Can any of the boys successfully lead without Smurf?
Based on Animal Kingdom Season 5 Episode 4, it's evident that the guys are too screwed up to manage an empire. But that's what makes Pamela's introduction so intriguing.
Is Pamela meant to be the new Smurf? Because damn if she doesn't have the chops for it!
Typically, J is the Cody who seems to have the best grasp on everything. He's business-minded, both book and street smart, and that's always given him an edge over his uncles.
He's also visibly the coldest and most calculated where Deran is smart and calculated but too emotional, Craig is too impulsive and doesn't think things through, and Pope is, well, Pope.
As much as J has waited for this moment, he's not handling it as well as he expected. He's so caught up in being the mastermind and orchestrator that he's jumping into things without weighing out everything.
J jumped into the cartel job and didn't consider all the repercussions of it. He was adamant about fencing some of Smurf's belongings, but he never contemplated that Craig would be the best person at his disposal to negotiate with Frankie.
J agreed to five percent when one quick conversation with Craig and Frankie settled for three. He's still lying and keeping things from Deran even though he knows it's best at this point to keep a distrustful Deran in the loop or give him something to keep the peace.
Pope is spiraling right in front of J's eyes, and he hasn't once figured out how to "tame the Cody monster," so to speak. J is throwing pool parties like it's the good old days, and he's not reading any of the signs.
Deran: Get dressed.
J: For what?
Deran: It's about time we see what you've been hiding from us.
He's trying too hard to be Smurf while also telling them that they're free of her. And sadly, J is failing to have the same level of control nor wield power in the same way Smurf was successful.
J is so focused on scoring jobs that he hasn't begun to figure out how to get their house in order, earn the boys' trust, or find a path toward them being a united front on the same page.
And he's nowhere near headed in that direction either. After all the back and forth between Deran with Pete in the middle of the Cody power struggle, J still agreed to relinquish the drugs to Pete to hold for a price, ten percent.
Thankfully, he negotiated it down to ten rather than Pete's proffer of 20, but how will that impact the others? It's not something he's sharing with them, so it seems like more trouble in the future.
Why keep testing Deran's limits? They won't get very far at the rate they're going, and they're all dropping the ball on each other.
J's comments about how he'll get around to giving the others cuts of things are the exact reason Deran isn't effing with him right now. But then, Deran was doing the absolute most during this installment.
For all Deran's distrust of J and bitching about how J is running things, he and Craig have never attempted to take any form of a leadership role amongst their group.
It's as if they're more content sitting back so they can have something to gripe about most of the time. After all, J couldn't have gone this long taking so much over had they not let him, right?
And yet, Deran's frustration, kickstarted by Livengood stalking, taunting, and threatening him because of Adrian, had Deran bogarting his way through the hour, shaking things up and abruptly attempting to crown himself King of the Codys.
It was hard to take him seriously. Deran is usually checked out of everything partly because he never wants to be bothered with anyone else in the first place, so this late-bloomer assertion of dominance made my guy look more foolish than anything else.
It was amusing that he stayed on J's ass, though. Sure, it made sense that he wanted to scope out the bowling alley and stake some claim in what J alleged was something for all of them.
And the whole display with getting the combination for the safe was so extra. But Deran's off-the-cuff suggestion that J sell the condos was ridiculous, and there's no way in hell that hiding drugs in the ducts of a bowling alley is advisable.
J: Deran's been on me about all that coke and bowling alley shit. I mean I understand why, I just think we all need to stick together right now, not fall apart.
J: Yeah , all of us. It will be better without Smurf, you'll see.
Deran going to Pete, who he never bothered to build a rapport with, to assert himself as the leader, aired out the Cody dirty laundry and confirmed that they don't have their shit together.
But the top-tier move was staking out Pamela's house and thinking he could threaten her.
Are we supposed to dislike Pamela or not root for her? Because Pamela is a queen, and hell, maybe the boys will just have to get over it until they get their shit together.
J didn't have that information for no good reason. Sure, J is on something else these days, but he's smart enough to know that you don't make a move on your presumed enemy until you know more about them.
Deran: Pamela Johnson?
Pamela: Which one are you? Neighbor said some white guy's been outside peeking at your house for a couple of hours. I said to myself this has to be one of Janine's badass kids. So, which one are ya?
Pamela: Deran. There's groceries. Make yourself useful.
Deran himself admitted to Pamela that he didn't know who she was. But he entered her home, bringing a gun to a negotiation, laying down threats, and trying to intimidate her without knowing anything about her.
And Deran effed around and found out.
Pamela was unfazed by Deran approaching her after staking out her home, proceeded to demand he tell her which of those damn Cody boys he was, and turned her back on him, and made him bring her groceries into the house.
It was at that exact moment it was apparent Deran wasn't going to succeed in whatever stunt he thought he was going to pull.
Deran: I think you know why I'm here. I was hoping we could work something out. All the houses, apartments, everything, it's supposed to come to us.
Pamela: I'm supposed to be ten pounds lighter. Shit happens.
The very culturally specific auntie energy is strong with Pamela, and Deran missed the memo that aunties are immune to those little tantrums and other such things. And it doesn't matter how old or how bad you think you are, seldom do you walk away from an auntie not feeling like a properly chastised child.
The funniest part about the exchange is that he displayed the exact reason Smurf would've screwed them over and why Pamela has no vested interest in handing over anything.
Deran's line about how they take things from people, and they're not used to people taking from them, and all of his posturings wreaked of privilege and entitlement.
