guy. Anyway, Craig shows up, so the two lovers act like nothing’s going on. Or, Deran does. Not so much Adrian. He wants more.
Detective Sandra Yates (Nicki Micheaux) is pleased with the way Alexa is working J. Now there needs to be more. Well, Ms. Anderson fucked up with drugs and she’s found herself on the hook to do whatever the cops need, so any worry she has for J is dashed by the looming spectre of jail.
In other news, Baz returns the briefcase to Paul Belmont (C. Thomas Howell). He’s more than glad to have it back. So much so he starts talking a bit too loosely with Barry, perhaps saying more than he should. Baz is sucking him in further and further with each passing moment. At the same time, Josh comes back to Smurf’s place. Briefly he talks to Paul – nice guy all around – and you can see Josh cares for Nicky (Molly Gordon). A threat from Uncle Barry makes the kid wise up even more than he has already.
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Out doing her thing, Smurf has a friend doing a bit of work for her. Favours. That sort of jazz. He isn’t just a friend. He’s a father to at least one of the boys. Yikes. Such a brief encounter and we get a ton of expository information without a load of dialogue. Great writing that’s made this series lots of fun and so interesting thus far.
And Pope, he’s still got his old buddy Vin (Michael Bowen) sniffing around trying to get him in on a job. Pissed off that they didn’t do that last job together. But he also has a new job for them. When Pope goes with him to case the place it doesn’t turn out he likes the idea. Neither does that conclusion sit well with his old pal Vin.
Baz, a.k.a deadbeat husband and father, promises Catherine (Daniella Alonso) they’ll have another child. Yet Smurf does not approve. Will that hold him back? You can already see Catherine believes it will indeed.
What is Mama Smurf up to? She’s at a garage filled with some gorgeous cars. Stealing? Buying? No telling what’s up that sleeve of hers.
Josh heads back to see Ms. Anderson, or Alexa, as they’re on a first name basis. He finds the place out of order a little. In the bedroom he finds her wasted, throwing up. Likely on the heroin again, or oxy. The good man he is, J helps her to the bathroom and holds her hair as she vomits. Sad to watch him have to go through this with someone else now after his mother. Not too long later they fall into bed together. Goood damn.
At the Cody place there’s a big party going. Tons of people. Kegs. Barbecue. Uncle Craig snatches up his niece from Catherine, as she goes on into the crowd. In the midst of it all sits Adrian, a jaded look on his face. Afterwards, he and Deran go into the garage where they talk a moment, before Adrian walks away. Deran has to make it all look smooth, as Craig is in the driveway with his little niece. Almost giving himself away there.
Vin shows up around Baz, saying things about Pope and what he had to say about his ‘brother’ while in prison. That Catherine was his girl. That the daughter was his daughter. With the hurt feelings over their latest work, Vin wants a piece of some action Baz has going on in order to pay up for keeping Pope safe in jail. This is not going to go over well. I can see Vin meeting an end soon enough, which is probably going to be at the hands of Pope. Or is Baz about to step in? Speaking of Pope he’s talking to Catherine again, stalking her essentially. The look in his eyes says love. The way he goes about it says something else entirely.
The obviousness of Deran’s sexuality is clear to Craig. He doesn’t care. He just would rather if his brother wasn’t a jerk because Adrian is a good guy. Wow. I never expected that, least of all from Craig. Although those two have a good, solid bond between them, as it looks now.


Craig (to Deran): “I dont care who you have sex with, why do you think I invited him?”


Smurf is out with the guy from the garage. She continues plying information out of him, or trying to at least. We get a flash of her with that young surfer dude with the blonde hair, a picture of him and who I assume to be Smurf’s mother. We see more of Smurf as a young woman, the blonde haired man from the photo in the gallery, and he’s shot a woman inside a store. They rush out to the car.
The man from the garage is the man from the photograph. Jesus. I saw it coming, but still. Incredible.
When Baz finds the Cody house in full swing he isn’t overly happy. Mostly, he wants to talk with Pope. They chat about Vin, his threats, what he had to say about Pope and Catherine. So on. The two semi-brothers are at quite a crossroads. There’s a ton of animosity inherently stuck within Pope, always raging to get out. For a moment, he and Baz talk about Julia: “She was supposed to be your sister, too,” Pope tells him.
At the garage, Smurf gets into the old car her once blonde haired friend bought years ago. He talks about how he used to party with a woman,  she was wild, got him into crazy things. He gave her young twelve-year-old girl the nickname Smurf because she’d swim in the water until she turned blue. What a whopper of a scene and exchange between these two. You can see the frantic memories running behind Smurf’s eyes, terrifying her.


Back home, Baz and Catherine talk about Pope. She tells him about his sort of stalking. “He loves you, he always has,” Baz says nonchalant. Like it doesn’t even bother him, really. Then up shows Craig, there’s movement in terms of their next job. They need to get ready. In the meantime, Catherine calls her cop friend for a little consoling.
Deran rushes to Adrian. He kisses him right out in the open. Only Adrian shrugs him off and doesn’t want to pursue their relationship anymore. Not the way Deran wanted it before. That’s all ruined their chances.
Baz goes to see Paul while he’s playing some basketball. He takes a chance and tells Belmont about everything; the robbery, the briefcase. Then gives the man an opportunity to do something big and Baz gives some advice: “If youre gonna cross the line, make sure its a line worth crossing.”


When Smurf gets back she finds Baz knows she didn’t go for a rip in Vegas. Otherwise, the big Navy job is looking swell. Seems like Paul is on board. Barry knows Smurf isn’t well when she cries right there and then. Did she kill the man? What happened?
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Great episode. Offered up plenty of nice backstory, as well as developed a couple characters in some much needed ways. Next episode is titled “Man In” and I bet we’ll see a nice dose of adrenaline soaked excitement; big things are coming.

