Tuesday, July 18, 2017

REVIEW: 'Animal Kingdom' - Smurf Has a Big Request for Her Boys as the Past Threatens Them All in 'Dig'

TNT's Animal Kingdom - Episode 2.07 "Dig"

The boys consider how far they'll go to help Smurf eliminate Javi. Shaken by what's happened, Nicky and J get closer. Baz shares new information with Pope about Catherine's disappearance.

This season of Animal Kingdom has featured two major stories: Baz and the boys splitting from Smurf to prove they can do these jobs without her and Smurf dealing with the aftermath of that while also facing a new threat from her past. The season has passed its halfway point now. Surprisingly, both of these major stories have reached a fair amount of resolution already. The boys successfully pulled another major job without Smurf. They got a massive payday. Sure, they are still figuring out what to do with the money. The business still has details to figure out. But for the most part, they've gotten things to the point where they feel confident never being with Smurf again. And now, "Dig" puts a firm end to Smurf's story with Javi. It's a surprising conclusion because Javi was built up as this season-long antagonist who would become a major obstacle for all of the Codys. He is that. His time on the show is just shorter than anticipated. He's been a problem for Smurf. Last week, he tortured Nicky and J for information. And now, the boys show up to put an end to all of his intimidation. It opens a fascinating discussion on how far this family is willing to go in order to protect one another. They are a crime family after all. So, there's not a whole lot that they wouldn't do. But the boys aren't in a good place with Smurf. She needs them right now. So, it's interesting to see just how willing they are to help her in this regard throughout this episode.

Are the boys willing to kill Javi for Smurf? That's the big question. It's something that Smurf believes needs to be done. Back when she was running the show, she could make that decision and everyone would basically fall in line. They would grumble about it but they would still ultimately carry it out. After everything that has happened this season though, the boys believe they don't need to listen to Smurf all the time. They have valid ideas too that can be just as effective. It doesn't need to be a dictatorship run by their mother. Killing Javi would be the easy way to put an end to this story. He attacked the family and he needs to pay for it. He almost killed J and abducted Nicky. He stole money from them and made it clear that things could get a whole lot worse if they don't go along with his terms. He's out for revenge. The story of his father being killed by Smurf and Manny is something the audience has been aware of for awhile. But now, Smurf needs to come clean to the family in order for them to do this incredibly dangerous thing for her. And even then, it doesn't seem to be enough. Yes, the boys are concerned about J and want to get payback for him. But their feelings are still clouded by disillusionment towards Smurf.

Of course, everything still works out in the end for the Cody family. It's a lot of debate over whether it's smart to kill Javi or remove the leverage he has against Smurf. He could easily get Smurf sent to jail for murder. He knows where the body is buried and just how incriminating it will be for Smurf. How he knows all of this is a complete mystery. It's a plot point that the audience just needs to accept. It's probably because of the tapes that Manny made when he was dying and trying to remember everything. But the show never actually says that. As such, it makes Javi seem more like a one-note antagonist that the family has to deal with at the moment. The intensity is still genuine. The stakes are still high. But after all the time already spent on this story this season, it doesn't hit in a big rewarding way once it reaches its conclusion here. That's a problem. Javi first showed up in the season premiere as an unnerving presence for Smurf. That has only continued to escalate over the course of the season. He has knowledge that could take her down and she doesn't have the support of her family to protect her. It's proven that she is still capable of getting things done despite the mistake she made at the start of the season. She doesn't need the protection from her boys. It helps but it's not necessary. Her self preservation instincts are still incredibly high. She's still finding a way to survive through all of this.

The boys believe that just digging up the body of Javi's father will be enough to eliminate this threat from their lives. Smurf's memory is still intact in regards to where the body is. It makes the job much easier than it sounds like in the beginning. At first, it seems like a daunting task. One that could take up a lot of time and effort for the family. This is them giving their time to a woman whom they don't even like at the moment. They still do it though. And Pope is in charge because Baz worries that he is being followed by the police. Of course, that's just an excuse for him to go along with Smurf to the meeting with Javi. The rest of the family is at the random house digging up the body and the gun to make sure this won't come back to hurt Smurf. It's them choosing to survive as well. They go along with this plan because it will protect them in the long run too. If Smurf were to go to jail for murder, more scrutiny would fall onto their businesses as well and potentially expose the crimes they've all been committing for years now. So, they dig up a body. It's a relatively easy mission too. They just need to convince an older lady to let them into her house for a little bit. This still shows that they are mean people. They leave a hole in this woman's basement and don't care about what she'll have to do to repair it. They won't kill a guy but they will do this. That's an important distinction even though it's all technically a crime that could get them all into trouble.

And it's all pointless in the end too. That word could make this entire episode seem like a letdown. After all of this plotting happens, Smurf still decides to kill Javi in order to put an end to his blackmail. All of the debate over how far they should go now means nothing. She still did what she wanted to do in the first place. She just had to reach out to someone in Javi's crew to do the job. Her family didn't step up to the plate and do it for her. So now, she's out an additional $250,000. That's a lot of money - especially now that Baz knows that she was skimming money off the top whenever they pulled jobs as a family. This entire story has exposed Smurf in some ugly and unexpected ways. She's still dangerous. She shows no remorse for killing Javi. She understood that paying him off wouldn't be the end of it. He would keep coming after her until she was dead. Death was the only way to bring resolution to this story. It's how Smurf justifies her actions. But it leaves Baz unsure about the family dynamic. The entire family reunites for the first time in awhile to celebrate a job well done. They've succeeded in committing even more crimes. But it's bittersweet as well. Smurf required the boys to do this. They did it not knowing that she was still capable of putting an end to it herself. Baz being aware of that manipulation could prove very important moving forward. Javi is no longer a threat. But Smurf's handling of him leaves Baz worried that she could ultimately turn against any of them in order to get what she ultimately wants. That's a precarious but interesting place to leave the characters.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Dig" was written by Eliza Clark and directed by David Rodriguez.
  • It's such a random character who actually pulls the trigger and kills Javi too. Yes, it's important that Smurf is the one who organized the hit. But no one in Javi's crew was ever that important. So to have a betrayal come out of that just felt like a plot point that was meant to surprise the audience. It was effective just a little startling too.
  • There's also lots of talk of Javi actually growing up with some members of the Cody family. Both Baz and Pope knew him when they were younger. That makes this more personal for them. Of course, there's only so much the show can do with that information to better draw the stakes in just one episode.
  • With Javi being killed, it once again makes Baz worried about what Smurf is willing to do to people who are "like family" but aren't actually family. Baz has always been presented as one of the sons but he's not actually related to the rest of the Codys. As such, he's always worried that Smurf will betray him much more easily. She says he's family but she's said that plenty of times before too and the feelings still persist.
  • Nicky is much more visibly shaken over what has happened than J is. However, that's largely because Nicky doesn't fully know why it happened in the first place. Everyone is keeping secrets from her. She knows that the Codys are a crime family. But she doesn't know the exact details of their jobs. And that almost got her killed. At least Smurf recognizes that and knows that it has to change moving forward.
  • The overall experience is bringing Nicky and J even closer together. They were already trending that way before being assaulted. But now, it's a bonding experience for them. That's especially true when J starts teaching Nicky how to use a gun. She never wants to feel powerless again. So, her big transformation is only getting started. 
  • Baz shares that he was pulled over by a cop over suspicion that he killed Catherine to Pope. Pope then shares that news with Smurf. Pope and Smurf are the only two who know what actually happened. This seems like one of the major stories still left unresolved at the moment. So, it's bound to get complicated soon.