Tuesday, June 26, 2018

REVIEW: 'Animal Kingdom' - J and Deran Ask for Help to Keep Their Businesses Running Smoothly in 'Prey'

TNT's Animal Kingdom - Episode 3.05 "Prey"

Deran gets to know his father Billy and helps J with a dilemma as Pearce closes in on Smurf's laundering operation. Craig uncovers a secret that sends him to Smurf. Nicky must decide whether she belongs in the Cody family or not.

Smurf and Baz essentially operated under the belief that someone needed to be in charge of the family. There needed to be a leader and the rest of the family would just fall in line behind them. It was how they led the family on their various jobs. It's the only way they saw all of this as working. Smurf still believes she's the one in charge and is actually running the show even though she's now in prison. She's the one giving orders to J and expecting him to follow them. She's the one dealing with the most immediate problems. She is facing a lengthy jail sentence with Pearce looking to add even more charges against her. But things are still very tense and uncertain for the rest of the family as well. J is not leading with the same mentality as Smurf and Baz. Yes, he had to bring the family all together so that they could pull off a job in order to ensure that none of them get arrested because the various businesses go under. He understands that they need to have a new influx of cash in order to keep everything operating as normally as possible. Sure, part of that money is going to Smurf's protection in jail. That's a huge personal priority for him. He understands that he can't just tell his uncles that because they don't care what ultimately happens to Smurf. But "Prey" is fundamentally an episode about exploring who's actually in control of this family. There is the belief that J is now the one in charge because he has control over the family's finances. He speaks for Smurf. He is loyal to her. As such, he's the one deciding how the money is spent and which projects to continue financing. But he has also proven himself incapable of kicking Billy out of the house while also keeping his uncles in line. But more importantly, he's still naive to a whole lot of things that occur in this business. Yes, he's able to spot and loss the police tail that is following him around everywhere. But he still slips up and needs to take care of a problem once one of the tenants presents with dementia. That serves as further prove that Deran, Pope and Craig are just as capable of leading this family. They all have their unique skills that have proved to be very beneficial to the family.

As such, this season could be making the argument that J, Pope, Deran and Craig are actually the best configuration of the Cody family. Yes, they do get on each other's nerves. Deran and Craig didn't want to believe that J was capable of planning a job that could possibly go smoothly for the family given all of the intense pressure from the cops. But there's also no ego involved. There is no need to make the other members of the family feel inferior or limited in what they can do. They pulled this pill farm heist off together. Sure, J took the majority of the cash because he needed it to keep the various businesses operational. And yet, that also makes sense because he has a better understanding of the financial obligations of this family. Sure, he doesn't feel the necessity of honoring Smurf's commitment of supporting this local paralyzed surfer who got hurt in an accident Craig was responsible for. He doesn't think the family could let go of five thousand dollars right now for a personal project like that. He also just doesn't understand the importance of it all. That could serve as additional proof that Smurf is still the one making these decisions because she still gives the order for J to hand this money over to Craig so that he can honor the commitment. It's an eye-opening experience for Craig because it shows that his actions still have consequences even when he didn't know that Smurf had been doing this for all of these years as a way to make up for what he did. She didn't expect loyalty or appreciation from him for it either. That's surprising because she has always been so controlling and demanding of her family. She still has that influence. But she's also not out in the world able to take care of these problems. She's stuck in prison having to speak in cryptic conversations with J about what he needs to do to ensure that everything works out for the best.

Meanwhile, Billy believes that Deran should be the one running the Cody family because he actually owns a legitimate business. He went out and did this by himself. He found this property and he's continuing to manage it. Billy sees that as a huge success. It shows that Deran has something that is just his in this world. He's not indebted to anyone else. He is able to retreat to this space which is something that he has completely built and takes full responsibility over. Billy is very impressed by that. He wants to use it to forge a connection with his son. He sees it as evidence that Deran turned out okay even though he was absent from his entire life. Billy believes Smurf was in the right to kick him out but he also remains vague on the details of what actually happened between the two of them. Smurf doesn't offer any more insight to J either. She just reiterates that it's crucial for him to get Billy out of the house immediately. She needs Billy gone to ensure that he doesn't screw anything more up for the family. And yet, Billy and Frankie are still at the house at the end of the episode. J isn't quick to take action against them. He too may be seeing it as a good thing that Deran is actually getting to know his father. Of course, that conversation between them is pretty awkward with Billy being nothing more than a free spirit who talks very inappropriately about the sexual connection he had with Smurf. But it's rewarding that it's not a big deal to him that Deran is gay. Even that immediate acceptance isn't enough to win Deran over about his father being a good guy though. It's going to take more work. Plus, it's already clear that Billy is nothing but trouble based on the evidence that Pope and Nicky are seeing from him around the house.