Animal Kingdom – Season 1, Episode 6: “Child Care”

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 1, Episode 6: “Child Care”
Directed by Regina King
Written by Etan Frankel

* For a review of the previous episode, “Flesh is Weak” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Goddamn Animals” – click here
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We’ve got SO MUCH going down on Animal Kingdom, from Deran (Jake Weary) coming home to Mama Smurf (Ellen Barkin), to Josh (Finn Cole) getting semi-seduced by his teacher Ms. Alexa Anderson (Ellen Wroe), who also happens to be an informant for the cops. Yikes.
Pope (Shawn Hatosy) is sitting in a holding cell while Baz (Scott Speedman) is out showing Lt. Commander Paul Belmont (C. Thomas Howell) how fun it is to rip around in his sleek, fast car. He’s getting closer to the man, so that their next job might prove very useful. Down to the jail goes Smurf to collect Pope. Apparently he violated parole for a failed drug test. Ah, could that be those little pills mom is doping her boy with?
At school, J finds Ms. Anderson out of class. Hmm, suspicious, no? Maybe she needs a bit of distance because of her new legal task. Actually it’s more the fact Alexa does not want to do this to Josh. But she bought heroin off an undercover cop, and now finds herself under the thumb of Dt. Sandra Yates (Nicki Micheaux).
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The closer Belmont and Baz get, the more I worry for him. He’s obviously not going to be complicit in any robbery. However, what I worry is that Paul and his daughter Nicky (Molly Gordon) may get violently caught up in whatever the Cody Gang plans on executing. For now, Baz continues to warm to Paul. He starts figuring out that Belmont is connected to the financial aspect of the Navy. He has something to do with configuring the ATMs on the ships, so on, and this clearly puts him in touch with a ton of money. The lights in Baz’s head go on, bright. What’s most worrisome is that Smurf continually reels Pope in, lying to him, hiding the truth. It’s scary what might happen eventually. And the fact there’s a job brewing alongside all of it doesn’t make anything easier.
Dt. Yates builds her trust with Alexa by bringing her to the scene of a crime, where Smurf had Pope burn a house down to cover up witnesses. Vicious stuff. “This is what they do to outsiders,” Yates tells Alexa. She plays up the angle that Josh is not one of the Codys, and the only way to get him out of danger is to pull him away from grandma and the uncles.
At home, the Cody Gang meets up to talk about what Baz has planned. Of course there’s a little resistance to such a lofty goal. And nobody is happy about having Belmont involved. For his part Baz believes Paul is ready to break bad, and then they can get him to help. But nobody other than Smurf is too willing to start looking into it. The more alienated Pope becomes, the more unstable the Cody Gang becomes.
And aside from how Baz fits in with the boys, we continue to get a look at his other life, his father. Baz finds the trailer where his dad stays in complete disarray. He feeds the cat, he checks up, but finds no one there. No wonder he gravitated to Smurf. When it comes to Deran and Craig (Ben Robson), they aren’t totally on board with everything. They don’t like how Baz is the big man in charge. Only Deran especially can’t go against mama, and the division between all the Codys is incredibly evident, more by the day.


There’s more to Baz apart from Smurf and the Codys. He’s also got his wonderful wife Catherine (Daniella Alonso) at home, alone and lonely. He finally reveals to Catherine about his father living in a trailer, out of jail, that he goes to check on him. She doesn’t like that he still talks to his father, after all he was put through as a boy. We further discover Smurf knows nothing of it. Could be more trouble.
All the Cody boys have their little secrets from mom for the most part. Craig’s turned his back on the latest job, not wanting to skip Renn’s (Christina Ochoa) little party. Is he out of trouble on that front, though? I’m still waiting for his devious deed, leaving her alone and OD’ing, to come back and bite him. If she finds out there’ll be hell to pay.
Deran and Pope are out on a little house job. Moreover, the older of the two makes it clear: “Something happens tonight, Im cominout firing, do you understand me? Theyre gonna have to kill me, ‘cause Im not going back inside.” This begins to illustrate that something definitely happened to Pope in prison. Rape? Assault? Something. Just can’t be sure. Anyway, the two Codys go on in to get their homework assignment from Mama Smurf finished. It’s the Belmont home and they’ve come to check up on things. On their way out they set off an alarm and that alerts Paul.


The time for Renn putting together what really happened? Looks like now. Renn found out Sage, the guy Craig went after for her, was not around when she got robbed. Uh oh. She figured it all out. A few of her friends have some plans for Craig. They strap him to a chair, tie off his arm, and prepare a nice, heavy dose of H to overdose him with. Well, it isn’t real. They just scare the shit out of Craig, making him piss himself. Now he owes about $7K, or else he’s really going to die. Man, oh man. What a twisted night. Gets even wilder once Craig calls Smurf down there to work things out. More embarrassment for Big Craig – first pissing himself, now calling his mommy. Even worse, she gives away his bike, as well.
When the Belmonts get home they find the place totally trashed, all sorts of things stolen – television, computer, even Paul can’t find his briefcase. And Josh is in one hell of a moral jam. He knows exactly who broke in. When he asks Deran about it, his uncle is of course resistant, and he also doesn’t take responsibility; Baz is the one pulling these strings. “Hes not done with him,” Deran tells his nephew, re: Baz’s plans for Paul.


