Animal Kingdom lost a key Cody member in Season 3’s premiere, and the TNT series went to great lengths to hide Baz’s true killer.
First debuting in 2016, TNT’s Animal Kingdom spotlights 17-year-old J’s (Finn Cole) transition to living with his estranged criminal family led by his no-nonsense grandmother, Smurf (Ellen Barkin). Now in Season 5, the series has killed off a few prominent characters along the way. However, no one’s death was as shocking as Barry “Baz” Blackwell’s (Scott Speedman) in the Season 3 premiere. Not only did the killer’s identity initially remain a mystery, but there’s technically more than one correct answer to who killed Baz.
Animal Kingdom introduces Baz as one of J’s more level-headed uncles, though he’s later revealed as J’s father. Smurf adopted Baz when he was 12-years-old, removing him from an abusive upbringing and, ironically, getting him involved in her criminal schemes. Given Baz’s smarts, he quickly became the second in command under the matriarch, outranking even Smurf’s biological children. While Baz starts as a fan favorite, his self-centeredness and greed quickly send him down a path of villainy. Along with cheating on his wife and neglecting his daughter, Baz’s decision to steal from Smurf ultimately seals his fate.
While Baz’s brothers are all for stepping out from Smurf’s strangulating control, Baz takes it to the next level after ripping of Smurf’s secret storage unit, initially unbeknownst to them. He discovers millions of dollars in cash and jewelry, including the watches that Smurf claimed she destroyed. Baz allegedly divides the money evenly among J and his brothers, although he seems to be harboring extra for himself. While Baz believes Smurf is skimming from their jobs and essentially stealing from them, Smurf has a counter-argument: she plays it smart because no one else will and keeps it all for her family’s future. Nonetheless, drama ensues, with Baz planning to escape with Lucy (Carolina Guerra) to Mexico and framing Smurf for Javi’s (Alex Meraz) murder. The plan’s a success, and Smurf gets thrown in prison.
However, in Season 2, Episode 13, “Betrayal,” Baz’s luck runs out. As Baz sets off for Mexico with Lucy, an unknown assailant decked out in all black shots Baz four times in the chest. In a shocking Season 3 premiere, Baz sadly succumbs to his gunshot wounds. While Animal Kingdom fans were left hypothesizing possible suspects, they didn’t have to wait long for an answer. Season 3, Episode 3, “The Center Will Hold,” revealed Mia Benitez (Sohvi Rodriguez), Pete Trujillo’s niece and J’s love interest, as Baz’s murderer. Although Mia didn’t act alone, she just enacted a hit ordered by Smurf.
Animal Kingdom also sets up the person behind Baz’s death as a bit of a mystery. While it’s not difficult to connect Smurf given her relationship with the Trujillo gang, which also protected her in prison, her involvement isn’t officially confirmed until Season 3, Episode 11, “Jackpot.” After a messy capture of Lucy’s brother Marco to get her stolen goods back results in Pope’s (Shawn Hatosy) kidnapping, Smurf meets with Lucy to discuss terms. In exchange for Pope’s safe return, Smurf finally admits she ordered the hit on Baz. Although, in typical Smurf fashion, she also blames Lucy, saying she “poisoned him against his own family.” Ultimately, none of the Cody boys learn of Smurf’s involvement in Baz’s death, except Pope, who begrudgingly but characteristically keeps his mother’s secret. Later, Mia finally admits to J that she killed Baz on Smurf’s orders right before her death in Season 4, Episode 8, “Ambo.”
Overall, Baz’s death remains one of Animal Kingdom‘s most shocking moments. Although executive producer John Wells maintains it was planned from the series’ conception to align with Baz’s fate in the source material, the acclaimed 2010 Australian film of the same name. That said, it doesn’t make Baz’s kill-off any less sad. Mia might have pulled the trigger but doing so on Smurf’s command makes the moment all the more tragic.
Currently in Season 5, new episodes of Animal Kingdom air each Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on TNT.
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