Only one Cody reigns supreme.
It's difficult even to process Animal Kingdom Season 6 Episode 13, as it marks this beloved series' conclusion, especially after those losses.
The cleverly titled "Fubar," which typically stands for "Fucked Up Beyond All Repair/Recognition," summed up the ruining of the Cody family, legacy, and kingdom.
J kept his damn promise to Smurf from Animal Kingdom Season 3 Episode 13, and he took it all.
The series finale will undoubtedly be one of those polarizing events where people either appreciate its straightforwardness or lament how things ended. I'm still working through my own feelings about it, so brace yourselves and grab a snack for a long review; you've been warned.
After months of speculation and some of the most creative, wild, outlandish, bizarre, and shocking theories by viewers, the real surprise of the actual finale is how predictable and direct it is.
Essentially, we got exactly what we envisioned without them leading us astray. J set out to destroy his uncles and take it all, seeking vengeance on behalf of his mother, and he followed through with that.
They didn't even pretend it was anything other than that.
At its core, this series was always about J. He's our introductory character, the person with whom we follow along.
Interestingly, viewers lose that accessibility to J over time as he grew desensitized to the Cody lifestyle and jaded, evolving into what many have often assumed was some type of sociopath.
It's the laws of the animal kingdom; you adapt or die.
But the finale served as a jarring reminder that just because J emotionally shut down on everyone around him, including the audience, halfway through the series, this has consistently been his story.
So it's fitting that if we literally started the series with him alone, we'd end it that way, too. In hindsight, the ending stays the course even if we viewers veered off of it along the way. And there's something worth appreciating about that.
It's almost hard when a series gives you exactly what you anticipated, but you keep expecting some big twist along the way.
Yes, I know some of you thought that the "Julia is alive" theory was full-blown absurdity, but the formulaic nature of television writing has conditioned us always to expect the unexpected, however outlandish. And that's so much the case that any alternative genuinely leaves you conflicted.
Conflicted is only one of many emotions stirred up after going on one last ride with these characters. After all, there are so many things that the series and the season set up well.
The finale had great callbacks and attention to detail in many regards. The action sequences throughout the installment were fantastic and well-executed.
The cinematography was wonderful, and I genuinely have to give kudos to the director and director of photography because there wasn't a single scene that wasn't shot beautifully, carefully, and with intention.
The acting was sublime throughout the hour. Everyone gave it their absolute all and poured their hearts out into every scene, with that sense of awareness that this was the end. Seriously, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, this series has some fo the most underrated talents on the air.
Hatosy's gutwrenching performance with Weary and Robson as the brothers parted ways was fantastic, and so were his final scenes with Cole, leading up to Pope's last moments alive.
Of course, Hatosy has been a masterclass for the entirety of this series. And I won't even pretend as if I won't follow that man to any and every project onward and maybe even the gates of hell if he led me there.
Weary could reduce you to tears in all his emotionally wrought scenes, from his realization and subsequent guilt after J's betrayal to his panic and fear when the brothers were held up at that house.
The conflicted expression on his face when he had a child staring down the barrel of his gun belied what we've always known about the youngest Cody brother not being the ruthless type.
Craig: Deran, Thailand, Renn.
Deran: I promise you, I'll raise Nick like he's my own, okay? I'll take care of Renn. They'll never have to worry about a thing okay? I promise. I promise.
And Weary and Robson's final moments together were devastating, filled to the brim with the rich, storied history of Deran and Craig being each other's soul mate and other half in its purest form.
Robson perfectly nailed Craig's resignation to his fate and that distinctive eldest sibling vibe as he convinced his in-denial baby brother to let him go, allowing him to spend his final moments with Deran appreciating the beauty of where they live (fitting for the pair who ate, slept, and breathed Oceanside) and making promises of a better life for Nick.
Cole put forth some of his best as we got to see J unravel in a way that we haven't witnessed in some time. The confrontation with Pope was filled with so much scorn, pain, and hatred that you felt it to your core..
The flashback crew wasn't exempt from incredible performances as George's complete transformation into Smurf fills you with so much anger and hatred that it makes you want to scream.
Smurf: How does she look?
Andrew: Pregnant and strung out.
And Polish and Csolak have performed superbly as the Cody twins. Julia begging Andrew to come with her at the moment that served as Pope's original sin brought things together and juxtaposed with J's bitter, vengeful tirade shaped his revenge plot even for those who weren't J fans or supported his venture.
The finale further solidifies J's position and perspective regarding why he set up his uncles. It was difficult to watch, but then so were the flashbacks of how Smurf outcasted a pregnant Julia.
