Tuesday, May 29, 2018

REVIEW: 'Animal Kingdom' - Baz's Fate is Revealed While the Family Wonders Who's Targeting Them in 'The Killing'

TNT's Animal Kingdom - Episode 3.01 "The Killing"

Baz fights for his life as the Cody boys figure out what their next move is in the aftermath of the shooting. Smurf gets some surprising news in jail and fields an offer from Pearce.

Baz is dead. That's such a shocking moment that kicks off the third season of Animal Kingdom. It was the big mystery heading into this premiere as well. The second season closed with Baz getting short while he and Lucy were about to finally escape to their perfect life in Mexico. Of course, it always seemed unlikely that it would be the paradise he has hoping to achieve down there. He was ready to walk away from this criminal life for good believing he had defeated Smurf and taken all of the money she had stored away. He was ready for the peace and happiness. It always felt inevitable that he would be pulled back into the criminal lifestyle because that's the world that Lucy comes from as well. Not a whole lot of time has been spent fleshing out the organization she works for and the jobs that she pulls. But it has been important that she is just as competent and hard-working in this profession as he was. She would have to be giving that up as well and it never seemed like she was ready to do that. And so, the season ended on this massive cliffhanger. Baz was shot three times in the chest. The bullets didn't immediately kill him. He was able to make it out of his vehicle and to the street to fire at his assailant. It's only then that he collapsed and Lucy had to flee the crime scene because she couldn't risk getting pulled into a police investigation right now. She still may be because she is Baz's girlfriend and many of her personal belongings are in the vehicle that is also a part of this crime scene. She left knowing that help was on the way. She could hear the police sirens in the distance. And yes, help is able to get to Baz very quickly. It just doesn't seem to be enough to save his life. For a moment, it seems like he has died on the sidewalk and the police will have to close down the street while they investigate. But that's not what happens. Instead, Baz is taken to the hospital where the trauma team tries to revive him. They are unsuccessful with their efforts. It's a moment that could reveal that Baz had some dying wish he wanted to share with the strangers trying to save his life. But it mostly just confirms that these were such fatal and destructive wounds. There was nothing Baz could do to stay alive after he collapsed on the sidewalk. It was inevitable from that moment that he was going to die.

Baz's death is such a surprise because Scott Speedman has always been billed as the co-lead of the show. His and Ellen Barkin's casting is largely what made TNT order the drama to series in the first place. They were the veteran actors who brought legitimacy to the project. The war between Baz and Smurf comprised so much of the narrative of the second season. Baz no longer wanted to report back to Smurf or rely on her to be the person running these jobs without carrying the same amount of risks. He believed she was inessential to the process. The rest of the boys ultimately sided with Baz even though J did jobs for both Baz and Smurf. He was the one caught in the middle. He refused to pick a side because he still had so much to learn about this criminal business from both of them. Sure, they both tried to exploit that connection in order to attack the other in this war. It's a war that ultimately led to Baz successfully framing Smurf for murder. He knows that she was the one who commissioned Javi's murder. She just wasn't the one to pull the trigger. As such, Baz needed to dig up Javi's body in the desert and shoot another bullet into his head with a gun from Smurf's house. He orchestrated all of this seemingly perfectly to get Smurf arrested while he was breaking into her storage locker. He would also inherit her power of attorney to make all of the financial decisions on her properties. He was willing to sell everything just so he could leave this life behind. He proposed it as a solution to the rest of the family as well that would allow them to do absolutely anything in their lives moving forward. Smurf just ruined those plans by giving the power of attorney to J. He was the one who would have to make all of the decisions moving forward. And now, it's clear that J and Pope are stepping up in Baz's sudden absence to ensure that this world remains just as complicated and rich with family drama as before. It's a promotion both of them can handle because they've been such fascinating characters who have grown across the series so far as well.

Baz also dies all alone in the hospital. No one in the family was expecting to hear from him. Pope was the one currently watching Lena and making sure that she got to school. She's very fortunate to have him in her life - even though it's still creepy because he's the man who killed her mother. It's the police who come knocking on the Cody door that alerts them that this tragedy has just occurred. While Baz is dying in the hospital, the show is just bouncing around the world to show what the rest of the family is currently up to. J and Nicky are in no hurry to clean up the party they had the preceding night. Plus, J has learned his lesson about keeping his gun close at all times. Deran is simply just looking after his bar. Craig has gone away with Ren to Mexico. He is finally ready to find his own place and purpose in this world. It's Baz's death that ultimately brings this family back together. It's such shocking and distressing news. Pope is the one who gets the confirmation from the police. He is the one who is angrily trying to bring the family together during this time of tragedy. He's the one barking all of the orders. At times, Pope has been a very internal character who struggles with expressing what he is feeling in an appropriate way. Here, he is so forceful and demanding. He's not always right. He doesn't see Nicky as a member of the family even though she can still be used to potentially hurt the guys. He knows that none of them should be alone right now. But he's also just spinning around trying to make sense of this world now that he is the oldest sibling who has to look out for the rest of this family during this time of grief. He doesn't know what he's doing. He doesn't know how to plan a funeral or break the news to Lena. But he knows the family needs to take action because this threat may not be over with just yet.

