Animal Kingdom





Paul Asay
Kristin Smith

TV Series Review

We at Plugged In are all about family. We write for families. We watch movies for families. Our umbrella ministry is, well, focused on the family.

Yep, families are great. Families are wonderful. We love ’em.

Except, y’know, if the family in question is built around organized crime … well, that’s another thing entirely.


Welcome to the Cody clan—just your typical California family, assuming the typical California family owns dozens of illegal automatic rifles and uses them should anyone look at a family member crossways.

Well, maybe they’re not all that violent. Pope’s the most likely guy to kill for crossways looks, and even for the Codys, he’s a little … extreme. Janine Cody, or “Smurf,” as she’s called, loves her sons (perhaps incestuously so, the show suggests), and she tries to keep a tighter rein on her boys than that.

But Smurf, who had been in jail, has found that it’s not easy to run a sprawling criminal operation and control her children from the clink. Good thing she’s out now. Pope and the rest of her boys—wild child Craig and (relatively) stable gay son Deran—are mostly on their own now, which might leave Smurf feeling a bit … blue.

But Smurf’s not without her resources, or allies. Joshua, her grandson who most call “J,” serves as her eyes, ears and sometimes hands in the family’s day-to-day illegal operations. She seems to have some shadowy connections with other gangs in the region, too. And if her sons get a little too out of line … well, be warned: She just might narc on one or two of them to Pearce, the no-nonsense detective who’s been chasing after the Cody clan for years now.


Animal Kingdom, based on the 2010 Australian movie of the same name, checks all the boxes for your standard 21st-century television drama with prestige pretentions.

Emmy-award-winning actor(s) at the helm? Check, in the guise of Ellen Barkin (and, as of Season 3, Dennis Leary, too). Dysfunctional family dynamics, a la The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, etc.? Check. Gritty, gloomy, depressing storylines? Oh, yeah, let’s check that box a couple of times. Circle it, maybe.

Oh, and lots and lots of gratuitous content? I mean, can a cable drama actually get greenlit without a lot of sex and violence nowadays?

Animal Kingdom airs on basic cable (TNT), which means that it doesn’t go full Game of Thrones in terms of its sex and nudity. But it pushes the proverbial envelope as far as it seemingly can, meaning bare backsides and fairly movement-heavy sexual dalliances are shown.

Few cable outlets feel pressured to even put a modicum of restraint on the violence its shows can engage in, and Animal Kingdom sometimes takes advantage of that lack of restraint. When people get hurt or die here, rarely is it pretty. Language can be a big issue, too.

But for all of the boxes the show checks on its way to vying for prestige-television accolades, Animal Kingdom falls short even here. While, say, Breaking Bad’s excesses could be seen by many as servicing a story, Animal Kingdom’s salacious sojourns feel gratuitous and, often, pointless. There’s no real suspense here, no narrative excellence. For all of its deep content-laden chasms, the show feels curiously flat. For all the sex and killing we see here, your family probably has more realistic drama than this TNT show does.

Smurf may rule her Animal Kingdom, but frankly, I think the whole show might be in need of a coup.

Episode Reviews

May 28, 2019: “Janine”

Flashbacks show how Janine Cody (a.k.a. Smurf) became a criminal. Brothers Pope, Craig and Deran Cody, with the help of nephew Joshua, rob a bank.

The robbery includes death threats, shooting a man in the chest (blood sprays in all directions)- and a near-death encounter. A mother manipulates her son and, it’s implied, has some sort of sexual control over him (we don’t see anything). Two men box and, naturally, hit one another repetitively.

Heterosexual and homosexual couples flirt, kiss and lie in bed together, covered only by sheets.. A man calls his girlfriend a hooker as he kisses her and lifts up the back of her shirt. Women sport cleavage-baring tops. Multiple conversations between men and women include references to sexually transmitted diseases, orgies, oral sex and arousal.

Men and women talk about partying, “shooting up,” and smuggling cocaine. They also drink beer andsmoke cigarettes and marijuana. A bong sits on a table. A man crudely talks about a child deficating on a carpet.

God’s name is abused three times, paired with “d–n,” while Jesus’ name is misued twice. The s-word is used more than ten times. Other profanities include multiple uses of “b–ch,” “a–hole,” “a–,” “p-ssy,” d–k” and “h—.”

July 23, 2018: “Libertad”

After Smurf is released from prison, she attemps to persuade Pope, Craig, Deran and J to head to Mexico to retreive her stolen funds. When they decline, she must find someone else willing to carry out her dirty business. Smurf and the boys visit Baz’ grave.

J and a young woman joke about being one another’s “booty call.” Smurf and her ex-husband, Billy, hit the sack (we don’t see any critical body parts, but the two have a graphic conversation about sexual ability). Men walk around shirtless, and one man is seen completely naked from the back after having sex with Deran (we hear noises and see movements). Craig tries to give Deran relationship advice concerning his male love interests. Women wear revealing outfits.

Characters lie, cheat, steal and launder money. A man is shot. (His blood sprays onto multiple surfaces and he’s taken to a doctor in Mexico because his friends don’t want to get caught for their illegal behavior). Someone tries to frame a woman for murder. A couple has a convestion about marijuana and, later, a possible stint in the local State Penitentiry. A young girl is taken into child services and a man expresses hate toward his mother.

God’s name is misused four times, often paired with “d–n.” Other harsh language includes over 10 uses of the s-word and multiple uses of “d–n,” “a–,” “b–ch,” “b–tard” and “p—y.” People consume hard liquor, cocktails, beer and other alcoholic beverages. One man in particular is a notorious alcoholic. Poeople smoke cigarettes. Men and women have vulgar discussions concerning the male anatomy.

Animal Kingdom: May 28, 2018 “The Killing”

Barry “Baz” Blackwell, Smurf’s adopted son shot in the Season 2 finale, only lasts for a few moments in Season 3. He dies in the emergency room, blood splattering to the hospital floor and pooling in the crux between his throat and chest. Now the question is, who killed him? Could it have been someone in the family? Could it even have been Smurf herself?

We see Smurf’s oldest son in the shower, his backside in full view for several moments. A woman (Renn) walks along a beach, apparently naked (we see her bare back, but the camera doesn’t peer any lower) before she slaps on a dress laying in the sand. Later, she goes to a Mexican hotspot with middle son Craig: She wears an incredibly short, revealing dress, and the two dance sensually while drinking beer. Several guys walk around shirtless, and Smurf grandson Joshua is seen sharing a bed with girlfriend Nicky.

One of Smurf’s prison pals mentions that she just might be a grandmother at 33, and intimates that she’s going to force her daughter to go to “the clinic.” Another woman is accused of dressing “slutty” around a male visitor. Pope accuses Baz’s girlfriend of cheating on Baz, using some fairly graphic language.

Craig pours a round of shots for some guys, drinking his own down quickly. (Several people drink beer during the scene, too.) He tells Renn that he was “pretty wasted” the night before, and Renn tells him that drinking a bottle or two of tequila tends to do that. Pope’s house is filled with evidence of a wild party. (When police stop by, he assumes it’s because someone complained about his festivities.) Characters smoke. Seemingly dozens of guns are seen in the episode, being toted, loaded or packed in duffel bags.

Baz is memorialized by his family and friends. Characters say the s-word a half-dozen times. They also utter “a–,” “b–ch,” “d–n” and “h—.” God’s name is misused twice (once with “d–n,”) and Jesus’ name is abused three times.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Kristin Smith

Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).

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