Tuesday, August 7, 2018

REVIEW: 'Animal Kingdom' - The Conflict Between Smurf and Lucy Completely Explodes in 'Jackpot'

TNT's Animal Kingdom - Episode 3.11 "Jackpot"

Smurf enlists the boys in a surprise job that results in devastating consequences. Pope is forced to confront the truth about Baz's murder. J steps up for the family in an unexpected way.

"Jackpot" is an incredibly explosive episode of Animal Kingdom. It destroys so many of the relationships and confirms things that have long been up for debate. It brings the conflict between Smurf and Lucy to the forefront. It also shows just how far the Cody boys are willing to regress when it comes to Smurf. She is once again in control of the family whether they like it or not. They all came to her for emotional support just a week ago. There is a reason why all of them still feel compelled to be a part of this explosive situation. Smurf is essentially forcing them into action. None of them wanted to go down to Mexico and get the money that Lucy stole. So instead, Smurf kidnapped Marco and tortured him until he confirmed that his sister stole this money from her after Baz was shot and killed. As such, the boys are forced into helping her. She could continue doing this by herself. Pete and his gang could provide her the support she needs in order to stage this trade with Lucy. She wants to do it with her family though. But it's also her telling them that they have no other choices. They must do this for her. It's the trade off for the emotional support she has always given them over the years. It proves that she's not afraid to get her hands dirty in order to get them all helping her once more. They do so with their eyes wide opened. They know that they have no free will when it comes to Smurf. They must simply follow her orders or face her wrath. And now, she's collecting on these family bonds. They support her in this endeavor even though they all understand that she doesn't really care what happens to any of them. She's mostly just interested in getting her money back. She does so under the guise of protecting the family to ensure that they remain strong in the future. They won't have to concern themselves with pulling any jobs anytime soon. They are building a legacy together. That just also happens to start a war that is bound to have immediate and severe consequences to it.

All of this is suppose to be a simple trade. Smurf makes the call to Lucy to tell her that she has Marco and will give him back in exchange for the money and jewelry she stole. She's counting on Lucy still having these items as well. And in the end, she only shows up with the pieces of jewelry. She explains that Baz already divided the money up and gave it to the rest of the boys. There is no way that Smurf is getting back all of the seven million dollars she had in her storage unit. That's what she is after. And yet, she is still willing to give Marco back. He is handed over and Pope is unloading the suitcases of items. That's his role to play in all of this. It puts him in the immediate line of fire. That's the position for both him and J at the moment. They are the ones who have always supported Smurf and been weaponized by her. They have such extreme feelings towards her. They understand with complete clarity that they have to do this because the perception will already be clear that they are involved in some way. Pope doesn't want to hurt Lucy because she has been so helpful in investigating who killed Baz. She came to him with the reveal that it was Smurf who put a hit out on her son. As such, it's always twisted whenever she talks about honoring his memory. She killed him because he betrayed her. And now, she's trying to get back all that is hers after being released from prison. She is so close to doing that. She has her family and the money. She has her power in this community. She gets things done even when the family denies her. They aren't willing to go to Mexico. They only want to do this their way. But she has already set up the best possible trade in this situation. So in the end, they are still ultimately just following her rules.

And so, Lucy meets J at a diner around the corner. He's the first line of defense to see just how much fire power she is bringing to this meeting. He only has Mia for backup too. He doesn't have a bulletproof vest like his uncles. He's out in the open and vulnerable. He deems himself to be expendable according to Smurf. That's why he approaches Mia for this tactical support. She is still noticed by Lucy. But that's ultimately not a big deal. The meeting still goes down how Smurf wanted it to. And yet, it still ends in disaster. Marco has been kidnapped and tortured. He has always been a hotheaded character too. He cut off an innocent person's finger simply because they were moving too slowly during the yacht job. Deran and Craig believed they could trust him only for him to prove he was too dangerous in the field. And now, that recklessness gets him killed. He pulls on Smurf which turns the two sides against each other. It's an immediate bloodbath with the bullets flying. Pope is the first to be hit. In the heat of the moment, J is still choosing to protect Smurf. He is keeping her guarded to ensure that she doesn't die during this meeting. It's up to Deran and Craig to fire back. In the confusion though, they lose Pope. He is still alive. He is just taken by Lucy. As such, the tables have turned. It makes her the player with the upper hand. But she's absolutely devastated because another person she loves has been killed by Smurf. First, it was Baz. And now, it is Marco. Sure, his recklessness could be to blame. But Lucy doesn't want to hear that. She wants vengeance against the woman who was wronged her in some destructive and cruel ways as of late.

