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Series / Aranyélet

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Family is fight,
Family is love.
Family is pain
You have to be part of.
Fancy Dress Party: Family (the intro, first stanza)

Aranyélet (lit. Golden Life, more or less The High Life) is a Hungarian crime drama/thriller series made by HBO (based on a Finnish one) that started in 2015. As of early 2019, it has 3 seasons.

The Miklósi family (father Attila, mother Janka, son Márk and daughter Mira) are one of Budapest's rich suburban elites, living easy - but at a price. To afford the lavish lifestyle the kids are used to and which Janka demands, Attila has been committing various crimes such as breaking into homes and showing them to prospective tenants to pocket the down payments. He wants to come clean, turn over a new leaf, and never mind giving up the fancy house, but Janka is not willing to compromise. Complicating things is Attila's old childhood friend and godfather of Márk, Endre Hollós, who is not only neck deep in crime, but is also the landlord of their big house and the one who gave them their car, and Attila's chief workgiver.

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The first season deals with Attila's first attempts at getting out from under the thumb of his old friend, Janka fighting against it to keep her lavish lifestyle, Márk trying to get into the "real business" but it not working out as he thought, and Mira starting to rebel against her parents and being forced to face up to their lifestyle.

The second season, picking up where the first ended, sees a third friend of Attila and Endre emerging and a new police investigator on their trail as the children drift even farther away.

The third season is about the family moving to a village near Budapest, with Janka wanting to become mayor and she and Attila working on a huge construction project, while the children live their own life and hatch plans more often crossing their parents' than not.


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Aranyélet contains examples of:

