Smurf sniffs out the extracurricular activities of her ANIMAL KINGDOM while the boys celebrate Pope’s birthday with paintball, skydiving, and prostitutes in “Dead to Me.” “J” has been aloof since the death of his mother. They don’t show much of what he was like before that, maybe it’s just his way. This it week, he comes out of his shell a little.
It’s Pope’s birthday, which means it’s also Julie’s birthday. “J” asks everyone what he or she remembers of her. He asks Catherine if they were friends and how well Baz knew her. There are pictures of Baz and Julie together but no one offers any details. Even twin brother Pope is more interested in what Julie may have said about him than giving “J” any glimpse into her life before motherhood.
Baz is suffering from being shut out by Smurf. For weeks, everyone has been asking her for money and suddenly they can afford to throw Pope a big birthday celebration. She asks them all if they’ve been doing side work, but they all stay quiet. Even when she pulls “J” one on one, he says nothing. It isn’t until they’re 15 thousand feet up in a tiny airplane that Baz admits to the Pope and Daren that he sold the cocaine they brought back from Mexico. Pope admits to the payroll heist and that he had “J” ride along.
Characters in Animal Kingdom struggle for control and freedom. “J” has almost no control or he cedes it any time someone asks him to do something. Smurf is all about control and personal freedom. Baz is somewhere in the middle. He wants a certain amount of control but also wants to remain Smurf’s loyal subject. When Baz finds “J” at Elizabeth’s house, he tells him to leave, keep away from his house and family. “J” obeys. Later, Baz is the first to confess to Smurf he sold some cocaine on the side and mentions the heist with Pope, Daren, and “J.” Both Smurf and Baz are surprised to hear “J” is already involved. I can’t tell if they are concerned about him getting involved in their criminal activity, or if they’re just concerned with how quickly he’s getting involved.
Craig and Daren don’t have any obvious ambitions to run the team. Craig likes the freedom of being at a constant state of play, and Daren suffers huge identity issues. Daren doesn’t even feel free to be openly gay around his family. With his Sonny Corleone type violent temper, this will probably put a tragic end to any real relationships he might have.
Flaws are good for character and character in emotional dilemmas are good for stories. Animal Kingdom has spent a few episodes showing us the Cody flaws and soft spots. We should see some great emotional conflicts moving forward. “J,” the one person furthest from Smurf’s real control, could be the agent of change. The more they try and treat his mother like she didn’t exist, the more he anchors to her memory.
Season 1, Episode 4 (S01E04)
Animal Kingdom airs Tuesdays at 9PM on TNT
Eric lives in a world where the television is great, the smiles are warm, the pizza is hot, the puppies are playful, and the zombies are slow and meander while he reloads.
Eric Rodriguez | Contributor