Episode 1 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 7 -| Review Score – 4/5
The term “Florida man” has become a cultural phenomenon in recent years, often used to describe bizarre, often criminal, and sometimes humorous news stories that originate from the state of Florida. From attacking people with alligators toeven attempting to rob banks with a spider, the Florida man stories have become viral, capturing the attention of audiences worldwide. The new Netflix series certainly has that in abundance.
Florida Man stars Edgar Ramirez, Abbey Lee, Anthony LaPaglia, and Emory Cohen in pivotal roles. Even though the series starts off in Philadelphia, most of the craziness happens in the backwater state of Florida. At its heart, Florida Man is a weighty network of stories interconnected by a lost treasure of pirate gold.
Mike Valentine (Ramirez) is sent by mafia Moss Yenkov (Cohen) to Florida to retrieve his girlfriend Delly (Lee). Mike is a gambler and owes Moss a ton of money. Mike’s family – father Sonny (LaPaglia) and sister Patsy (Otmara Marrero) – are surprised to see him. Delly stages her own death but when Mike finds out that she did it, a chain of events is triggered that binds all those who seek what lies underneath the folklore of a royal Spanish ship sunk into the ocean in 1715 with a treasure of gold.
From a contemporary lens, the popularity of “Florida man” stories reflects a larger trend in the way we consume and engage with media. In an age where social media algorithms prioritize attention-grabbing, sensationalist content, “Florida man” stories provide an endless source of clickbait material. Even though the assessment of the phenomenon is not deeply rooted in social commentary, many offshoots – like Kaitlin’s arc and Andy’s redemption – point to its presence. The Netflix series alludes to many such instances in its small run-up, while managing to keep the interconnectedness trope very organic.
The makers of the show, including Jason Bateman, use the show as a launching point for a variety of stories. The bizarre and outrageous events associated with “Florida Man” serve as a starting point for exploring deeper societal issues such as poverty, mental health, drug addiction, and criminal justice. By delving deeper into the cultural and societal factors that contribute to the phenomenon, the show provides a more nuanced and thought-provoking perspective on the headlines.
One thing that the show does really well is highlighting the human fascination with the strange and unusual, as well as the importance of humour and entertainment in our daily lives. The absurdity of something like a “15-foot baby python swallows a man wearing alligator boots” is truly relished by viewers. It keeps a very light approach to heady themes. Florida Man presents the outrageous events in a humorous light, while still exploring deeper themes.
There is a sense of uncertainty in the decision-making of the creators though, especially given how random the ending is. They do not seem to have total control over what they are trying to get at and the storytelling in general takes some abrupt turns – and not all of them seem intentional creative choices.
Family dysfunction is an important tangent of storytelling that is exploited at the right moments. Sonny and Mike’s unwitting participation in the Al-Anon meeting and Patsy’s explosive rant at a dinner table are some instances of good planning and clever plotting. Both moments elevate the dramatic touch of the story and speak to the viewer on a basic, human level.
Abbey Lee is the clear standout among the ensemble cast. She perfectly plays the damsel in distress who has a gnawing realization of what is happening to her. Her combination of emotions – vulnerability, decisiveness, and brevity – paint Delly as an intelligent and resourceful character, who is a protagonist in her own story.
Given Cohen’s sincerity as Moss, the show should have added more minutes to explore his childhood and how he grew up in the shadow of his father. In its current shape, his character seems incomplete and that is rueful. LaPaglia and Ramirez as reliable performers who do a solid job with their roles.
Adapting the Florida man phenomenon into a television show offers a wealth of narrative potential, from character-driven stories to social commentary all the way across to comedy. Due to the strong creative team and talented writers, Florida Man is a unique and compelling addition to the television landscape.
Overall, the narrative potential of Florida Man lies in its ability to serve as a lens for examining larger societal issues while also providing an endless supply of bizarre and entertaining stories.
Verdict - 7/10