TV Show Review

TV Review: ANIMAL KINGDOM: Season 2, Episode 4: Broken Boards [TNT]

Jake Weary Animal Kingdom Broken Boards

Animal Kingdom Broken Boards Review

TNT‘s Animal Kingdom, Season 2, Episode 4, Broken Boards finally told it like it is. While Smurf (Ellen Barkin) and Baz (Scott Speedman) faced their reflections in the eyes of the brothers, this episode was all about Deran (Jake Weary) breaking free of any grasp.

In Broken Boards, Smurf and Baz jockeyed for the “Most Charismatic Leader” position, tossing Jay (Finn Cole) between them like a football, or a ball of yarn, whichever metaphor suits your perspective. Meanwhile, Deran is wrapped up in opening his bar and less concerned with Baz’s plan to rob the church. This brings me to the major point of Broken Boards: Deran has revealed himself as our dark horse. I mean, while it is smart to keep in mind that Jay is the one running a long con here, Deran, aka Baby Cody, has broken out as a star player in this game.

While Smurf was busy telling Jay that her sons were too stupid to understand how to use money, Deran was proving her wrong. Baz may be the “son” she thought she taught everything to, but it was Deran who was watching. I cannot say enough about how well the exchange in the alley was crafted. It was an explosive, whispered condemnation, a “coming out”, a breaking free. In the bar, we saw the pressure building in Deran’s head, and it was strange and uncomfortable. Why was he so nervous? Why was he so angry? The bar, aptly named “The Drop”, was a triumphant space that he created, and the whole time he looked morose and homicidal. Cut to the alley way, and the pressure exploded into a geyser of pity and disrespect aimed at his mother, not himself. Without inserting a transcript, suffice to say Deran said it all (insert a standing ovation from every tuned in living room!). Smurf cannot control this son like the others because he has no desire for her. That is a serious hurdle for this woman.

That was the real bombshell of this episode. Deran’s sexual orientation is a conundrum for Smurf because she rules the men in her life by controlling the purse strings and stroking their manhood (I only mean that as a pun). So, how does a purring, sex kittenish, milf dom get inside the head of her gay son? It is clear she was content all these years with manipulating his shame, instead of encouraging his pride. However, this son wisely took what little he had and invested in a money-making venture outside of her control. That shows her. Deran understands Smurf’s game in a way the others do not because he cannot be seduced by her. It was beside the point of her being shocked by the revelation, Smurf was cut deep by one son who looked straight through her. (The imagery of her and him reflecting in the bedroom mirror was not lost. Kudos to cinematography.)

Yes, he wanted her to be angry about his defiance, but we saw even more so that he wanted his mom to be proud of his accomplishment. Little luck there. What little pride she did display was fleeting. Smurf had to do something to cause a scene about her. If she was less self-absorbed (oh if only my wish for that character development would come true!), then she would have noticed that everything she wants to give Jay she has in Deran. She would be proud. She would use this asset.

Instead, I think Broken Boards shows just how empty Smurf is. Her home, when the kids are away, is empty and she spends her time nudging vases on shelves. Her clever money laundering scheme is a conglomerate of empty homes. The imagery there is too ripe not to take a bite. These men fill up her life. She admittedly will “take everything” from them, and yet she has absolutely nothing when she is all alone with said everything. All Smurf really has is her paranoia…and Jay. Jay the wildcard. Jay the double agent. Jay who is hedging his bets. Sorry Smurf, you have nothing there either.

That is what Broken Boards was about: giving up everything to gain something. Deran got it, he really got. Smurf was the one who needed to understand.

I do not mean to ignore the developments with the other brothers, but Deran did kind of steal the show, and Craig (Ben Robson) still has not grown up enough to be considered seriously. Pope (Shawn Hatosy) was his usual creepy self. He had a hard time picking a shirt. Yeah, he has a hard time with every mundane thing. It is the grotesque and inhumane things that come naturally to him. At the same time, being a guardian angel comes easy to him as well. Pope is forever the dichotomy.

Which brings me to Baz. What is up with Baz not wanting to even see Lena (Aamya Deva Keroles)? Seriously, this is becoming ridiculous. There is no emotional element being displayed that would justify this kind of neglect. He put more time into devising a plan to jump from a crane than into planning an afternoon with Lena. This child is not responsible for whatever mysteries surround her. In punishing Smurf with distance, Baz is inadvertently punishing Lena. The behavior is unjustifiable coming from a man who is hell bent on showing how unlike Smurf he really is.

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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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