Tuesday, July 24, 2018

REVIEW: 'Animal Kingdom' - Smurf Makes Her Influence Known as She Examines Everything that Has Happened in 'Libertad'

TNT's Animal Kingdom - Episode 3.09 "Libertad"

A decision from Deran's past comes back to haunt him. J works to get back into Smurf's good graces as she tries to take away his control over the family business. As he learns more about the Cody dynamics, Billy uses his past with Smurf to his advantage.

The fractures amongst the Cody family are only becoming more profound. Even the relationship between Deran and Craig is currently unstable. Those two have always been a reliable team. Smurf understands that if Deran does something then Craig will quickly fall in line too. But now, that no longer seems to be the case. Deran wants absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the family even though his brothers are the only ones he trusts to actually pull a job in a way that won't lead to any of them being caught. Him relying on friends has only come back to bite him in the ass. That leaves him so unsure of what he actually wants out of life. That may pull him closer to some family members and further away from others. But the key question remains: is the family capable of returning to what it once was? In the second season, the boys were still relying on Smurf in order to launder their money. They no longer wanted to work for her. But she was still entitled to a cut of the profits because she was actually cleaning the money. She owns the businesses that can run this money through them without getting detected. So she tries once again making that offer to the rest of the family. She understands that she's operating from a position of strength because the family has just pulled off this massive job. She doesn't quite know how large the haul was. But she understands that it's enough to make everyone desperate to get that money right away. That should incentivize all of them into wanting to work with her again. And yet, there is so much toxicity in her relationships with the family. She believes that she's controlling of all of their lives. If they ever step out and betray her, then she has the authority and power to kill them. Baz was killed because he stole from Smurf and framed her for murder. And now, he's dead and she is a free woman once more. Of course, she doesn't have the money stolen from her. That's a lingering threat that is bound to become really explosive very soon. But it's also fascinating to watch because Smurf tries positioning all of this as Baz stealing from the family even though she has always seen herself as the leader who was always in control of the largest pile of cash in this business.

J finds himself having to completely reevaluate his plans for the future. He was ready to give up completely on Smurf. She was asking him to kill for her. That was a line he wasn't willing to cross. As such, he stood up to her in saying that he was the one with all of the power because he controlled her finances. He was the only one who was regularly seeing her in prison. He was the only person who really cared about what happened to her. And yet, he still made the choice to stop paying for her protection in jail. He did so right as she no longer needed it. So, it was a moment of profound character detail while actually being meaningless in the grand scheme of things. J was in charge. And now, he's signing over all of that power. Smurf once again has control over her entire finances. Morgan comes over with the documents that need to be signed. It's a moment that proves that J has always been the outsider looking in on this life. But it's also fascinating to watch him fall back into old patterns in the hopes of getting close to Smurf once more. He is willing to get her car detailed while also sharing how much money they just stole. She is aware of the total long before J comes to her with that offering. And yet, it's still vital in rebuilding that trust. Of course, J is still advocating for the family to start up their own business where they can launder their money. They don't want to be indebted to Smurf for too much longer. Things were very convenient when she was in jail because J was the one who controlled the money and the real estate properties. So long as he was doing his job, everything would work out well for the family. And now, there is an increased fee for using that pipeline that has always been present for the family. It's Smurf once again trying to hold onto her power in this family unit.

Of course, Smurf is also exerting her control through wanting there to be a proper burial for Baz. The audience is very much aware that she doesn't really mourn his loss at all. She was the one who put out a hit on him just to get back what was stolen from her. That still hasn't come to fruition though. It's important that the show is always mindful of the fact that Lucy stole this money. Smurf now articulates that it is seven million dollars. That's a huge payday. It's very incentive for Smurf to offer equal parts to the boys should they go down to Mexico and get the money. She wants what she rightfully believes to be hers. And yet, no one in the family is really buying what she is selling. She claims that this money belongs to the family in case of any emergency that should pop up. Smurf has been saving over the years because the rest of the family didn't even think to do that. She was protecting her boys from their worst impulses of spending irrationally and quickly. But the boys understand that this was the money Smurf was skimming off of the top for herself. As such, there's no real reason for them to help her get back on top. They are perfectly fine with her position in the world. Yes, she is out of prison. But her attempts to restore order aren't going so well. She wants to summon her family together. And yet, not everyone shows up. They are willing to defy her. The prospect of seven million dollars isn't even enough for them to forget about the past. Sure, things will remain interesting and complicated because Lucy is a main character who probably isn't still holding onto those suitcases of money. But whatever she did with all of it is bound to have an impact on what is next for this family.

