Animal Kingdom season 4 episode 12 was absolutely nuts. This has to be one of the craziest hours of TV of the calendar year, let alone one of the most painful. This is an episode with so much birth and death taking place in the same location. It just so happens that there were decades in between some of the events.
Let’s start with the main event: The death of Janine “Smurf” Cody. The best thing about this episode is also its worst: How they set up this character to have a total blaze of glory moment close to the end of her life. It was never about the job; it was always about the death, and having it happen in the place where her family business first began. Even before embarking on her farewell tour, Smurf set up her home to her liking, which included throwing away Angela’s coffee cake (all that work for nothing) and also setting out a number of pills for her to overdose.
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When you look at the full scope of Smurf’s plan, it went a little something like this: She wanted Angela to die, herself to be killed off in the midst of a gun battle, and for Pope to have to sink or swim. When you think in these specific terms, you can argue that all of these were failures.
Let’s start with Angela — she didn’t die, despite two different opportunities in front of her to take her own life. First, she almost overdosed on the pills, but she opted to flush a lot of them down the toilet. (She tried to scoop some up after they went down, but it wasn’t clear how many she grabbed.) Then, Angela almost drowned in the bathtub but came to her senses beforehand.
Then, you’ve got the showdown with Jed. Smurf brought Pope with her to the compound, with the idea here being that it would create a diversion for J, Deran, and Craig to do their part of the operation. They were able to build up the tunnels and do what they needed to do, and technically Pope was a diversion. Jed spent some time telling his nephew about his father Colin, who Pope just learned died on that very property. Smurf seemed to think that her parting gift to Pope was him learning the truth about where he came from … but then, she was prepared for him to die there. She knew that Jed would figure out what was going on around him and it would start up violence, but she also knew that she would kill him.
Why shoot Jed? It’s tied to what happened when she gave birth to Pope and Julia there, as many years ago Jed tried to take advantage of her and trade a getaway car for sexual favors … while Smurf was eight months pregnant. He tried to exploit her and when she resisted and struck him, he almost choked her to do death before Jed’s wife stopped him. She then gave birth to Julia and Pope, but she never forgot about what happened and how terrible a person Jed was. Her final stroke in life was meant to screw him out of his gold and then kill him — but for her to die in the gunfire. She did everything that she could to die, shooting out in the open and with reckless abandon.
Yet, Smurf didn’t die. Neither did Pope. When Pope dragged her out of the gun battle with Jed’s crew and drove away, she was bleeding and furious. She eventually got a hold of a gun after reuniting with the other boys, forced Pope to grab another, and told him to kill her … but he couldn’t do it. Even when Smurf shot Pope in the ear, he still couldn’t do it. She was about to kill him, only for J to kill her instead.
Therein lies the end of the road for Smurf. She’s gone and the boys are left to pick up the wreckage. Pope’s going to have to figure out what to do with Angela, J will have to wrestle with killing Smurf, and Deran wants to get out of town with Adrian before things get any worse.
Ellen Barkin was brilliant in this episode — terrifying, insane, and desperate to end her time as Smurf on the rawest terms possible. This may be Animal Kingdom’s greatest episode ever and also its most upsetting given that we’re talking all about an episode where the main character was killed off and we now have to move forward with the show without Ellen Barkin.
Where does the show go without Smurf? That’s what season 5 is going to have to figure out.
What did you think about Animal Kingdom season 4 episode 12?
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