The Need for Criminal Consultants Ozark
Large scale criminal enterprises run on the principle of omerta. Those at the bottom rungs of a conspiracy cannot know what occurs above. Foot soldiers are drip feed information on a strictly need to know basis. Those that understand the full extent of an operation do not tell others what is going on. There may be a single person at the top, a godfather, who is the only one to know every detail.
All the other players can only see part of the picture. If these protocols are not respected, an enterprise of any scope will simply fold on itself. Loose lips sink ships. Those at the bottom of the pyramid can be turned, and they must have very limited information to divulge.
The smash series Ozark has just wrapped its third season and its praise is almost uniform. The show lends largely on Breaking Bad as an investigation into the enormous cost paid by those that break the law. There might be suitcases full of money, rooms full of it, but is it worth the bloodshed, the treachery, the piles of bodies of the innocent and the guilty? Is there ever an end-game? When is enough going to be enough? How many people have to die for a lie to survive?
These are all deep questions worth investigating, and Ozark does a reasonable job of exploring them. The series does have one huge flaw though. Too many people know what is going on. Whenever a slightly inquisitive character begins to question what is occurring the protagonist simply tells them the truth – “I launder money for the Mexican cartels.”
By the end of series three the list of characters who know this secret is laughably long. Children, marriage counsellors, low level employees, enemies, children and friends of enemies, the FBI, local police officers, townsfolk, and the list goes on. This is entirely unsustainable. The plot should simply unravel at this point, but due to some quality writing, it does not. The characters are interesting, and there is no shortage of tension. Plot twists abound.
The creators of Ozark would have been wise to include some real criminals on the payroll. Henry Hill was paid a huge sum to be a consultant of Goodfellas. It is not uncommon for reformed criminals to receive co-writing credits on Hollywood productions that explore their world. Real criminals know how complex scams and heists are put together. They can see holes. They know what would and would not work in the real world. There is no way the Ozark story, as compelling as it might be, would work in the real world. It’s worth watching, but only if you can suspend a large degree of belief.