Smurf: “Dont you mistake my generosity for weakness
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Craig opens up to Smurf and tries to tell her how he feels left out, neglected. Although mom believes he’s able to do things his brother can’t, or won’t, and that is his strength. At the same time she tells him not to call her again in this type of jam: “Because I will not come.” Sooner or later every little boy needs to be weaned off mother’s milk.
To stave off any further trouble, Josh tries to break things off with Nicky. He knows the danger of her being involved with him, as his family is only bringing heartbreak, pain, violence to hers. Nicky does step over the line slightly, making a comment about J’s mom. All the same it is a shitty thing. Josh doesn’t want to do it, but he does so out of love for her ultimately.
The Codys are all at lunch together, some of mom’s good cornbread and spicy chilli. And this is where Pope starts to notice things are sketchy. He insists on taking Craig’s bowl. Then Deran breaks it up by taking Pope’s, so then mom takes Deran’s for her own. Wow. It’s become painfully clear what is happening. Pope realises his mother is doing more of the puppet act she’s so well known for, and things won’t be good from here on in. Upstairs, J lies to Smurf and says Nicky broke up with him. Good lord. So many lies and deceitful acts between family.

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Over at the Belmont place, Baz meets up with Paul, the latter of whom is concerned for his classified documents after the briefcase has gone missing. He worries about getting court marshalled, fired. All that. So Baz offers to have some shady tenants look for the briefcase. This is the first slide into badness that Baz serves up for Paul. To see how things look for the future. The unknowing Lt. Commander Belmont walks right into the trap. Outside, Nicky tells Baz about Josh breaking up with her. This looks as if it made Baz angry. He needs the Cody family as close to the Belmonts as possible. So he calls Josh and arranges to meet for a beer. Great.
Smurf comes clean to Pope about the pills. Good woman. Certainly Pope isn’t pleased, especially after the piss test debacle. Mom only wants him healthy, but her boy doesn’t always want to listen. “You dont like me unless Im on these pills?” he asks, like a little kid disappointed that his mother scolded him. The worry in Smurf’s eyes speaks volumes.
Out by the ocean, Baz meets with Josh. He trips J up in a lie about who dumped who. Semi-Uncle Baz warns Josh: “Youre lucky you and I are just talking right now. Youre lucky.” The uglier side of Big Barry comes out with each passing chapter. No longer is he the safe haven from the others he was before. Josh is truly alone within his own family.
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As usual, Baz and Smurf chat alone together. He lets her in on the whole situation with J, how he’s been acting, and what that may mean for them going forward. They know something must be done. So what is it? Is Nicky in danger?
This whole situation only serves to drive Josh further from the family, into terrifying waters. He goes to see Alexa. The divide in his family is going to push him into a space where the cops are getting closer. Who knows what this relationship between J and Ms. Anderson will bring.
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A great, great episode. I love this series! Every week it gets better, from acting to writing. Every last iota of the show is near perfect. I was sceptical at first, but boy, did I ever find myself proven wrong. Next episode is titled “Goddamn Animals” and I’m sure we’re about to take a trip down some dangerous roads.

Animal Kingdom – Season 1, Episode 5: “Flesh is Weak”

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 1, Episode 5: “Flesh is Weak”
Directed by Christopher Chulack
Written by Megan Martin

* For a review of the previous episode, “Dead to Me” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Child Care” – click here
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With Grandma Smurf (Ellen Barkin) now on his back, Josh (Finn Cole) is faced with an all new Cody Family dynamic. But for the beginning of this episode we flash back to a younger Deran (Jake Weary) skateboarding with his friends, one of whom is Adrian (Spencer Treat Clark). So it’s clear, from the look on Adrian’s face watching Deran heroically fly off the pier into the water after grinding a bench, their attraction has been going on a long, long time. Sadly, Deran obviously feels within his family he can’t trust any of them with his secret.
I say this is a flashback simply because Adrian’s hair is slightly different, Deran looks a bit younger in the way he dresses. So though it isn’t completely clear, I do believe this is a flash to earlier days. Not crazy long ago, just a little while before now. Plus, do you ever see Deran hanging with many people outside his little circle?
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Back in present day, Baz (Scott Speedman) and Deran meet up at the beach. Baz wants to get things going, as Smurf says the jobs are good to go again. But Deran says he’s “done” and that he doesn’t want any more of his mother’s bullshit. At home, the Cody Gang are talking about the new job. Pope (Shawn Hatosy) isn’t exactly pleased with his mother’s plan while Craig (Ben Robson) just goes along, mostly. For his part, Pope doesn’t want to do a small time job, he’d rather go big.


In other news, the Cody Family now meets Lieutenant Commander Paul Belmont (C. Thomas Howell). He’s looking for his daughter Nicky (Molly Gordon), who hasn’t been home in awhile. She’s been staying over at the Cody compound. You know Smurf does a good job talking things out, though. She even invites the Belmont crew over for supper. Inside, the boys talk about Belize, and how Deran once took off for months, so that’s why Smurf is a little more lenient with him; she doesn’t want a repeat. Big brother Pope offers to go get his younger brother. Ah, this is going to play out well. And there’s also the fact Smurf just doesn’t want Pope there, so she agrees totally. Later, the Belmonts head over for supper and things go pretty well. Baz talks with Paul, as the Navy man recounts stories of overseas duty and so on. Little apple pie for dessert. It’s all smooth.
Adrian and Deran are on good terms again. They hang, surf, smoke joints. Adrian introduces Deran to his buddy Dave (Adam Huber), but you can see there’s jealousy on the part of the ever aggressive Cody. He feels like there’s another man hovering around. His insecurities are alive and well. At the same time, Pope goes looking for his little bro only to find his apartment in complete disarray, beer bottles, food, all sorts of things just rotting away. Then he sits. And waits.
Renn (Christina Ochoa) is recovering. She also has an idea about who robbed her. For a second Craig almost thinks he’s been found out. However, she believes it’s a guy named Sage that is supposedly a friend, a customer. Now Renn wants his legs broken. Oh, man.
And then we can’t forget about Deran. He follows Adrian and Dave, as they head out on the town together. Nothing overtly romantic happens, though the two are close, and you can just feel the tension mounting in Deran. Not good. At all. Afterwards, he sneaks into Arian’s place, wrestles him into bed and they fuck. Adrian isn’t happy with their relationship, he wants more. We find out Belize was all about him and Adrian, too. But the Cody boy is still afraid of mommy finding out.


