Tuesday, August 13, 2019

REVIEW: 'Animal Kingdom' - Smurf Forces Her Latest Heist to Go Awry Which Creates Unexpected Consequences in 'Ghosts'

TNT's Animal Kingdom - Episode 4.12 "Ghosts"

The Cody family sets off on Smurf's mysterious heist, unaware of the surprises that await them when they arrive, which will change the family forever.

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 next episode of TNT's Animal Kingdom.

"Ghosts" was written by John Wells and directed by John Wells

This season was designed around the tragic demise of Smurf. She has faced many threats to her livelihood over the years. And yet, she still stayed strong as the criminal on top of the world. She still commanded a ton of influence. It has long been an open question whether her family could thrive in this world without her calling the shots. They always found their way back to her despite the emotional abuse and manipulation. And now, Smurf is dead. It's the fate that this season couldn't avoid. The incorporation of flashbacks told the story of how Smurf grew as a criminal and built this life for herself. It fleshed out more of her backstory. There may still be story left to tell there. Of course, that narrative has been agonizingly slow and somewhat unnecessary for a large portion of this season. It was mostly just to serve as thematic tissue for the plot concerns happening elsewhere amongst the main characters. A tragic death breaks Smurf and leads to her ultimate rise as a powerful criminal who understands that she can't trust anyone. And now, those same circumstances may break this family apart for good. The divisions were already forming long before they go out on this latest heist. Smurf brought it to her boys with the intention of dying in a blaze of glory. That was apparent to the audience from the offset. Before she embarks on her final job, she looms over the house that she has built this family within. She's still not a loving or nurturing mother. She is still pitting her sons against each other. She withholds so many details about this job. It seems like something that could have gone off without a hitch. Smurf needed a gunfight to erupt though. There was no reason why this had to be a lethal job. She turned it into one in order to get payback for a past slight that Jed did to her. Sure, it's absolutely horrifying and abusive that he once tried to rape her when she wanted to escape his ranch. She fought back and that ultimately forced her into labor. This hour wishes to frame the symmetry of Smurf welcoming two new lives into this world with her pleading with her boys to kill her. In fact, it's mostly centered around Pope. He's the one who knew that she had cancer. He has always been relied upon to deal with killing and disposing of bodies. Deran relied on those skills earlier this season. And yet, Pope can't kill his mother. He hates her because she has forced him into compliance with whatever she wants him to be. She turned him into a killer. But he can't take that fatal shot. The show really wants to tease the audience into thinking that Pope will have to anyway simply because of the various framing devices of this moment. The flashbacks have all been leading up to the birth of Julia and Pope. Smurf introduces Pope to his extended family for the very first time here. They are the preppers the Cody family is ripping off now who will likely seek revenge at some point. Smurf is furious that Pope won't let her die like she wants to. She demands him to kill her. And yet, it's J who ultimately shoots her. He has the clarity to do this and work out all the logistics in the aftermath. He is not as emotionally attached to her as his uncles are. The third season did end with J telling Smurf that he was coming for everything that she had. That was never a major plot concern for this season. Instead, the threat was mostly coming from within as Smurf knew her time was coming to an end. She didn't want a prolonged sense of suffering. She wanted to be in charge of the family until she died. She wanted to control the circumstances of her death. She doesn't succeed in that venture. Pope saves her life while J is the one who kills her. This is a very consequential episode that could forever change the foundation of the show. The people who were once looked to as the leaders of the family are now gone. Smurf and Baz are no longer the ones dictating the terms of this world. J aspires for control over the family. Some people do look to him as the leader. But Pope wanted J to leave after this job while Craig is more interested in being a good father and Deran wants to run away with Adrian and never come back. That creates a finale in which anything is realistically possible.