The first season of “Animal Kingdom” had some good things and some bad things. The series is about a very corrupt family that delves into the life of organized crime. It’s led by Smurf (Ellen Barkin), a tough yet good-looking older lady who’s accompanied by her adopted son, Baz (Scott Speedman) and the rest of her real sons, Andrew “Pope” Cody (Shawn Hatosy), Craig Cody (Ben Robson) and Deran Cody (Jake Weary). Each character has something weird and/or mysterious about him. Pope gets out of prison and gives off this weird vibe like he might be the real father of Baz’ little girl, Lena, Craig is a borderline junkie and Deran is secretly gay among this motley crew of macho wannabe gangsters. It’s all tied together when Smurf’s grandson, Josh “J” Cody (Finn Cole) moves in with the family after his mom/Pope’s twin sister overdoses on heroin in the first episode. These aren’t normal heist men or thugs or gangsters. They sort of give off a white trash and maybe even an incestuous vibe. The potential for this show was there, but, unfortunately, it fell flat on a few things.
First of all, I think “Animal Kingdom” was trying so hard to be an HBO or Netflix show but was constricted by the TV-MA stamp of network TV. I felt like the show tried so hard to show as much nudity and as many sex scenes as possible but couldn’t go all the way because it was on TNT instead of HBO, Netflix, Starz, Showtime, etc. I felt the same way about the dialogue at times. The conversations seemed held back because of the network TV restrictions. I just felt like “Animal Kingdom” kept trying to push the envelope but never truly got to the point where it realized its full potential.
There were also some plotlines that I thought were a little unrealistic. For example, a paintball course in the middle of a military base—I’m not super familiar with military bases, but I might have to call BS on that one. Also, there weren’t any cameras on the military base? I’m pretty sure if Building 15 held the kind of money the Cody’s were trying to steal, they’d probably have cameras surveying the place. The Cody’s are also supposed to be big-time, but at one point, they were doing low-level heists, such as stealing coins out of arcade games. I thought they could’ve shown a more articulate way of them executing heists.
I also thought they could’ve done a better job with Smurf. Up until the last episode when she shoots the man who may or may not have killed her mom during a heist from back in the day, Smurf wasn’t all that much of a bada**. Honestly, throughout the entire season I kept thinking to myself, “Why don’t the boys just turn on her and do their own jobs?” I know Smurf is manipulative and she’s the boy’s mom, but come on. I wanted more corruption out of Smurf. I wanted more evilness. I also would’ve enjoyed a few more flashbacks to delve into the mind and the background of Smurf. I even thought the boys could’ve been tougher, too. At certain times, they seemed to just give in to Smurf’s demands. I thought they could’ve been a little more corrupt as well.
However, the first season of “Animal Kingdom” wasn’t all bad. I really enjoyed Finn Cole’s performance as J. I think he has the potential to be a star in the future. (You heard it here first.) J was levelheaded, smart and just the right amount of corrupt. I’ll be excited to see his role grow in the second season. Another thing I enjoyed was the writer’s choice to have Pope kill Baz’ wife, Catherine. During that episode, I thought to myself, “If he let’s her go, all hope might be lost for this show.” But my interest for the show lived on. I think this might go back to the whole network TV restriction. With Pope killing Cat, it gave the series some much-needed guts.
Overall, “Animal Kingdom” was entertaining. It had its fair share of flaws, but it left room to grow in season two. It definitely wasn’t my favorite series, but it also wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen. I will still be tuned into the second season next year.
TNT renewed “Animal Kingdom” for a second season on July 6. During the season one finale, TNT announced season two will be back in 2017.