Tuesday, August 14, 2018

REVIEW: 'Animal Kingdom' - J and Pope Put Their Plans Against Smurf into Action in 'Homecoming'

TNT's Animal Kingdom - Episode 3.12 "Homecoming"

The Cody family picks up the pieces from their showdown with Lucy. Smurf is determined to reel Pope back into the fold at any cost. J goes to extreme lengths to protect a secret.

Once again, the show has structured its season so that the big, climatic thing happens in the eleventh episode with the remaining two hours of the season focusing on the fallout. In the second season, Smurf was arrested with two episodes left to go with the majority of those hours mostly just setting up what would happen this year in addition to the major cliffhanger with Baz getting shot. And now, Smurf and Lucy had their big shootout with one another that led to Smurf confessing to ordering a hit on Baz. She was responsible and that had the potential to completely change her dynamic with Pope. So, the show is using the final two hours to analyze just how destructive that confession was. But the narrative is also presenting so much evidence for the family to be pulled back together because of how influential and powerful Smurf is. She's out of prison and more confident than ever before. But the rest of the family is plotting for the future as well. It's fascinating to see what's going on in all of their lives. Pope and J are the ones actually preparing for war and making some major attempts on Smurf's life and business. J is selling over some of the rental properties and framing Morgan for it while Pope is actually buying the drugs to actually kill Smurf. Both of those actions are deadly and are bound to hold major repercussions moving forward. Meanwhile, Deran is just chilling at his bar with Adrian and hoping to build a happy, domestic life with him. And Craig is pulling a new job with Frankie who is able to show him the appeal of this line of work without having to be all macho and destructive about it. Some of these plots are solely setting up conflict for the fourth season. That feels inevitable at this point because the show can't satisfyingly resolve everything that is going on in the span of next week's finale. But it's also proving that things will be just as intense and explosive moving forward as they have always been even though Smurf has this victory over Lucy at the moment.

Smurf has gotten back her jewelry from Lucy and is keeping to her promise of splitting the profits evenly with her sons. None of them wanted to go into this conflict in the foolish pursuit of getting back everything that was stolen from Smurf. They saw it as too dangerous. Smurf forced them into compliance. And now, she continues to buy their loyalty. That means so much to her. She wants them to stand united as a family. A unit that will always serve to protect her. And yes, it's significant that they all helped her with this trade with J even protecting Smurf when the bullets started flying. And yet, she fully expects them to all move back into her home after she hands over the first payment for the job. She wants to do right by her sons. But she also wants to restore order. That ship has long sailed though. Pope doesn't want this money because he knows exactly what she has done. Meanwhile, J is preparing for a future where the family doesn't need Smurf's businesses in order to launder their money. He wants to be completely independent of her. He only wants to strike when the moment is right. And yet, she already has her suspicions. She is trying to unify this family. She aims to do so through a party celebrating Lena's return. Smurf was able to pull a few strings to get her granddaughter back as quickly as possible. However, it's just the latest ploy in order to control her family. She has plans to adopt Lena. But that action only further proves how she doesn't really understand her granddaughter at all. She may be sympathetic in listening to how she hates her new school. But she also aims to be very controlling with the idea that she could be home schooled and wear a wardrobe that only consists of pink clothing. That's not Lena at all. It's just what Smurf wants her to be.

Smurf is using Lena as a way to get Pope back into her life. He is understandably angry with her because she admitted to killing Baz. She is still trying to spin things as it just being another one of Pope's crazy fixations. He got this thought into his head and refused to see any other possibility. But that tactic is no longer working on Pope. It may be enough to get his brothers worried about him. And yet, Deran was already concerned that Pope had that devious look in his eyes long before Smurf stopped at the bar to plant the seeds of doubt. He even jokes about it being possible that Pope is talking about murder. He doesn't know that Pope has already taken action to make that a reality. He has gotten his hands on the drugs that will ensure a pain-free death for Smurf. As such, it's almost inevitable that those drugs will be used on someone before the season is over. The show wouldn't just introduce that threat and not ultimately go through with it. That means the speculation should already be starting over who may be targeted. Pope has much more difficulty going through with his plan after learning that Lena is coming home. He is angry because he can't legally adopt her. He still sees himself as the only person in the family who actually cares about her. He wants to give her a happy life. He wants to look out for her because that's what the family has to do following tragedy. And yet, he's also been hanging onto Lena out of his own self-preservation. He fixated on being a parent to her even though he was never really good at it. He needed that focus in order to remain strong in his life. But Lena still saw him as perpetually sad. She believed she was the reason for that. As such, it's the best thing for her to be adopted by this foster family. That's how she'll actually find peace and happiness. She will never be emotionally healthy as long as she stays with the Cody family. Pope makes the right decision. It just represents a major sacrifice on his part.