So there’s also Josh, sneaking out to an art exhibit with his teacher, Alexa Anderson (Ellen Wroe). They talk, admire art. She drinks and talks casually, if not a bit flirty, even dirty at times. There’s such a clear violation of professional behaviour here. Even more so when she invites Josh in after they leave the gallery. I’m interested to see where this all heads. Smurf won’t like this, whatsoever. An older woman going after J, it might hit close to home, and could cause something extremely scary.
We keep seeing more of Baz – stressed by the Cody Gang drama – and his Mexican girlfriend, which I’m waiting to see implode. Pope clearly doesn’t like that Barry takes off with another woman since he has a deep thing for Catherine (Daniella Alonso). Speaking of Pope, he goes to see Adrian looking for Deran. Does Pope know, or at least suspect? Hard to tell for sure.
When Smurf goes to do J’s laundry, she finds a postcard-type picture from the exhibit. Something on it does not make her happy.


Pope finally tracks down his younger brother. He’s clearly got love for Deran, even in the smallest sense. He tries to tell Deran to come back. They talk about all sorts of things, from Smurf to Belize. Obviously some of the Cody boys want to get out from under their domineering mother. We see more of the bond between brothers, as Deran tells Pope: “If you do somethin and you dont ask me why, Ill come home.” Is something bad about to happen to Dave, or Adrian? My bet’s on the former. Christ, this is tense.
The other brother Craig is busy looking for Sage, so he can beat him down good and hard for Renn. Craig admits there’s apprehension on his part, but when the guy fights back instead of playing along like he wants, the whole thing gets more serious.
At the gallery, Smurf goes to find a particular portrait, a man surfing. She knows him. Is this a former husband? Josh’s father? I’d bet Smurf had a relationship with him because the way she goes after finding the guy out is emotional, if not she wouldn’t bother so much. Well, she and the lady photographer who shot the picture wind up having a little lesbian fun, as Smurf tries seducing the man’s identity out of her.
Josh goes out collecting rent for Smurf. One guy gives him an ultimatum – weed now, come back for rent later. The guy tries to strong arm him, but J stays his ground and the guy passes him the envelope a second later. A really suspenseful second or two, I thought something nuts was going to go down. Over at home, Nicky is sitting poolside and Baz breaks them out a couple beers. They chat like friends, about dinner the other night, her father Paul, all that stuff. What’s interesting is a moment where Nicky mentions his classified documents, a briefcase. A slight glimmer passes through Baz’s eyes. Next job? Uh oh.
In the night, Josh goes to Ms. Anderson’s place and starts kissing her. She stops, though, and he agrees: “Ill see you in class.” Hmm. An odd, awkward moment.


Pope finds Dave out on the dock. He shocks him, then takes the guy’s boat out on the water. Poor Dave is zip tied for the ride. Pope cuts them off then tosses Dave overboard to let him swim back to shore. He has no idea why Deran wants it done, but he does his little brother a favour. But what does this solve? Dave will likely make it back to shore, right? He makes it back and Adrian is pissed, he knows just what happened. He also has an idea about the way Smurf is with her boys. Something sinister is brewing within this closeted, fragile, deteriorating relationship.
As for Smurf, she is stuck on that mysterious surfer’s picture. She flashes back momentarily to coming out of a pool as a little girl, seeing an older boy above her waiting. Did the boys’ father do something bad to her? That might explain how fucked up she is as a mother and grandmother nowadays.
Deran goes slinking back home to mother, as always. She gladly takes him back in, lovingly. It’s clear none of the Codys, neither Smurf or her boys, are right without one another. And I was right – Baz has his eye on the Navy base. This is something pretty damn sketchy, and I can only imagine where it will lead.
The guy that gave J a hard time collecting rent was a setup by Smurf. To check his loyalty, surely. Such a hilarious criminal family. When Baz arrives in the morning he lets Smurf in on the Navy job idea. With Deran back, the whole gang is together once more. Things between Baz and Pope aren’t exactly perfect, either. But they’re all under the same roof at least.
Out on the pier, Ms. Anderson meets Detective Sandra Yates (Nicki Micheaux); she’s informing. Oh. Shit. Never expected that one. This adds an entirely new dimension to everything, from J and Ms. Anderson’s relationship to the next big job the Cody Gang are hoping to pull off.
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Very good episode. Dig it, so hard. Excited to see the next one titled “Child Care” and I have to say, Animal Kingdom as a series is defying my expectations. Usually these remakes into series’ I hear about make me roll my eyes. This show is proving me wrong at every turn. If the writing is appropriate, a great movie can morph into a solid series. Just so long as the writers and directors are willing to flesh things out and dig into the material instead of rehashing. This one gets into all new territory, and I’m in love with it equally as much as the film. There, I said it!

Animal Kingdom – Season 1, Episode 4: “Dead to Me”

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
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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.
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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.
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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 cant 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 cant, 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.

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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.
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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 Ill 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.
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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!

