Warning: The following contains spoilers for the series finale of Animal Kingdom. If you still haven’t watched, c’mon, what are you doing here?
What the… ? Longtime Animal Kingdom viewers had to have been taken aback by the remorse J showed for poisoning girlfriend Penny in the series’ finale Sunday. He is, after all, the sociopath who dumped former boo Nicky on a hospital doorstep when she accidentally shot herself, put a bullet in the head of lovergirl Mia and turned lawyer Morgan into shark bait. What the hell happened there?
“I think it’s a classic tale of falling in love with the mark,” showrunner Daniele Nathanson tells TVLine. Owing to Penny’s position at the law firm, “he targeted her, and I know he didn’t plan on putting his plan [to betray his uncles] into action as soon as he did, but he had to when Pope confessed [to Catherine’s murder].
“That was one of the reasons he was angry when Pope went to jail,” she continues, “because it screwed up his long con. It sped it up. When Pope confesses, J tells Penny, ‘You should move into an apartment [I own].’ Those things are tied.”
So seducing Penny was all part of J’s scheme? At first, yes. “He’s like, ‘I gotta get this chick close to me so I can use her,’” says Nathanson. “But I do believe he fell in love with her. Some people online have mentioned that she looked like [his mother] Julia… Good, yes, because I do believe that people are attracted to sort of the energy of their parents that’s imprinted on them.
“Penny also had an addict sister,” she adds. That gave J the impression that “maybe he could be with this woman because she understood where he was coming from. But unfortunately, his endgame was bigger, and basically, it just sort of shows the corrosion [of J as he sought revenge against Smurf’s family]. Just like in The Godfather at the end, he dies alone. I mean, J doesn’t die alone, but he is alone. He wanted Penny with him. That wasn’t a lie.”