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Why Ozark Fans Can't Ignore Darlene's Odd Obsession

Spoilers for Ozark below

There are a few things viewers of the Netflix series Ozark know for sure about Darlene Snell (Lisa Emery). She's a ruthless, murderous, drug lord. She's devoted to her husband Jacob (Peter Mullan), up to and even after she poisons him because she suspects (correctly) that he's going to try to kill her. She's not going to go down without a fight — not to the FBI, not to the cartels, and definitely not to Marty and Wendy Byrde (Jason Bateman and Laura Linney).

That's all well and good — the makings of a classic villain – but there's one aspect of her character that some fans are having trouble wrapping their heads around. "Does anyone else find it weird how obsessed Darlene is with the Snell family heritage?" Redditor u/Superj89 wrote. "Let's just remember....she married into the Snell family, those aren't her ancestors."

Viewers met what was left of the Snell forebears in the sixth episode of season 2. In order to throw off law enforcement, Marty (Jason Bateman) and the Snells disinterred several of Jacob's dead relatives and switched them with the bones the FBI had found of Snell victims.

How Darlene made the Snell lineage her own

One theory posted in the comments posited that it might be because it's her heritage too. "It made me wonder if she's a Snell, too. Like they're cousins," wrote u/jupitaur9. Others chimed in on this possibility, and the likelihood of it given stereotypes about the South and incest, and the possibility that this is why they never had biological children. In response, one user pointed to the flashback wherein Darlene sought Jacob out in the diner as evidence against this theory. That meeting eventually led to their relationship, and it seemed at the time that she knew of him, though they didn't yet know each other.

One poster had a subtler explanation, claiming she's an example of a cultural phenomenon of "marrying up." Another wrote, "I know a LOT of women who are much more 'proud' of their husband's heritage than their own. It's not all that unusual — especially in the Ozarks and other rural areas." 

Given Darlene's aspirational nature, it's no surprise she would reach for whichever rung she considered highest to try to pull herself up from where she started.

How Darlene uses the Snell ancestry

It's as if, to counterbalance the impulsivity that can sometimes drive her actions, Darlene has felt the need to search for and find some deeper reason for her existence. Darlene's sense of self as someone who is very much at the nexus of past and future is an essential part of her character. Her ancestors –– or Jacob's, as the case may be –– are important because they got her and her family to where they are today. Her desire for a child. All the horrible deeds it took for Zeke to end up in her care are worth it for her. She can pretend her greed, her business, and her cruelty are a form of altruism if she tells herself she's doing it for his future. 

This is a woman who quotes Bible verses and kills people in cold blood (and not in a cool Jules Winnfield way). Her morality, however twisted it might be, is rooted in a sense of the authority drawn from the past.

Fans of the show will have to wait until Ozark's fourth season premieres to see what else Darlene is willing to do to secure her legacy.