Even though J is getting back into Smurf's good graces, he still believes in the democracy that he and his uncles set up for their business. He sees the value in simply putting things to a vote with everyone getting equal power. Smurf doesn't like it because it leads to the boys declining her offer to rob Lucy in Mexico. As such, she needs to look elsewhere. That's very ominous to think about. It proves that she has a very close relationship with Pete, the head of the Trujillo gang. He is the one making all of the decisions. He appreciates sharing a good drink with Smurf. But he's also quick to get down to business. Smurf proves that she's more than capable of leveraging the money she just received from J in order to get back the money that was stolen from her. She's doing so in order to maintain complete ownership over it. She will get all of this money back one way or another. It just seems likely that Mia will become involved in all of this somehow. As such, it's inevitable that Lucy and Baz's killer will come face-to-face sooner than later. Mia is desperate for money after all and wants the work from Pete. But that will end in disaster. Smurf is willing to reach out and offer this job to someone else because she knows that her family doesn't trust anything she has to say. That means she has to slowly earn back their trust. She seems to have earned it with J even though he's playing his cards very close to his vest. The rest she hopes to accomplish through the burial plot. She wants a place to mourn Baz. It's her making the decision of how to grieve him even though it's against the wishes of everyone else in the family. She then gives the perception that the rest of the family will share how they wish to be remembered and honored after their deaths. And yet, it's still clearly a manipulation on her part where the only option she can give them is a burial in this cemetery because she went through all of the work to get them plots right next to each other. That's her trying to be generous and caring. But it's also twisted because she is getting all of them prepared for their deaths.

And then, there is Billy who is so impatient about getting his money. He is furious that J is the one who is actually looking after the funds. That just seems to be an excuse that Deran says in order to deflect some of the blame. All four of the boys have access to the storage locker where the money is currently being kept. But it's also enough to fuel Billy going back to the house and risk running into Smurf again. He is very much like Deran in trying to avoid her. He only had the confidence to return to meet his son because Smurf was in jail. And now, he doesn't know what to expect. He certainly wasn't expecting her to seduce him and have sex in the bedroom. That too seems like a ploy by Smurf in order to better understand why Billy is still sticking around. She is able to quickly deduce that he had a role in the latest job and is expecting to get his money as soon as possible. That's very important information for Smurf to have which fuels so much of her actions here. But she also sends Billy back to Deran to deliver the message of needing to see him. Deran still refuses to go. He was content with a life of never having to see his mother again. And now, he has a screw-up father who is just casually walking in on things while Craig is making decisions that will have huge personal complications for Deran. It's so perilous once Deran's associates show up with one of them being shot. He believes he knows how to best handle the situation. But instead, Craig brings Lincoln in to actually use his training as a nurse. The guy survives because of Lincoln. And yet, it's also bound to be so destructive to this relationship for Deran. He wanted the peace that came from having one corner of his life be completely untainted by his family. He still has sex and happiness with Adrian. But he wanted something different than that. Him striving to break free of this family may be the thing that ultimately gets him to say yes to Smurf and her offer to get a huge payday from Mexico.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Libertad" was written by Bradley Paul and directed by Nick Copus.
  • In the midst of all of this drama, DCFS comes to take Lena away from Pope and the family. They have conducted an investigation that has concluded that it is no longer safe for Lena to be in this environment. That's bound to motivate Pope and Smurf into action very quickly. They don't want a stranger raising someone from their family. They want to keep her close. And yet, neither of them have the perspective of just how damaging this life has been to Lena.
  • Pope is actually more emotional about Lena being taken away from him than Lena is. She doesn't really have a reaction. She just sees this as the latest crazy thing to happen to her life after so many crazy things have already happened to her. She's not pleading with Pope to let her stay. He is fighting for her and willing to push back against the officers. But he still loses and will have to put together a case quickly for why he deserves to be her guardian.
  • Deran wanting someone in his life who doesn't know just how crazy his family is also seems to be sneaking its way into his dynamic with Adrian as well. He knows Smurf and the influence she has in the Cody family. But here, Billy walks in on the two of them and then has to introduce himself. Adrian has no clue that Deran's long missing father has finally shown up in his life. He doesn't even know that he's in the bar too.
  • Lucy approaches Pope telling him that Smurf is going to come after her. That is the next logical step for her to take now that she is out of prison. Of course, it's also the show spelling things out to the audience in a very broad way. It doesn't ask us to remember that she and her brother took this money after Baz was shot. But it does feel like setup for the next phase of the season as Smurf pushes to get what belongs to her.
  • Of course, Lucy would have to be fairly stupid to keep all of that seven million dollars together in one location. That is a legitimate worry that the boys have when discussing this latest job Smurf wants them to do. It may just be revenge for Smurf. She wants to hurt everyone who hurt her. But the boys are the ones actually risking their lives. And so, they are the ones who will have to deal with the consequences should they ever actually make it down to Mexico.