J's plan fell into place perfectly. Apparently, he always intended to exact revenge on his uncles on behalf of himself and Julia. Still, he probably thought he'd get more time and money out of the experience before he did it.
Pope going to prison, in one of the most contrived and irritating ways (I'll just never get over the Thompson shitshow or stop being bitter about her glaring status as a one-dimensional plot device that never gets some comeuppance), is likely what prompted J to go into action.
And if he was ever conflicted because of some kinship with his uncles, Deran and Craig's unironic boasting about "family first" and how their family wasn't one without Pope reignited J's hatred and hurt.
Initially, it made you wonder why he even bothered to help them put together this prison break plan if he was going to betray them, but it was an almost fool-proof way of setting them up and taking them down.
Tipping the cops off about the guys' location was the best way to ensure that all of them would get killed. It was so unimaginably ruthless of J. He's his grandmother's grandson, isn't he?
It also meant that he could dissociate himself from the breakout plan and rely on Penny as his alibi, not to mention that he could skip town scot-free.
J never intended nor expected Deran, Craig, and Pope to get out of that hotbox holdup at the safe house alive. In all his years with his uncles, it was an oversight that he underestimated them in that regard.
Technically, they all managed to escape that, and the subsequent deaths resulted from other factors. In an alternate world, J would've had to face his uncles, who weren't as easy to kill as he thought.
But we don't get alternate endings, and we don't get happy ones either. As much as you root for and love the characters, this series was never designed for some happily ever afters. They may be our guys, but they aren't good guys.
Even the family mantra of getting everything they want and nothing they deserve comes with some awareness that they don't deserve good things. You don't live their lifestyles and believe you'll get peace and happiness; at the very least, you know it'll come at a cost.
Deran: Shit, this is on me. This on me. I trusted, J.
Pope: We all did.
Craig: Yeah, we did.
It hits each character at various points throughout the hour, presumably settling in for Deran and J last. I imagine it's what showrunner Nathanson was angling for with this goodbye.
But in some ways, the season felt a bit aimless as we led up to this as if the final episode was locked in and everything leading up to it was up in the air or biding time until we got to it. Biker sober buddies, disappearing dirty cops, one and done Lena sightings, missing surfboards, Tommy heists -- they were just, whatever they were.
In many ways, Deran and Craig suffered the most narratively in this regard, both of their individual arcs too subtle or taking a backseat to the flashbacks, which were informative but stagnant.
Nevertheless, Deran and Craig carried the action component of this hour with that thrilling breakout sequence and the efforts to escape unscathed.
Pope's breakout was exciting, and it was an adrenaline-inducing rollercoaster as the cops closed in on them. Pope, forever the protector and his brothers' keeper, took his stand against the cops so his baby bros could escape.
The series' best fraternal dynamics were highlighted well and given their space to sucker punch you right in the feels. Deran and Pope's bond has been top-tier in the last two seasons, and it was devastating when Deran freaked out, blaming himself for trusting J and getting them into this mess, fearing that they would all die.
But Pope got through to him, reassured him, and reminded him that he'll always take the hits for them. The idea of leaving Pope behind when they did so much to get him back had Deran especially ready to crumble, and it just hits you how close they two are and how much Deran relies on his brothers.
The silent communication between Pope and Craig during that moment was also perfectly executed, which nodded at the sibling hierarchy and dynamic.
Deran was every bit the baby brother as his brothers sacrificed to spare him, reassure him, or save him. It makes you reflect on who Deran will be now that he's the lone survivor untethered with his brothers gone. You could almost see the shift in Deran after he made his promises to Craig before he died.
In the same way, you can appreciate that Deran just recently swore that they don't hurt kids, and he had to stick by that as he couldn't pull the trigger on the actual child who shot his brother.
And there is always the matter that those two fought like hell with each other all the time, but they were always one another's person.
In hindsight, Craig always showed his brother more grace than Deran did for him, but isn't that typical of the sibling dynamic?
Craig took a bullet and essentially died for Deran. As tragic as it is, it's something beautiful in knowing that Craig's love for Deran has always been consistent.
And it makes his death, with its fittingly Viking feel set to Jon Foreman's hauntingly perfect "The Ocean Beyond the Sea, a tough one. Craig has cheated dath so many times from his rampant drug use, criminal activities, and reckless bike riding that it was easy to buy into the notion that he could be invincible.
He also has a kid who will never know him and a woman who loves him. But they weren't lying about "family 'til the end" because the most compelling love story dynamic has always been that of these brothers.
Maybe that's disappointing for fans who expected some Deran and Adrian reunion or something more concrete with Deran's vague ending, but you can't fault the finale for focusing on what has always been Deran's closest bond.
