‘Ozark’ Finale Succeeds By Flipping Subtext

Tension is key to dramatic storytelling. It’s important to build up relationships between characters and then throw differences and difficulties between them in order to amplify the drama. But just as important is communicating that tension to the audience subtly. People rarely say exactly how they’re feeling. Emotions are veiled and true intentions hidden. This is where subtext comes into play — a very important part of any characterization. Shakespeare was a master of subtext, having characters say one thing but mean something completely different that an astute audience can ascertain. But the climactic series finale of the Netflix show Ozark does the exact opposite.

The series masterfully keeps the tension high by never letting up on the danger its main characters are in. The narrative plays out as if, at any moment, any character could die. The show becomes so dramatic that its plot straddles the line between reality and absurdity. But still, all this plays out in front of the viewers’ faces. We’re given a front row seat at how the main characters face their danger and seek to rise above it.

However, the thing is that our main characters have a very public face. In order to succeed in their mission, they must work in the public eye and keep up an image that dispels the dangerous nature of their true business. And the show culminates at the success of their charitable foundation. Having been fractured for so long, the family comes together to take the stage at the event to a cheering crowd and jubilant applause. It is at this moment the viewer realizes that the show succeeds by flipping its subtext. We know exactly what the main characters are about and what they’ve done. There is no subtext there. It’s all on the surface. But in the world in which they live, much of it is hidden. Very few people know what they are capable of and even fewer have seen it. Therefore, the subtext isn’t meant for the viewer, it’s meant for the world within the show; all of the people that are blind to what our dangerous main characters are really all about.

Ozark is streaming now on Netflix.

Tension is key to dramatic storytelling. It’s important to build up relationships between characters and then throw differences and difficultiesCOMICONRead More

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