Tuesday, June 12, 2018

REVIEW: 'Animal Kingdom' - J Grows Closer to Mia as More Details About Her Past are Revealed in 'The Center Will Hold'

TNT's Animal Kingdom - Episode 3.03 "The Center Will Hold"

Smurf navigates prison politics in pursuit of a potential job. J pulls the Cody boys together to keep the family enterprise going. Nicky gets into serious trouble when she tries to impress an old friend.

The third season wasted no time before confirming that Baz died from the gunshot wounds he suffered at the end of the previous season. The opening moments of the premiere showed him being taken to the hospital and the doctors being unable to revive him. And yet, the mystery of who shot him still persisted. The show didn't give the audience or the characters any additional clues as to who pulled the trigger. The suspect list was the same as before with the family chasing down all of the leads that could possibly explain who targeted their brother. And now, "The Center Will Hold" provides some answers. That was indicated right away when Scott Speedman's name appeared in the title sequence. That meant that there was either going to be some big reveal where Baz had to fool everyone he cared about for some reason. Or it meant that there was going to be flashbacks to previously unseen events that would shine a light on what happened. It turns out to be the later with Baz only appearing in archived footage. I guess it's in Speedman's contract that he has to be credited even when he doesn't film any new material. That's an important piece of misdirection. But it still fuels answers as to what happened that night. Because the show is revisiting that event once again, it's pretty clear that the shooter is about to be unmasked. The audience sees the shooter sneak into position before being able to pull the trigger. Baz is unable to fire back successfully as well. The shooter is able to make a clear getaway without being caught by the police who are already quick to respond to the multiple gunshots in the neighborhood. That in turn leads to the discovery that it was Mia who shot Baz. On the one hand, that could be a very disappointing reveal because Mia didn't exist as a character before this season. She wasn't seen until the premiere just two episodes ago. A cliffhanger like that is only fair if the audience can have some stake in guessing who pulled the trigger. But just because Mia killed Baz doesn't rule out the idea of someone ordering the hit. She could still have been hired by someone else. As such, the mystery remains alive moving forward. It just adds a bit more uncertainty and danger to Mia's appearance throughout the remainder of the season. She is very much a part of this criminal world no matter what now.

That could spell doom for J at the moment because he is getting so close with Mia. When the two of them had sex last week, it seemed like a power move on Mia's part. It was a way for her to control this asset who is now paying her gang in order to provide protection for Smurf in prison. It's a way to show that she is always the one in the power position in this dynamic. She's the one who is always coming to J expecting to be paid. She's a threat to the family. If they don't get their money, they have the power to completely destroy the family's lives. Smurf would be a sitting duck in prison without that protection. Of course, it's also clear that she's forming friends and new alliances. She probably wouldn't be taken out right away. But the need to pay for this protection is quickly adding up for J. He is scrambling just to make the payments every week. It costs a lot to keep his grandmother alive while she awaits her day in court. The police are in no hurry to make that happen either. They are just waiting for the family to slip up with one of the sham businesses so that they can build an even more damning case against Smurf. As such, there is so much pressure on J right now. He needs to get the family together in order to keep things running as smoothly as possible. He's arguing with the uncles who simply don't care anymore. They have their own problems to deal with. J is the only one who genuinely still cares about Smurf. He wants her to survive this ordeal and come back to the empire she has always ruled. He is stepping up. He has had to take on more responsibility than ever before. And yet, he could also be completely blind when it comes to Mia. She is someone completely different. She is not as problematic as Nicky. Right now, that's a blessing because their relationship is so simple and sexual. But that's bound to change once the truth comes out. It will probably be very explosive too.

Meanwhile, Nicky is currently in such a weird limbo this season. She has never been that interesting as a character. She is an addict just like so many of the other people in J's life. It's easy to understand the attraction to her. But it's so destructive as well because it's J being unable to escape these patterns that have defined his life. He winds up caring for people who are incredibly troubled. He has embraced those impulses as well. But he has been able to channel them through his smarts and being able to excel in this new criminal lifestyle. Nicky wants to be a part of that as well. At first, it came off as nothing more than teenage rebellion. She wanted to piss off her father by stealing from him and moving on to a new family that would encourage this behavior. Since then though, she has mostly just been lounging around craving sex, drugs and partying. She is so completely irresponsible. J keeps telling her that she can't keep spending money. And yet, she continues to buy more drugs and host more parties. That's the atmosphere that currently defines the house. It's no longer the home for the entire Cody family. Now, it is just J and Nicky living there. It's a complete mess because Nicky doesn't want to take responsibility for her actions. And now, that almost has dark consequences for her. The show has a very sinister moment where her drug dealer is furious at her for not paying him for the product and says the only way he can let her go is if she has sex with him. It's such a despicable moment that should hopefully foster better decisions for Nicky. And yet, there's simply no indication that that will ultimately occur. J is able to show up and make the problems completely go away. No, he doesn't have the money to pay off this guy. But the family name is enough to buy him and Nicky some time. However, the thought of this being an ongoing story isn't all that enticing.

