TNT‘s Animal Kingdom Judas Kiss TV Show Review. Animal Kingdom: Season 1, Episode 9: ‘Judas Kiss,’ could have gone by ‘The Best Laid Plans;’ except the execution of the plan amounted to a sort of sleight-of-hand – meant to keep us braced for calamity on stage, while calamity came out of the audience. Because certain melodramatic elements had to be served, the focus fell on weak links being poked at, at this critical point of the season.
Finally taking the stage, for the Clan Cody command performance, was the full compliment of Smurflings. Baz & Pope (Scott Speedman, Shawn Hatosy) setting aside their competition for Alpha status, with Charlie & Delta dogs, Craig & Deran (Ben Robson, Jake Weary), doing their best impression of not being screw ups. While Charlie & Delta Dog sported enough hair for active duty tours in Iraq/ Afghanistan, no way would they pass for base personnel – that hair don’t fly in any outfit, let alone for Jarheads. Not that anyone noticed; but it seemed like the kind of detail Pope’s OCD would try to cover (especially since he was the only one who really looked the part).
Taking the time to show Smurf (Ellen Barkin) resorting to ritual, to deal with the routine’s nerves, was where the caper shell game attempted to slip in the episode’s real sources of conflict & suspense. While the big Dogs ran the course, the pack was fraying at the periphery – starting with J (Finn Cole) & Catherine (Daniella Alonso).
At J’s corner of that edge, Det. Yates (Nicki Micheaux) had her carrot & stick game well practiced, but her bedside manner needed work – since her pitch flew like a wet sack. However smart J is cracked up to be, I think he’s smart enough to know that cops with flipping leverage make lousy friends. Listening to her applying peer pressure logic just screamed for a dressing down from J. Sure, that would not have gone well for him; but it would’ve at least provoked an honest reaction, I imagined. Unfortunately, Yates was right about Alexa (Ellen Wroe) being a better carrot (cue rabbit sex).
Kids do say the darnedest things – something Catherine should’ve kept in mind, when using Lena (Aamya Deva Keroles) as a Smurfscreen. Telling Lena to keep Patrick (Dorian Missick) a secret from her father, but not her grandmother, seemed particularly careless (again, if you’re going to leave them alone, together). Almost as careless as leaving an OCD homemaker/ control freak’s well used anything in any state other than it was found in.
Once the main event wrapped, Baz was left conveniently preoccupied, while Smurf attempted a pivot to the matter at hand she was aware of. Her breaking down the Catherine question to Pope was done over his right shoulder, but she might as well have been sitting on his left. With all the talk about Pope being crazy, one had to wonder whose voice he hears in his head, if that scene was any indication of his upbringing. I’d go so far as to suggest that some childhood flashback fill-in scenes (à la Game of Throne’s adventures of young Ned Stark) could serve the series well; but there’s too much melodrama as it is, already, and the full-circle aspect – to Pope’s passions being turned against Catherine – clearly framed.
The beauty to the Pope-Catherine confrontation was its culmination aspect. Between their history, and Pope’s mad mix of being both hair triggered & earnest, there were all sorts of ways it could’ve played out. It also helped that her panic was justified enough, without her burying herself with more careless alone time for the suspicious party.
Animal Kingdom (once you get past the Point Break coating) has been largely about feeding (and feeding off of) the Human id – rendering its characters into animals in varying states of survive/ thrive mode. I’d say the series may have overplayed some aspects of that premise, but that has also meant subtle moments going long ways. Moments like Catherine applying the very Human rationale of ‘fight fire with fire’ to her own survival moment. Still, the fact that she took to pushing those same Pope buttons as Smurf still hinged on where Pope’s hinges would swing; so the tension remained.
Whether it was Smurf or Catherine that pushed the right/ wrong button, what Pope did was done for his own reasons. What he did next would’ve been best left to viewer imagination. You’d be surprised how the element of surprise can be applied to such an outcome, depending on your level of cynicism.
So just who was the Judas, in this case, anyway? These wheels have been turning all season long, to the point where none of the episode’s turns came as particularly shocking twists. Everyone has had a reason to turn on someone else, and I suppose that lack of linear conflict may have dulled the impact of the episode. On the other hand, that same lack of moral high-ground also obscures due comeuppance – and not knowing who (else) is going to pay, for a season of animalistic acting out, made ‘Judas Kiss’ as useful a season finale set-up as any, I guess.
Ultimately, however, that will be determined – in hindsight – by the season finale.
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