Tuesday, August 22, 2017

REVIEW: 'Animal Kingdom' - J and Lena Suffer the Consequences of Baz and Smurf's War in 'You Will Be Gutted'

TNT's Animal Kingdom - Episode 2.12 "You Will Be Gutted"

With Smurf in jail, Baz makes his move to run the family, but his brothers have other plans.

The decision to send Smurf to jail at the end of the previous episode was huge. It plays as a season-ending twist. It's a big cliffhanger ending that vows to change fundamentally everything about the show in the following season. It's the type of story the show should only commit to doing if it plans on explore the depth of the consequences of the action. It can't just be an easy situation for her to work her way out of. She's a fighter who will more than likely find her way out of this mess sooner or later. She's still working her family even though she is now behind bars. But the positioning of this story in this season is very odd. It makes it seem like the show didn't quite know what to do with 13 episodes this year. It was perfectly fine at 10 in its first season. But both the creative team and the executives at TNT believed it could increase to 13 without losing any of the quality. In fact, most of this season has been a step up from the first year. The show has gotten better in almost every single way. The characters are more unique and their concerns are easier to care about now. But it still feels odd to pull the trigger on this twist with Smurf when there is still two episodes of story to fill. It makes it feel like it's going to be a truncated story. She gets arrested and Baz has his victory. But the positioning of it in the final three episodes makes it seem like it will be over within those three episodes. It's just an action that shouldn't be resolved that quickly. So, it creates an interesting and potentially problematic situation for the show. The writers probably thought they couldn't keep the war between Baz and Smurf going the way it had been for the remainder of the season. But now, the show is a little scattered in trying to figure out what exactly this entire season has been building towards.

Baz was able to execute this plan without the help of his brothers. He enlisted J's skills in order to rob Smurf's storage locker. But he purposefully kept him out of the loop as well in regards to how serious this war was becoming. Baz was the one realizing how much Smurf has been stealing from the family over the years. Of course, he's not being completely truthful with the family when he finally comes clean in "You Will Be Gutted." He has an entire house filled with money from Smurf. And now, he's just showing one suitcase to his brothers. He's promising them a fair share of the profits and the promise of finally being free from her control. But he's still foremost looking out for himself. He really is revealed to be a selfish person throughout this whole story. He claims he wants a carefree life down in Mexico with Lucy and Lena. But he doesn't seem to care about Lena's well-being at all. He's too busy with his own pursuits to actually care for his daughter. That's such a devastating consequence of this entire story. For all of her faults, Smurf was still being a good grandmother to Lena. Baz is often way too busy for her. And now, he keeps putting her in toxic environments that could turn very deadly very quickly.

It feels like Baz is burdened when Lena is brought to Smurf's house in the middle of his celebratory party. It's a job well done for him. It's so much so that he completely forgot about his daughter. That's traumatizing. And then, he doesn't have the rational thought to get her far away from this environment where there's so much sex and drugs going around. Instead, he thinks she'll be fine tucked away in one corner of the house with an iPad to distract her while he conducts family business. It's absolutely horrible parenting. This is Lena's home too. She wants to escape to familiar comforts. But doing so almost leads to her getting run over by a vehicle. That's a traumatizing sight. Fortunately, J was there to save her. But he's not the comforting sight Lena needs right now. He's definitely been there for her in the past. She knows who he is. But she needs her father or Uncle Pope right now. But Baz is too concerned about tracking Pope down and making sure he's not up to something with Smurf. He's paranoid that that might happen. He's worried that Pope has told Amy something that will risk exposure of the entire family. He's too busy chasing his brother when he should be caring for his daughter.

