Tuesday, May 28, 2019

REVIEW: 'Animal Kingdom' - Smurf Takes Actions to Survive in Both the Past and the Present in 'Janine'

TNT's Animal Kingdom - Episode 4.01 "Janine"

The Codys pull off a risky robbery that results in a big realization for Craig. The relationship between Smurf and Pope remains rocky even as Pope tries out a new outlet for his anger. Deran involves Adrian in the family business despite warning from Craig. J tests the waters of his new identity outside the Cody empire. A new criminal crew is introduced with a surprising connection to the Codys.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season premiere of TNT's Animal Kingdom.

"Janine" was written by Eliza Clark and directed by John Wells

The drama begins its fourth season with an immediate return to action. The Cody family is once again pulling off a daring heist in pursuit of a massive payday. The family is working together once more. And yet, not everything is cohesive and built on trust. Some of that extends from the various responsibilities they deal with outside of the family and this latest job. The brothers have buildings to actually manage now while J is taking college classes. Moreover, Pope is in a very dark headspace where he no longer has a reason to keep living. That's very dangerous and ominous. It's a startling start to the season. The first image of Pope is him getting beat up. He eventually emerges victorious in that underground fight. But he is continually tempting fate while refusing to connect on a deeper level with his family. He has submitted to Smurf's will. He is living with her again. He is content with this arrangement because it keeps Lena safe. That may be the only thing that is keeping him going at this point. He feels rejected in every other aspect of his life. He can't even muster up any kind of energy when it comes to being around his brothers. Instead, he is quick to intimidate and threaten violence the moment that something goes wrong with the job. That too is very startling. He has always been impulsive and imbalanced. The current state of his life though is remarkably different. Craig and Deran don't even believe he should be involved in this job at all. But they still fundamentally follow the orders as Smurf gives them. She is the one still ultimately deciding how this family business is run. She believes she has found a new status quo that allows all of her boys to rely on her once more while respecting their independence. She puts together this job. It's a solid plan. However, this premiere also articulates that it's the same exact job as what Smurf was doing with her very first crew decades ago. Sure, the logistics are very different. But the target is exactly the same. In the past, Smurf and her crew hit a bank with the unexpected complication of killing a man who reaches for his conceived gun. In the present, the Cody boys create a fake kidnapping in order to gain access to the bank's vault. There are different obstacles now when it comes to pulling off a heist like this. That's what makes it seem so risky to someone like Frankie who sees Smurf as adhering to a specific way of being in this business of conning people and pulling off these lucrative jobs. Frankie has a proposition that could have a higher payoff without having to resort to the same tactics that the Cody family has used for a long time now. The art of conning holds some truths no matter what the job is. It's all about deceit and survival. Smurf adapts to the situation to continue working with her crew in the past. She has survived all of these years because of that core instinct. She may have a new threat coming from within her family because J continues to keep her at arm's length while plotting his own plans. But this premiere sets the stage for the various fractions of this world to increasingly start turning against each other. Of course, that also features yet another law enforcement officer targeting the Cody family - even though he doesn't know it yet. That's the outcome of Adrian getting caught smuggling drugs out of the country. That was a sudden plot twist that didn't entirely work last year. But now, this premiere is setting him up with some significant importance just as he and Deran are settling into a comfortable home life. That means there is a fair amount of narrative dread hanging over the proceedings here even though everyone continues to survive and pull off their jobs to great success.