Tuesday, July 25, 2017

REVIEW: 'Animal Kingdom' - Baz Suspects Smurf of Lying and Stealing From the Family in 'Grace'

TNT's Animal Kingdom - Episode 2.08 "Grace"

As cops press Amy about the church robbery, Pope diverts their suspicions. Craig plans an unusual heist of his own. Baz tails Smurf to find out what she's really hiding.

"Grace" is a necessary episode for this season of Animal Kingdom though not a particular exciting one. It's simply setting things up for the next stage of the season. Last week's episode had a lot of big and climatic moments. It was very entertaining to watch because it brought some long-simmering plots to their big moments of action. And now, the show is dealing with the fallout. That can be less exciting than the action itself. Yes, it's interesting to see how all of the characters are dealing with the consequences of their actions. They were already struggling in the aftermath of the church job. And now, they have the new pressure of all being accessories to murder because of Smurf. It's a very precarious time for all of them. But the tension isn't too high. There isn't a strong fear that they are about to get caught or their lives are about to change in any meaningful way. Instead, the tension largely comes from their dynamics with each other. The boys worked with Smurf again out of necessity not because they want to be in business with her. Plus, her actions only proved that she doesn't like listening to what they have to say. Things need to change but that change has only made these issues even starker in comparison.

Smurf is still obviously playing the game and trying to get her family to come back to her. She is still the person they like to call in the middle of a crisis. She's had to bail out Craig a number of times since he left the house. And now, the entire family is back together fixing the house after it was broken in by Javi and his crew. That was a traumatizing experience. But it's over now. Smurf killed Javi. He can never hurt this family again. But that action exposed that things with Smurf were even worse than they seemed to the boys. They didn't like how controlling she was. And now, Baz suspects that she's been skimming money off of their jobs for a long time. Unfortunately, his investigation plays as him learning information that the audience already knows. We are one step ahead of him. It's confirmation for him to be even more upset with Smurf moving forward. It makes it very unlikely that they will ever willingly work together in the future. And yet, that's still the goal Smurf is ultimately working towards. She understands that things need to change. But that largely amounts to her giving the boys more money for their work instead of simply saying "I'm sorry." That phrase is no longer enough to win them over.

Smurf also presents the boys with an opportunity to come back into the fold with a slightly different business arrangement. They will still be a crime family but Smurf won't be the one calling the shots in regards to the jobs. Instead, she'll be the person laundering all of the money afterwards. She has a system in place to handle largely amounts of cash. This season explained to J and the audience how all of that works. She knows the boys have money but no infrastructure to clean it and make them look like legitimate and law-abiding citizens. Plus, she's strapped for cash and worried about her business being exposed. It's a proposal she presents to the family. They don't seem to receive it well. And yet, Baz may be motivated to actually take Smurf up on her offer. He's learning so much about her. It's horrifying to hear because it makes him believe that she's capable of so much more than he ever thought possible. He's also playing catchup on the fact that Catherine was talking to the police. That wasn't a captivating story last season. But now, it's just enough to make Baz suspicious about Smurf. Did she kill Catherine in order to control her family? It seems like a possibility. He's angry enough and has the evidence to expose her for what she has done. Now, it's just a question of what he's willing to do with this information. He'll share it with Pope - who actually killed Catherine and is confiding in Smurf over what to do about all of this. So, it leaves things very precarious for the future.

Elsewhere, Craig is laying the foundation for the next heist. He's already looking ahead to the next job. It means he's more focused than he has ever been in the series before. That's largely because he's no longer doing drugs. He needs to stay clean and sober in order to keep this job on the inside. He's scoping out this boat seeing how easy it will be to rob it. It's a job he is passionate about. That stands in stark contrast to his opinion about the church job. He wanted nothing to do with it only to show up at the last moment wanting to be included with the rest of the family. And now, he's doing the groundwork for this new job and not even telling most of the family. He's off doing this by himself with the full confidence that his brothers will eventually help him pull it off. Of course, he lets Deran in on what he's doing. The two of them always preferred the boat job to the church one. But it also seems a little reckless to be planning the next job already when the consequences of the church heist are still playing out. Sure, Pope largely handles all of those lingering issues. The police are really ramping up their investigation. So, Pope plants evidence on another ex-convict who goes to the church and who doesn't like talking to the police. It's a perfect cover story. It's enough to take the pressure off the Cody family so that they can continue to do these jobs. But Craig doesn't care about that. He's just looking to the future and doing the heist he wanted to do.

Deran is willing to go along with all of that because he needs as much money as possible in order to afford to go completely legitimate. That's his ambition in this world. He's the one who has a moral objection to what Smurf did last week. He feels horrible about being an accessory to murder after the fact. He doesn't want to be involved with murder. He's a part of this crime family but he still has lines he won't cross. Him articulating them here probably dooms him for the end of the season. It would be narratively poetic for him to have to kill in order to protect the family. That would ensure that he would never leave them in order to go run his bar. It's a nice dream of his. One that includes potential happiness with his lover, Adrian. Deran has put in the work to be a better person. He has grown a lot this season. He has really stepped up as his own person whose beliefs don't always line up with the rest of the family. That's a unique perspective. Again, it seems unlikely to last. He's getting all of this advice on how to make his business better. He's pulling jobs so that he can afford to go legitimate. But it all seems very unlikely to occur. That's what leads to the overall tragedy of the story. The inevitability of it all ending disastrously is agonizing to think about. But it also leaves the audience very intrigued to see how it will all go wrong. This is a complicated family that has a history of ruining each other's lives through their selfish actions.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Grace" was written by Megan Martin and directed by Cherie Nowlan.
  • Carolina Guerra was promoted to series regular this season. And yet, when is the show actually going to do something with Lucy? She basically shows up in every other episode to show Baz being romantic with someone. I guess it's important that they have the rule of not talking business. But that hasn't led to her being a well-defined character. She still doesn't seem all that necessary.
  • Something more has to be going on with the guy from the local small business association, right? Here, he presents himself as a new love interest for Deran. That coupled with the reintroduction of Adrian could be a complicated story. But this new guy is also obsessed with Deran paying his neighborhood fee, which doesn't seem all that interesting or exciting.
  • Nicky wants to know more about what's going on with the Cody family. She wants to be a part of their lives. And yet, Smurf is still keeping her out of the major family meetings. She may not know what happened in the past but it seems like Craig is looping her in on what the future boat heist may involve. That could be something compelling.
  • Things take a really weird turn between J and Nicky. They've been getting really close over the last few episodes. But now, it seems like the creative team needs her back with Craig for the boat heist. So, they have J be weird and distant to push her away by bringing another girl from their school to the house. It's just such an odd moment.
  • It's nice that the show spends a little more time on the woman who is looking after Lena when Baz, Pope and Smurf are all busy. Lena has had an increased presence this season simply because someone always needs to be watching her. Her whereabouts need to be known constantly. So now, more of an explanation is given about this person outside the family who helps.