The stage has been set for a new leader, and the crew may not agree on who is fit to lead.

[WARNING: THIS REVIEW/RECAP WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS FROM THE SEASON PREMIERE OF ANIMAL KINGDOM, SEASON 4]

There were many questions to be asked after last season’s finale, “The Hyenas,” but a shortage of answers. Some found this frustrating and, frankly, while it felt a little underwhelming I wasn’t too concerned with it. Overall, I believe Animal Kingdom‘s second season was stronger than the latter; both thematically and the engagement with the material. One thing, however, is certain: Season 3 uncovered just how much of a badass J Cody is. If not a badass, then he is one scary dude that may have too much in common with another member of the Cody crew: Pope.

J’s final words to Smurf in the Season 3 finale were daunting and tactfully sour the relationship between the duo previously established by the second season. He whispered in her ear, as she peacefully slept, that he was going to take everything she had ever loved away. But do we really believe that she was sleeping? If I had to put money on it, J and Smurf will be the two primary characters going head-to-head. My observation is a supplemented by some of the dialogue from this last episode.

Still from “Janine”

Now for the full breakdown:

The episode opens with a very sloppy bank job, and the crew must make the decision to kill one of the bank patrons if they want to make it out. It appears—for a very brief moment—that J isn’t able to pull the trigger and kill the guy that is holding him at gun point. One of the other brothers come to the rescue, though, and you’re left wondering why J might be struggling after straight-up, psychopath murdering Morgan last season. Come to find out, that this is a flashback scene, where a young Smurf (Leila George) is just getting her feet wet in the crime life amongst a group of men, including her boyfriend Jake (Jon Beavers) in 1977. The crew has a lot of inner-tension though, with Jake having to defend Smurf over being a liability to the group (with her blonde hair and all). Smurf handles the situation like a proper queen and simply cuts her hair off to impress the boys and bump-up her street cred. In present day, she watches Pope fight during an MMA match without flinching once.

Elsewhere, Craig notices that Deran’s boyfriend, Adrian, is losing his surfing competitions. Adrian claims that the cameras and all the people put too much pressure on him during the tournaments and that’s why he keeps flopping. C’mon Adrian, we all know you’re a soft boy but you’re not that soft. We later discover that Adrian has been throwing the contests to avoid getting asked to smuggle more drugs for the DEA. The agent working his case explained that if Adrian couldn’t smuggle anymore drugs that he would be looking at decades in prison. It seems that they want the people running the smuggling ring, and nothing to do with Adrian. Good for him. This means that he can get out from under their thumb, but judging by the look on his face in most scenes during the episode, he might have to throw the Cody crew under the bus if he truly doesn’t want to smuggle more drugs.

J is now in college! He is approached by a group of kids after class that would like to eventually chill with him—of course he’s too busy murdering and creating an crime empire. Olivia (Kelli Berglund) introduces J to her friends and insists that he hates fun. She tells J that she will get him to come out with them one of these days before prodding off to go study some chemistry. In another scene, J is working at the bowling alley when Mia comes to visit and give him a picture of a girl, who, unbeknownst to us, will be very important for the heist they are planning. Mia asks J when he will be home again. He basically tells her that he can come home whenever he wants and do whatever he wants—also implying that Mia is a paid hooker because J has all the money and power. She tells him that she just wants to make sure that she isn’t having sex with two guys when he comes back. One thing to note here is that she looks very annoyed at J, who isn’t giving her much else other than his Capital D.

Still from “Janine”

It remains true that some of the best dialogue of the show comes from Craig and Deran scenes. While scoping out a vehicle that they can use for their upcoming heist, Craig explains to Deran that the reason Adrian might be throwing the competitions is because he doesn’t trust Deran to remain faithful while he is away. “Gay duds get around,” he notes. The conversation shifted to the strange behavior of Pope, who has been acting weirder than normal. At this point Lena has been taken away and Pope truly has nothing left. He knows that Smurf killed Baz and that the girl he was seeing wants nothing to do with him. He’s kind of just droning around at this point. The Cody brothers don’t want Pope on the job, because they fear that something will go horribly wrong—and it almost does.

Smurf made a very strange choice to agitate Pope by asking him what color he wanted Lena’s old room painted. Of course, he told her to leave it the way it was and that stopped there. She knows that she is losing power, and losing it fast. At Smurf’s house for dinner later on, the boys plea to keep Pope out of the heist but she immediately cancels the request—and it’s important to note that she snaps immediately after J starts talking, cutting him off. The two have a very heated exchange with the absence of dialogue. Smurf ultimately knows how to manipulate situations, and she does make a point to talk to Pope before the heist: “Better make sure you got your shit together, baby.”

Later on, Frankie makes her return appearance in Craig’s house to make some, very hot, coffee. “I like what you’ve done with the place,” Frankie exclaims. Of course his house hasn’t been cleaned for days and he, presumably, has been throwing parties every night for weeks. She explains that the bank heist isn’t a safe job and that if he wants to make money and stay out of prison that he needs to get out from under Smurf. She did, indeed, pay him for the last job they did before disappearing but she is back to offer him another job and a lot more money. Meanwhile, Deran and Adrian are laying peacefully in bed talking about the steps Adrian must take to successfully cover for Deran during the heist; He’s going to use Deran’s credit card to get gas and buy two tickets to the new Avengers movie (Endgame) even though they both agree that it isn’t for them. Adrian is a sentimental boy, telling Deran that he likes being his alibi and covering for him. Their relationship is truly the sweetest thing—even though we all know it’s going to end real, real bad.

Still from “Janine”

We eventually learn that the reason Mia brought him the picture of Rosie was for leverage—after all, Rosie is the bank-manager’s daughter. While the Cody brothers were robbing the bank, J was at the diner where she worked waiting to snatch her phone when she wasn’t looking. That way, when the gang wanted to flex their power over the manager they would just call his daughter’s phone (under the possession of J now) to prove that his daughter was in danger. A brilliant plan! What they didn’t account for, however, was the silent alarm being tripped. It appears as if the manger was holding something between his hands. Come to find out, it was a condom! The bank manager and one of the tellers were having sex and she tripped the alarm. Just as fast as you can say “bananas” Deran had the car bleached and him, Craig, and Pope fled on motorcycles with the cops hot on their trail. Pope decided to head back towards the barrage of officers and hold them off, but Craig stops him and they all make a great escape disguised as a commercial truck—the one that Craig and Deran were scouting earlier.

While this episode was solid, it still didn’t feel alive; there’s a momentum that’s missing. The flashbacks were great, but if they are only used this episode and have no pay-off—which I highly doubt is the case—I will be disappointed. There’s a parallel storyline in there somewhere—between past and present—that will surface as the season continues. Will J get ahead of himself? Is his power trip going to be his downfall? We all think that the ramifications from murdering Morgan will show up this season, right? Much to discuss, and such little time. But until next week, leave your comments below and discuss, with us, where you think this season is going.

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