Saturday, June 11, 2016

Animal Kingdom -- TNT's New Drama Has Crazy Fun in the Sun


I used to live in California and I kind of miss it. And then again I don’t. One of the things in the don’t column stems from people like the characters in TNT’s new show “Animal Kingdom.” I think it’s a great show but that’s because I’m not living that life. Some people not living that life will think that the theme is a bit far-fetched. It’s not though.

Julia died of an overdose of bad heroin. She’s lying on the couch beside her seventeen year old son who is too stunned to cry. The paramedics come to pronounce the mom dead. The funeral was just another extended horror for poor J.  He’s gone to live with his grandma but she’s no ordinary grandma. She runs a violent crew—her three sons and her right-hand man in the criminal enterprise – Baz.

At the grave site, everyone’s all silent and wooden when a former neighbor woman issues a stark warning:  “They don’t belong here, J. Don’t stand there wid’ ‘em. Don’t.”

Maybe it was good advice but it came at the wrong time. J’s mother is lying cold and dead as Dina, the former neighbor, speaks out against the Cody family: “Maybe she (your mom) was weak but she did everything she could to protect you from them.”

Nothing like getting cheerful warnings like that at your mother’s funeral, especially when you’re a seventeen year old high school student with no family, no means of support, and no prospects. J thanks Dina the neighbor but demurs. Craig speaks up for the Cody family: “Get the hell out of here.”

Would anyone else like to say anything? Mercifully not. The cemetery workers lower the casket into the ground and the various family members make a pass around the grave before everyone leaves. The Cody boys are irreverent as they comment on the ceremony:  “I guess we’re Lutheran. Who knew?” Deran responds: “It (the funeral) must have been the cheapest.”   Sad, pathetic, and all too real.

Pope also forced into the next caper the gang planned to pull. That he immediately wants to commit more crime just one day after his release from prison defines him. Pope has a sociopathic personality. He’s fiendish, diabolical, violent, and dangerous and calculating. If there’s anything to add it’s that he’s a creep – with no sense of personal boundaries.

And the boys play silly games like playing basketball by popping food into J’s girlfriend Nikki’s mouth which will earn her $200.  J tells he she doesn’t have to play but she seems to like it. Though he’s not a blood family member, Baz gives J some friendly advice about how to play things with Uncle Pope who feels displaced by the newcomer.

Not all the games are silly, however. They’re the one where they rent a group of junkies and confine them in a vehicle. It’s a violent takeover, but since they’re junkies they can be paid off with drugs. The purpose of the confinement is so that they spread their DNA about the vehicle they use in a robbery. This is a clever ruse to confuse the forensics people when the police find the vehicle.

The heist itself is a jewelry store robbery in which the crew crashes an SUV into a luxury jewelry boutique. Deran drives the getaway car and picks up his brother with the loot, but they bump into security in a back alley. One of the security officers gets crushed against a dumpster. The other one fires and hits Craig in the shoulder.

You can’t blame J for being a little freaked out by this family now. He’s gone back to his mom’s old apartment and got the phone number of a guy he believes is his dad. A man answers but hangs up when J can’t even tell the guy what his father’s last name is. So it’s back to grandma’s house except he runs into the dope dealer who wants the money J’s mom owes him. J’s angry, not about to take any crap from anyone. He overpowers the guy and is this close to shooting him: “She’s (my mom) dead from the crap that you sold her.” Then he’s out on his bicycle in the cleansing air of the boardwalk, staring at the rolling, healing ocean waves. When he returns to the beach house, things are even more disturbing. Baz and Pope are cauterizing Craig’s bullet wound, while Smurf is singing lullabies to her crying ‘baby’ last born son.

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