Friday, May 25, 2018

TV REVIEW: TNT's 'Animal Kingdom' - Season 3

TNT's Animal Kingdom returns for its third season on Tuesday, May 29 at 9/8c. The new season stars Ellen Barkin, Scott Speedman, Shawn Hatosy, Ben Robson, Jake Weary, Finn Cole, Molly Gordon and Carolina Guerra.

Read on for my thoughts on the new season after screening its first two episodes.

TNT's Animal Kingdom returns for its third season on Tuesday. Obviously, the big question is whether or not Baz is alive? The second season chose to end on some massive cliffhangers with Smurf in prison and Baz getting shot. Now, I can't tell you what the outcome to the Baz cliffhanger will be. I can say that the audience will know whether or not he survived in the first few moments of the premiere on Tuesday. That's very fortunate. The show doesn't just try to make an ongoing mystery about it where some time has passed and the audience is spending time with the other characters while they are talking around the elephant in the room. No, clarity occurs right away for the audience while it taking a little longer for the rest of the Cody family to hear about this tragedy that has hit one of their own. The other big mystery is who shot Baz? The answer to will take longer than a few moments at the top of the premiere. That's probably all I should say about that as well. There is a long list of potential candidates. It could be Smurf as payback for framing her for murder and jeopardizing her entire criminal empire. It could be someone from Javi's crew seeking retaliation against the family who killed him. It could be someone that Lucy is associated with to keep her from escaping this life to be with Baz in Mexico. Or it could be someone else in the family who found out about the money Baz had and wanted it for themselves to pay off some debt. There is a long list of people who could have pulled the trigger three times. Of course, Baz fired back as well and that proves to be an interesting complication too. Moreover, the outcome of the cliffhanger leaves me even more worried about Lena's well-being in the future. In the new season, Baz is an even more absent father because there is even less that he can do to protect her daughter who is terrified that something is going to happen to her next after what has happened to both of her parents over the run of the show.

This tragedy does have a significant shake up for the family as well. Now, Pope is the one barking orders at his brothers and nephew in the hopes of protecting the family. He's still the only one willing and capable of looking after Lena. Sure, he doesn't quite know how to talk to her about what has just happened to her father. He's also angry at the idea that Baz was seemingly running away with Lucy not really caring what would happen to Lena. That's so destructive and horrifying. He's not a good parent at all. And now, Lena potentially has more of a father figure willing to look out for her. It was the direction the show was heading in for so much of last season. Pope and Smurf were the ones largely taking care of Lena. Her well-being had to be mentioned at all times because the show no longer had Catherine to explain who was looking after her. She needed to be pulled more into the Cody world. That has so many dangerous repercussions as well because there are so many lethal items at Smurf's house that Lena shouldn't be anywhere around. There is still an abundance of guns, drugs and alcohol just lying around that property. It's still a mess that no child should be in. But her regular house is also the place where her father was shot. So, it's just a lot of ongoing trauma for Lena that Pope is now the one trying to help her navigate. His solutions aren't always the best either because he doesn't know how to be a father. And yet, he's actively listening and trying to keep this family together even though he was wanting to fall apart and die at the end of last season. He was ready for his reckoning. And instead, he finds himself with an even more loving and understanding family than he ever could have expected.

Of course, Smurf is still in jail. The boys still aren't willing to help her. They believe they are doing just fine on their own. And yes, the second season ended with many of them going their separate ways to pursue their own lives completely separate from the family business. They had the money to live life large for a little while. Deran could focus on the bar, Baz could run away to Mexico with Lucy, and Craig could reunite with Ren and explore the world looking for his passion. J was the one who was still devoted to helping Smurf. That's still the same in the new season. He is willing to help her because he understands the importance of her going to jail for these crimes. A case is being built against her that extends far beyond Javi's death. Smurf is eager to get in front of a judge because she believes the autopsy will prove that it wasn't her gun that killed him. She wants that to happen as soon as possible in order to get home and start running her business again. But the show isn't interested in getting her out of prison so easily. It's clear that she may be here for awhile. The show is introducing new characters in that particular world whom she is now interacting with. Plus, she is consulting with her family, her lawyer and the new investigator building this case against her. She has to be more careful now than ever before. There have been plenty of investigations into this family over the years. Yes, Pope did some time in prison. Smurf is now sharing a jail cell with another inmate. But she is still confident that she can beat all of these charges once more so long as J is able to maintain the businesses exactly as is. That way there is no reason for the police to suspect that they are actually illegitimate and the family is just funneling the money they stole through these buildings.

That presents the grand hook for the season. Family unity continues to be a big theme. The family doesn't want to come together in support of Smurf because of all the horrible things she has done to them over the years. Of course, she's also given a choice in the premiere as well that could have fascinating implications later on if the family continues to defy and upset her wishes. But right now, it's important for the family to stand together to face this new threat that is clearly coming for them. They don't know if Baz will be the only target. They have to help him while also protecting themselves. That also means securing the financials that will also help Smurf's case. This family is tied together whether they want to be or not. Sure, they can escape each other for a couple of months at a time. But they still always have to reunite to pull off a job so that they have the money to finance all of their dreams in this world. These two episodes don't introduce the next hefty payday that the family will try to score. There's no indication of what's the next military base, megachurch or private yacht. But there is urgency to find something that will be easy to hit while leading to a huge pile of cash for the family. These are very intense times for the family. That's not even mentioning the addition of Denis Leary as Deran's father who doesn't show up in these first two episodes but is on the horizon as an added complication to the story this year. It's a story about family unity where the family simply doesn't know if they can trust each other. This year they are so suspicious of each other and watching each other closely while also recognizing that they need to work with each other once more in order to survive. It's very compelling.