TV Show Review

TV Review: ANIMAL KINGDOM: Season 2, Episode 9: Custody [TNT]

Ben Robson Animal Kingdom Custody

Animal Kingdom Custody Review

TNT’s Animal Kingdom, Season 2, Episode 9, Custody had Craig (Ben Robson) being boss while Pope (Shawn Hatosy) and J (Finn Cole) balanced their loyalties. When everything was said, unsaid, and done, Smurf (Ellen Barkin) did not know what hit her.

Nevertheless, if all goes well, the Cody boys are going to be pirates and smugglers.

Custody had a main purpose: to watch Craig  and Deran (Jake Weary) pitch a risky job. It was entertaining to say the least. The fledgling master planners want their first heist as leaders to be an act of piracy. There were several holes in the plan, which Baz (Scott Speedman) pointed out. Craig was touchy about any criticism, even constructive criticism. What if someone gets a call out to the coast guard? What if a fight breaks out and the hundred or so guests overtake them? Are any guests armed or private security? Is Nicky (Molly Gordon) really in on this job? Why? There were so many unknowns, the plan seemed unmanageable. We shall see.

While Baz declined the boat job, he had plans of his own to execute. Baz was going to divest Smurf of her fortune made from the sons’ efforts. It was clear that he wanted Pope’s support, but there was something about Pope’s hesitation in the conversation outside Deran’s bar that made Baz uncomfortable. He asked Pope for his help and decided that he could not count on Pope. He asked J for help and trust and he got both from J.  Therein lies the dilemma.

In Custody, J and Pope are straddling two sides of the fence. J knew about the locker, said nothing, and helped rob his mentor. All the while, J took up Smurf’s offer to clean his money, remaining silent about Baz’s betrayal. This is what I have been waiting for since the start of this season. In the beginning of this season, it seemed like J was diving deeper into his loyalties, but Custody revealed his darker intent. J has, whether unwittingly or unwillingly, been in positions to rip at the fabric of this family by playing on the loyalties he has cultivated.

First, J told Javi about the storage locker, although that did not pan out for Javi.  J did not tell his uncles about the storage locker, although they should probably know. Then, J robbed the storage locker, feigning ignorance, and endearing himself to Baz. He even told the group about Craig’s decision to involve Nicky in the boat job, further undermining Craig’s plan. Meanwhile, he benefits from Smurf’s money-laundering tutelage, and could possibly disappear if he wanted. But I bet he will not disappear. He is not finished watching this family rip itself apart.

Pope examined his own issues in Custody.  is guilty of Catherine’s murder and is truly struggling with this knowledge. He wants to protect Baz and Smurf from fallout from his own actions. We even saw him contemplate turning himself in just to end his part in the deception. Maybe he thought turning himself in would also relieve him of the hard decisions that are yet to come. Baz even said it, “he looked like a scared little boy” who does not know which way to turn. Pope knows he does not want either Baz or Smurf to take the fall for murder and he does not want Smurf harmed for his actions. That hug in the kitchen was “goodbye”, but there is still time for Pope to see his way clear of this mess.

Thing is, it bothers me that Smurf could so easily confirm that Baz was clear from prosecution through her police contact, but she did not use the same contact to confirm that Catherine was not a snitch? Instead, she took the opportunity to rid herself of Catherine as competition. Now, at some point this has to dawn on Pope.

It is difficult to be optimistic about the success of the boat job, but maybe, it will go splendidly. What we saw in Custody was Deran leaping into a drug smuggling deal just to secure an accomplice, and nothing bodes well in that plan. Smurf vetoed the drug smuggling business ages ago, and Baz flat out turned down Marco’s proposal a while back. Here, Marco (played by the super charismatic J. J. Soria) hustled the desperate brothers into a deal that could only bring more heat their way. It made them look even more dopey given that they started the evening thinking they would hustle Marco. Also, was not Deran the one saying he would not do hard time for murder, but here he was willing to do hard time for running drugs. There is no such thing as “one time” in the drug game Deran.

One word about the music in this episode: perfect. Animal Kingdom tends to let silence and ambient sounds support its storytelling given it is a saga by the ocean. So, in Custody it was easy to notice some of the best music in the series so far, coming from the minds of Alexis Marsh and Samuel Jones (credited as Alexis & Sam). Black Pistol Fire’s “Run Rabbit Run” really added to the adrenaline in the otherwise mundane task of just opening a storage unit. Likewise, it was a great choice to highlight Smurf’s surprise with Rolling Stones’ “Ventilator Blues”, asking “what you gonna do about it?” now that you have been robbed twice in as many months.

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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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