How do the Codys move on without Smurf?
Thanks to the Preppers coming for them on Animal Kingdom Season 5 Episode 1, the Codys barely had time to process her death, but life's a jungle, and the boys have a hell of a lot to grapple with now that the queen of it is gone.
Craig is surprisingly sentimental, Deran has compartmentalized his feelings, and J is thinking about his mother. But Pope is the most visibly affected right now, and given his relationship with Smurf, it's understandable.
It was no shortage of excitement and action for the opener. Although, oddly, it almost feels as though this premiere was picking up where Animal Kingdom Season 4 Episode 12 left off instead of Animal Kingdom Season 4 Episode 13.
It seems, and one can only hope, that Angela disappeared into the ether. Maybe she won't be part of the crew as "the new Smurf" or whatever else some hailed her as being other than a mind baffling nuisance walking around in 80 degrees Fahrenheit weather in a down winter coat. Good riddance.
Instead, the boys claiming Smurf's throne and running Oceanside got placed on the backburner until they could resolve the threat of Jed's boys. The Preppers were coming for them, sooner rather than later, and it had everyone on edge.
Craig's natural progression into family man is notable, so it wasn't surprising when he went to Renn, telling her to pack her and the baby up so they can get out of dodge until the heat was off of them.
But then, in true Craig fashion, he was the only one who thought they could take on the Preppers and keep their haul of gold. And in his defense, after all the hell they went through on that job, including losing Smurf, it would feel like all for naught if they gave the gold back.
Smurf killed their father, and we stole their gold. This is never going to blow over, Craig.J
In hindsight, maybe Craig had a point. Pope's proposal that they return everything and let bygones be bygones was sensible, but nothing about the Preppers was reasonable in the first place, and it sure as hell didn't stop them from coming after the Codys hard.
They didn't have enough man or firepower to take down these guys, so it was the smart move that should've caused the least amount of trouble. The Preppers finding out about Smurf's secret apartment ahead of the Codys was a total fluke.
No matter how much they dig into Smurf's past, there are always secrets and surprises. Evidently, Smurf's side apartment was where Pamela resides.
She's been right under their nose.
Upon getting there, you could tell that Pope probably recognized her walking on the pier, but he didn't say anything about it as they have other issues to face. And for J, it was a fascinating ordeal since the Preppers tore up the apartment revealing Smurf's emergency passports and cash, but also dozens of photos of Julia.
I love the Cody boys. Half the time, none of them can stand each other or get along well for shit, but as a unit, when they're working a job or fighting for their lives, they work together phenomenally.
Pope and Craig's takedown of Odin with an assist by a homeless man was great, but then you had Deran and J parkouring on condo rooftops until they could sandwich the Preppers inside, and it was totally badass.
It should've ended there. The Preppers got their gold back, and they found out that not only was Smurf dead, but J, her own grandson, killed her.
Their parents' beef should've gone to the grave with them.
And if it were up to the one cousin that Pope spent time with, maybe it would've been done for good. He seemed sincere when he extended an invitation to Pope to return to the compound and pay his respects to his father.
Like Pope, family seemed to matter or mean something to him. But everything about Jeremy's behavior suggested that it wasn't over. The man was a total dick, from mocking Smurf's name to musing that J should be dead for killing her -- he was an antagonist through and through.
The real shock was that Jeremy and the others moved so soon. Hell, within a few hours, the boys were indulging in some of Smurf's lasagna and bickering over what to do with her ashes, and then it was lights out.
Credit to the Preppers, cutting the lights, bringing the sniper rifles, and having night vision goggles were power moves. If they were ambushing anyone else like that, it would've been a wrap. They would've taken everyone out with ease and been on their merry way.
But this isn't the Codys' first rodeo with their house under siege, so they knew how to adapt. The only downside to these scenes was how dark they were.
In some instances, you could barely decipher what was going on at all. Other than that, it was positively thrilling. These are the moments the series does well enough to have you glued to the screen.
Deran, Craig, and J put in some work taking out the Preppers inside. Deran even caught a bullet by one of them. But that takedown of Jeremy was intense.
You wouldn't think it required all three of them to take this guy out, damn. But Pope killing Oden via a slow death by drowning was dramatic as hell. It was also a nice parallel to the flashbacks of him, Julia, and Smurf.
Most of the Preppers are dead now, and Pope spared the one cousin who was nice to him. So does that mean that's the last of anyone from that compound coming after the Codys?
If so, they wrapped it up quicker than expected, but there's no shortage of people who will pose a threat or come for the Codys, especially with Smurf dead.
They have a lot to prove, too. Their little stunt of beating up Mike was child's play and likely didn't amount to much. It speaks volumes that the cop for hire tossed out that barb while taking his bribe.
Surely he won't be the only one who thinks that things were a lot smoother and neighborhood shootouts wouldn't have happened on Smurf's watch.
The boys have a lot of work to do to come from beneath Smurf's shadow and prove themselves as worthy successors.
