Viewers know that the series killed off Ellen Barkin’s criminal matriarch Janine “Smurf” Cody last season, and the season 5 premiere finds her family still dealing with the repercussions of her death. It’s no spoiler to say that there are arguments about which of the surviving Codys will take over at the head of the proverbial table, and they’re not polite disagreements.
Meanwhile, they all want to know more about Smurf’s old friend Pamela Johnson, who was portrayed by Chicago PD‘s Milauna Jemai Jackson in flashbacks and is now played by All Rise and Pose actress Charlayne Woodard in the present day. If Woodard brings even a quarter of the attitude to Pam that she did as Judge Prudence Jenkins in her All Rise episode, the Cody family is in for a huge headache. It won’t be going away any time soon either.
The episode, entitled “Red Handed,” also continues the flashbacks to a 1980’s era Smurf as she establishes the criminal empire that her sons will eventually inherit. It’s strange seeing those as part of the show knowing that Barkin’s version of Smurf isn’t there anymore; that gives the flashbacks a sort of unintentional awkwardness. But Animal Kingdom is sticking with them, so what will they reveal to the audience that adds to our understanding of a now Smurf-less present? Or will they lead to things the other characters will dig up as they go along in their quest to uncover her secrets?
The performances from the remaining cast members are as good as ever, particularly from Shawn Hatosy, whose Pope is now the driving force of the show following the exits of Scott Speedman and now Barkin. What has made the show last five seasons is that audiences really feel the grit and believe how fierce this family is, and Hatosy continues to push Pope further. But does that mean he’ll come out on top and be the new leader, or could he just be the next one to fall?
Brittany Frederick has worked 20 years as a professional journalist, reaching millions of readers worldwide with thousands of articles. Her one goal is to meet Jonathan Groff, but she’s sung with Adam Levine and gone 200 MPH with Mario Andretti. Email her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @tvbrittanyf.