It also puts Deran in an interesting and unexpected position. He went from an uncle who cared nothing for his nephew or Renn to the guy who took a bullet for this baby and will now raise the child like his own.
The irony of that promise isn't lost either. Nick won't have to go through what J did. And a historically disinterested and unsympathetic Deran has had an epiphany while facing his brother's death.
But that's also the only thing we can draw that connects some of this to J's motives. We'll never know if Deran and Craig realized J's betrayal was rooted in vengeance and payback. And there's something unsatisfying about that.
Instead, it reads as confirmation bias that J was a problem, and there was no fault or actions on their part that may have played a role in any of this. Craig died before processing anything beyond J betrayed them because J is just doing J shit.
No guns. No cash. Nothing. He never transferred the money!Craig
And Deran tearfully walked away from his brother's corpse, likely not even considering the irony of him taking in, raising, and protecting one nephew the way the family should've done with J the whole time.
And while Deran and Craig aren't by any means to blame for every single thing, as they were younger when things happened with Julia and J was born, it doesn't excuse the years when they were old enough to know better or how awful they were to J when he moved in.
Deran's chapter has an open ending; fascinatingly enough, he's at his most interesting in this state of life. I suppose if any of the Codys were to make it out of this finale alive, I'm slowly coming around to why it would be him.
The finale also delivered a much-needed time jump. It's too bad it didn't come much sooner. It felt like we were spinning on a wheel and beating a dead horse with how awful Smurf was to Julia.
The flashbacks had positives, mainly in allowing us to understand Julia better and tell her story, giving us needed background, and slaying us with the performances by the flashback cast.
But they also meandered and dragged. The eight-year flash forward to a strung-out, pregnant Julia put us where they needed things to be for the finale, but there were shades of background from then we could've seen.
It made them feel rushed as they crammed in what we're to recognize as Pope's "original sin" and skimmed through other things.
They played coy with who J's father is, still not outright confirming that it was Baz, while blessedly dispelling the theories that Pope's "original sin' was something sordid with his sister.
Pope: Is the guy you broke in with the dad? Is Baz the dad?
Julia: Maybe. I don't know who the dad is. It's a boy.
From Smurf's behavior towards Baz and Julia's reaction when he came in with that sandwich and flippant response when Pope inquired, we're left assuming it is him.
Some flashbacks prior to that point would have been nice, though. It also would've helped with the evident tension between Smurf and Baz after that job. By then, you could tell that Baz was no longer caught up in Smurf's spell and regarded her with thinly veiled disdain. His reaction to taking a five grand cut of a $60K haul was glaring.
But then, outside of serving as a foil and conflict for the twins or Julia and Smurf, Baz has spent the entire season lost in the plot. Despite Darren Mann's efforts, young Baz has been a one-dimensional character who took a backseat to the Cody trio dynamic and is not much better off than young Craig and Deran running around in the background.
Earlier jumps in the flashbacks could've expanded on when Baz had his own turning point with Smurf. There was a story there, and it could've been interesting to see, especially to draw parallels between J and his presumed father.
And it certainly could've been beneficial to see the last time Smurf sent Julia to rehab. Nevertheless, the flashbacks were no less heartbreaking.
A pregnant and strung-out Julia was a reminder that J also didn't stand much of a chance. He's a heroin baby, and it definitely adds more context to him as a character.
Smurf's callousness with her daughter just reached new lows. Loving addicts is hard, but Smurf pushed her daughter into this since childhood. She's the one who introduced Julia to gateways to addiction from the time she was a child. To hold it against her as a teen is sickening.
Everything seemed to change around Julia. Smurf cleared out all her belongings, and Craig got her room.
And Pope had become closer to the version of him we know. It felt like whatever innocence and joy Pope had left was lost after Julia. Pope making the bullets all by himself with such precision while wearing his trademark black t-shirt instead of the light-colored polos and other things he used to wear was telling.
But he also fell right back into that loving brother who needed his sister role once Julia sobered up and told him about J, how much she missed him, and how great an uncle he would be. The sad part is through Lena, at least, we know that he would have and could've been.
If Smurf wasn't already planning on abandoning her daughter at skidrow, it was inevitable when she saw how easily the twins bonded again. For Smurf to fully control Pope, Julia had to be out of the picture. Julia knew that too, which made her unsuccessful attempts at getting Pope to accompany her so upsetting.
The codependency of these siblings who trauma bond under the shared weight of surviving life with a narcissistic parent hits you in waves. We saw it with the Deran and Craig bond, but it truly was displayed with Pope and Julia.