He came across as a spoiled brat, and because of Pamela's knowledge of Smurf's beginnings, it made her case that the boys need to earn it if they want it all the stronger.
In that sense, Pamela's read on the Cody boys isn't that far off than how J felt back in Animal Kingdom Season 1. Hell, maybe even now.
Deran: Look, I'm here as a courtesy, lady. See, me and my brothers, we're not used to people taking things from us. We take things from other people.
Pamela: Is that why you brought your gun? Real stupid thing to bring to a negotiation. Unless you plan to use it. If Janine wanted you to have what she built, she would've left it to you. Your mother created an empire ... nobody gave her anything. You see, power can be taken or it can be earned. Now, you ain't going to take a goddamn thing from me. But I might let you earn it if you and your brothers are as good as you say you are.
After all, Pamela's assertion about earning power rather than taking it aligned well with Deran only showing up at her house because he was trying to take the lead away from J rather than earn it.
And while Smurf was strategic and abusive regarding controlling things, and that's not something to dismiss, nor can you say they haven't worked for those jobs, there's some validity in the observations about their entitlement.
Everything about those scenes between Pamela and Deran proved that the boys still have a lot to learn, and maybe Pamela is the one to teach them whether they like it or not.
It's as if Smurf bequeathed her boys to Pamela along with the roles of matriarch and HBIC. And the crazy thing about it is the boys have been such a hot mess since Smurf's death that there's a solid argument that they need a woman running things, at the very least, to give them someone to hate together.
Deran didn't share his encounter with Pamela, but it'll be a blast when she interacts with the others. Who knows? Maybe she'll be the person who can help Pope.
It was heartbreaking when Pope got detained and couldn't remember his name, what he was doing, or how he got there. Pope's not doing well, the others know it, but no one does anything about it.
They're all suffering in their way, and none of them communicate with one another. And that's a significant factor of Pope's fugue states.
Smurf is gone. It's reignited past traumas, the family he has left are also dealing with crap of their own and too emotionally unstable themselves to help him in any capacity, and Pope can't talk about anything with a therapist.
Dr. Franklin: Were you close?
Pope: That's a complicated question.
The sad thing is Pope eventually agreed to a 24-hour psych hold because he wanted to talk to Franklin. But J's arrival was a reminder of how there's not much Pope can speak about freely.
They're career criminals, his nephew shot his mother in the head in front of him, and the mental and emotional effects of his twisted relationship with Smurf deserve its own category in the DSM.
Pope realizes things in Smurf's absence, and the scary part is that he probably believes she was right about how he couldn't live without her.
He didn't even know what type of medicine she was giving him and what she claimed he had, and he'll never know because she's gone. And his grief over Smurf is compounded with a similar pain over losing Julia.
He spent hours wandering around what we later discover is his old neighborhood from when they first move to Oceanside, looking for Julia.
Pope is lost and drowning, and he doesn't have a lifeline. Every small attempt he makes to reach out to someone for something, he gets shot down, and it's painful to witness.
Dr. Franklin told him that he needs to remove stressors that make him think of Smurf's death from his life and talk to people, but how does he manage that when J is a constant reminder and the only ones who can speak about Smurf and what happened or are struggling too aren't communicating that with him?
Neighbor: Did you find her?
Pope: Find her?
Neighbor: Your sister. You said you were going to go find her.
It was frustrating yet again when J was there to pick up Pope, but then he left him to wander around searching for his truck instead of sticking with him or something.
And then, if it wasn't evident that J is handling all of this in another way, he let his new sex buddy come over with a bunch of friends and party at the house when he knew Pope wasn't doing well.
Why risk it?
Pope's exchange with one of the party-goers was sad, and once he asked if the sick kids ever get better, and she said they do, the floodgates opened, and he confronted J about killing Smurf.
A part of Pope must believe that Smurf could've lived, beat cancer, and got better, and regardless of what their relationship was like, he still wants and needs her.
You shouldn't have done it. You shouldn't have shot her! You shot her right in front of us!Pope
And not only is J the person who took Smurf away from him, but he doesn't even seem to feel anything about it -- no one is talking about it or shows any interest in acknowledging what happened and their loss.
Witnessing one of their own shoot their mother in front of them is traumatizing, and yet, to Pope, no one is acknowledging the trauma. The man has seen and been through a lot, but this must be the straw that broke the camel's back.
Deran is frustrated enough with J to sit back and watch whatever tension between J and Pope play out, and J is such an enigma that there's no telling how he'll react to Pope's outburst.
- Craig didn't have much going on outside of being a hot dad, but there are no complaints here.
- Of all the Animal Kingdom beef on the series, has anything topped Craig's war against those scooters? I think not.
- What was it about Oceanside that made Smurf decided it HAD to be home? She was adamant about this more than anything else ever.
- Pope watching Smurf and Jake have sex was creepy, but honestly, who makes their kids sit outside whenever they have company? They didn't have anything to do!
- The ATM heist was so small-time, but Smurf, Manny, and Jake were so proud of themselves.
- Chadwick seems like a good cop. I wonder what bigger role he'll play in the remainder of the season?
- Livengood is a pain in the ass, but it is concerning that Adrian is so homesick. His return is inevitable, and that's not going to be good for anyone.
Over to you, Animal Kindom Fanatics.
What's your first impression of present-day Pamela? What are your thoughts on the brewing tension between Deran and J and Pope and J?
Are you worried about Pope's fugue states? 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.