Ozark

“Hypothetically, scale of one to ten, how difficult would it be for someone to disappear?”

Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) / Ozark, Season 1, “Sugarwood.”

 

The Hero is one of two partners in an up-and-coming Chicago financial management firm meet with a real estate agent to look at a huge new office space for their growing financial firm in Chicago. The Hero is given a brochure featuring property in the Ozarks during their tour of the office space. It He says that they should think of opening a business there. Get out of Chicago.

Later, we see the partners during a night scene inside a trucking company. We learn that the partners have been laundering money for a Mexican cartel and the cartel has discovered that $8 million has been skimmed from the cartel. The owners of the truck firm are killed and then the partner of the Hero. The leader of the cartel group, then walks over to the Hero and points a gun at the head. In some fast improvised thinking, the Hero pulls the brochure that his partner had given him a few days ago and tells the cartel leader that he has a plan to make them much more money. Why not move out of Chicago and open money lanudering operations in the Ozark Lake region a few hundred miles souith of Chicago.

The cartel leader looks at the borchure and decides to give the Hero a month to pay back in clean, laundered money the $8 million skimmed from the cartel. The Hero says that they might be able to establish a huge laundering operation in the Ozarks without being under the watchful eye of the feds in Chicago. The hero takes out all the money from his personal account. The cartel leader tells him he has one month to clean this money in the Ozarks.

He appears in the Ozarks with his family

The Hero has a family and they immediately leave Chicago and move to the Ozarks where they first stay in a motel while looking for a home. A realtor finds them a home on lakefront property. The catch is that the owner of the home is an old man given only a few months to live and he will be entitled to continue to lie in the basement of his home until he dies.

Soon, the Hero begins investing in businesses to launder the money into. His first investments are a strip club, a funeral parlor and a lakeside resort. His wife gets more involved with the Hero’s her business with the cartel. We soon realize that she is brilliant in her abilities in sales and political strategy.

They attempt to keep knowledge of their illegal business away from the children but can’t do this as the children learn about their parent’s illegal business. The couple becomes involved with a minister who meets on the lake amongst other boats and preaches. The owners of the stripe club and resort and then funeral parlor.

* * *

Then, they meet the grand old family of the Ozarks. A man and his wife who own one of the largest farms in the area. They are growing poppies on their land to convert them into heroin and then distribute the heroin. They are a powerful old family in the area and control the local police among other things.

The Hero sets up a meeting between the heroin growers and the cartel. The cartel could distribute his heroin much wider than he could, large as he was. In the middle of all of this, a young minister and his pregnant wife are involved with the business of the financial advisor and the great farming/heroin family of the area.

The cartel is constantly monitoring the activities of the Hero and his family. So is a very strange FBI agent who seems more psychotic than any other character in the story.

But the lives of this rough, red-neck family enter into the story close to the time the new family and their laundering money for the cartel father arrive in the Ozark Lake region.

Darlene and Jacob Snell

Once the family has arrived in this new land, it is a story of how they attempt to change the native people of this new land.  Yes, they are also fellow Americans, but they are also another culture altogether from that of the Chicago family arriving here. But it is also a story of how the native people attempt to change them, this family from that grand place a few hundred miles north called Chicago. Perhaps there is no greater contrast in American place symbols than the contrast between Chicago and the Ozarks. Chicago of the family, a center of civilization, sophistication and rationality. A certain coldness acquired by all residents of our grandest cities.

The Hero and Heroine of the story, financial planner and talented wife, have a constant awakening to the ideas, morality and ethics of this unique area of the nation. One of the areas of America that has its own language, culture, customs, codes … all of those old, fading things that used to hold the nation together.

Through mainly the efforts of the Heroine wife they become involved in the financing team behind the proposal for a new riverboat casino in the state. The drug cartel money could be funneled through this gambling operation and could be a gold mine for them.

Following the brilliant twenty episodes of season 1 and 2 ofOzarkthere are many things going through my mind now. In Hollywood, it might be considered a type of “Fish out of Water” story. Putting city people into the country. That is, you place a character from one physical place to a truly new one. Most importantly, you take your audience to this place as best you can. The series does this so well and one reason they have received nominations in the key area of setting. I imagine also that one might consider it a type of “Reverse Beverly Hillbillies story” where our Heroes go from riches to rags. At least at first.

* * *

Often, great stories take one to another place. Not just an inside mental place but also an outside place in the real world.  Powerful symbols in the story are represented by the outside world of the story heroes and heroines. Few stories in modern television history has pulled off the symbolism of place as well as the popular Netflix series, in its third season, Ozark.

There are twenty episodes in season I and 2 (in April of 2019) and Steph and I have binge-watched them all in two days. Now, season 3 soon coming and either another year of the series or the end of the series.

One can review the episodes of the seasons and much about the series via Wikipedia and articles and interviews. But in above, simply wanted to relate an amazing story told in Ozark. Like many powerful stories in life, these come from memories of one’s early years. What if the creator of the Ozark series grew up near them or worked in the summers at a resort? In the Ozarks.

That’s all I’ll attempt to explain about Ozark. In my opinion, one of the greatest series ever on television. Told through incredible characters. Created by a person who grew up in the Ozarks.  Who wants to give a voice to this part of America? It offers the boyhood story of a place spent during the summers of a particular boyhood. Are there more powerful symbols around?

So, I would say that much of the Netflix hit series Ozarkis a love-letter to this area of America. This area of isolated and protected people from the grand onslaught of civilization from Chicago a few hundred miles to the north. Is there anywhere in America where the contrast between the two grand symbols of the founding of America is greater than Chicago and the Lake of the Ozarks? The series seems so much that more reflection is needed. But in so many ways the series is a type of love letter to the Ozarks as an area still keeping America’s old values alive. The character examples in the series are everywhere. The old man who owns and lives under the home the family moves to. The owner and his wife who are the great famers (of heroin) in the area. The owner of a resort the Hero invests in.

A Psychotic FBI Agent

He is almost like a Robin Hood investor to the area. A person with much cash to invest in businesses in the area. He needs connections to various businesses. He needs to buy a number of businesses to launder cartel money into.

As the story progresses, the Hero and Heroine become increasingly hard to figure out. We search for emotions in the Hero and wonder if he is simply faking everything just to get by. He always seems cool under pressure, always coming up with ideas and cooling temperatures off. In fact, he is much too cool to seem to be that sexually addicted person we originally thought he was. He is much too cool and calculating for this type of person.

Yet, who is the Hero?

And, who is the Heroine?

We test our emotional indicators against the Hero of Ozark. It is difficult to read his emotions. Unless he has them other than his children and wife. But moments of strong bonds with the family of the Hero. As well as the family of the Heroine. In the later stages of Ozark, I find myself battling wits with the Hero and Heroine, attempting to understand their psychology, their personality, their behavior in the story. Both have their own schemes going on to such an extent that it is almost hard to keep up with.

 

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