And so, Smurf is left playing things according to Lucy's rules. That proves her to be a smart and capable player in this war as well. Lucy has always been sidelined too much as a character. As such, it's fascinating to see her have importance and value in the main story. She could choose to kill Pope as revenge for Marco's death. She trusted him with information about Baz's murder. He still ultimately sided with Smurf because Lucy lied about taking the money. She had it. The audience knew that but Pope didn't get that confirmation until he saw those suitcases full of the items from Smurf. That's when he knew for sure that he couldn't trust Lucy. But now, his fate rests in her hands. A war could be further ignited with both sides losing crucial individuals. It would be such an unexpected time for Pope to die. And yet, the same could also be said of Baz's death. He died in such a surprising way that forced new issues to the forefront of the story for the rest of the family. And now, Pope's fate is up in the air. Smurf doesn't even get confirmation that he's still alive when Lucy calls telling her to meet her by herself. The boys all want to formulate the best plan. Craig just wants to quickly spring into action. He wants to blame J for not doing anything and allowing Pope to be taken. He wants to blame Smurf for kidnapping Marco in the first place. He's right with some of his observations but he's still not the best at actually planning and seeing things clearly. Smurf understands that she started all of this and must take responsibility for whatever happens. She killed Marco. And now, she potentially kills Pope as well. That means this is her personal cross to carry as she goes into this meeting with Lucy.

All Lucy wants from Smurf is the truth. She wants her to confess to ordering the hit on Baz. Lucy just wants that clarity. She needs Smurf to say it out loud. After that, she can have Pope again. The two sides of this war will never have to interact with each other again. All of this can end if Smurf actually confesses to this crime. Of course, she could just be saying whatever Lucy wants to hear in this moment. She needs to save Pope no matter what. She can't bear losing another child. But in rescuing one, she is admitting to the murder of another. That's brutal storytelling. In the moment, it truly does seem like Smurf is confessing and showing her true colors. This was always a monstrous decision that she was capable of doing. The audience has long suspected her of doing it. But now, the confirmation actually comes. She didn't pull the trigger. That was Mia. That revelation still has to come out at some point this season too. But Smurf did order the hit. She confesses to Lucy. She then gets Pope's location. She is able to rescue him and bring him back home. In doing so though, she is irrevocably changing their relationship. He understands that the only thing Lucy wanted from Smurf was her confession. It's unclear if he was listening in on their meeting or if it's just intuition knowing the players involved. But he does walk away with the clarity that Smurf is responsible for Baz's death. As such, she can never be forgiven. She may love Lena just as much as he does. She will work to free her from the foster care system alongside him. But he will never love or trust her again because he knows she's capable of killing any of her children. He knows that with certainty. That means he will forever be cold and distant to her which is bound to shake up the family dynamic in a huge way during the final episodes of the season.  

Some more thoughts:
  • "Jackpot" was written by Matt Kester and directed by Shawn Hatosy.
  • This episode marks Shawn Hatosy's directorial debut. He has always been such a commanding and compelling presence as Pope. And now, it's clear he brings that same energy as a director. The action of this hour moves quickly while still lingering just enough on the emotional beats to really help sell everything. That final shot of Smurf alone in the car is appropriately devastating while also fitting based on everything she has done to her family.
  • With Ren being pregnant and Pope suggesting adoption, is the show foreshadowing some big parenting twist for Craig? It certainly seems that way. And yet, it may also be a little too obvious. The audience has to take Ren at her word that her baby isn't Craig's. Meanwhile, it's strange that Pope would ask Craig to adopt Lena when he's easily the least responsible of the family. Deran or J would be so much better - with J actually having a biological connection.
  • Deran truly believes that he has domestic bliss with Adrian. Sure, it is going to be short-lived because Adrian leaves soon for his next surfing competition. Moreover, Adrian doesn't like how cramped the backroom of the bar is. He wants Deran to get an actual apartment with a shower. It's moments like these that prove they are a sweet and genuine couple. But it all runs the risk of being destroyed by Smurf.
  • Mia truly didn't know anything about Pete and his associates kidnapping someone. She told him that she would like to be involved with the next job because she needs the money. Instead, she gets that from J even if it's just a small thing that takes her away from work. Moreover, is Craig going to continue to call out J for his apparent connection to Pete? Or is that bound to just disappear?
  • Lucy gets the confession out of Smurf for her own personal satisfaction. She was ready to start a life together with Baz. And now, she is doing everything it takes to ensure what's left of her family is protected. But that also seems likely to take her off the show completely. The only reason she would return is if she was secretly recording that conversation. If so, Smurf could be returning to jail very soon.