This week, the Story Grid Showrunners watch the THIRD season of the Netflix TV Series OZARK – a thrilling story about Marty and Wendy Bryde who are forced to run to the Ozarks to launder money to save their and their family’s life. In this season, the Navarro cartel is at war with the Laguanas Cartel and the fight spills over on US soil. Wendy has decided to expand the business for Navarro, her brother Ben starts to cause trouble and Navarro’s right-hand woman, Helen starts to doubt their ability to run the operation. It’s a brilliant combination of a thriller with a cautionary tale, with morality interlaced.https://player.simplecast.com/fa59446a-7a6f-4748-ad3f-9fd6f8f6948b?dark=false
Randall: I totally understand the hype on this series, I can’ believe it took this long for me to watch it. It just keeps getting better.
Parul: This show is getting darker and more complex. It’s riveting.
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.
Editor’s Note: How is all this connected to life and death? Navarro is a cartel drug leader, as we’ve seen when he waterboarded his most trusted lawyer, Helen – he is not all there. If the Navarro empire collapses, Marty sees that as a good thing and maybe they can get away from the cartel, but Wendy is inventing ideas to be closer to the cartel, which is dangerous.
Randall: Thriller, no doubt
Parul: Thriller above all, with a streak of morality
Morality is intertwined in this story in so far that we have a couple who are trying to do the best they can for their family, but in order to keep their family safe, they must sacrifice their morality. In this season, Wendy allows her brother to be killed to save her family.
What are the Conventions of the Thriller?
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.
To illustrate the presence of morality in this story, look at the showdown. What’s the showdown for Morality?
Red Herrings Definition – distracts the audience with false or misleading clues that bring the spectator to the wrong conclusion. As the reader we are in constant suspense about how Marty is going to die. Who is going to betray him? Will it be Ruth? Will it be Wendy (remember that she dreams of killing him?). Will the FBI take the Byrds down? Will they die in the cross-fire of the Lagunas- Navarro fight?
Editor’s Note: I think this is really what makes a good thriller, the ability to have compelling subplots/ red herrings that also have equally life/ death repercussions, but at the same time reminding the viewer/ reader who the real villain is. The cartel is involved throughout the season, as Helen is present in just about every episode, but we never forget that they are the most dangerous player at the table in Marty and Wendy’s lives – they kidnap Marty, they seem to know everything that is going on, they manipulate Wendy (with the horse farm purchase). At the same time, Frank Jr. and the mob are mad at Marty, the other cartel is a danger to Marty (he could get caught in the crossfire), Darlene is becoming more dangerous with every episode, the FBI is hot on Marty’s tail – all of these have life and death endings and they are just as engaging as the main battle between Marty and the cartel. The story would have been so watered-down if these sub-plots weren’t there and not so deadly if it had just been Marty vs. the Navarro cartel.
Compare this to Killing Eve – we keep losing sight of the threat of the 12 and there aren’t many other threats to keep the characters occupied.
Randall: constantly surprising us, can’t predict what’s going to happen next, so many things going on
Parul: The stakes and proximity to life and death are so high, you can’t rest. I’ve heard some people say that it was too gory, gruesome that they couldn’t watch it so it certainly isn’t for everyone but if you like your thrillers hot, it’s brilliant.
What’s the next Series?
Game of Thrones Season 1
Category: 5 commandments, 6 core questions, Authors, Blog, Progressive Complication, Screenwriters, Story Grid, Story Grid Showrunners Podcast, television, tv series, WritersTags: Cartel, Jason Bateman, morality, netflix, Ozark, season 3, thriller
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.