Animal Kingdom: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review

Point Break meets Sons of Anarchy in this explosive first season

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Some of the best television news of 2016 was hearing that TNT’s Animal Kingdom got renewed for a second season, set to air sometime this summer. Based off the 2010 Australian movie of the same name, season one was riveting television for the character-driven crime drama.

Starring Emmy winner Ellen Barkin as the manipulative, sleazy matriarch of a criminally rotten family in California and Scott Speedman as a criminal mastermind, Animal Kingdom was compelling drama in a manner we hadn’t seen since The Shield left the air. If you ever wondered what you got if you crossed the action of Point Break with the tight-knit criminal bonds from Sons of Anarchy, look no further than TNT’s Animal Kingdom.

From the makers of Southland, Animal Kingdom is really the story of the Cody family. A criminal clan that protects its own, the Codys are connected to a series of petty robberies and violent crimes. They dream of a big score that will set them up for life. Janine “Smurf” Cody (Ellen Barkin) rules her roost of grown sons with an iron grip, keeping her adult sons under her thumb. Living in a Southern California beach town, the family members are fiercely loyal to one another and distrustful of outsiders, always looking for their next criminal score.

“Baz” Blackwell (Scott Speedman) is the charming member of the Cody family, a non-relative that was basically adopted from a young age by Smurf. He’s the one now calling the shots on their criminal endeavors. It’s his intelligence and street smarts that have made him so valuable in the family’s criminal enterprises. Baz has a young daughter and woman he looks after when not running the Codys’ plans.

Craig Cody (Ben Robson) and Deran Cody (Jake Weary) play support roles in the Codys’ criminal plans, both yearning to be more than mere muscle to Smurf. Deran struggles with his own identity being a closeted homosexual, afraid to come out to his family of roughnecks. Craig is the family’s heartless enforcer, ruthless enough to rip off his own girlfriend as she lays dying of an overdose.

The real wild card is Pope (Shawn Hatosy), their brother, just released from jail after serving several years for a botched robbery. Mentally disturbed and twisted by his time in prison, Pope has an unhealthy attachment to Baz’s longtime girlfriend and baby momma. Hatosy gives the most powerful acting performance of 2016 as the unhinged Pope. It’s a dazzlingly intense performance that works on both an emotional and physical level. Feeling squeezed out of his role in the family by Baz’s leadership, the psychotic Pope remains weirdly sympathetic despite increasingly dangerous behavior that threatens the entire family.

The dynamics of the Cody family are never the same once teenager “J” Cody (Finn Cole) joins them. Smurf’s grandson from her estranged daughter, J is forced to move in with them when his mother dies of an overdose. Raised away from Smurf and his criminal uncles, J is an introspective, straight-laced teenager with a normal girlfriend. J is almost completely unaware of his family’s criminal activities in the beginning. The normally secretive Cody family is unsure if they can trust this outsider despite being a blood relative.

… adrenaline-charged crime drama with a verve and passion often missing in this kind of fare

Intricately plotted over ten highly serialized episodes, Animal Kingdom was one of 2016’s most realized series. The aggressive rivalry between the Cody men fuels this adrenaline-charged crime drama with a verve and passion often missing in this kind of fare. Each character is fully fleshed out, creating anti-heroes out of Animal Kingdom’s loathsome protagonists. The Codys, led by the tough-as-nails Smurf, are villains you can’t help but root for in some small measure. Not since The Shield’s halcyon days has television created such convincing, interesting criminals with real appeal.

The superb cast play their roles to a tee, creating characters you can’t help but get invested in as viewers. Shawn Hatosy has to be singled out for his maniacal, mannered performance. His Pope is one of the most compelling characters we’ve gotten on television in many years. It’s electrifying work that juices this crime-fueled action drama. Hatosy was born to play this role and he’s made Pope a breakout character that transcends ordinary television. Pope is a character frightening in his intensity.

Gritty, complicated and raw, Animal Kingdom is great television with rich characters. Unlike anything previously seen on TNT, it comes highly recommended for anyone into edgy heist drama. For only ten episodes, this is a perfect short season that ends with an incredibly risky heist for the Codys. Compelling characters and taut drama, you can’t ask for much more than what we got in Animal Kingdom’s first season. This is slick storytelling that weaves character moments into the larger narrative without a single missed beat.

Video

Warner puts out the ten episodes of Animal Kingdom: The Complete First Season on two BD-50s, equally splitting them. Having also watched the show during TNT’s original HD broadcast, I wasn’t expecting the dramatic improvement seen on this Blu-ray set.

Animal Kingdom looks fantastic in 1080P video with razor-sharp detail and pristine clarity. The series looked okay during broadcast but offers much better detail on home video. Presented in its native 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the AVC encoding captures the vivid location photography of Southern California and its beaches in completely transparent fashion.

The gritty drama has anything but grit in its clean, open cinematography. This is modern HD video brilliantly rendered with depth and pop, highlighting incredible detail in close-ups. The color palette has nice primary colors without overdoing their saturation. The rich contrast and deep black levels are perfect. This is highly refined video from a crystal-clear digital intermediate, left unprocessed at the transfer level.

Audio

Animal Kingdom’s 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack has decent surround separation, largely coming to life in the action scenes. The sound design is one area where Animal Kingdom’s television pedigree manifests. It’s a step behind theatrical mixes in immersion and rear ambiance.

Some spread in the mix occurs due to the underscore and a few moments offer dynamic audio. It mostly remains a dialogue-driven drama much of the time. The front soundstage is nicely expansive with involving LFE. The recording quality is perfection with smooth musical integration, evenly mixed without compression or other problems.

Warner offers a plethora of subtitle options, including English SDH among eight different choices. Almost every language from the developed world is included like Spanish and French.

Extras

The two-disc set for season one comes in a slipcase with an episode guide inside. An UltraViolet digital copy redeems on Flixster for the entire season in HDX.

Six featurettes are included, though only one runs much longer than three minutes. They include brief interview answers from both cast and crew, with some behind-the-scenes footage shown in passing. Cut in a typical EPK style common to Hollywood releases, some are more promotional in nature than hard-hitting documentaries.

Inside Animal Kingdom (02:16 in HD) – Producers and cast provide an inside look.

Animal Kingdom: Stunts (02:01 in HD) – Stunts from surfing to skydiving are shown.

Meet the Codys (01:58 in HD) – A brief look at the family’s members.

Getting Into Character (01:59 in HD) – Creating the criminally cool characters from the ground up.

Setting the Stage (02:24 in HD) – AK’s production designer and team go into building Smurf’s house and their reasons for it.

Family Comes First (14:18 in HD) – Cast and producers explore the family dynamics of season one in this light but engaging documentary.

Deleted Scenes (All in HD) – The majority of episodes have deleted scenes attached to them that can only be viewed separately apart from them. These are finished, polished scenes likely cut from broadcast for time reasons. No context is given for their deletion. None of them run very long, often minor additions under a minute in length.

Click on the images below for unaltered, full resolution screen captures ripped directly from the Blu-ray. Patreon supporters see our screen shots before publication, can view our entire library in .png format, and gain access to five Animal Kingdom exclusives for as little as $1. They are perfect for custom cover art, film study, or other applications.