Moreover, Deran may not be well-equipped to run this family when it comes to worrying about the actual financials involved. He is quite skilled when it comes to taking action. He knows how to solve many problems that arise for the family. But he's also at a complete loss when an agent comes into the bar saying that Deran hasn't been paying his taxes to ensure that his former workers can file for unemployment from the government. He believes he didn't have to because he paid everyone in cash. It was just simpler for him that way. But now, he's also reaching out to J to help him better understand the books and try to find the legitimate way of doing all of this. It's important paperwork that needs to be done that will also be even more beneficial to the bar in the long run. But it shows why J is an important member of the family. He understands that and knows how to help Deran. Similarly, Deran is important because he knows that the family should just dump this old woman with dementia in the middle of nowhere instead of killing her. It's still such a horrible thing for them to do. J understands that she's going to be a problem if the police ever come asking the tenants about what they pay for rent to the Codys. She can no longer keep the stories straight. She is getting lost in her own memories. And J goes to Deran for help because he knows and trusts that he will have the answer. Sure, Deran still mocks J for thinking that he was going to kill this old woman. Instead, they just rob her of all of her identification while ensuring that whomever finds her won't want to leave her all alone in an apartment anymore. They see it as the compassionate way of dealing with this problem even though it is horribly abusive as well.

Elsewhere, it seems like the season is trying to turn Nicky into a more tragic character. She believes she has these two families: the one she was born into and the one that she chose to be a part of. And yet, neither of them seem to want her. She no longer feels a special connection to J. It feels like the Codys are just pushing her away. They no longer want anything to do with her. That's tragic because she felt like she belonged as a part of this family even though she never trusted that she would get all of the information she needed despite being out of the family meetings. But it's also tragic to see her wanting to reunite with her parents and siblings in Guam only to basically be rejected by them. Her father is essentially telling her that they don't have the space for her. Moreover, he wants to know if she has school or work. He wants to know if something productive is happening in her life. There isn't really anything. He sees it as an innocuous question for the daughter who should no longer be living at home. But she sees it as a personal rejection in her most vulnerable moment. She believes she needs somewhere to go. And yet, she doesn't seem to find anyone who actually wants her. She doesn't know what to make of her life right now. The only person who seems willing to embrace her is Billy. But the only thing he can offer her is shots of heroin. That's a crushing reveal because it provides more answers as to the darkness going on with Billy as well as foreshadowing just how much more tragic things can get with Nicky this year. No, it isn't seen if she takes Billy up on his offer on the couch. But that will only add to the uncertainty of it more moving forward.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Prey" was written by Addison McQuigg and directed by Megan Griffiths.
  • Lena gets into some pretty serious trouble at school because she cuts another girls hair off. It's so traumatizing watching the buildup to the moment with the audience aware that she's alienated in this environment and holding a pair of scissors. But it's even more tragic once Pope scoffs at the idea that she needs therapy in order to cope with the sudden and mysterious deaths of her parents. And yet, that's probably what she needs right now.
  • That sex scene between Deran and Clark was hot. It was very passionate and rough. It shows that they are going to be an aggressive couple because they both used to be competitive athletes. However, the focus of that moment may perhaps be Deran not wanting to go out with Clark afterwards. He may genuinely have things to do at the bar. His day becomes pretty busy after that moment. But it also may highlight his fear of just having a public boyfriend in the same way that his brothers have had girlfriends across the series so far. That will be an interesting story as well.
  • Craig goes to prison in order to see Smurf for the first time since she was arrested. She is surprised to see him as well. She was expecting J because she summoned him to talk about Pearce finding out about the money orders. She is more interested in when or if J is coming. But Craig wants answers for what she has been done on his behalf to make up for his past mistakes. That's important too because it shows that Craig is becoming more aware of his choices.
  • Pope also goes to the prison. But he doesn't see Smurf. He instead reaches out to the woman who is actually in charge of her protection. He wants clarity about why Mia is actually at the Cody house. He needs confirmation that she is working for this gang who is protecting Smurf. He gets that even though J still wants to play things pretty coy. He continues to insist that Mia is just a friend. And yet, she is able to hold her own against Pope as well when he tries to intimidate her.
  • Has it really only been two months since Deran opened the bar? It seems like more time has passed then that. He bought the bar at the beginning of the second season. Some time has even passed this season for Smurf to be in jail and for the family to move on from Baz's death. And yet, it having only been two months basically proves that this family burns through cash very quickly. As such, they will probably need to do another job very soon.