Smurf: Rehab, for you, again, waste of money. You got something to say, Andrew? Say it. Let's try this again, go on, baby, take it. This is the last bit of cash that you and that little bastard are ever going to get from me.
Julia: Andrew, come with us. Please, you need to get away from her, come with us.
Smurf: Get out of my car now.
Julia: Andrew, please!
Smurf: Oh, you wanna go, go. Baby, you know there's no turning back, though. Once you're out, you're out.
Julia: Andrew, please, we need you. Please!
Neither of them was ever able to survive and thrive without one another. So we're to accept that Pope's original sin was the day he didn't join Julia when she begged him to, and things maybe could've been different if he did.
That being the critical moment that set everything into motion is underwhelming. But perhaps it's because, with that context and everything that J knows from his personal experience with Smurf and witnessing the dynamics she had with the others along the way, it undercuts his revenge against the others, especially Pope.
Smurf pulled a gun out on a pregnant Julia and threatened Pope. The boys truly feared Smurf. And Pope's love for Julia and his need for her didn't change his dependency on Smurf and the hold that she's always had on him.
We can imagine that Smurf worked her magic on Pope without Julia there, and he was even worse. It doesn't even feel right to hold the only other person who experienced Smurf in all of her stages accountable for being a product and perpetual victim of emotional abuse.
The twins always protected each other in their separate ways as children, and Julia looked after her brother when they were teens. However, it just wasn't enough. I hate that for both of them.
Would Pope and Julia have survived the streets together and been okay? Could Pope have supported his sister and nephew through her getting clean, finding a place, working, and whatever?
Would Smurf have even allowed that if Pope got out of that car and stayed behind, or would things have ended the same way? We'll never know.
It makes sense that Pope would blame himself, especially with the state he's been in for a while. His mixed-up feelings about Smurf's death sent him spiraling. His guilt over Cath had him copping to her death and taking life in prison.
The moment he confronted J, rageful over J nearly getting his brothers killed, he broke down with his own guilt over Julia. That has eaten him alive for some time. But it's interesting to learn that in Pope's mind, none of the bad things would have happened if he had chosen Julia that day.
As if Baz wouldn't have ended up in the same predicament or Cath. Maybe she wouldn't have died by his hand, but she or some other woman Baz was with probably would've faced a similar fate because it's Smurf. It's always Smurf.
It brings up the question of how much can one blame on their upbringing and so forth, and where's the line in taking accountability for actions despite that?
The Pope and J standoff was seasons in the making.
J did not anticipate the scariest Cody of them all catching up to him, and you could see it in his eyes. His default was to lie his way out of becoming another body on Pope's list, but fortunately, he came clean with his intentions by invoking Julia's name.
Pope: We trusted you. We made you part of the family. We brought you in, and we trusted you! And you set us up to die. My brothers, to die! You think you're so smart, why did you come back here, J? To set your alibi when the cops came?
J: No, I had heat. I had heat, I was trying to tell you.
Pope: You kill this girl?
J: I had to, man, she was going to call the cops, and I was going to come to find you.
Pope: No more lies! It didn't have to be this way. But you are who you are and you did what you did, so you know what happens next.
J: You deserved it. All of you. For what you did to my mom, you deserved it. You deserved it! You could have saved her. You could've saved her, but you didn't.
The switch-up for Pope was such a gut punch, especially when he displayed precisely what the problem was through his words.
He spoke to J as if J wasn't his flesh and blood like they did J a favor by taking him in and endangering Deran and Craig was the ultimate offense because they're Pope's family. "Making" J part of the family implies that he wasn't family in the first place for goodness sake!
But J and Julia were his family too. Pope didn't have that same energy with Julia. And if that passion for family was always there, then Julia and J never should've been living in squalor a couple of blocks away.
The second Pope registered that his nephew was vengeful on his sister's behalf -- he couldn't even be angry... just guilty.
The entire sequence between Cole and Hatosy was so well done and intense. The Cody pool is its own character, and it wasn't lost that J almost drowned for the umpteenth time there.
The 'twist' of this finale was probably supposed to be that Pope let J go, but it wasn't surprising in the least. Nor was Pope burning the house down and dying there. If he felt it started with him and that cursed place, he'd feel it should end with him. He'd take it all as penance for his sins.
Pope lighting the house on fire where Smurf's bed felt rightfully poetic. It also made you appreciate the season's keyart.
Pope collapsing by the pool felt like a great callback to Pope waking up beside it in a fugue state after disposing of Smurf's ashes. He laid to rest in the same place he began to unravel under the weight of his guilt and the past.
