TNT’s Animal Kingdom returns for season 2 with an explosive premiere that changes everything for the Cody crime family.

[This is a review of the Animal Kingdom season 2 premiere. There will be SPOILERS.]

After pulling off a heist that seemed out of its league and successfully turning the tables on police, the Cody family’s criminal enterprise appeared to be in a very healthy and prosperous place at the end of Animal Kingdom season 1. However, the same couldn’t necessarily be said for the family itself. Rising tensions within the Cody clan permeated the show’s first season, and in season 2, it looks like those tensions will go from a simmer to a boil.

Coming into tonight’s premiere, ‘Eat What You Kill’, we had several burning questions about where the series and the story might be headed next, but we were almost certain factions would form within the family as it inevitably began to fracture. So far, sides haven’t necessarily solidified, but cracks in the foundation of the Cody family are definitely starting to show.

Kicking off with the Codys’ successful nabbing of a safe on an incredibly risky and intricate heist of a popular brewery, it certainly appeared that the gang was off to a great start in the early moments of season 2. But after giddily clamoring to get the safe open, the boys are dismayed to find only a few hundred dollars inside — essentially amounting to a giant, and very dangerous, waste of time.

Shawn Hatosy in Animal Kingdom Season 2 Animal Kingdom Season 2 Premiere Review & Discussion

This heist-gone-wrong was clearly designed to spark added internal conflict within the family and propel the season’s narrative forward, and it does just that when the boys — with the exception of J (Finn Cole) — all turn the blame on Smurf (Ellen Barkin), who had assured her crew that the job would be a winner (we later find out she was at fault for providing bad intel). A fiery exchange between Baz (Scott Speedman) and Smurf ensues, during which some key expository details of the family’s history are revealed, giving the audience background on the animosity that has been bubbling beneath the surface of Smurf’s relationship with her sons for quite some time. Still, the scene — while well acted and convincing from a story perspective — can’t help but come off as a rushed and abrupt shift in direction. Suddenly, it seems that rift — the one we predicted earlier — between the Codys is real and it’s already a mile wide, as Baz, Craig (Ben Robson), Deran (Jake Weary) and Pope (Shawn Hatosy) all declare their intentions to walk away from the operation entirely and venture out onto their own.

As one might expect, the impulsive move leads to some much needed soul searching and self-reflection for many of the guys. After a meaningless one-night stand and a failure to reconnect with Lucy (Carolina Guerra), Baz realizes he needs a real companion as much as he does a job with more freedom. Meanwhile, Deran begins scheming a job with Craig, but also begins to consider leaving the criminal life and buying a local bar. And Pope makes plans to join Baz’s next smash-and-grab, but also decides he wouldn’t mind going it alone. While there are some interesting character developments in play here, we can also see the season’s narrative spinning a potentially problematic web of subplots that we can only hope stay connected with some sort of logical and compelling cohesive element.

Scott Speedman in Animal Kingdom Season 2 Animal Kingdom Season 2 Premiere Review & Discussion

So, how does J fit into all of this? The most obvious answer is that he is that cohesive element. As the Codys choose their battle lines and form alliances, J seems to be the only family member currently not on a team. But even though he’s treated more like a pawn than a free agent by his uncles and his grandmother, J remains an asset of undeniable value — and based on his snide remark directed at Baz about bailing him out, he knows it too. So, we’ll have to see who can convince him to join their effort, or if he will slide around based on the current family dynamics, which are bound to be fluid as the season moves along.

Although the dramatic thrust of Animal Kingdom‘s second season could have been handled with a little more patience and grace, the premiere still served as an exciting way to push the action and advance the story forward. After all, there are still several pressing questions that need answering this season, including how the arc involving Catherine’s (Daniella Alonso) disappearance will be resolved and discovering the identity of J’s father. For now, what we do know is that a major change in leadership within the Cody clan is afoot, and establishing that fact was an essential first step in getting to those other answers viewers are seeking.

Animal Kingdom season 2 continues with ‘Karma’ on Tuesday, June 6 @9pm on TNT.

Next: Animal Kingdom: 5 Biggest Questions for Season 2

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