Tuesday, August 20, 2019

REVIEW: 'Animal Kingdom' - Various Associates Come Out of the Woodwork to Celebrate Smurf's Life in 'Smurf'

TNT's Animal Kingdom - Episode 4.13 "Smurf"

In the aftermath of Smurf's heist, the Codys have to protect their reputation, while friends and enemies from the past close in. Deran realizes there is only one way to keep Adrian safe. Craig struggles to adapt to a new pace of life as Pope and J's growing tension reaches a boiling point.

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 finale of TNT's Animal Kingdom.

"Smurf" was written by Eliza Clark and directed by David Rodriguez

Smurf's influence has long loomed over Oceanside. She was in charge of the local criminal operations. She was untouchable for so long. She had friends all over the city who loved and respected her. They would do just about anything for her. She cultivated these relationships over a long period of time. She may not have actually trusted anyone but she knew how to rely on people to ensure they were all satisfied at the end of the day with money in their bank accounts. This is the life she aspired to have. She could hunker down in one place while still continuing her criminal pursuits. Having a family didn't prevent her from being this person either. It just ensured that it was always complicated for her to show any kind of love. She did control her sons. She was the head of the household and needed everyone to follow her orders. Her boys lashed out because they had this personal connection. They could feel more slighted by her than the community at large because they had to live with her and the various traumas her actions caused. And now, she forced her boys to kill her because she refused to die as a shell of what she used to be. Her death immediately sparks concern over this family. None of the Cody boys are seen as viable candidates to step up and fill the criminal vacuum this community has long grown accustomed to. Smurf provided a service. And now, all of that business is up for grabs because there's no guarantee that J, Pope, Deran or Craig will follow through and be as trustworthy as Smurf has always been. In fact, this finale features many people coming out of the woodwork simply because they no longer have the fear of what would happen to them if they returned to Oceanside. That means fathers have the chance to interact with their sons. Pope has never been given an opportunity to know his family. Smurf needed so much from him. And now, Deran can't deal with his father or fall into the stories Billy is telling about now being sober and wanting to make things right. Meanwhile, Craig doesn't even know that Jake is his father. There is this core relationship that has long been missing from all of their lives. Craig has a baby of his own now that he needs to protect and watch over. He is now the one building a family. He is committed to that choice even though he hears the waves of the ocean calling out to him. Pope just wants all of this mourning to be done with already. He's not one for parties. He just sees the value in doing something so that people feel like they had the opportunity to mourn this loss and celebrate Smurf's life. Of course, that's also just a bunch of people looking into the Cody world to see just how well the boys are doing. They want the guarantees that the payments will keep coming. Or they want to see if it is now feasible to go after them for the various crimes they have committed. Pope doesn't want to deal with that ambiguity for a long time. J has the rational response. He has that calm and collected mind that always made Smurf a powerful player in this world. But Smurf's will alienates the family as well. She gives the bulk of her assets including the house to Pam. That's a surprising reveal fueled entirely by the flashbacks. It establishes that she has long had a relationship with Pam and may actually trust her more than anyone else. None of the Cody boys even know who she is though. Smurf operated in secret that way. She never allowed anyone to know the true extent of what she was doing - even when she was in prison. J learned a lot from her. But now, this family will have to fight together in order to survive. That's what they are committed to doing though. It seemed almost inevitable that they would splinter as a result of Smurf's death because they couldn't handle the burden of being a family in this world anymore. Pope wanted J gone and Deran was ready to run away with Adrian. Instead, the family stands united with Adrian losing absolutely everything because Deran has been both a loving and toxic influence on his life. That is an appropriately devastating moment. It's certainly more effective than the final beat which showcases the family attacking Angela's brother to show that they should still be feared and respected in this town. But that final moment may also prove that everyone is right to assume that they are the muscle of this operation and can't truly be trusted to protect all of their interests when it comes to handling the finances responsibly. That could, in turn, create a very dynamic and tumultuous future for the family. That is an interesting place to explore from a narrative perspective. But it also feels as if the show won't allow this family to break apart even further even though that's what it has been suggesting for a long time now.