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. To make matters worse, the FBI is on his trail, 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.
Randall: Great 2nd season, they kept the surprises and tension going
Parul: This show is on fire!
It’s a great way to analyse 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 afterwards.
We start with what appears to be a normal family: Marty is an accountant who appears to watch porn all the time. The kids are pretty normal, Charlotte is a normal teenager with attitude and Jonah seems to be pretty normal too. Then we find out that Marty knows his wife is cheating on him. All of this sets the stage for the viewers, we see the family at home, work and play and we have a good idea what they are all about.
Randall: Thrilleragain? 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.
Morality is intertwined in this story in so far that we have a man who is using a moral code that is against the societal norm. He has chosen to take this path to help elevate his family’s security and status. However, he brings people around him down – Mason the preacher, his children. Their moral code also changes.
Morality (Internal Genre)
The protagonist faces an All Is Lost Moment and either discovers their inner moral code or chooses the immoral path. Whether or not the protagonist ultimately accepts the call depends upon the subgenre, the kind of story you want to tell.
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?
Marty tries to actively sacrifice for the family, by taking them away but he’s thwarted by Helen and Wendy
Marty loses the battle, does he gain self-respect? Yes, from the viewers at least.
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.
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.
What’s the next Series?
We can’t stop watching Ozark – so in our next episode, we’ll be dissecting Season 3!
If you want to see more applications of the Story Grid methodology, below are links to my analysis of various novels and television shows in blog posts and podcasts:
Story Grid Showrunners Podcast – Parul, Melanie, and I analyze hit TV series using the Story Grid methodology.
My blog posts analyzing other Television series – my person take using the Story grid 5 Commandments to look at my favorite TV series – Jack Ryan, Batgirl, For All Mankind, Hanna, and more.
Novel analysis – I analyze some of my favorite books using the Story Grid 5 Commandments and 6 core questions – First Blood, Old Man’s War, Waylander, and more to come!
If you want to learn more about writing a story using the Story Grid methodology, go to the Story Grid Webpage to find free videos and articles on how to implement the methodology.
These articles contain information about the 5 Commandments of Storytelling and the Editor’s 6 Core Questions from the book The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne. They also give details on obligatory scenes and conventions for specific genres, such as the thriller, love story, war story, crime story, and more.
For an example of how these techniques are used, read Jane Austin’s The Pride and the Prejudice with annotations by Shawn Coyne.
Category: 5 commandments, 6 core questions, Authors, Blog, Screenwriters, Story Grid, Story Grid Showrunners Podcast, television, tv series, WritersTags: Cartel, Drugs, Jason Bateman, Ozark, Thriller Genre
Hi, my name is Randy Surles and I edit Thrillers and Action novels. I specialize in Fantasy, Science Fiction, and anything with a military flavor to it.