J simply has more pressing concerns than needing to clean up after Nicky. That's why he is so attracted to Mia at the moment. Even Nicky is impressed by how much of a badass Mia is. She doesn't suspect J and Mia are having sex at all. She is just furious that J doesn't show any interest in her in that way anymore. But J is simply too busy trying to find a solution to his financial woes. Smurf is able to present him with a job from within prison that has already been planned out. It will be a hefty payday too. Smurf is busy negotiating the deal with her fellow inmate. It's a story that sees a lot of back-and-forth in the negotiations. But it is ultimately decided that Smurf will take all of the profits because she plants drugs on hew new associate and gets her thrown into a solitary cell. It's such a vicious act that shows that Smurf will continue to be making enemies while she is locked up. She needs the protection now more than ever. J is able to successfully get another extension on making the payment to Mia's gang. But he can't keep asking for more time to repay these debts. He has to act quickly. As such, he and Pope are able to look over this job that Smurf has handed to them. It seems like a pretty easy target with just two people inside. But the doors are all reinforced, there are multiple guns and there are several security cameras. There are many ways for it to go wrong. That's especially true considering Deran and Craig aren't answering any of the messages about the job. They are off during their own thing. It's just J and Pope right now being the family business. It's important to note though that they don't pull off this job here. It's delayed until another episode. And yet, they can't wait for too much longer either because the deadline is looming.

Plus, Pope confronts Deran about his inaction as of late when it comes to the family. Deran is in such a mature head space this season. It appears as if he has grown up and knows that he can no longer worry about what's going on with the rest of his family. His brothers want to pull him back in to all of the drama. He just wants to live his own life. Yes, that still includes pulling jobs for a financial payday. But he also doesn't see the need to lecture Craig once again when he screws up while trying to get his life together. Craig is devastated to learn that Ren doesn't want to move in together. They can continue their relationship as it is. But she doesn't see the need to make it any more official. Right now, it works. Craig clearly yearns for something more. But he's still struggling to figure out what he wants from life. He hoped that the trip to Mexico would be eye-opening for him. Instead, it mostly just ensured that he got a beating no matter where he went. He is always getting into trouble. Deran is there to help pop his shoulder back in or take him to the hospital when those efforts don't pan out. But he has also accepted that Craig is his own man who will make his own decisions. He doesn't need to feel the pressure from anyone else in the family. That's what makes it so striking when Pope actually confronts Deran about his new attitude and distance from the family business. Everyone in the family should be worried about the police being able to build a damning case against Smurf due to the finances falling apart of the sham businesses. But Deran doesn't want to indulge a job planned by J. He just sees it as a plan that will go awry in so many different ways. Pope may be able to intimidate him though. The job will definitely need more than J and Pope after all.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Center Will Hold" was written by Daniele Nathanson and directed by Alex Zakrzewski.
  • It's completely illogical for Baz's vehicle to be in the garage for Pope to use whenever he wants. It's a part of an active crime scene. It should be impounded by the police until they finish this investigation. Pope cleaning it and then destroying it could be seen as tampering with evidence. And yet, the show doesn't really want the audience to see it that way. It's just further proof of how Pope really doesn't know how to be a father to Lena.
  • Pope gave Lena the option of going to any school that she wanted. He wants to be so supportive of her. He wishes to be there in the way she needs right now. And yet, he is confused by the idea that other people are suspicious of a grown man sitting in a vehicle outside of a school. Plus, he somehow believes it would be a smart idea to give Lena the vehicle in which her father was shot in.
  • Craig only busts his shoulder in the first place because he is trying to collect enough money to put a down payment on a new place for him and Ren to move into. Ren already has a solid lead on an apartment. But she wants to move in with an old roommate instead of being with Craig. As such, he is back to Smurf's house just like before. That means things are going to be very awkward with J and Nicky also staying there.
  • Moreover, Mia decides to spend the night at Smurf's house. That could be completely innocuous. She simply wants to spend more time with J in a way that doesn't bring too much attention to it. She could just be wanting to stay with him until he gives her the week's payment. But it's bound to turn the sexual dynamics of the house around. Plus, Nicky can't be that oblivious for too much longer. If so, then she's been doing a whole lot more drugs.
  • When Deran and Craig go to the hospital, the show makes a point in giving the emergency room nurse a whole backstory. That's a curious detail. Craig recognizes him as a legend from the X Games whom he idolized at one point in his life. And now, he thinks it's tragic that he's working in the hospital. The show including all of those details basically just proves that he's about to be a significant character this season somehow.