The other big aspect of this cliffhanger was finding out who pulled the trigger. It would be easy to assume that Smurf hired someone to do it for her. She is the one with the most personal motive to kill Baz. He betrayed her in such a deep and personal way. She is currently in prison facing a life sentence because of him. She could be just angry enough to turn on the one person in this family who doesn't actually have any blood relation to the rest of the them. The boys all see Baz as their brother. He is a member of this family. And yet, Baz always felt the distance and distrust from Smurf. He could be trusted to plan these jobs. But he couldn't be trusted with all of the crucial details about the business. Smurf needed to keep those close. It's incredibly likely that Smurf is behind this. She is able to put on a good enough show for the investigators when they come to inform her as well. She has even sent men to collect the money that Baz stole from her only to realize it's no longer in the place where she knew Baz was hiding it. As such, she finds herself indebted to the gang protecting her in prison that J will now have to handle for her moving forward. She'll be dipping into her reserves just to keep them happy. She may also be paying them for killing Baz if she ordered that hit. It's certainly what Pope is led to believe here. If it was Javi's men seeking retaliation for his death after learning about Smurf's arrest, then there would have been more attacks against the family to make Smurf suffer. If it was someone from Lucy's orbit, she would be able to investigate and give the family a reason for why Baz was taken from them. It just makes more sense for it to be Smurf. As such, that makes J an enemy to this family as well because he did ultimately decide to work with Smurf when everyone else was done with her leadership. This premiere proves that there is still so much for J to learn while Pope is still able to outsmart and intimidate him.

Baz's death also has the potential to completely destroy the criminal empire that Smurf and the Cody family have built for themselves. It may be the first blow to this family that exposes their criminal actions to the rest of the world. The police have had multiple investigations into the family in the past. Detective Pearce is an investigator determined to finally get the family behind bars. He's the man who knows Smurf and presents her with a deal after all of this happens. He sees Baz's death as the thing that will break this family. It will just stir further chaos amongst the brothers as they fight for control. They were able to plan and pull off a job without Baz last season even though it had many consequences and unexpected developments. There is the potential that this tragedy will actually bring them together. They are able to honor him at the end of the premiere simply by riding out in the ocean and forming a circle with his friends and family mourning his loss. It's this show's version of a funeral that is so special and unique. But if the family needs to keep pulling jobs in order to pay off Smurf's various debts, will they have the leadership to actually do so successfully without Baz? That's the question that this season will need to answer. Right now, Smurf is presented with a choice. She can either turn on her family to ensure that they all serve some time in jail. It would save her from a life sentence even though she'll be here for at least another decade. But could she betray the rest of her boys like that? If she killed Baz, then it's a distinct possibility. She would have the potential of getting out while also feeling comfortable that J would still be able to keep up the family business and look after Lena. But she also may have the confidence to fight the current charges against her since the man who framed her is now dead. Sure, that will make her a suspect in his death as well should she pursue that angle. But she is such a fighter who will be determined to get back to her home and business as soon as possible.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Killing" was written by John Wells and directed by John Wells.
  • Baz's death is a little less shocking because every article posted on Deadline written about this show after the second season finale just had to mention the fact that Scott Speedman most likely wanted off the show and would probably only return on a recurring basis. As such, that let out a huge amount of energy with this story. Of course, it also makes him available to return to Grey's Anatomy after a memorable guest appearance earlier this year. Though would he want to be a regular on a 24-episode broadcast network show if he no longer wanted to do a 13 episode cable drama?
  • This episode just casually confirms that Baz was actually J's father. That had somewhat been a mystery over the first two seasons. J wasn't actively looking for his father. He was mildly curious and was learning about the history between his mother and Baz. He understands that they were close. But Baz never wanted to be a father. He was a bad one to Lena and he was a bad one to J. He was just looking out for himself. It wouldn't change anything if J knew the truth. And now, he does and it doesn't really change his reaction to the situation at all.
  • J may actually have a better claim to be Lena's legal guardian than Pope does. If this war between them actually becomes a huge story this season, Lena is bound to get hurt in the crossfire. Pope has actively tried to be a father. And yet, J is her half-brother who is now 18 years old. Pope is simply her adoptive uncle who is also a convicted felon. He may only have a better claim if Smurf actually did the legal paperwork to adopt Baz and he wasn't just a ward who lived with her family.
  • Craig is still mostly just a hothead who is looking for a fight everywhere he goes. He managed to win Ren back somehow. They are off on their own adventure when the family gets the news about Baz. They are unable to reach him because of some awkwardness with phone reception. But he is still able to get back in time to be protected by the family while also devastated by this news.
  • It should be very interesting to see how Lucy will continue to factor into the narrative this season. She has always been a character best defined through her relationship with Baz. Yes, she has interacted with the rest of the family independent of him before. But now, she will need to have more personal agency in order to be of ongoing importance. Right now, she is holding all of the money Baz stole from Smurf. She may be keeping that for herself though because she doesn't bring it up to Pope at all.