Water has been such a constant theme and source of symbolism for this series and Pope specifically -- cleansing, destroying, being this marker for his state. Admittedly, it was one of the most striking scenes as a result, despite the upsetting outcome.
J seemed shocked that Pope had let him go. J is an intelligent man; over the years, he's picked up on how damaged, and unstable Pope is. I'd imagine he understood how much his mother looked after him too. J could acknowledge how Smurf ruined his mother but didn't make room for how she destroyed a mentally unwell Pope.
As Pope mentioned, Julia was stronger than he was. Of course, Julia died still loving her twin with every fiber of her being because she understood his position and likely didn't blame him no matter how hurt she was. It's just an endless cycle of hurt people hurting people and no grace to be found.
In that sense, did they deserve to be punished if the Cody boys were products of their environment and spent their entire lives trying to be strong enough to break from this toxic, abusive family structure?
J is a product of his environment too, and while that got him $5 million and life in Fiji, look at what he's become in the process. And is he deserving of punishment too?
One of the biggest surprises was that he genuinely loved Penny. He was serious about her joining him in Fiji and lost his mind when he "had" to kill her.
Poor Penny was just a girl who fell too hard and fast for a dangerous man. Of all the random characters introduced this season, who now seemed pointless (looking at you, Vince), at least she served a point in the end.
You knew she was a goner when she told J she couldn't go. And J using the cranberry vodka his mother and grandmother notoriously drank to drug the Julia doppelganger he caught feelings for, was a special kind of cold-blooded.
Penny: I won't tell anyone you know.
J: I know.
Death by overdose for a woman who spent her life dealing with her sister's addiction was brutal.
We can appreciate that Penny's death unlocked some genuine emotion in J. He's felt like a robot for so long that actually getting a peek into how he's feeling and all the emotions he often kept buried was refreshing.
J ripping through the house, destroying everything after crying over the fact that he had to kill his girlfriend, was unexpected. I also wonder how much of that was the adrenaline coming down from what he had done to his uncles.
But the series ends with J in Fiji, a millionaire, wearing his trademark glasses. But he's all alone.
His innocence is gone. He has no family or love. His mother is still dead after he avenges her. He's a murderer, killed parts of himself along the way, and he's not even recognizable to the boy who entered that Cody home.
He got everything he thought he wanted, but look at what it cost. Was it worth it? He sure as hell didn't look happy.
It calls back to that jewelry heist early in the season. J understood the resentful feelings that would make Arthur an asset when screwing over his brother.
But he also didn't understand how Arthur could say that he thought stealing from Eddie would feel better. Maybe J thought this would feel better than it does.
The hour is trusting us to infer that, maybe, and I have no problem drawing these conclusions and making these connections. But perhaps I'm greedy for wanting something more overt.
J was right back to that stoic man that has overtaken him for at least three seasons. Was he unhappy? Uncaring? Constipated? You never know with this kid.
The question is, are you guys happy with that ending? We've devoted six seasons to this series, and it's ending about as accurately as so many predicted. Was it a satisfying ending? Frankly, I'm still undecided about how I feel.
Somehow, I expected more, yet I appreciate the efforts of tying things up without any pretenses. Again, it was a very straightforward finale where it wasn't so much if you'd figure out what would happen as it was you tuned in to see how they would execute what you expected to happen.
In many ways, I don't fully understand how the season led up to the finale with some of its storylines and its many side quests.
And some answers are left unresolved and unaddressed. Of course, it sucks losing Pope and Craig. And J not giving us anything else after breaking character with Pope was a bit frustrating.
But you could see the vision and understand the execution. And there's no denying it made you feel things. The performances were phenomenal. Every facet of the show put in the work, and it's evident along the way.
In the end, maybe the issue is that you can never be wholly satisfied with a series finale when you're not ready to say goodbye yet.
Over to you, Animal Kingdom Fanatics.
I'm going to take it all, Smurf. Everything you have. Everything you've ever cared about. Everyone you've ever loved.J
For the last time, what are your thoughts on this series finale? Which death hurt you the most? Were you rooting for J? Did you predict this ending?
What were your favorite and least favorite parts? How would you have ended it? Sound off below.
If you'd love to relive the entire series all over again, you can watch Animal Kingdom online here via TV Fanatic.
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is an insomniac who spends late nights and early mornings binge-watching way too many shows and binge-drinking way too much tea. Her eclectic taste makes her an unpredictable viewer with an appreciation for complex characters, diverse representation, dynamic duos, compelling stories, and guilty pleasures. You'll definitely find her obsessively live-tweeting, waxing poetic, and chatting up fellow Fanatics and readers. Follow her on X.