But the one thing they have uniting them again, other than fighting for their lives, is the situation with the will. Deran and Craig now know that Deran is barely in it, and Craig isn't at all.
Cop: You're lucky I got here first. There's three more cars behind that one.
Deran: Give me a minute.
Cop: Shit never happened when Smurf was alive. You better tighten up.
It's hard to discern what Smurf was thinking with her will or why she didn't appear to update it. What does it say about Craig and Pope and Smurf's prospects for them that she didn't even mention them in it?
And now, all attention is on Pamela as the boys figure out why almost all of Smurf's fortunes and assets went to this mysterious woman of whom they presumably know little.
J seems genuinely perturbed by the things he knew nothing about here, as he often knew more than the others. And Deran and Craig are just sick of all of Smurf's stuff and how they still have to deal with her shit even after death.
Deran's level of done with the whole thing is as apparent as ever. He couldn't stop griping at the storage facility, and it's a wonder he didn't knock J out when J questioned him about Adrian's betrayal and whether or not they handled it best.
But Pope, he's grappling with something entirely different than the others. He's perpetually torn between this profound love for Smurf and his recognition that she used him.
Pope's conflicting feelings about his mother are always some of the most compelling of the series and make some of his actions unpredictable. It was a moment when it seemed he might pour her ashes down the drain or something when the boys were talking about them, but instead, he placed them in the safe.
He didn't want any more beef with the Preppers because of his relation to them. You could sense that longing for a connection with a family he didn't know about -- a family that maybe could understand him or give him a piece of something that he's always felt he was missing.
Part of that is what probably drove him to let his cousin go. It was that, of course, and the fact that he slowly realized that he's free of Smurf.
Take out the trash, that's what you do, right? She'd do it. She'd make me do it.Pope
In some ways, Smurf kept Pope stable, but that also meant she kept him on a leash, at her beck and call, controlling every aspect of him. Pope felt like her personal monster in a cage, in this bizarre, damn near oedipal codependent, toxic dynamic.
He knew that Smurf would've killed his cousin, or more likely, demanded of him whether he wanted to or not, whether it hurt him or not. Letting his cousin go was Pope's first real choice, fighting against Smurf's conditioning in favor of appealing to his better nature and instincts.
You hurt for the guy, watching him have this internal conflict out loud before deciding.
One only hopes that he doesn't live to regret it. It doesn't seem as though it'll be the case, but his cousin was weak enough or maybe loyal enough to the others to attack the Codys despite his bonding moments with Pope, so you can never be sure.
Deran: I can't believe we're still dealing with Smurf's shit.
J: Smurf said Adrian was talking to the cops.
Deran: She told you that?
J: I'm wondering if there's anything we need to do about it.
Deran: Anything we need to do about it. I handled it.
Deran: It's handled.
Craig will flip his shit if he finds out the truth. When the boys have their power struggle, you know someone will bring up that Pope let both Adrian and his cousin go.
The flashbacks reveal that Pope was always neurodivergent, and his love and loyalty to his mother (and sister) led him to do things he didn't necessarily care to do.
Smurf taught the twins the family trade early, and they were naturals. But you could tell that neither of them particularly cared for the life.
Pope's anxiety as a kid manifested in his OCD tendencies that seemed to increase in frequency whenever they were doing something against social mores. Julia was a mature, observant girl who had some adult observations and seemed to long for more normalcy and stability.
It was endearing to see how protective she was of her brother and that, in her way, she fought for him to have the stability he needed, even if Smurf didn't heed her advice.
She didn't know what was wrong with Pope, but she recognized something was up, and he had different needs. It's almost heartbreaking knowing that this clever, protective, loving girl had such a tragic fate.
They were expert hustlers and schemers, but Pope's position as Smurf's enforcer dated back to him as a child. Admittedly, after the mother dismissed her obnoxious boy's behavior as "just playing," he had something coming to him.
Also, justice for redheads. Why are the troublemaker kids always redheads?
Julia: When are we going to get there?
Smurf: Why, are you tired?
Julia: I don't think all of this moving around is good.
Smurf: Why? Because of what happened today?
Julia: I just think Andrew needs more ...
Julia: I don't know. Just more something.
Pope wasted no time damn near drowning the kid and didn't let up, not even when the adults came pulling him off. He only relented when Smurf gave the word, like her personal Winter Soldier.
It should've ended there, but to hit home how dark, vengeful, and effed-up Smurf was, she blew up the mother's car for good measure.
If Pope is having flashbacks of times like those, it's a wonder the man isn't more screwed up than he already is, you know?
I can't imagine what types of memories, history, and truths will come out when the boys inevitably face Pam.
Smurf's dead, but she sure as hell isn't gone. She's living in all of their minds rent-free.
Over to you, Animal Kingdom Fanatics. What did you think of the premiere? Should Pope have let his cousin go? What will they do with this Pamela news? Hit the comments below!
You can watch Animal Kingdom online here via TV Fanatic.
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.