Animal Kingdom series finale: what happened, who survived

Finn Cole as J Cody in Animal Kingdom
Finn Cole as J Cody in Animal Kingdom (Image credit: Warner Media)

Animal Kingdom, TNT’s compelling and twisted action drama about a Southern California crime family, came to an end with a bang. 

The Animal Kingdom season 6 finale marked the end of the road for the Cody clan as the fate of brothers Pope (Shawn Hatosy), Craig (Ben Robson) and Deran (Jake Weary), along with Cody nephew J (Finn Cole), was revealed. 

SPOILERS AHEAD for the Animal Kingdom finale, "Fubar."

Not only did the show bring the present-day story of the Cody family to an end, but it also wrapped up the tragic story of young Julia (Jesper Polish) and Andrew (Kevin Csolak), the newly minted Pope. 

Until the finale, fans could only guess how the family had been torn apart, but with the full picture revealed, it shed valuable insight into Animal Kingdom’s first episode and even more insight into why things ended up the way they did. 

Let’s break down the key moments from the Animal Kingdom series finale. 

What happened in the Animal Kingdom series finale? 

Ben Robson and Jake Weary in Animal Kingdom

Ben Robson and Jake Weary in Animal Kingdom (Image credit: Warner Media)

There was a dark shadow hanging over the series finale thanks to the penultimate episode, "Exodus." The Codys were putting the final touches on their plan to break Pope out of jail and flee the country, leaving their lives in Oceanside behind. What the brothers didn’t know, however, is that J used girlfriend Penny’s (Stevie Lynn Jones) help to transfer all of their money into his account. This led fans to wonder what was happening when the original plan was to split the money.

It didn’t take long for the truth to be revealed. While Deran and Craig ambushed the prison bus to free Pope, J was preparing to leave the country with Penny and all of their money. He also called in a tip to the police that he knew where the fugitives were hiding out. When Penny saw what was really going on she said she couldn’t leave with J, so he ended up poisoning her. 

As soon as J didn’t show up at the rendezvous, the brothers realized something was very wrong and tried to flee, but they came under fire as police closed in. Pope told Deran and Craig to run and save themselves; Pope ended up drawing their fire so his siblings could escape, getting wounded in the process.

Craig and Deran managed to escape, but when they tried to steal a car from a liquor store clerk, the clerk’s son shot Craig at close range. Deran managed to get his brother back to the coast, but Deran knew he wasn’t going to make it far and they stopped on a cliff overlooking the ocean, where Craig succumbed to his injuries. 

Despite being shot several times, Pope managed to get back to their house in Oceanside. He knew J betrayed them; seeing Penny’s lifeless body by the pool only confirmed it for him. Amid flashbacks to his tumultuous past with his twin and J’s mom, Julia, Pope sets fire to the Cody house, leaving everything to go up in flames. He clutches a picture of his sister and mom, and he dies in the pool as the house burns.

We never see what happens with Deran, who managed to escape, but we do see J sitting at a resort in a foreign country. He managed to avenge his mother’s death, but it came at the cost of betraying the only living relatives he had.

How did Smurf and Pope betray Julia? 

Jasper Polish and Kevin Csolak in Animal Kingdom

Jasper Polish and Kevin Csolak in Animal Kingdom (Image credit: Warner Media)

In the very first episode of Animal Kingdom, we meet J after his mother Julia dies of an overdose and he goes to live with his grandmother Janine "Smurf" Cody (played in the present day by Ellen Barkin and in the past by Leila George). He barely knew his uncles Pope, Craig and Deran, and adopted uncle Baz (Scott Speedman), who turned out to be J’s father. 

J always struggled with how the Codys lived a lavish life of crime while he and his mom barely got by and though he seemed to bond with the family over time his final act of betrayal reveals that he never forgave them for what they did to her. 

Fans never knew the full story about Julia’s exodus from the family until season 6, set in the early 1990s. During the sixth season we see Julia and Baz get close, confusing Pope about the nature of his sister’s relationship with their adopted brother and making Smurf jealous that her daughter was stealing her thunder. Not only did Julia have the boys’ attention, but she was smart enough to get high scores on the SATs so that she could go to college. College, Smurf determined, was a big waste of time.

Smurf kicked Julia out toward the end of the season because she’d been skimming money from their jobs, but when Julia turns up pregnant with Baz’s child it becomes clear how evil Smurf really was. In the finale, Smurf kicks a very pregnant Julia out and forbids her sons from helping her. Pope is torn over losing his sister but he’s so dedicated to his mother that he turns the other cheek and follows her commands, looking on as his mother dumps his sister on the streets. 

With no money or shelter, Julia gets into drugs and becomes the addict we know her to be at the start of the series, only now we understand how she came to be hooked on drugs and how it all goes back to Smurf kicking her out and Pope not standing up for his sister.

The end of Animal Kingdom: "may we get what we want, but not what we deserve"

Shawn Hatosy in Animal Kingdom

Shawn Hatosy in Animal Kingdom (Image credit: Warner Media)

Whenever the Cody boys finished a job they offered up a toast: "may we get what we want, but not what we deserve." In the end, given what we know about Julia’s tragic story, it’s hard to find fault with what J did. That doesn’t make the ending any easier, though.

Craig had just proposed to the mother of his son and promised to meet them overseas where he’d set them up for when he fled the country. Deran was planning to go to Indonesia to possibly reunite with his former lover and Pope was going to finally be free of his demons after confessing to killing Baz’s wife under Smurf’s orders. 

Smurf’s terrible influence on her family can be seen at every level. They were damaged and often unable to make decisions for themselves. When she died in season 4, they carried on her legacy. They weren’t good people, but as characters on a TV show we rooted for them to come out ahead. 

The Codys had their own rules and their own twisted brand of Robin Hood-style justice, so we wanted to see them get what they wanted instead of getting what they (arguably) deserved. 

The Animal Kingdom series finale hit hard because it really looked like they were going to get away with it, but what Smurf’s sons didn’t realize is that J’s love for his mom was going to take them all down in the end.

Sarabeth Pollock
Editorial Content Producer


Sarabeth joined the What to Watch team in May 2022. An avid TV and movie fan, her perennial favorites are The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, true crime documentaries on Netflix and anything from Passionflix. You’ve Got Mail, Ocean's Eleven and Signs are movies that she can watch all day long. She's also a huge baseball fan, and hockey is a new favorite.  

When she's not working, Sarabeth hosts the My Nights Are Booked Podcast and a blog dedicated to books and interviews with authors and actors. She also published her first novel, Once Upon an Interview, in 2022.