SG Showrunners 31: Ozark – Season 2 – Editor’s Six Core Questions & Analysis

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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.

Access the SG Showrunners’ Bonus foolscaps and Editor’s 6 Core questions for Killing Eve, Witcher, You, Umbrella Academy and Ozark here.

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 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.

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

What’s the beginning hook, middle build and end payoff?

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.

BEGINNING HOOK

  • 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

MIDDLE BUILD

  • 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

END PAYOFF

  • 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.

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.

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. 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? 

  • 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.

The complete Editor’s Six Core Questions is available here.

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.

Question: What were your favourite 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. 

What’s the next Series?
We can’t stop watching Ozark – so in our next episode, we’ll be dissecting Season 3!

Downloads

Editor’s Six Core Questions for Ozark, Season 2

Download the Foolscap for Ozark Season 2

Download the Math of Storytelling Infographic

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About Parul Bavishi

Parul Bavishi started her publishing career in the editorial teams at Quercus and Random House and was later a Literary Scout for Eccles Fisher. She now edits Thriller  (Young Adult & Adult) and Non-Fiction books through Publishing Uncovered and co-hosts the London Writers' Salon, a creative writing hub in London where she runs events such as the Pitch an Agent Masterclass. At the Salon, she has interviewed award-winning writers, including poet Amal El-Mohtar, and the journalist and writer Luke Jennings, creator of the Killing Eve series. She believes in the long-game approach to creating work that matters and taking time to hone your craft. She has helped many writers create their best work and would love to help you.

About Melanie Naumann

Are you a songwriter or a musician? Melanie uses the craft of great storytelling to help musicians write powerful and meaningful lyrics. So that their songs resonate with their listeners, have the power to change lives, and to increase album sales. If you want to change lives and create meaning through the stories you tell and the songs you sing, visit storiesinsongs.com to book your free consultation call with Melanie.

About Randall Surles

Randy Surles is a Certified Story Grid Editor with over 5 years of experience who specializes in editing Thrillers (Military/Fantasy/Science Fiction among others) and military non-fiction. He will also edit in other genres if requested. Randy retired from the U.S. Army after serving over 20 years as a Green Beret and an Army Ranger. He has a Master in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Texas in El Paso.
Story Grid 101: The Five First Principles of the Story Grid Methodology
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What are the first principles in writing a story that works? At Story Grid, it’s easy to get distracted by the tools, spreadsheets, commandments, macro lense, micro lense, and on... Read more »
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