The opposite is true for Pope. Lena is the only thing in the world that still matters to him. He needed to be open and honest with someone about what he did to Catherine. It couldn't be Smurf because her love and support is toxic. But his confession destroyed the happiness he had with Amy. That destruction is enough for Pope to contemplate suicide. He's in a dark head space. It wouldn't be surprising if he goes through with it because he's been carrying around this guilt by himself for a long time and got no comfort after releasing it to the world. The only reason he doesn't pull the trigger is because of Lena. He hears about her near-miss accident and runs to her. He makes sure that she is okay. He makes sure that she is well-treated in the aftermath. He doesn't care about what Smurf has done to the family and how Baz is now exposing it. He just wants to ensure that Lena's future is secure after such a traumatizing childhood. It's twisted that he's the only one who cares because he's the one who killed her mother. But it's a genuine connection too. He's willing to risk it all for her. He's robbing multiple banks just by himself in order to get enough money for Lena's future. It's the last nice gesture he could possibly do. It's the only thing he cares about. He still may choose to die after the financing goes through. Or he could choose to live because Lena needs an escape from this toxic environment.

And finally, everyone is just now realizing the importance J actually has in this war. He's the one with power of attorney over Smurf's businesses. He controls them. Baz can't sell them off and escape to his new life as easily as he wants to. He's run into one more obstacle. It's a kind of responsibility J doesn't know how to handle though. He's proven himself to be very smart and capable in this business. But now, he's the one making decisions which could anger many different people within his family. Before this episode, it seemed like he could handle the pressure because he has shown a willingness to be a part of this family and all of its dark truths. But now, he's revealed to be out of his depth. It's him and Nicky against Baz and Lucy. J and Nicky are still completely new to this business. They have the power now but Baz and Lucy know how to manipulate them into doing what they want. They've been at this game for awhile. It's so nice to actually see Lucy as someone who is just as effective in this business as the Codys are. For too much of the show, she's simply just been Baz's girlfriend. She's someone for him to talk to. But now, she's stepped up as the head of her own criminal organization. It may ultimately be too little too late. Deran and Craig know not to trust her because she possibly has leverage on them for their arrangement with Marco. But Nicky is able to fall into her traps. She represents herself as a mentor figure who knows what's in the best interests for J and Nicky. Nicky has wanted to be in on the family's business. But now, she's only revealing herself to be just like Craig. She wants the money as quickly as possible so she can get high. J needs to be smarter than that. He's once again caught between two worlds - Baz and Smurf. He needs to make a decision. But that decision will carry consequences that the show will need to explore in the future in order for it to feel legitimate. The setup has all been handled. Now, the choice needs to occur.

Some more thoughts:
  • "You Will Be Gutted" was written by Jonathan Lisco and directed by Larry Teng.
  • It's also such a brutal moment when Pope takes Lena to go see Smurf in prison. She gets multiple visitors during her stay. She's hoping to manipulate all of them despite their own individual agendas. But this one feels like an action to hurt her. It also seemingly goes against what Pope is trying to do. Now, he's the one traumatizing Lena by forcing her to see Smurf like this - when it seems unlikely that she'll actually get convicted for murder.
  • So far, Baz hasn't made any mistakes in framing Smurf for murder. He took her gun and shot the body with it. Plus, he deleted the footage in the house. Smurf knows that Baz is to blame and has really become verbally abusive about him never really belonging to this family. But for now, he has the upper hand. The war isn't over with yet though.
  • With the money from Baz, Deran is able to buy the bar and get out of the criminal business with his family. It's his dream that only Craig knows about at the moment. It's still a nice thought. But it also still feels unlikely to happen. He's a part of this family and will always get pulled into the craziness.
  • The money also means that Craig can pay Nicky for the yacht heist and pay back Ren for the money she loaned him during their Vegas adventure. Actually being responsible with money would be a key sign of growth for Craig. But he hasn't paid them back yet. That responsibility may ultimately prove to be too much for him to handle.
  • Amy is still spinning out because of what Pope told her. She fears that Baz has come there to silence her for good. Instead, he's oblivious to what has just happened and just wants to know where Pope is. And yet, Pope isn't in the desert like Amy says. Nor does Baz actually drive out there to check. Instead, he returns home to see that Pope is already there dealing with Lena.