Tuesday, June 20, 2017

REVIEW: 'Animal Kingdom' - Deran Invites the Entire Family to the Opening of the Bar in 'Broken Boards'

TNT's Animal Kingdom - Episode 2.04 "Broken Boards"

With the bar set to open, Deran frets about telling Smurf about it. Pope and Amy go on a date. Nicky must choose between Craig and J.

Animal Kingdom has proven itself to be a series about deeply conflicting emotions and feelings. It's a quality that is clear in the relationships amongst the characters. But it's also a profound sensation for the audience. How should the people watching these stories react to them? Should they be glad to see things going well for the Cody family? Or should they be horrified because of their past actions? Are any of them actually redeemable? These are the questions that the show is asking. Darkness defines so much of their lives. It was the world they were brought up in by Smurf. Her control and influence is still so widespread. Every action taken seems to be in response to something she does or says. That's fascinating to watch. Everyone has to decide how they feel about Deran owning a bar. Should they be happy for him because he's making something of his life? Or should they be upset with him because it's a distraction from the job they are carefully planning? Similarly, the audience has to decide whether or not Pope and Amy are a couple actually worth rooting for. Is it possible for Pope to be happy despite him being a murderer? Does him being nice and looking after Lena make up for the fact that he killed her mother in a violent outburst? It all seems like a tragedy waiting to happen because of the secrecy of it all. And yet, there's still a growing intimacy to their relationship. These are just a few of the dynamics this year that are really putting the pressure on the characters. So far, it's made for a much more compelling story this season.

Deran owning a bar has been such a huge plot point in the early going of this season. It's him doing something away from the family that is actually legitimate. The members of this family have pulled jobs or gotten into compromising positions on their own before. But this is a decision by Deran for a life that is dramatically different than what he has been living. It's a reality that could lead to future happiness with Adrian. It's a way out. He's willing to put in the effort to do things the right way. Last week it was in being honest and remorseful about his criminal past to the bar inspector. This week it's him kicking Nicky out of the bar and destroying the drugs that Craig is snorting in the bathroom. Those actions are key because they reveal that he wants to do things the right way. That desire is palpable. However, he also wants to share this with his family. So far this season, it's been a big secret. Only Craig knew what was going on. And now, Deran has shared the news with everyone because it's the grand opening of the bar, which he has named The Drop. It's a momentous occasion that he wants to celebrate with his family. It's the traditional thing to do. A family shows up to support each other when they do something remarkable. This bar is such a huge accomplishment for Deran. And yet, his family isn't traditional. So all those old feelings rise to the surface once more.

Deran wanted to share this moment with his mother. He wanted Smurf at his bar. He wanted her to see all that he accomplished without her. But instead, she arrives and makes the moment all about her. When she enters the room, all of the Cody men spot her immediately. It takes them away from the conversations they were having. She has that effect on them because things are still so raw and complicated within this family. And then, she gets up to make a speech when Deran is unable to do so. Public speaking isn't his strong suit even though he's more than capable of going out on jobs and improving on the spot. This moment is scary and traumatizing for him. It's so unexpected as well. The direction really brings attention to that fact. It doesn't matter what Smurf has to say in this moment. It seems likely that she brings up a silly story of the past and manages to work it around to complimenting Deran on all that he has done with the bar right now. But the audience doesn't actually hear that. Instead, it stays on Deran as he can't believe that Smurf is doing this to him. This bar was entirely him. And now, Smurf has corrupted it on the first night of being open. The only way for him to take back that power is to finally come out to her. That sequences in the alleyway is so raw and intense. It's Deran finally letting all of his true emotions out on Smurf. He's felt trapped because of her. But this isn't as freeing as he always dreamt it would be. Instead, it's equally as terrifying. He still has love and support from Craig. But that may not be enough. He still needs to find a way to get his confidence back up after everything that happened in this episode.

