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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.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

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Plot Summary

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Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

May 28, 2019: "Janine"
July 23, 2018: "Libertad"
Animal Kingdom: May 28, 2018 "The Killing"



Readability Age Range



Ellen Barkin as Janine 'Smurf' Cody; Shawn Hatosy as Andrew 'Pope' Cody; Ben Robson as Craig Cody; Jake Weary as Deran Cody; Finn Cole as Joshua 'J' Cody; Scott Speedman as Barry 'Baz' Blackwell; Molly Gordon as Nicky; Aamya Deva Keroles as Lena; Carolina Guerra as Lucy; Sohvi Rodriguez as Mia Trujillo; Christina Ochoa as Renn Randall; Denis Leary as Billy






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