Animal Kingdom 5×1 Review: Red Handed

Red Handed Animal Kingdom Season 5 episode 1 review
The Codys coming up with a plan in ‘Red Handed’ (Image: Screengrab)

After being delayed for more than a year, Animal Kingdom is back for a fifth season. ‘Red Handed’ served as an exhilarating season premiere and was definitely one of the best episodes in the entire series.

With Joshua killing Smurg in season four, of course the fandom was a bit worried about how the writers will handle the story going forward. Having watched ‘Red Handed’, I think the creative team’s more than capable of telling an engrossing narrative. With Smurf gone, the Cody men are left trying to figure out what they want to do. You can tell there’s going to be a power struggle between Joshua and his maternal uncles. Let’s see who ends up ruling the kingdom and controlling the criminal world in Oceanside.

‘Red Handed’ opened with Craig going to Renn and telling her to take their baby son to safety. Even though the Codys just lost Smurf, mourning can wait because Pope’s cousins are out for revenge. The Codys killed their father and stole one million worth of solid gold from them, after all. And considering Pope’s cousins are Doomsday Preppers, the Codys are worried about the firepower they will need to face.

I liked the disagreements the men worked through while getting ready. Turns out, Craig wanted to keep the gold while Pope wanted to give it back. Pope’s changed quite a lot through the course of the four seasons. We have seen instances of Pope’s more sensible side coming forward. I appreciated how he didn’t want to fight his cousins and put everyone in potentially fatal danger. As far as Pope’s concerned, the family feud ended with Jed and Smurf’s deaths.

While I understood the sentiment, there’s was still no guarantee Jed’s sons would let the Codys go even after they got their gold back. So, in a sense, Craig was right about keeping the gold. I think he looked at the stolen gold as a final gift to them from Smurf. And he didn’t want to let it go. Anyway, Pope, Deran, and Joshua didn’t side with Craig so the gold needed to be given back. Poor Craig.

Even though Smurf’s dead, the Cody men are still dealing with the moves she made. The Codys finding out Smurf had a secret apartment didn’t come as a surprise to me. Of course, she would have one. She might even have more than one.

Coming back to Craig, I liked his idea of using a homeless man to distract Odin (one of Pope’s cousins) and take him hostage to secure safe passage into Smurf’s secret apartment (where the rest of the cousins were). Even though his brothers and nephew don’t always appreciate his skills, Craig can be quite smart when he needs to be. Again, maybe the Codys should have listened to Craig because Pope’s plan to give the gold back to put an end to their current battle massively backfired.

‘Red Handed’ gave us one of the most intense action sequences in Animal Kingdom. I loved how the Preppers first cut off the power and then broke into the Cody residence with night vision goggles and big guns. Seeing the Codys scramble to arm themselves was exciting to see. Also, Pope taking on Odin and downing him in the swimming pool was done quite well (and connected to a flashback which I’ll get to in a bit).

It’s clear that if you’re thinking of taking down Pope, you better not make a single mistake. The rest of the Codys did well, too, even though Deran did get shot in the shoulder. Kudos to Craig for deciding to climb the roof for a better vantage point.

Pope’s kindness again reared its head as he drove away to dispose of the dead bodies of his cousins (with one of them still being alive). I get that he wants to maintain some sense of family and try and distance himself from what Smurf would expect him to do, but due to the type of life he has, I wouldn’t be surprised if said cousin comes back with a vengeance. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if Pope’s unable to survive the current season. He’s growing soft and that can be fatal in Animal Kingdom.  

I wasn’t expecting the writers to tie up the cousin-centric storyline in one episode. But I’m glad they did. Such a decision allows the writing team to focus on the main issue… the Codys having a majority of their belongings taken away from them because Smurf left it all to Pamela. I have been looking forward to seeing the Codys getting to interact with Pamela when Pope and Joshua found out about her in the previous season. Pamela and Smurf go a long way back and if she’s anything like Smurf, it won’t be easy for the Codys to bring her down (if that’s even possible). I think the Codys should consider talking to Craig’s father to learn about what he knows about Pamela.

Before I get to what was shown during the flashback sequence, I have to talk about the conversation Deran had with Joshua. Hearing Joshua mention Adrian took me by surprise. Adrian’s a very sensitive subject for Deran. I liked how he became very serious and a bit menacing when Joshua shared Smurf told him about Adrian talking to the cops and how he needed to be “handled”.

In a sense, I’m okay with Adrian exiting Deran’s life. Yes, the two love each other, but their relationship’s far from healthy. I wouldn’t mind seeing Deran walk up to Adrian’s new home in Indonesia during the series finale and spending their life together. The show has already been renewed for a sixth and final season. But until that time comes, Adrian needs to stay as far away as possible from the ever-present danger around the Cody family. 

As for the flashback, while an older Smurf is no more, we are going to get a lot of her backstory via a younger Smurf taking care of her twins, Pope and Julia. I smiled seeing Pope and Julia working together to steal a wallet from a customer at a shop and also shoplift a few snacks. Of course, Smurf taught them young. However, seeing Julia roll a blunt for Smurf was concerning. I think that particular scene was supposed to plant a seed for how Julia found herself dependent on substances as she grew older (which lead to her overdose and Joshua getting to live with Smurf all the way back during the first season).

The writers made it very clear that Pope’s had certain behavioral issues since he was a kid. And Smurf knew about them, too. However, instead of giving him the required assistance, from what I could tell, Smurf decided to use Pope in her own way. While he’s her son, I think he’s more of a wolf in Smurf’s mind whom she can use to handle certain situations.

Smurf knew that asking Pope to help Julia (who was being annoyed by another kid in the pool) would intensify the situation. Seeing a young Pope try and drown the other kid, as payback to what he was doing to Julia, was disturbing. Even when two adults got involved, Pope still didn’t let go of the kid until Smurf ordered him to. As I mentioned, to Smurf, Pope’s a loyal weapon in training (which she loved in her own twisted way). The scene at the pool also linked to Pope drowning Odin in the present. Smurf’s trained him well and he’s going to have to do a lot of work to rewire himself.

I also liked the scene where a young Julia walked up to Smurf and shared her concerns about her twin brother’s wellbeing. I was not expecting Julia to be such an observant little kid. While Smurf told her to not worry too much about Pope, I think Julia’s observant nature and need for some type of stability will grate Smurf’s more free-spirited nature as the kids grow older. The twins looked out for each other and I’m interested in seeing more of that.

Other thoughts and questions:

  • Smurf blowing up the car to get back at the mother of the kid who was annoying Julia was such a Smurf thing to do. Also, young Pope’s satisfied smile as he looked back at the burning car gave me chills.
  • Even though I wasn’t a big fan of Angela in season four, seeing her not appear at all during the season five premiere felt weird. Has she been written off the show?
  • With Angela gone, Pope’s again all alone with his troubled feelings.
  • Craig talking about how a friend of his smoked the ashes of a loved one was funny. It would be in character for Craig to smoke some of Smurf’s ashes. It’s a good thing Pope decided to keep her ashes locked up.
  • With Joshua remembering his mother, I can see him reaching out to Pamela to learn more about her. Having said that, do you think Joshua will try and grow close to Pamela to defeat her?
  • With Adrian gone from his life and Smurf being dead, I wonder how Deran will handle everything when he takes a moment to breathe and all of his emotions come crashing down.
  • Seeing Deran and Joshua jump over roofs was funny.
  • Even a bribed cop told the Codys to tighten their game now that Smurf’s dead. She knew how to build an empire. 

What did you think of ‘Red Handed’?

Let us know.

Author: Farid-ul-Haq

Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.

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