TV Show Review

TV Review: ANIMAL KINGDOM: Season 1, Episode 4: Dead to Me [TNT]

Ellen Barkin Scott Speedman Animal Kingdom Dead to Me

TNT‘s Animal Kingdom Dead to Me TV Show Review. Animal Kingdom: Season 1, Episode 4: Dead to Me celebrated birthdays while Smurf (Ellen Barkin) showed the boys that their insubordination would not be tolerated. As far as she was concerned, everyone was dead to her unless they remained loyal.

Smurf put the family on lock-down. Somehow she figured out that the boys were running small jobs behind her back. Thing is, she drove them to it. It makes no sense for a mother to expect her pups to be loyal when they are starving. Yet, her instinct is to deprive them of anything else she provides: no jobs, no money, and they cannot even sleep at her home. Yes, everything belongs to you Mama Cody, we get it!

Baz (Scott Speedman) took Smurf’s cold shoulder the hardest, venting his frustration on Catherine (Daniella Alonso), and J (Finn Cole) alike. It was hard to see Baz as a badass criminal mind while he was pleading with Catherine to “please please” call Smurf to “fix it” and make it right. Make what right? Smurf absconded with Catherine’s child, sending her into a panic, just to prove a point about proper child care. Catherine was right to say she should not have to call Smurf to apologize for anything. Smurf should be apologizing to Catherine, and Baz should stay out of it or stick up for her. That whole scene made no sense and felt overinflated.

Smurf froze everyone out until she got the truth about the outside jobs the boys have been pulling. So, who broke? Baz. He was walking under this cloud of conspiracy and depression the entire episode. He actually rivaled Pope’s (Shawn Hatosy) usual lost puppy look. It says a lot that the leader was the one who broke, while everyone else stayed silent, including J. Whether it was sadness or desperation that made Baz come clean, either way, it was disappointing.

What was not disappointing, and actually surprising, was Pope’s compassion towards J in this episode. His affinity for J leapt from suspicion to sympathy in the space of a minute. Watching J and Pope slowly march into a dark graveyard, you would think one of the two would not walk out. Instead, Pope brought J to visit his mother’s grave. J’s mother and Pope share the same birthday, and yet no one even says her name. J mostly stayed silent about it, but you could tell it was eating him up. What do you know, her death has deeply affected Pope too.

Pope’s attempt at showing a little warmth in this episode was nice to see, but can he possibly be called an ally? The emotions Hatosy gave us in Dead to Me make it difficult to see Pope as a two-dimensional adversary to J, or Baz, or anybody. J certainly looked confused by the sentiment. J, you are not alone, buddy. This side of Pope is baffling.

Speaking of birthdays, the Cody family does birthdays differently. Extreme sports, debauchery, and fights in mid-air. For most of the episode Deran (Jake Weary) and Craig (Ben Robson) acted like juvenile degenerates. (I almost felt like maybe Smurf had every right to ground these fools.) Pope even had a good time at the strip club, although, he was clearly thinking about Catherine the whole time. Also, the birthday cake scene was possibly the most awkward “Happy Birthday” scene of the century. Smurf cannot seem to do anything without injecting her seductive undertones into the mix (and it’s beginning to be redundant).

J cannot even catch a break at school. His home life is unstable. His girlfriend is a drug addict. Now, his teacher has shown him a side of herself that resembles his grandmother’s predatory nature. In the beginning, his teacher seemed like a decent person that genuinely cared for J’s well-being. Suddenly, she is playing too-cool-for-school and interested in him personally…or romantically? It just seems like another person J has to guard against, but clearly has no idea how.

The only woman in his life that appears interested in his actual feelings is Catherine (and maybe his aimless girlfriend, Nicky (Molly Gordon), but I am still waiting for that girl to matter). Catherine explained a little about why J’s mother was exiled from the Kingdom. Still, it was unclear if his mother was the screw up or the family screwed her up. Did Smurf send her only daughter away because she was competition in the household? Pope seemed to have an opinion on the matter but was reluctant to share it. So, that intrigue continues.

Overall, the episode felt cold. Even the high intensity parts fell a little flat. It was like the wild world buzzing with adrenaline that was created in the first few episodes was subdued. We were left with loaded glances and bursts of rage that made little sense. Maybe that was the point. We felt the impact of being cut off from Smurf’s affection – it leaves a void. Nothing feels right when she turns against you. Just ask J’s mother. What did you think of the Cody’s in Dead to Me?

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About the author


I am ...a lover of all things film ...a published poet with a law degree from Howard University School of Law ...a D.C. native, who frequents local and international film festivals ...a self-professed couch potato who can usually be caught watching anything produced by Joss and Jed Whedon. My favorite TV shows include the Buffy & Angel Series, Sons of Anarchy, Oz, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and The Shield. Still, I am open to everything on TV and Netflix, which is doing big things.

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