It's also important to note that Deran isn't abandoning his brothers as they are about to pull off their first big heist without Smurf in charge. He's less willing to put up with the same crap as always because he has new responsibilities. But he's still game for rambunctious fun every now and again. That's essentially what the jumping off the crane sequence is. It's showing that these brothers do love and support each other. The business often gets in the way of that. They have conflicted feelings because of the way the jobs have always been carried out. Breaking free of Smurf hasn't suddenly changed the roles all that much. Baz is just now the man in charge. He organizes all of this to show that things will be different moving forward. Of course, the sequence also reaffirms that the boys may be destined to fail without Smurf. They are so focused on the fun and danger of the heist. This moment is simple. It's jumping off a crane in order to bond as brothers. It reunites them as they prepare for the megachurch job. Meanwhile, Smurf is teaching J about the financial side of the business and just how complicated it actually is. It can't all be fun and games. Recklessly spending the money is how they'll eventually get caught. It may be fun now but it could turn very quickly for them. Smurf is teaching this to J because he's still impressionable and hasn't left her. She's not doing it to help Baz and company succeed. It's just her trying to exude her power and take back control because that's what she desperately craves. The same is also true of her relationship with Nicky. She's whispering things into her ears to mold her into her own image. A woman who is confident in her sexuality and always uses it to get what she wants. Nicky isn't that confident yet but that transition could be happening shortly.

And finally, Pope and Amy go out on their first date. They continue to be a sweet couple with strong chemistry. But it's also difficult to root for them because Pope is constantly lying to her. He's developing these growing feelings for her all while knowing that his family is about to destroy the church during its big fundraiser. He's still choosing to act on these impulses because it's confirmation that a woman can love him. He's not destined to be all alone because he destroys every good thing in her life. He's plagued by the weight of his actions from the past. They are ruining this relationship as well. Amy has solid advice in making sure that some good action no matter how big or small is done each day. That's essentially what Pope is doing with Lena. It's still completely twisted and has the potential to go awry at any moment. But he's the one who actually cares about her and the nightmares she's having. Smurf plays them off as nothing while Baz sees them as a distraction orchestrated by Smurf. Pope sees them for what they truly are and wants to be there for her during this difficult time. Of course, he caused all of this in the first place. So, there's only so much he can do to make up for that. But is him trying to do so good enough? Is it enough to believe that he is capable of redemption because he's trying to be better? He will never be perfect. He's always going to be a part of the family business. But is he capable of being more than the creepy killer and disturbing presence he was in the first season? That's been a very fascinating exploration this season.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Broken Boards" was written by Etan Frankel and directed by Emmy Rossum.
  • Nicky is feeling conflicted between Craig and J. She's questioning what she really wants from both of them. Is it just sex and drugs from Craig and help with school work from J? Neither of them feel the same way towards her. Craig is carelessly having sex with other woman while J is just being nice and understanding. Is Nicky fine with all of that? Or is she bound to explode at some point this season?
  • Smurf is welcoming J into more of her life and the business just as she's locking the rest of the boys out. She's introducing J to all of the properties she owns throughout the city while Baz is getting very upset about not being able to get his tools for the job out of storage because she changed the lock code.
  • The megachurch job is going to be very elaborate. That makes it an interesting succession to last year's heist at the military base. This time Baz will be doing the scut work while Craig and Deran get more of the visible roles. It's a decision he makes to show to the family he's not like Smurf. But it could come back to hurt them in the end too.
  • Deran coming out to Smurf is a very powerful and significant scene. However, there's a nice reminder for the audience that Deran is gay a couple of scenes before that. Adrian actually shows up at the bar and learns that Deran has done this by himself. It's a little unnecessary but it doesn't lesson the impact of the overall story.
  • Smurf believes she's being followed. That's a dangerous and precarious headspace to be in. She's in fear for her life and doesn't have her family to support her. So, something big could happen to her very soon. It's just a false alarm now. But it's just getting the audience into the mood when something actually does go down.