Pope also believes he can leverage Lena in order to get what he wants from Smurf. He is willing to keep the truth about Baz's death a secret from the rest of the family so long as she allows Lena to be adopted by the foster family. Sure, it seems like things are happening very quickly with the discussion of adoption. Only a small amount of time has passed since Lena was taken from Pope in the first place. And yet, it's still a healthy outcome for her. But Smurf doesn't believe this is a good enough deal. She would be giving up her granddaughter for nothing in return. And so, Pope agrees to move back into the house. That's what she truly wants. It's just despicable to watch her be so cold in throwing away Lena. She has always presented as the caring grandmother who was willing to do anything to protect Lena. And now, she just tosses her aside and gives up on her just to keep ahold of the one son who she needs to hold close at the moment. Of course, it's always likely that she will break her word and try to get Lena back. She is always trying to get everything that she wants. This party is the perfect time for the family to come together and celebrate. She believes it can be used as a symbol to the community that they are back and stronger than ever before. And yet, that's just not true at all. Deran and Craig are completely absent. Lena doesn't show up so the party is never really about her grand return. Things with Pope remain intense. And J shows up incredibly late with a poor excuse for where he has been throughout the day. As such, it's easy to assume that Smurf is already very suspicious about J's moves against her which is bound to only create more drama for him in the finale.

This is an incredibly pivotal episode for J. This is the one that proves just how far he is willing to go in order to become independent of the rest of the family. He explains that his bond with Mia has grown incredibly strong and trusting lately just because he needs an outsider's perspective to all of this. He needs to trust someone who doesn't belong to his family. He loves his uncles. But they always have the potential of being sucked back into Smurf's world. If he is going to follow through on these plans, he needs to be vicious and have complete strength in his convictions. As such, he frames Morgan after taking over one of the rental properties and making a fortune off of a private sale. It's the idea that Morgan suggested earlier in the season when the bills were really piling up for the family. J was struggling to keep things running as smoothly as possible. And now, he has enough cash to buy this lavish home for Mia. He does it for her with the intention of it also earning her loyalty. She continues to do so much for him. It's still absolutely twisted that he is trusting the woman who killed his father. That too is bound to come out eventually. But again, that may not even matter. J is a killer now as well. Earlier this season he was nervous about the suggestion of having to kill an old lady to ensure she didn't tell the truth to the police. Instead, J and Deran simply abandoned her in the middle of nowhere. J didn't become a killer in that moment. But he does so here. He drives Morgan out to sea and throws her into the water right after he has chummed it. He makes it such a difficult journey for her to survive. She fights back just enough. But it's completely futile. He has won in this moment. But as the rest of the narrative points out, any victory may be short-lived when it comes to the Cody family.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Homecoming" was written by Eliza Clark and directed by David Rodriguez.
  • Frankie teaching Craig about the art of seduction when it comes to cons is fascinating but will probably need to be more fleshed out in the next season. It feels a little too random and forced here. It's mostly just introducing the idea that the way Smurf has run things for so long may not always be the best way. A show of force and creating so much damage carries so many risks to it. Frankie's way is dangerous as well. But it's also putting on a performance and earning someone's trust before completely robbing them.
  • J is able to buy this apartment for Mia because of the money he makes from the private sale. He isn't going to be living there just yet either. He is still at Smurf's. And yet, how is Deran able to afford a million dollar apartment? It's a gesture to Adrian to prove that he is capable of being domestic despite the baggage they both bring into the relationship. But it also presents a sweet moment for the two of them as a couple despite worrying about the logistics.
  • And yet, the show is also introducing the idea that the audience should be worried about Adrian. He may be up to trouble when it comes to his surfing competitions. He's suppose to leave soon for the next big event. He is getting his board ready. But he's also incredibly nervous which worries his associate that they are about to get caught with whatever they are currently planning. That just feels like an empty tease though.
  • Why did J approach Morgan in the first place about establishing holding companies so that he could make huge moves in the real estate market? He seems to create one on his own in order to set up this sale behind Smurf's back. But he is also arming Morgan with information that could tip Smurf off that she should be very worried about her grandson betraying her. That's exactly what occurs too.
  • Why would Smurf even believe that Lena would want an all-pink wardrobe? She is right to say that children grow out of their clothes so quickly. They get bigger with each passing month. But Lena has never worn pink before. Plus, who would only want to wear one color every single day? The design of the bedroom is solid but the clothing choices happen just to make Lena unhappy and want to leave.