Since its premiere in 2016, Animal Kingdom has always told the twisted and exhilarating story of the inner workings of the Cody family. At the head of the family is Janine “Smurf” Cody, who leads her children, Andrew “Pope” (Shawn Hatosy), Deran (Jake Weary), Craig (Ben Robson) and Barry “Baz” Blackwell (Scott Speedman), in a crime ring in Oceanside, California. His connections in the area allow the boys to get away with high profile crimes, giving them the opportunity to live their exciting lives. The family grew with the addition of J (Finn Cole), who quickly got used to their strange normalcy.
Within six years Animal Kingdom aired, the crime thriller had a number of twists and damaging results. These changes allowed each character to have their own journeys that often came at the expense of others. Some of the Codys remained rather stagnant, while others became much better versions of themselves. For a series like Animal Kingdom, this development could be a tactic to bring the show to a heartbreaking conclusion. Of all the characters, Deran and Pope had the best development of the Cody clan which can leave a bitter taste in the mouth of Animal Kingdom viewers by the end of the final season.
When Animal Kingdom began, Deran and Pope were two of the most likable characters on the show. After returning from his time in prison, Pope was not greeted with the warmest welcome from his family. They tiptoe around him, fearing the wrong word or deed will set him off. They try to plan their next heist behind his back, which only makes everyone uncomfortable with Pope’s tendency to linger in the shadows. Smurf tries to control him by crushing drugs and slipping them into his food, while Baz tries to distract Pope from his own moral misdeeds. Although he fathered a child with Catherine, Pope’s former flame, he is also in a relationship with another woman in Mexico. Baz expresses little remorse over his relationship with Catherine, although he and Pope never had a clearly explicit conversation about it.
Season 4 gave insight into Pope’s childhood and the factors that caused him to develop habits that so many have called strange. Smurf met Colin, Pope, and Julia’s father, during his own entry into the realm of crime. Colin ran a successful criminal ring, but had a temper eerily similar to Pope’s. Colin is killed in a shootout with the police before Smurf’s delivery, but she raises her children the same as crime. As children, Julia and Pope are pickpockets, and Pope’s troublesome behavior is already becoming apparent. Season 6 of Animal Kingdom showed how far Smurf was willing to go to keep his family close. She lies to Julia about being expelled and discredits their interests outside of their line of business. Whenever Pope mentions needing help for his behavior, Smurf is quick to say that the only people who can help him are his family.
Like Pope, Deran is under his own form of stress when Animal Kingdom begin. Her close relationship with Craig often leaves most of their family watching the two with wary eyes. Craig’s big parties don’t make him the most reliable, and by association, Deran is considered untrustworthy. He is rarely given an important task by Smurf or Baz, which frustrates him. It also appears early in the series that Deran didn’t tell anyone in his family that he was attracted to men. I learn this by accidentally stepping on Deran, creating a strange rift in their budding relationship.
Since the start of the series, however, Deran and Pope have become leaders in the Cody family. Although he’s still considered odd by most of his family, Pope has grown a lot in how he takes care of himself and those around him. Even as a child, Pope tried to take care of his sister and protect her from harm within her family. He now cares for his brothers and nephew with far more compassion than before and has become a vocal member of the family’s criminal operations. He took care of his niece after the death of her parents, put aside his own wishes for her well-being and placed her in foster care. Pope cared for Angela, a friend of Julia’s who becomes a hurricane of trouble, and was the only person Smurf told about his cancer diagnosis. While he may not be as reckless as he once was, Pope struggles to control his violent outbursts from time to time. Nonetheless, Pope has become an irreplaceable part of the Cody family.
Between him, Deran, Craig, and J, Pope is capable of the most compassion, even if he has a weird way of showing it. The only other Cody who has shown empathy is Deran. Since the beginning of Animal Kingdom, Deran has completely transformed. Along with coming out to his family, Deran has embraced his sexuality, beating those who make rude comments towards him or his partners. He bought a bar which, at first, was completely legitimate. He, like Pope, knew how damaging his family could be and couldn’t support where they were headed. Deran intended to use the bar to get away from his family, but has since returned to take on a leadership position. He works closely with J to keep the businesses and each of the Cody’s online. Deran has finally settled into the leadership role he always knew he was capable of.
J and Craig didn’t experience the same growth as Pope and Deran. With his mother’s dependency, J has always been largely independent. That hasn’t changed since he was brought into Cody’s fold, as he quickly became Smurf’s golden boy. She began teaching him the trade, and even when the others drifted away from Smurf, J stayed by his side. Meanwhile, Craig still had issues with his family but remained close to Deran. Now that changes. Their once close-knit bond has become strained due to Craig’s sobriety and the lack of support he feels his family has begun to show him. Deran’s leadership role doesn’t help, and Craig’s urge is clear. Where Craig and J have stayed true to their roots throughout the six seasons, Pope and Deran have had a number of ups and downs that have allowed them to become two of of the animal kingdom most developed characters.
Animal Kingdom seasons 1-5 are now streaming on Amazon Prime.
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