After the death of his drug-addict mother, 17-year-old Joshua "J" Cody (Finn Cole) finds himself living with his grandmother Janine "Smurf" Cody (Ellen Barkin), a formidable and manipulative criminal matriarch from the California coast. Throughout Season 1, the police close in on"J" as he gets more and more embroiled in the criminal underworld of his cousins Andrew aka "Pope" (Shawn Hatosy), Craig (Ben Robson), Deran (Jake Weary) and Barry aka "Baz" (Scott Speedman). Meanwhile, Detective Sandra Yates (Nicki Micheaux) is watching him closely, believing he could be the one to bring Smurf and the family down for good.
The first season of "Animal Kingdom" holds a fresh rating of 78 percent and an audience score of 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes (at the time of publication). Charlie Mason wrote for TVLine that the show is a guilty pleasure.
I’m as hooked on TNT’s Animal Kingdom as Billy is to smack — and I feel almost guilty about it. It’s not that it’s bad television; on the contrary, it’s freakin’ terrific — dark, funny, exciting, smartly written and beautifully acted. It’s just that… holy crap, every character on the show is a bigger piece of s— than the last!
Season 1 of the drama series follows the lives of the people working at the Nail Artisan Manatee County salon in Florida, where business and organized crime mesh. Desna (Niecy Nash), the owner of the shop, launders money for her boyfriend Roller (Jack Kesy) as means to take care of her autistic brother Dean (Harold Perrineau); Polly (Carrie Preston), an ex-convict con artist, works as a nail-painter and is very protective of Desna; Quiet Ann (Judy Reyes) is the lookout and doorman of the salon; Virginia (Karrueche Tran) is a former prostitute and a relatively new hire; Jennifer (Jenn Lyon), Desna's best friend, wants to keep her husband away from the life of crime his family prepared for him. As Season 1 progresses, the ladies get more and more involved with the Dixie Mafia that controls the town and have to find ways to keep their business afloat.
After two outrageous seasons and moving into season three, "Claws" holds an 84 percent fresh rating and an audience score of 87 percent on Rotten Tomatoes (at the time of publication). Karen Han wrote for Thrillist that the show is carried by incredible writing and strong female characters:
But the real reason that Claws works, even when the tonal disparities sometimes fail to land and the gangland antics start to seem absurd, is the writing. The show puts women front and center, and for all that the aesthetic might seem cartoonish, the relationships between the characters are nothing if not real. Recent TV has seen more care taken when it comes to the portrayal of friendships and relationships between women -- Killing Eve comes to mind -- and Claws is easily at the forefront. The characters are, like the show, only caricatures on a surface level (one is a Lilly Pulitzer-clad con artist, another a baseball bat-toting enforcer); the writing goes much deeper.