Tuesday, August 1, 2017

REVIEW: 'Animal Kingdom' - Baz Makes a Move Against Smurf as Pope Gets Closer to Amy in 'Custody'

TNT's Animal Kingdom - Episode 2.09 "Custody"

When Baz bows out of the yacht heist, Craig and Deran consider their options. Baz recruits J for a more personal job.

The second season of Animal Kingdom is starting to get a little too erratic and busy with plot. All of the main characters seemingly have different objectives. Some of them collide in interesting ways. But it also feels like everyone is off doing their own thing with it not all adding up to something much greater. An all-out war between Smurf and Baz sounds very exciting with J and Pope getting caught in the crossfire because they don't know who to align with. And yet, that story largely leaves Craig and Deran with nothing to do. Similarly, Craig and Deran are planning this epic heist of the yacht. They do bring the rest of the family into the fold with offering the opportunity to J, Pope and Baz and asking Smurf to help launder the money. But the two stories feel completely different and don't have much to do with each other. Of course, this feeling probably won't last. The actions of one will always affect the other in some way. Craig and Deran forming this deal with Smurf will get complicated once she learns that Baz is the one who stole from her. She punishes the people who betrayal her. And now, it's her family who has done that. That sets up a very exciting end game for the season. The various plots are still just a little disjointed at the moment to truly work. But all of the setup is very necessary as well.

Baz appears to be the catalyst for so much of the action right now. He's operating with information that the rest of the family doesn't have. He knows that Smurf has a hidden stockpile of cash collected from their various jobs over the years. Plus, he has a high suspicion that she killed Catherine because she found out she was talking to the police. Baz makes a very convincing argument that Catherine didn't ultimately give anything incriminating to the cops because the family is still operating exactly the same as they always have. That just makes him even more furious at Smurf. He doesn't know the full story. He's trusting Pope with all of this information even though Pope's the one who actually killed Catherine. Sure, Smurf played a role in that death as well because it was so easy to emotionally manipulate Pope last season. But he actually committed the crime. However, Baz's actions are valuable and true as well. He's reacting to everything he has learned about his adoptive mother. He no longer trusts her. He sees her as a woman who will manipulate anyone in her life in order to get what she wants. She's a selfish monster who needs to be handled with now.

Of course, Baz may be a little too impatient in getting his revenge on Smurf. He pulls J in to do the heist in the storage facility. J actually knows about this place. He knew about it long before his uncles did. He didn't know which storage locker was Smurf's or what she exactly had stored there. But he knew the place and recognizes that something big is happening if Baz is willing to rob Smurf right now. He maintains his composure though. He doesn't let it on that he knows Baz is robbing Smurf. Nor does he tell Smurf about what happened. He's primarily looking out for himself. He's learned so much from both of them this season. He's done jobs with both of them. He enjoys the rush that comes from pulling a job. He's gotten hurt from both of them as well. He needs to look out for himself because this family could implode at any moment. Baz returns to the storage facility to actually open up the safes despite how risky it could be returning so soon after moving them. He needs to make it known to Smurf that this has happened. The episode does close with her being shocked to see that she has been robbed. It won't take much to learn that Baz was behind this. Her reaction should be very interesting to see. She believed she had figured out a professional relationship with her family. But now, they are retaliating against her which could ultimately force her out of this business. She won't go down without a fight though.

Of course, Pope is a complete wildcard throughout all of this. He sees Baz and Smurf digging in their heels. He can't sleep because he's so worried about what will happen with his family. He fears that they are just one day away from complete destruction. He's willing to plan the next job. But the personal grudges are starting to grow out of control. He has guilt for being the reason the animosity has gotten so bad lately. He killed Catherine which started this whole feud. He can't really share those feelings with anyone either. Smurf is the only other person who knows the truth and she doesn't have a full understanding of the situation. Meanwhile, Amy only knows that there are family problems that he is torn up about. That relationship is still going strong despite the church heist being done and someone else going to jail for it. Now is the time for him to end things in a natural way so that he can move on to the next job. But instead, he's only getting closer to her. He doesn't pull away when she asks him to. He is there for her during her own difficult time. She faces another setback in getting closer to her son again. Her brother shows up and yells at her for not following their arrangement. It's very defeating. But Pope is still there. He is present and caring. It's the show embracing a completely different side to him. Of course, it also leads to the two of them having sex for the first time. That could be a massive mistake. Amy said she didn't want to do that with someone she wasn't serious with. And now, it forges a new kind of intimacy between them. However, Pope still has his problems. He's still lying to her about his true identity. So, it just increases the overall feeling of doom that is about to happen at some point between them as a couple.

And finally, Baz wanting nothing to do with the yacht heist forces Craig and Deran to get a little more creative. Baz doesn't want to do it because he's focusing on other things at the moment. He needs to prioritize the things in his life. The rest of the family agrees to it. Baz was to play a crucial role because he speaks Spanish though. So now, Craig and Deran are spiraling and trying to find someone they can trust to bring in on the job. They eventually get Lucy's brother, Marco, to come onto the crew to do the job. It's a huge ask. Plus, they'll have to do a job for him sometime soon. That's a precarious arrangement to enter into. Deran is working under the expectation of getting out of the criminal lifestyle as soon as possible. Moving drugs for Marco could ruin everything for him. And yet, it's a risk he's willing to take because he believes in this job that Craig has spent so much time planning. Again, it could all go awry in a number of ways. The yacht will require more crowd control than any of the previous jobs the family have pulled. There is the potential for it to somehow go wrong based on the passengers on the boat that particular day. Plus, Marco can be unpredictable as well. Lucy has always been suspicious of him and the kind of trouble he can get into. Baz has always been wary about pulling jobs with him too. But now, Craig and Deran see it as their only option. That's a decision that could come back to hurt them. So the stakes are there for this story to be just as dramatic as everything else on the show at the moment. It's just less interesting than everything else in this particular episode.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Custody" was written by Etan Frankel and directed by Gary Goldman.
  • Smurf finds Jake again. He didn't make it that far with her money. However, he did spend a lot of it. When Smurf arrives in his hotel room, there is only $50,000 left. That's disappointing. And yet, it's surprising that she chooses not to kill him because he's Craig's father. Craig doesn't even know that. But she still has to punish him somehow. That means shooting him in the knee to cripple him for the rest of his life.
  • J finds himself doing money runs for Smurf. She needs to have cash flowing through his businesses again in order to keep things looking like they are running smoothly despite the family drama. That's what he's doing when Baz asks him to do the job at the storage facility. Him not finishing the job for Smurf could be a massive clue to her that J was potentially in on what Baz did.
  • Deran and Craig at least suggest some different options for people they can bring onto this job before ultimately landing on Marco. It largely just amounts to a scene where Deran meets up with a guy he knew in juvie who has completely changed now that he has a kid. He's happy and carefree. It's a life that Deran clearly doesn't want.
  • Baz asks Lucy to pick up Lena from school. That's a startling moment because it didn't seem like the two of them really got along. They haven't been that close. Of course, the story ultimately reflects that with Lucy saying that Lena still doesn't like her. Again, I'm really invested in Lena's well-being this season.
  • Nicky wants a gun and to be in on the yacht job. J makes that known to his uncles which is another reason Baz wants out. He doesn't think Nicky can handle being in on the family's true business. Craig thinks she can handle herself pretty well. But he's also really dismissive of her when she comes to him asking for a very specific gun.