Animal Kingdom is one of those crime shows that often walks the line between very dramatic and often quite humorous. Everyone in the show is emotionally damaged, which can lead to very dramatic moments or some light comedy. The Animal Kingdom characters are also morally ambiguous. They’re technically the “bad guys” but you relate to their motives and struggles. All the main Animal Kingdom characters also have an interesting layer of ruthlessness that runs through to their core.
The entire Cody clan exhibits some ruthless traits and behavior. Some of them are just more ruthless. I ranked the main Animal Kingdom characters and some recurring characters from least to most ruthless. I only selected a few supporting characters who have appeared in at least two seasons and are appearing in Animal Kingdom Season 5.
Warning: this post will contain spoilers about Animal Kingdom Seasons 1 through 5.
9. Renn Randall (Christina Ochoa)
Renn (Christina Ochoa) has been on Animal Kingdom as a recurring character since Season 1. She’s been attached to Craig (Ben Robson) since the beginning of the series. In Animal Kingdom Season 4, she revealed that Craig is likely the father of her child.
Renn and Craig’s initial bond seemed to be their partying ways and love of drugs. Neither are really partying right now but Renn won’t quite leave her drug-dealing past behind her. Minus her selling drugs, we haven’t seen much ruthlessness from Renn. In fact, she’s one of the sweeter girls involved with the Cody boys.
8. Jake (Jon Beavers)
Animal Kingdom has two versions of Jake. The older one is played by Jack Conley and the younger version is played by Jon Beavers. We only really know that the older version is Craig’s father that Smurf (Ellen Barkin) doesn’t want Craig to know about.
Since Animal Kingdom Season 4, the series has been showing young Smurf (Leila George) and her rise to the Smurf we have come to loathe or love. The flashbacks are giving a lot more insight into not only Smurf’s past, but characters like Jake. Young Jake actually seems pretty nice, especially in comparison to Smurf’s other exes like Billy (Denis Leary). However, Jake is part of a gang of thieves and must have at least somewhat of a sketchy past if Smurf never wanted Craig to know that he is his father. We’ll have to wait until the rest of Animal Kingdom Season 5 and 6 play out to discover Jake’s full story.
7. Craig Cody (Ben Robson)
Craig kind of gets brushed off as the “dumb one” of the group. He’s definitely not as clever and conniving as J (Finn Cole) or as dangerous as Pope (Shawn Hatosy), but Craig holds his own. He’s the character that has shown the most growth over the course of the series.
We saw in Animal Kingdom Season 4, Craig tried to take on more of a leadership role in the Cody family. It didn’t go well. However, just him trying to be a leader showed a lot of growth for Craig. The addition of his son Nick may take Craig to more ruthless places to protect the Cody family and his family with Renn. However, Craig hasn’t made too many ruthless choices so far, just a lot of mistakes due to his drug habits and party-boy ways.
6. Frankie (Dichen Lachman)
Frankie (Dichen Lachman) started Animal Kingdom as one thing and morphed into something completely different. In Animal Kingdom Season 4 and 5, Frankie has shown herself to be much more ruthless than she initially seemed. She used Craig like he was her puppet, then she betrayed all the Cody boys by telling Smurf about their secret heist, and now she’s working with J.
Frankie is probably the most sly and ruthless female character we’ve seen in a while. There have been others but they’ve either been more ruthless than sly, or more sly than ruthless. Frankie seems to be the perfect mix at the moment. However, Frankie has still only been on the show for a short while, so she hasn’t reached her true ruthless potential yet.
5. Deran Cody (Jake Weary)
Deran (Jake Weary) is a different kind of ruthless. He doesn’t seem to enjoy the Cody lifestyle as much as the others. In fact, he seems the most burdened by it. However, he’s one of those characters who has it in him to totally lose his mind if given enough time. We also know that he’s willing to do some dark things for his loved ones.
He killed for Adrian (Spencer Treat Clark) and then chose to stay with his brothers after Smurf’s death. Deran constantly kind of spirals. When he spirals, he sometimes hurts others emotionally or physically. With Adrian out of the picture, maybe temporarily, maybe for good, I suspect that Deran’s ruthless side will come out a lot more in Animal Kingdom Season 5 and 6.
4. Andrew “Pope” Cody (Shawn Hatosy)
Pope has always had this dark past that has haunted him. Because of it, he has this reputation as someone not to challenge. However, as Animal Kingdom has progressed, Pope is less of a scary figure and more of a sad one. His life is haunted by bad choices, codependency issues with Smurf, and not getting the proper mental health treatment.
Despite Pope being a very sympathetic character, he still willingly made some ruthless choices. Let us not forget that he killed the woman that he loved, Catherine (Daniella Alonso), because Smurf ordered her murder. This is only one ruthless act that we’ve seen, but we’re sure his past is full of a million more ruthless decisions because of Smurf. We should see more of Pope’s dark past in the remaining Animal Kingdom seasons.
3. Young Janine Smurf (Leila George)
You can see how young Smurf becomes this leader of the Cody clan and empire, but she’s not there yet. That’s why I ranked these two as different characters. Right now, the young smurf seems more reckless than ruthless. However, she has little moments that show her potential to become this ruthless matriarch that runs a crime empire.
Young Smurf is coming off more like J than her older counterpart at the moment. She’s observing, adapting, and acting, but she doesn’t have the skills yet to control everything in the same manner as her future self. We have seen plenty of ruthless behavior--from her bad parenting skills to dumping her boyfriend for his friend to destroying her friend’s chances at a normal life. She’s ruthless, just not older Smurf level ruthless.
2. Joshua “J” Cody (Finn Cole)
J is a character who you aren’t sure if he wants to be part of the Cody family or take them down. He seems to want both. J has never been an innocent character, but he seems to get more ruthless with every passing season. This is understandable as someone who grew up with a drug addict mother and had to basically just survive.
This is also probably why Smurf saw him as a potential apprentice. As of Animal Kingdom Season 5, J seems all business, no pleasure. He killed Smurf without hesitating and killed Mia (Sohvi Rodriguez) with only a little hesitation. J isn’t one to challenge, and I believe he will eventually destroy any and everyone in his quest for ultimate power.
1. Janine “Smurf” Cody (Ellen Barkin)
Smurf may be gone (R.I.P Smurf) but she’s still wreaking havoc for the Cody boys. Even in her death, she’s screwing the family over by making them work instead of letting them retire as happy rich criminals. When Smurf was alive, she was the definition of ruthless. Many of the things that she did were for herself and no one else.
In fact, she emotionally damaged all of her children in some way. She even tried to force Pope to kill her by saying she would kill him. And I have no doubt that Smurf would have killed Pope. She killed many others, including her semi-adopted son Baz (Scott Speedman). Smurf was a very ruthless character, and though J may try to reach her level, I doubt he could hold a candle to Smurf’s wicked ways.
Animal Kingdom Season 5premiered as part of the 2021 summer TV schedule. It will continue through to the 2021 fall TV schedule, likely ending in September or October 2021. Then Animal Kingdom fans have one more season to look forward to, possibly coming in 2022. Catch all the ruthless Animal Kingdom characters every Sunday on TNT.