A Cinecle View – The Unemployment Diaries Chapter 2: Binging On The Dole

Tony Marion

Tony Marion

If you’re a fan of television, there’s never been a better time to be unemployed.

Have a series that after two or three seasons has finally landed on your radar but don’t have the time to binge and get caught up? Lose your job.

That’s what happened with me and the TNT drama based on the critically-acclaimed Australian feature of the same name, Animal Kingdom. In roughly two and a half days I consumed twenty episodes of the series and the motion picture that inspired it.

While both the series and the movie share similar stepping off points: teenager Josh “Jay” Cody calmly watches as paramedics are unable to revive his mother, Julia, after a heroin overdose. Now orphaned, Jay calls the only family he knows, his grandmother, Janine “Smurf” Cody, who takes the boy into her home; a home she semi-shares with her sons, a violent robbery crew …

After that general set-up (and the series making some nods thematically to cool scenes from the movie), the film and the series take widely divergent paths. Some based on their geographical settings, Australia and Southern California respectively, and some … not.

While the movie launches immediately into the Codys being hunted by a rogue police squad that is shooting suspected offenders on sight, the series (because it’s a SERIES) follows Jay’s slow education in the world of elaborate, Ocean’s Eleven style heists, and gradual turn from intelligent but naive son of a junkie, to a bonafide player in the Cody’s world.

Instead of the sudden disintegration of a criminal family at the hands of forces both external and internal, the series gives us what could best be described as the bastard child of Baywatch, Leverage and Sons of Anarchy.

Through the first season, absolutely none of the teen or adult characters are remotely likeable; not one has any redeeming humanity whatsoever. While the go to response to that would be “Duh, they were all raised by animals to be animals … did you not notice the title card in the credits?”

Yeah, I get it, but I need someone to champion, and not one of these people deserved my empathy after nine episodes:

  • Jay (James Frecheville in the movie, Finn Cole the series) is far from innocent when he reconnects with his grandmother and uncles, having both
    scored heroin for his mother and admittedly shot her up more than once. Including her final, fatal dose.
  • Janine ‘Smurf’ Cody (Jacki Weaver in the movie, Ellen Barkin the series) manipulates all of the men and women in her orbit, including her sons both
    adopted and biological, and grandson, with her passive aggressive sexuality. She is a murderer and thief who even steals from her own children.
  • Barry “Baz” Blackwell (Brown in the movie), Smurf’s adopted son and the mastermind of most of the gang’s heists (Joel Edgerton in the film, Scott Speedman the series). Baz is as much a sociopath as his foster mother.
  • Andrew “Pope” Cody (Ben Mendelsohn in the movie, Shawn Hatosy the series) is Smurf’s oldest biological son. He suffers from an undefined mental illness that makes him both unpredictable yet easily manipulated through his unbalanced emotions. He too is a murderer and thief. And thanks to Shawn Hatosy, my new non-sexual man crush.

26554_002 Animal Kingdom Ep 201 ECP11263.JPG

  • Craig Cody (Sullivan “Neckbeard” Stapleton in the film, Ben Robson the series), the middle Cody son, is the muscle of the group (though Pope, especially the Hatosy version, could take him in a fight). Craig has a coke problem that is as out of control as his Peter Pan syndrome, but as long he gets paid to steal and assault people he’s happy.
  • Deran Cody (Darren in the film) is Smurf’s youngest son, a world class surfer that flamed out and joined the family business (Luke Ford in the movie, Jake Weary the series). In addition to being in a similar mold to Craig but without the size, Deran is a self-loathing gay man that when caught by Jay receiving oral from a man in public rest room, enlists his nephew’s help in beating the man for “trying to steal (his) wallet.”

I almost gave up after the first season, as not only is every member of the Cody family despicable, but so is every other adult and teen character in their orbit. There is a lot of finger wagging and brow furrowing at the family’s exploits, but in the end, EVERYONE is fine with taking their money or any of the other fringe benefits associated with being
friends/sleeping with criminals. It was like Sons of Anarchy with less motorcycles but more matriarchal incest vibes.

But I soldiered on and I’m glad that I did. Season two sees growth in most of the characters (and better writing), with Hatosy’s Pope and Weary’s Deran the most compelling. Though the producers should stop sending Deran to Jax Teller’s stylist …


Robson and Cole deserve praise for their performances, too, but Hatosy and Weary are absolutely killing it. That quartet combined with the always magnetic Barkin and Speedman’s pitch perfect take on sociopath Baz have made season two a pleasure to watch.

For extra fun, binge-watch with your favorite alcoholic beverage and the following rules in place:

  • One drink every time Jay is riding his bike somewhere and one of his uncles shows up in a car and tells him to “throw his bike in the back and get in.”
  • One drink every time someone asks someone else to go check on Lena (Baz’s six year old daughter).
  • One drink every time Lena is distracted with a coloring book.
  • One drink every time someone mentions dropping off/picking up Lena from school.
  • Two drinks every time it looks as though Smurf is about to makeout or have sex with one of her biological children.


Tony Marion is a writer and filmmaker who splits time between Lancaster, PA and Baltimore, MD. He lives for the work of Descendents (the band), Chuck Palahniuk and Rian Johnson. Check out the digital embodiment of procrastination he calls his website here.

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