Animal Kingdom – Season 1, Episode 3: “Stay Close, Stick Together”

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 1, Episode 3: “Stay Close, Stick Together”
Directed by Christopher Chulack
Written by Eliza Clark

* For a review of the previous episode, “We Don’t Hurt People” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Dead to Me” – click here
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With all the lies, all the secrets floating around, can Josh Cody (Finn Cole) manage to keep his head above water? Can he survive his own family?
Pope (Shawn Hatosy) is out fishing, gutting and skinning some sharks. He receives a visit from an old friend wanting to a do a job. Then we find out that this guy thinks Pope is with Catherine (Daniella Alonso), and that they have a baby together. So, could the baby actually be Pope’s child, or is that merely his ego, telling people this or that, lying? Hard to tell. Either way, it weighs heavy on Pope.
Then there’s Josh who seems constantly plagued by the strain of his family. He even has to steal back the gold watch he gave Nicky (Molly Gordon). Heading out from her place he runs into Nicky’s father, Navy Lieutenant Commander Paul Belmont (C. Thomas Howell). Not good. Yet the father doesn’t go too hard. He’s fairly lenient, most of all concerned about how his daughter’s doing.
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Baz (Scott Speedman) and his Mexican girlfriend bang while Craig (Ben Robson) is being fixed up. This is not a good side to Baz. I hoped there was an inherently good part of him compared to the others. Not quite.
Back at home, in America, Smurf (Ellen Barkin) is looking after Catherine’s daughter and asking Josh whether he’s having sex with Nicky. “Does she satisfy you?” asks grandma. The closeness of the Cody family is wonderfully creepy. You sense that Smurf loves her boys, but there’s an overprotective quality that borders on inappropriate. This was always alluded to in the original film, as Smurf had a penchant for kissing her boys right on the mouth, even as grown men. Here, Barkin’s crack at the character goes deeper into that element, and we start to see how she’s the criminal glue holding these boys together. As well as tearing them apart at times.
Pope isn’t feeling well lately. Probably because mom is slipping him anti-depressants or something else into the food he’s eating. Moreover, he also doesn’t like what has been happening at home. He does not like his nephew, him being around and possibly being a liability, nor does he like how Baz is the big king in the Cody Gang anymore. His mother’s trying to turn him around. But will that put her boys at odds? There’s a good chance.
Speaking of the boys, Baz and Craig are on a Mexican beach enjoying themselves. At least for a while. Craig’s wanting to do more jobs, as Baz tries to keep him from doing anything stupid.

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Out collecting rent, Deran (Jake Weary) runs into Adrian (Spencer Treat Clark) – not only is he the one who owes money for the surf shop, he’s also the guy who was going down on Deran. His face is a mess. He dropped tons of cash on an MRI to make sure there were no internal injuries. Now, he doesn’t want to pay rent. It’s all on Deran, or else Smurf finds out her boy was sucking dick then decided to sucker punch the guy whose dick he sucked. Nasty stuff for ole Deran, he’s in quite the position.
Pope picks up Josh. As advised by his mother, the uncle plans on bringing his nephew into the fold. Just not Baz’s fold. He wants to exert some of his influence on the kid and get him on the perceived ‘right’ side of the family. This will only mean more and more of the brothers being at odds with one another. Not to mention Pope also ropes Deran into the mix. But though Smurf suggested Pope ought to include Josh in things, she knows nothing of the job the boys are about to do. Plus, Smurf is too busy trying to make sure she gets to spend time with Catherine and Baz’s daughter. Even if that means being greasy.
You ready to have some fun?” Pope asks his nephew, as they haul on some uniforms, throw decals on their truck, and prepare to get busy. Inside their target building, the boys break through a wall and look for a safe. They find it, though they’re interrupted, and the pace quickens for them. Josh ends up doing Pope right when Deran refuses. At the very same time, coming back across the border, Craig lets Baz know there are drugs on board. Right as the police dogs come closer. It goes smoothly, but god damn – these guys play fast and loose. The only sensible one criminally is Baz. Just an all around shitshow at both ends.

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The safe gets opened. Pope doesn’t want to give Deran any, as Josh did the work needed to be done: “He has more balls than you do,” Pope berates his brother. There is plenty of aggression and tension between these two now. Josh agrees to split things three ways, but Uncle Deran doesn’t want to admit he was scared, and walks off. There’s more tension elsewhere. Smurf and Catherine are at odds, too. Mama Smurf doesn’t like that Catherine has been getting money, et cetera, from the Cody Gang while thinking she’s above it. That is a slight bit of hypocrisy. All the same, Catherine doesn’t want her daughter around that viciousness. And I agree.
Craig’s drug plan pays off for him and Baz, even if the latter wasn’t too pleased with how things played out. At least they’re home in one piece. At home, Pope won’t take the watch back from his nephew, he tells him to keep it; all in the name of rebelling against mother. Man, these are a bunch of dudes with a terrible load of mommy issues all over the place. Aside from everyone else, Josh tells Deran he didn’t see anything down at the beach. Although the uncle plays it dumb. He shouldn’t. Because eventually Josh is going to find himself in a place where he’s going to drop that secret out in the open.
Around the couches, the Cody Gang talk about their father(s). One was a seagull. The other a one-eyed dolphin. Regardless of what or who he was, this is all about resentment. Pope pulls out more of it for Deran before leaving. It’s all too clear this situation will come to a head sooner rather than later. But Pope, he’s pushing hard against other issues. He keeps creeping around Catherine. Yet part of him is only concerned for her, the baby. He offers money to get a good babysitter. For all his weirdness and his temper, Pope seems to have a good heart. It’s just buried far beneath the issues with Smurf, his troubled life of crime, and a ton of bravado.


Poolside, Deran challenges nephew Josh to a competition: who can hold their breath longest in the pool. They stare one another down, as Josh clearly has more trouble than his uncle. When he tries to go back up, Deran stops him. He tries to drown his own nephew. All in good fun, right? Josh continues to figure out how dangerous it is being a Cody, and that being born into that blood is more like being birthed into Sparta than a Californian family.
Josh goes to see Nicky – he gives her back the watch. Certainly Mr. Belmont isn’t all that happy, but he’s still not an outright dick. I want to see more of his involvement with Josh. That makes me worry slightly for him because a man of the law involved with the Cody Gang is a recipe for disaster. At the house, Smurf bitches out Deran for Josh being gone with all his things. Where’s the boy headed?
Baz keeps money at his father’s place, stashed below the cupboards. Once more, he contemplates shooting his father, who for his part eggs him on. There’s a deep pain in Baz that stems from his family, his father in particular it seems, so there was likely abuse of some form in his past.


