Given how displeased Ellen Barkin had seemed to be to have been killed off Animal Kingdom in the TNT drama’s penultimate Season 4 episode, it wasn’t exactly a surprise that she didn’t return for Sunday’s series finale. What was a surprise, however, was that the show didn’t use any flashbacks of her version of Smurf, even as oldest son Pope was grappling with his culpability in twin sister Julia’s downfall. How come?
“There had been some concepts of how to introduce Smurf [into the episode],” showrunner Daniele Nathanson tells TVLine. And any way you slice it, “the show has always been about Smurf. Even the lack of her became the show.”
Leila George did appear as the younger version of the erstwhile Janine — as she has since Season 4 — in brutal scenes set in the 1990s. But, although Scott Speedman “resurrected” Baz only a couple of weeks ago in new flashbacks and as a vision that appeared to Pope, we didn’t get so much as a glimpse of Barkin as Smurf, even in previously aired scenes.
“I think,” says Nathanson, “as we pushed into Pope [more and more after Season 4] and sort of [had Shawn Hatosy’s tortured alter ego] taking the mantel of the top of the call sheet but also sort of the elder of the family, we thought it was better to stay in the present there.”