“And I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time…” Jimmy Webb, Lyrics Wichita Lineman
I just finished watching the second season of Ozark and I can’t stop thinking about it and the incredibly sad love story that emerged from it’s twisted, murky depths. Am I referring to Marty and Wendy Byrde or Wyatt and Charlotte? Nope. I am referring to the latter day tragedy of Jacob and Darlene Snell.
Make no mistake, I recognize that Darlene and Jacob are evil people and after season one, you want them both to die long, painful deaths with the faces of their victims, including all the addicts they facilitate coming before their eyes as the life leaves them. You are certain by the end of season one that Darlene is insane in the Jane Eyre/ Mrs. Rochester kind of way – she should be locked in the attic with a plate of food shoved under the door. This show is Breaking Bad good. The twists are the delicious kind: whiplash, you don’t see them coming, and they come in nearly every episode. But I am not going into the plot of Ozark, I was discussing a love story.
At the end of season one, we see just a glimmer of Jacob’s dawning realization that Darlene has completely gone to a new level of crazy. When next we see the Snell’s, the actions Jacob takes to try and rein in Darlene show that Jacob does not really know where Darlene’s heart (if you can call it that in a demon) lies. He misjudges their bond and a crack ensues. Something has shifted somewhere and he missed it. But, again, I do not want to go into specific spoilers because this post is about the love story.
For a moment, let’s let’s separate the milk from the cream. Let’s leave the poppy fields and the heroin distribution and murder and treachery to the side for a moment. Let’s just look at the marriage of Darlene and Jacob Snell and wonder at their staying power. These are two people who seemingly have what we all set out to achieve when we marry. They are still intricately entwined with one another, still in love, that kind of love, in their early 70’s. Couples who can hold onto that are lucky. Maybe they have worked at it, but I believe in some cases which are much more rare than we know, some are perfectly matched, the gods or stars or biorhythms came together for these two people and all the early parts of being in love remain intact.
While we are repelled by the Snell’s we are mesmerized by Darlene’s insanity. We kind of like and even admire Jacob’s ability to recite wise aphorisms and his insightful common sense moralizing. But the Snell’s are like poisonous snakes and we are never sure where they will strike. Yet, even in season one, we can see their bond and marvel at it.
It is the brilliant prologue scene in season 2, episode nine that adds the poignancy to the Snell’s. As the episode opens we see a young Jacob as a returning Vietnam veteran who is obviously bothered by his juvenile companion’s silly questions about whether or not it was “exciting over there.” In waltzes a young Darlene with the sexy sway the older Darlene still possesses and sweeps Jacob off his feet and it dawns on us that everything he has become was set in motion by this siren. The young Darlene is as insane as the older one but it takes him a lifetime to realize this fact and therein lies the tragedy of this love story.
This well plotted background snippet is cleverly mixed with the plaintiff tones of Glen Campbell singing Wichita Lineman, the music may be the magic ingredient that ultimately makes the Snell love story poignant, in a Bonnie and Clyde kind of way. Everything becomes clear, we are given the opportunity to see that Jacob wasn’t always evil. We witness the fall into a deep, soul shattering love. It’s hard to accept the dream of true love being gifted to two such awful people.
They are cleverly written characters. Just like Breaking Bad, Ozark is able to take criminals and make you root for them, like them, grudgingly. In season two, we begin to hope that Jacob is going to be able to coral Darlene and we see very subtly that he is not only losing that battle, we see him realize he is going to have to eventually deal with her decisively. Meanwhile, Darlene is thinking the same thing for different crazy reasons. They start to fall apart. It is almost sad and we are very disappointed in the eventual outcome of this long, “successful” marriage. Let’s just say the devil wins.
“And I need you more than want you. And I want you for all time…