Smurf finds her grandson ready to head out of town. She’s sad to see him running. We find out more about Smurf’s own history, that her mother was also a junkie, which clearly passed down to her daughter, Josh’s mother. For his part, the kid wants to know who his father was, for sure. Smurf doesn’t know, only the one that she loved and that she tried to bring into the fold – Baz. They were in love. Whoa. That’s a ton of intrigue thrown into the batter right there. Well, Smurf takes Josh back home. We can see there’s something in Deran’s eyes; is it worry? He doesn’t want his secret gay life to get exposed, and also doesn’t want to be thrown from the family, for any reason.
Baz and Josh end up chatting briefly. The latter reveals he shot his mother up that day she died. That’s heavy. His semi-uncle assuages his guilt, saying that his mother did that to all of them and it was the family burden, essentially. I want to see more of this relationship between Baz and Josh. At least now we know why Baz is more gentle than any of the rest with Josh, as he has a personal connection to the kid.
Trying to sleep, Smurf feels the eyes of her crazy son Pope on her. He stands watching her for a while before coming to her bedside and crawling in next to her for a cuddle. I keep wondering if there’s something sordid to do with Smurf and Pope specifically. He seems to have the most issues. We’ll find out soon, I’m sure.
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Another solid episode. Next up is “Dead to Me” and with a title like that, YOU KNOW something is going down. Stick with me, and with the series. Digging these episodes a ton. I hope some of you are, too.

Animal Kingdom – Season 1, Episode 2: “We Don’t Hurt People”

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 1, Episode 2: “We Don’t Hurt People”
Directed by John Wells
Written by Jonathan Lisco

* For a review of the pilot episode, click here.
* For a review of the next episode, “Stay Close, Stick Together” – click here
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After a wild pilot, things continue on for the Cody Gang.
Well they’re certainly a good lot for hedonism. Smurf Cody (Ellen Barkin) hangs poolside with her boys, Andrew a.k.a Pope (Shawn Hatosy), Craig (Ben Robson), Deran (Jake Weary), the new addition Josh (Finn Cole), and their close man Baz (Scott Speedman). Pope gets a bit too heavy, not playing nice with their nephew Josh. At the same time, he’s not exactly playing nice with anyone else either. Inside Smurf asks J’s girl Nicky (Molly Gordon) if she were shipwrecked and could only pick one Cody, aside from Josh, who would it be? She replies Baz is “pretty cool” and it’s easy to see that Mama Smurf is testing this young woman to see if she’s got what it takes to hang with the rough crew. Even Josh is finding it hard keeping up with his uncles and big Baz.
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Speaking of Baz, his significant other Catherine (Daniella Alonso) is pissed. Rightfully so. There’s a casualty from the job the Cody Gang pulled recently. Furthermore, we see how Baz considers Smurf’s place “home” as opposed to their own place. I can see all types of trouble from a mile away.
When Smurf gets wind of the death due to the robbery you can be sure nothing’s going to go too smooth. In other news, Craig’s wound is festering and he is getting pretty hooked on painkillers. He says it’s because he’s a big dude, but you can clearly tell he is falling down the rabbit hole. Not a good thing with the dead cop on their hands.
Smurf lets Josh know there’s a bit of serious business about to come up. He’s being slowly brought into the fold. “There are no secrets in this family. Not from one another. Especially not from me,” says Grandma Smurf. We also see the strange, quasi-incestuous relationship she has with her men, making Josh strip down his dirty clothes right in front of her. Awkward, and telling.
Then Josh witnesses an incredible moment that nobody can know about – his uncle Deran is getting a blowjob from another man. When he sees his nephew, Deran beats the man down claiming he was trying to steal a wallet. Whoa. Just… whoa. No family secrets? Yeah, okay, Smurf. Deran has his nephew join in on the beating, though you can see the young guy is apprehensive. Poor Josh, he just gets deeper and deeper in every way. And worst of all it’s as if there’s danger from some of his uncles at every corner. First Pope and his machismo, now Deran and his closeted secret. There’s a lot of danger being a Cody.


Smurf and the boys are having a meeting about what to do next. Of course Pope is not happy with any of them. Baz tries to quell Smurf’s worries about any witnesses. Then she finds out the boys took off their masks when dealing with the tweakers for the robbery. Uh oh. Well, that’s not too big of a deal, seeing as how those were addicts and they probably don’t remember much. Not well enough to rat. Meanwhile, everything else is going to shit – their vehicle is still out there, cop’s bullets in it along with Craig’s blood. Moreover, there’s dissent between Smurf and her boys. She doesn’t blame Baz, but rather her own blood, and they don’t like that. Also you have the fact Deran is now quietly pissed with nephew J for finding out his secret, so he tries to pile the grunt work on him. Afterwards, J reveals to Baz what Pope lied to Smurf about, and they start forming a subtle bond. Because let’s face it, the uncles are aggressive with their nephew, whereas Baz is more welcoming and gentle despite being a hardened criminal himself. Still, Baz lies about what “kind of family” the Cody Gang is truly.
We see how everybody is weary of Pope and exactly how his mental health is doing. Particularly Baz and Smurf, as they have a little conference together on his well-being. It’ll be interesting to watch this play out further.
Deran and Craig start tearing apart the vehicle from their robbery. The former rages against his mother and how the split goes for them economically. Craig agrees, mostly. Neither of them are too happy with Baz or Pope, either. But what’s most intriguing is seeing how Craig hides his pill intake from even Deran, as he doesn’t want anybody questioning his state of mind. None of these guys are open in the family. Secrets are everywhere.


