Animal Kingdom: A Trip Through a Human Jungle

I never missed an episode of TNT’s Animal Kingdom during its first season. Will I be as loyal when the second season starts on May 29?

Good question.

For the uninitiated, here’s TNT’s blurb for Animal Kingdom:

Animal Kingdom is an adrenaline-charged drama starring Ellen Barkin as the matriarch of a Southern California family whose excessive lifestyle is fueled by their criminal activities, with Scott Speedman as her second in command. Shawn Hatosy, Ben Robson, Jake Weary and Finn Cole also star.

Ellen Barkin shines as the controlling and manipulative crime mom, hell bent on getting her way. She always does. Her sons and grandson are your classic great-looking bad boys. And they don’t mind shedding their clothes on-camera. Often.

Folks, this ain’t Hallmark fare. No one is nice. It’s even hard to root for the detectives who are trying to bring the family down—they may be on the right side of the law, but just barely. But characters don’t have to be likeable, just compelling.

Writers can benefit from watching Animal Kingdom with its nuanced and layered portrayal of a dysfunctional family. The dark tale contrasts with a sunny Southern California setting, creating a virtual underworld that emphasizes the unsavoriness of the plot and characters—characters who are so good at being so bad.

So what’s my hesitation? One word: violence. Animal Kingdom started out with a creepy, menacing tone and only a suggestion of violence. By season end, I watched someone get beaten to a bloody pulp, punch by punch, kick by kick. Can’t say I care to go through that again.

But I’ve long been intrigued by scary moms who manipulate their children, especially their sons, and get them to do their evil bidding. It’s a theme that shows up in my writing. Animal Kingdom illustrates this family dynamic to perfection.

Circling back to my question, “Will I be watching on May 29th?”

You bet.

Animal Kingdom cast; photo from


Rolling Stone: Everything You Need to Know about Animal Kingdom

Review for Animal Kingdom from A.V. Club









Animal Kingdom: A Trip Through a Human Jungle — 7 Comments

  1. I should watch it, if only for Ellen Barkin. I don’t care for stories about dysfunctional people, but I’ll give it a try.

    • She is great in the role. But I find that most stories, especially mysteries, feature dysfunctional folks. Not all are criminals, though.

  2. I love this show. It’s produced by John Wells who does Shameless, my absolute favorite show.

    I love the grittiness, sleaziness, creepiness, craziness. Everything.