Ozark Season 2 - Analysis

Copyright of used images: Ozark

This week, the Story Grid Showrunners watch the second season of the Netflix TV Series OZARK - a thrilling story about an unassuming finance man who is forced to run to the Ozarks to launder money to save his and his family's life. He faces extra pressure from the FBI, the local drug family and his family is falling apart. It's a brilliant combination of a thriller with an underlying story of morality and a portrayal of a marriage under extreme pressure.

What’s the lowdown?

Randall: Great 2nd season, they kept the surprises and tension going

Parul: This show is on fire!

What are the Editor’s Six Core Questions?

It’s a great way to analyze any story and figure out if it works. Here are the questions. We’ll touch on them in this podcast, but the full notes can be downloaded afterward.

  1. What’s the genre?
  2. What are the conventions and obligatory scenes for that genre?
  3. What’s the Point of View?
  4. What are the objects of desire?
  5. What’s the controlling idea/theme?
  6. What is the Beginning Hook, the Middle Build, and Ending Payoff?

What is the Beginning Hook, Middle Build and Ending Payoff?


Inciting Incident: Del is killed/ They must get rid of Del before the Cartel finds out 

Turning Point Progressive Complication: Helen tasks Marty (on behalf of the Cartel) with securing reparations for Del’s death, as he was the lieutenant. 

Crisis:  Does Marty back down from his request for reparations from the Snells or continue to push the Snells (both actions are dangerous)

Climax: Marty doesn’t back down but keeps his emotions in check, and talks about making financial reparations

Resolution: Darlene is adamant that they won’t pay. Jacob kills Ash as reparations


Inciting Incident: Rachel starts working with the FBI (endangering the whole family operation)

Turning Point Progressive Complication: Rachel tells Marty she is bugged

Crisis: Should Marty cut ties with Rachel or use her to provide false info to the FBI

Climax: Marty wants to use Rachel to feed FBI false info

Resolution: Rachel ODs on bad heroin and Marty sets the FBI up and gets Rachel to treatment in Miami 


Inciting Incident: Jacob is killed by Darlene who antagonises the Byrds by demanding Zeke in return for the casino land 

Turning Point Progressive Complication: The Bryd family are falling apart (Wendy is getting reckless, Charlotte asks to emancipate, Jonah is embracing the criminal lifestyle, Marty is feeling remorse (Morality) at Mason’s death

Crisis: Does Marty continue to work with the Cartel or choose to walk away?

Climax: Marty decides to plan his family’s escape

Resolution: Wendy doesn’t want to leave, so they stay and open the casino. Cade is killed (possibly as a warning to Marty?)


What’s the Genre?

Randall: Thriller again? Life and death are the stakes in this story. So much life and death.

Parul: It’s a thriller with a heavy dose of Morality and Worldview.


What are the Obligatory scenes & Conventions of the Global Genre

Thriller (Global)

  • Inciting Incident of the villain - Cartel is threatening to kill Marty if there is not reparations
  • Speech in praise of the villain - We know what the cartel is capable of because we’ve seen some of it already (torture in the first season and killing Marty’s partner), maybe not necessary?  We do see the cartel gun down Jacob and Darlene.  How is this different than Killing Eve and the 12?  Why is it more impactful?
  • Hero becomes the victim - Marty is getting deeper and deeper, and so is his family. He tries to take care of Ruth, and Rachel, but he’s a victim of a Cartel.
  • Hero at the Mercy of the villain - though there are scenes with the cartel, most of the villain of this episode is the chaos Marty has created in his life because of his choices; he’s at the mercy of the FBI for most of the season until he solves that problem (or Caleb solves it for him) and he’s at the mercy of Mason too. 
  • False ending - yes, they end up not leaving on Marty’s pre-planned escape.


Morality (Internal Genre)

  • The protagonist faces an All Is Lost Moment and either discovers their inner moral code or chooses the immoral path: Marty faces constant all-is-lost moments - does he kill Mason? He realizes that his children are being brought down, can he change their path? He tries to leave but fails. 
  • To illustrate the presence of morality in this story, look at the showdown. What’s the showdown for Morality? 


    • The Showdown - protagonist actively sacrifices self in service of an individual, a group, or humanity (positive) or consciously chooses to remain selfish (negative): Marty tries to actively sacrifice for the family, by taking them away but he’s thwarted by Helen and Wendy
    • The protagonist faces literal or metaphorical death and either loses the battle but gains self-respect, meaning, and peace; or wins the battle but loses those things a great sacrifice. In all internal genres, there is a paradoxical ending: Marty loses the battle, does he gain self-respect? Yes, from the viewers at least.

Focus on: Revealing the Backstory - a comparison between Killing Eve Season 3 and Ozark Season 1 and 2

Each has an episode which is totally dedicated to the protagonists’ back story and told as a flashback, the whole episode is in the past.  Why does one work and the other doesn’t?

Killing Eve - there was no lead up to it, and there was nothing compelling or surprising.

Ozark - The writers hinted and led the viewers to the flashback, suggesting some tragedy had happened that made them drift apart, made Wendy have an affair, that made them the family we find at the beginning of the series.  It filled a hole, answered questions we had, and drove the story forward.

We also have the flashback in this episode of Jacob and Darlene, perfectly positioned when we see they are not of the same mind and we see how they met and how Darlene has always been headstrong, which is why Jacob loves her, which is why he loves her even when she poison’s Jacob.


What’s the next Series for the podcast? 

Ozark 3

Ozark Season 2 - Analysis -

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What were your favorite scenes?

Randall: The love between Jacob and Darlene - more back story; and the ground up cherry pits.

Parul: I like the scene where we see Ruth Langamore grow - she’s so tough but she cares so much about Wyatt, and argues with him to attend college.


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