When Josh finds his room torn apart he also finds Pope. Looking for the watch he gave his nephew. They’ve got to clean up loose ends. The uncle is convinced his nephew is hiding things; secrets, who knows what else. Then he goes on a brief nostalgia train about his days, hiding things from Smurf. Not much has changed. I like the relationship between Pope and Josh in the series. In the film, it was great, as well. Here, we’re able to get more of a look at the antagonistic behaviour of Pope towards his nephew and that is more fleshed out with an extended series, as opposed to a film under two hours.
Even worse, there’s Pope influencing Nicky. I’m afraid for her. Those who’ve seen the movie know there’s danger for her involved with the family. So it’s only a matter of time before there’s a serious threat to her safety. The more we see of Pope, the more I worry about what he’ll soon do.
Baz and Smurf are so much like actual mother and son. We hear more talk about Pope, that he’s off medication and that it might be worth trying to get him back on some soon. Although neither of them are too optimistic about that. And then they burn up the watches, so that’s a loose end cauterised, literally in fire. More worry about Pope when he shows up suddenly at Catherine’s, playing with her daughter, and no sign of Baz. Yikes. He’s a creepy bastard.
Now we start to hear about Pope sending letters to Catherine. There’s a love for her that Pope has held since they were young. She apparently got drunk and something happened between them. Baz knows nothing of it, and Pope wonders if maybe he should tell him about it. Oh, man. There are so many nasty things going on within the walls of the Cody Gang and the family itself. Only so much can build up before it breaks. Is Catherine’s little girl of Baz, or of Pope? That’s one to think about.

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Mama Smurf is up to a few tricks. She smashes a heel of her shoes, scratches up her hand until it’s bloody. She lies to a guy so she can get into an apartment, then into a bathroom. She steals pills. Are those for Pope? We get a quick flash of what looks like Smurf as a little girl, doing the same thing with her own mother. A very great moment. In the meantime, Craig is strung out on pills and not getting any work done. Deran notices. He notices the wound in Craig’s shoulder is getting hideous. Then they decide just to burn the rest of the vehicle. Bad move? Sure is, at least for the fact Smurf won’t be too happy about it. Josh arrives just as they’re doing the dirty. More secrets for him to keep.
Baz is cleaning up after someone, an older man. Likely his father. For a moment, he contemplates shooting him in the head. There’s lots more to why Baz is a member of the Cody Gang, and the family as it stands. I want to see more about that, so I look forward to exploring his backstory throughout the series. I was always curious about that in the film, as he seemed like such an integral part of the gang. He is even more so here. Later we see Mama Smurf is crushing up pills to sneak into Pope’s food. Real good idea there. Also, we hear more about Baz being taken into the house. Smurf talks about when he first came to them. He hid food, not sure he’d be fed there. Terrible parents at home. “I dont how you survived,” Smurf laments.


When Baz goes home he finds Catherine not herself. She worries about the dead cop, all the commotion on television. Baz assures her nothing will come of it for them. Everything’s taken care of, as he says. Don’t be so sure of that. Mostly, Catherine worries for her daughter, and what could happen if the SWAT team bursts in. He promises to lay himself down if that’s the case. Then he discovers the doll Pope brought her and Catherine lies, saying it came from a store somewhere. Ah, the lies are EVERYWHERE!
And Craig, he keeps chopping lines and pushing back the pain. That’s because he’s preparing to do some homemade surgery. Smurf, she’s upstairs watching her insane son Pope outside, naked, staring into the moon. When she hears a bunch of noise downstairs she finds Craig, mutilating himself. So it’s off to Mexico for a bit of low-key surgery. But what else? Baz has a woman down south of the border. Jesus. The lies are seeping out from every crack.
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A great follow-up of a second episode. Next up is “Stay Close, Stick Together” and it promises plenty. This is an excellent series in addition to the film. I know many, like myself, were wary. But this is proving, with each chapter, that Animal Kingdom has power as a television show. All the acting is so spectacular, loving Ellen Barkin, Shawn Hatosy, and Scott Speedman, but everyone else is just as good, too.

The Fan (1996) – A Retrospective Review

The Fan. 1996. Directed by Tony Scott. Screenplay by Phoef Sutton; based on the book by Peter Abrahams.
Starring Robert De Niro, Wesley Snipes, Ellen Barkin, John Leguizamo, Benicio Del Toro, Patti D’Arbanville, Chris Mulkey, Andrew J. Ferchland, Brandon Hammond, Charles Hallahan, Dan Butler, & Kurt Fuller. TriStar Pictures/Mandalay Entertainment/Scott Free Productions.
Rated R. 116 minutes.
Action/Drama/Sport

