“Dirty Money” Season 2 Review: How Good Is The Netflix Finance Series?


In times of social, economic and political upheaval, comfort takes strange forms. Certain stories or topics that may seem too serious at first, reminding you of the cruelties and indignities that plague the real world, may end up giving you some comfort. While it can be tempting to retreat into the realm of fantasy, stock up on nostalgia-tinged sitcoms or mind-numbing adventure shows, the eerily calming beats of the fast-paced, dump-like documentary. a piece create their own version of the escape. That’s why I’m strangely excited to fall asleep watching Dirty money for the next few nights.

Calling Netflix’s financial crime docuseries, which premiered in 2018 and returned for a six-episode Season 2 this week, “comfort food” or saying it’s “relaxing” may sound like a compliment to the towards. Executive produced by the very prolific Alex Gibney, the filmmaker behind problem-focused documentaries, HBO’s recent revealer Theranos The inventor and the Oscar winner Taxi to the dark side, the show is clearly designed to draw attention to serious issues and often attempts to show just outrage. The episode on the Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist in Season 1 had a slightly whimsical tone, finding humor in the behavior of its subjects and the absurd specifics of the script, but most of the episodes exist to piss you off. These aren’t exactly bedtime wellness stories.

Netflix / YouTube

So why would hour-long mini-docs examining issues like insidious payday loans, shady HSBC money laundering operations and Valeant Pharmaceuticals price hikes help you relax after a day? stressful? If you’ve been watching your Twitter feed or reading negative headlines for hours, it seems counterintuitive to open Netflix and stream “The Confidence Man,” the nearly 80-minute season 1 finale that focused on the corrupt business practices of President Donald Trump. . It’s more of the same scary, overwhelming bullshit, right? Season 2 features an episode about President Jared Kushner’s son-in-law, and he’s not exactly the star you want to see on a Netflix thumbnail.

And yet, I always come back to the show. I would compare watch Dirty money to the experience of listening to a skillfully produced podcast or reading a glossy magazine article at the dentist’s office. While each episode is directed by a different filmmaker and covers very different areas of illegality, there is still a stereotypical quality to the storytelling. Certain types of characters recur in every episode: the courageous whistleblower, the courageous financial journalist, the politician who pushes the reforms, the dastardly CEO, and the guy with his face in the shadows and his voice rubbed. The show also does an effective job of interviewing victims and putting a human face to these crimes, showing how financial embezzlement involving moving numbers on a spreadsheet or encouraging unethical sales practices have tragic consequences.

netflix dirty money
Netflix

The first episode of season two, which focuses on the massive Wells Fargo fraud scandal, is a prime example of the type of explanatory journalism. Dirty money does so well. For people who follow financial news, open the the Wall Street newspaper every morning or listening to CNBC at the gym, the drama surrounding CEO John Stumpf is a well-known story, and the Dirty money This episode, directed by filmmaker Dan Krauss, makes extensive use of available cable TV footage. We see Stumpf chatting with Jim Cramer in glowing talks on Crazy money and various talking heads praising the bank for its folk charm, humble origin story of diligence, and relative strength during the 2008 financial crisis. Then the real workers at the company begin to tell their stories, describing a culture of constant pressure and predatory business practices.

Why is it soothing? Like Gibney’s 2005 documentary on Enron, which I have perhaps an unhealthy obsession with, or his entertaining adaptation of Lawrence Writght’s non-fiction book on Scientology, Go clear, Dirty money gives the impression that complex real-life stories are something you can relate to. They deliver a perhaps illusory jolt of authority. Again, podcasts often offer a similar deal: give us an hour of your time and we’ll make you an expert.

If you watch enough episodes of Dirty money, it is easy to conclude that capitalism is deeply shattered. At the same time, the series only occasionally wonders whether the horrible exploitation it portrays is the inevitable result of current world economic conditions; the fluid aesthetics of the show, the helpful animation and lighting of the interviews, help sell a skill idea. It’s not a particularly promising show, but the heroes of Dirty money tend to believe in the guiding power of regulation and the rule of law. The money isn’t the problem, see, it’s the dirt.

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Dan Jackson is Editor-in-Chief at Thrillist Entertainment. He’s on Twitter @danielvjackson.

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