Animal Kingdom EP Unpacks the Potentially Deadly Consequences of Pope's Season 5 Premiere About-Face

Warning: The following contains spoilers for the Season 5 premiere of Animal Kingdom. If you’d rather watch first, read later, you might want to treat this recap like J does the truth — in other words, avoid it.

And they’re off! The Season 5 premiere of TNT’s back-and-better-than-ever Animal Kingdom was on target to do away with all of Pope’s vengeful cousins when lo and behold, he momentarily banished mom Smurf from his mind and spared one. (Read our full recap here.)

Was Andrew claiming for himself a new lease on life… or, in essence, signing his own death warrant? Here to answer that very question for TVLine is showrunner Daniele Nathanson.

TVLINE | So what was That Moment for Pope? Turning point? Breaking point? A little bit of both?
I would say both — and also a breaking-through point for him. Smurf was a malignant narcissist, and when you grow up with somebody like that, you’re very codependent with them.

TVLINE | In other words, the puppet isn’t necessarily happy to be free of the puppeteer who was pulling their strings.
Right. It’s not like, “Whoo! Thank goodness they’re gone!” You feel conflicted even though you’d think it would be clear. And that’s where Pope is, because he and Smurf have been so, so entwined his entire life.

TVLINE | How hard is it going to bite him in the ass that he let that one cousin live?
Well, it’s always possible that that cousin could come back, but I don’t know that it’ll really be too much of a bite, just because it’s a family member that he released.

TVLINE | Yeah, but a family member who just tried to kill him with his brothers…
I think that moment is more about about what releasing his cousin does to Pope internally. It’s going back to the existential question of “Who am I without Smurf?” That’s more what’s at play there.

TVLINE | Plus, Pope just wanted to return the gold in the first place. He was totally against killing his cousins until they attacked. Then, well… what are you gonna do?
Another thing that I think is really important is that [Pope & Co.] are cleaning up Smurf’s mess. None of them wanted [that massacre]. She didn’t tell them [she planned to kill Jed] in Season 4. But she did — she killed their patriarch and her suicide attempt went sideways, and suddenly, they’re stuck with these guys coming after them when they thought they were just doing a normal job!

What do you think, Animal Kingdom fans? Have we seen the last of Nick Stahl as Pope’s lone surviving cousin? And if not, is he a big threat to Pope… or a potentially ally?

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