TV: Animal Kingdom - S03 E01 - Reviewed

The long-form style of television storytelling opens up so many opportunities to weave character arcs over multiple episodes. For me, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is probably the best example of seeing it done successfully. That was over 18 years ago.

Two years ago, TNT successfully adapted the 2010 David Michod film, Animal Kingdom into a sprawling 10-episode first season. The action, the drama, the story telling were all first rate for prime time cable television.

Animal Kingdom is the story of the Cody family. Featuring Ellen Barkin as “Smurf,” the leader of the Cody clan, Scott Speedman as Baz, Shawn Hatosy as Pope, Jake Weary as Deran, Ben Robson as Craig and Finn Cole as J, the youngest member of the Cody clan. Smurf has the boys wrapped on a short leash. It’s not because they constantly quarrel, but because they are some of the most successful thieves in Southern California.

I managed to catch the first season and fell in love with Barkin as the sinister mother, who wants nothing more than the best for her boys; she conniving and clever. Though the rest of the clan and the cast for that matter work well together, J and Baz stood out for me in that first season.

Imagine my surprise when I learn that Baz was ambushed at the end of season 2’s cliffhanger. It doesn’t help that I missed season 2 (long story).

That leads us in to season 3’s lead-in episode, which premiered tonight on TNT. For those who DVR’ed it or haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil the episode. What I will say is that for having missed a season, the episode does not relent from the action or the drama, picking right up from the season 2 cliffhanger.

The lead-in promo does a nice job of catching you up on season 2’s happenings so that you’re not completely lost. As the paramedics attend to Baz, the boys are spread out and Smurf is incarcerated, awaiting a trial. This first episode does a nice job of showing Pope trying to hold himself together while trying to keep the family together. Deran is off on his own adventure, taking care of the customers in his bar while Craig has fled to Mexico with his girlfriend.

J is left to manage the family’s affairs as they band together in a time of crisis. It was nice to see that Finn Cole (Peaky Blinders) hasn’t changed his approach to the character: cool, subdued, but always paying attention to his surroundings. Shawn Hatosy does an amazing job of acting with his eyes. As a viewer, he doesn’t have to say much to get my attention and that’s the kind of acting that I like. In this first episode, Hatosy layers on his more ‘tender’ side and it was nice to see that nuance from him.

The hot-headed Craig doesn’t make friends very easily, and I don’t think he means to either. He’s a very passionate lover, and he’s equally as passionate about his family. After tonight’s episode, I cannot wait to see what they have in store for him. Deran flies under the radar, and that’s just the way he likes it. I think we can expect some big changes for him this season.

Animal Kingdom is like Point Break for television, it’s that hot and if season three’s opener is any indication, it’s only going to get hotter.

Episode 1 is now online and will be playing again Wednesday night and Friday night on TNT. Episode 2 will premiere next Tuesday, at 6 PM on TNT. Seasons 1 and 2 are available on most streaming platforms and Amazon Prime.

-Ben Cahlamer