★★★★
POSTER
The bad dad is a staple of movies. Often times we get emotionally charged representations of the bad dad whose heart is truly in the right place, yet can’t seem to make things for himself. These are the redemption stories, such as Mrs. Doubtfire and others; some can be hilarious like that Robin Williams classic, different movies can go for a much more dramatic, intense feel. The Fan tells the tale of a down-and-out baseball superfan whose ambition never took him anywhere except into mediocrity and a divorce from his wife, so he places all his chips in life on trying to be a good dad. Only the dad here is more concerned with watching baseball than actually caring for his son. More than that, we combine the bad dad redemption story with a thriller about a fan gone mad.
Tony Scott was an interesting director. His visual style is flashy, though, it contains substance. Most interesting here is that The Fan takes on the popular culture surrounding baseball. Scott’s quick-paced style, his MTV-generation editing, all these techniques lend themselves to a movie focusing on celebrity, fame, obsession. There are many different aspects to the main character Gil, the titular obsessive fan, and one of those is that he’s very much a specifically American product. Not in any way speaking bad about America, but Gil becomes the epitome of the television era, the generation of people who first grew up with the television and experienced how popular culture fed through the airwaves. What this movie does best is examine obsession and fandom can become dangerous if it’s all a person has, and if the rest of their life fades away into being a fan, into their obsession, then their world becomes a much more dangerous, more volatile place.
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Gil Renard (Robert De Niro) is a salesman – hunting knives. He’s also possibly the world’s biggest San Francisco Giants. So when big time celebrity ball player Bobby Rayburn (Wesley Snipes) is signed, for a ridiculously huge contract, Gil is beyond ecstatic. He even gets to talk to Bobby after calling in live to a radio show hosted by Jewel Stern (Ellen Barkin).
But Gil’s got bigger things to worry about. His ex-wife Ellen (Patti D’Arbanville) lives with Tim (Chris Mulkey), who is clearly a better influence on their little boy Richie (Andrew J. Ferchland). Gil tries to impress Richie, but only manages to make things worse after leaving him alone in the Giants stadium during a game. All due to his obsession with baseball and Bobby Rayburn that gets in the way of Gil doing his job properly.
Meanwhile, Bobby and his agent Manny (John Leguizamo) try turning things around, after a rough start upon the star player’s arrival in San Fran.
Everything turns ugly when Gil decides to insert himself into a feud over jersey numbers between Bobby and his teammate Juan Primo (Benicio Del Toro). That is, Gil does so without Bobby knowing. And after Juan turns up dead, the life of Bobby Rayburn only gets scarier with Gil Renard in it.
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Not much redemptive in Gil as a character. He’s childish, has a major temper. And bottom line, Gil believes he cares about his son, but just doesn’t really. Or he does not put enough effort in. Like everything in his life – the effort is not there. He’s too concerned with baseball. Gil can’t even suck up to his son for doing something wrong without ego getting in the way; he brings the boy a pizza, but puts mushrooms on it and what kid likes mushrooms? He tells his son to pick them off. It’s one of those tiny, subtle moments where we see just how little Gil thinks, and how little effort goes into his parenthood. I imagine he is a man who never grew up, for once reason or another. His mind never matured from a child’s – obsessed with baseball, with the dreams which once were big and bright and in his future but now only remain as reminders of a wasted life.
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Examining Gil, we start to look at how fans interact with their celebrity obsessions. Funny enough, in 2016 this film might even have further relevance. Bobby Rayburn and Gil have their fateful encounter here, but imagine if this were made in the age of Twitter? The closer interaction between celebrities and fans heightens the possibilities of stalking, of obsessively unhealthy behaviours, and so on. Here, we see how Rayburn’s generous attitude towards a fan leads into a vortex of insanity. Furthermore, there’s also an examination of celebrity when it comes to Rayburn in this picture. His situation goes to show how fans can easily turn on the objects of their affection, such is the case when Bobby doesn’t hit so well; he’s the hero while hitting home runs, the villain when he is not.
So in a sick way, Gil also represents the true fan – willing to literally kill in order to try and boost his favourite player, to feed his morale and put him back on top of his game. Overall, Scott’s film gets at the heart of what fame and celebrity mean to those obsessed, the fans. It’s hyperbole, yes, but great hyperbole. The love of the fan translates into violence when the love is not returned. And in a sense, Gil is the story of unrequited love. Both in the sense of his inability to return the love of his son, as well as the love he shows to Bobby, the other heroic sports figure of his life. Gil’s the ultimate worst disaster of a fan anybody could ever imagine, as his fandom and reverence of Bobby is one in the long line of many, most likely. Look at his obsession with Jagger and the Stones! Who knows when he started recounting all those little tales. And why Mick? Why the Stones? Such a huge band and he acts as if they were best friends. Probably went to some shows and believed Mick and Keith were looking at him.
He’s really trying to find that father figure that’s clearly eluded him for a lifetime.So that’s it: The Fan is about a dangerous abyss, which being a huge fan like Gil skirts around (and in his case goes over), that a person can fall into if they use their obsession as their only route into the world. Being a fan can be perfectly normal. But, as evidenced via Gil, it can get excessively maddening.
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De Niro is excellent here. There’s a creepiness about him that he can draw out, but also a terrifying side. He has this sort of middle class charm about him, too. The way Gil initiates people is normal. Then slowly his wobbly mental health rears its head, except when he talks about baseball. And it’s this utter obsession De Niro shows us, as Gil wavers fluidly between poles – happy and manically expressing his love for the sport of baseball, to rage-filled and pouring out the years of bottled reserved anger in him onto others using insults, then later those knives he loves selling. So while there’s definitely lots of over-the-top stuff in this movie, De Niro sells the Gil character every bit. He and Snipes are fun together. You can see Snipes enjoys to play off De Niro, which works. They’re a grim team as the horror of their doomed relationship unfolds. Plus, there’s the charismatic presence of Snipes as is, and that brings a star quality to his character; he walks and talks like he is the man, knowing it at every moment. Also there’s a second side to him, as well. Snipes shows us the vulnerable side of stardom, something he most definitely understands. So his performance is undervalued here. He has a certain prowess for the big ego character that oozes out of every scene.
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This Tony Scott film is a 4-star thriller. Definitely does not receive the credit it deserves. Looking back, it’s likely because things go really wild and out there with the finale. I’ll definitely concede on my enjoyment of The Fan there; not a good way to close things out. Maybe some of the other bits are over-the-top. Mostly, the fact there wasn’t a bit more of the novel used than ended up in the final products damages the character development. However, as I said, De Niro gives a solid performance, and that helps bring us closer to Gil Renard’s madness. Scott’s unique style of directing makes this a purely American story of obsession, a dissection of fame through the lens of a crazy man. The movie can be abrasive and hard to swallow at times simply because of the relentless unapologetic portrayal/writing of Gil. But Scott makes this an interesting story revolving around the obsession of one fan gone totally wrong. Deserves another watch and a closer look by many. Flawed movie that still works, pushing a message about concerning ourselves too much with celebrity and fame.