  • Aesop Amnesia: In the first two seasons as well as for a good chunk of the third, before Character Development kicks in:
    • No matter the trouble he gets in, no matter how hurt he and his family gets, no matter how much his father keeps telling him to stop trying to go for the easy way and be a criminal, Márk just doesn't seem to grasp it at the end of the day. It takes finding out his dad loves him and his revered godfather was only using him, a baby sister being born and his mother and Mira talking some sense into him, plus becoming paralyzed from the waist down, to finally learn.
    • Whatever happens, whatever trouble she ends up making, whatever she or anyone else has to do to set it right, Janka just cannot let go of chasing money and possessions, or of her pride. It takes the birth of her third child (a baby she actively tried to miscarry, no less, as abortion would have been frowned upon) almost killing her and definitely leaving one arm paralyzed and her speech slurry, both of which she seems to recover from after a long while, to finally be able to say they can handle abandoning the high life.
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  • Affectionate Nickname: Her parents sometimes call Mira "Mira baba"/"Mira baby", and Bianka calls Márk "manó" ("elf/imp", the HBO subtitles translated it with "Smurf") very often. When she is sent to a rehab heavily utilizing horseriding and caring for horses as therapy, she even names her horse "Manó".
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Janka's drunken speech at the Beatrix festival in season 3 (where she calls out the hypocrisy and pettiness of the villages plus the neo-nazi leanings of her main supporter and her son, among other things) is a prime example, even if all she said is true.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Janka in season one.
  • Armor-Piercing Question / Armor-Piercing Response: In rapid succession in the last episode of season 3.
    Mira: What do you think will become of her?!
    Attila: Why, what's become of you two?!
    Janka: Murderers.
  • Asshole Victim: The two pimps in season 3.
  • The Atoner: Feri confesses to the police at the end of season 3 because of this.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In spades.
    • Márk wanted to be taken seriously by his godfather and given a job. He gets a job driving a car (without a licence!), but their car is shot at, then they get into a crash due to he chase, he thinks the other guy in the car died... and it goes downhill from there.
    • Mira wanted a job - she got a job at a bar playing hostess to groups of foreigners who harass her nightly. She wanted to pay for her actions at the end of season one - she got taken into custody and a few days later breaks down sobbing when she finds out that getting out of custody in 6 months would be early given how slow the trial is dragging.
  • Best Served Cold: Feri has been planning his revenge on Endre and Attila for over 24 years.
  • Both Sides Have a Point:
    • When Mira tries to explain to Géza that they misunderstood Erika because she saved a lot of prostitutes, Géza counters that this doesn't make police brutality and driving someone to suicide ok.
  • Burner Phones: Attila goes through several of them (breaking them too for good measure) while conducting his fake realtor schtick.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Márk, Mira and Bianka make a habit of calling out their parents several times per season.
  • Childhood Friends: Attila and Endre. Enough so that Attila made Endre the godfather of his eldest, his son Márk.
  • The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: In season 3 Feri has his farm doubling as a rehabilitation facility for troubled and drug-addled women, probably because the accident costing him a leg and his fiancée happened when he was high - but his own daughter is a junkie.
  • Conspicuous Consumption:
    • That mansion in the green belt sure looks suspiciously fancy for a family several millions in debt... Which is what makes Zsolt Komáromi, the first policeman after Hollós, suspicious of Attila and his family too (though he later admits he is aware Attila is, at most, a petty guy only good for taking a fall).
    • After the driving job Márk gets ends in a shootout, chase and car crash, with police sirens approaching, Márk takes the bag of money from the car and in no way tries to keep it a secret that he has money now. This tips off the guy Márk was supposed to work with (who Márk thought was dead and so left in the car) that Márk took the cash.
  • Daddy DNA Test: In season 3 to find out whether the third child Janka gives birth to, Enikő, is the child of Endre or Attila. The result is 100% in Attila's favour.
  • Daddy Issues: Márk wants Attila to take him seriously, Attila wanted his father to forgive and accept him instead of berate him, Tibor wanted his father to accept him and love him, and as for Endre, the only father he ever knew was Miklós, the father of Attila and Tibor and turns out Miklós only used him.
  • Did Not Think This Through: It would be easier to list the plans of the kids that aren't like this.
  • Driven to Suicide: Oszi and Bianka succeed, whereas Feri only tries but is interrupted.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Klári, Janka's neighbour and chair of their foundation supporting the homeless, agrees to support one of Janka's ideas at the next meeting but doesn't in the end. Janka sneaks over at night and wrecks the medlar tree Klári was so happy about, then acts as if nothing happened. When Klári calls her out on it and suffers a heart attack/stroke, Janka just watches her lay on the ground with a smirk until she sees Klári's husband approaching.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change /Important Haircut:
    • Mira cuts her hair and shaves it almost completely off in season 3 following her killing two pimps in self-defense. It later grows into a shortish pixie cut.
    • Márk's hair is cut pretty short after his repeated back injuries end up making him paralyzed from the waist down.
  • Generic Ethnic Crime Gang: Ukranian and Roma gangs appear on-screen, with a shootout between the two even.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Before the elections, freshly pregnant Janka is reminded that the elections are in a tiny village where news travels fast and they need the support of the Catholic Church, meaning that an abortion would mean they might as well congratulate their opponent. So she tries her damnedest to ignore the doctor's recommendations by continuing to smoke, sometimes drink alcohol, and work out to miscarry on purpose.
  • Hope Spot: Attila, Endre and Feri manage to make up, they laugh along and plan happily about building a legitimate company together, even planning to get Márk in, then Janka hits Endre with a huge statue over the head.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: Spelled out several times, especially with Bianka's opinion that the shit Feri, her father, has gone through, in no way excuses his paranoid and revenge-obsessed behaviour.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Feri.
  • Meaningful Name: In season 3, Márk's resident neo-nazi friend is called Örs (the name of one of the seven chieftains of the Hungarians arriving in the Carpathian Basin according to legend).
  • Morning Sickness: Downplayed. Janka does throw up a few times before her pregnancy is announced, but it's not always just in the mornings, does not come up every single day and often is a result of seeing meat or similar things that could remind her of the fate of Endre.
  • Multi Level Marketing Scheme: Janka does this at the start of season two - with terrible skincare products that give you rashes.
  • Never Be Hurt Again: After her father tried to rape her while he was drunk, Janka ran away and promised herself nobody will ever hurt her again. She was 15.
  • Never Suicide: Played straight and averted on two separate occasions.
    • Tomcsa, framed for the cop-murder, is beaten to death by police in prison, but the official story says suicide. Several people at least suspect he was murdered, even if not on whose orders.
    • After being beaten up by two separate people, one wanting her to stay quiet the other to talk, Oszi cuts her wrists in a bathtub and nobody suspects any other reason of death.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • Mira is standing to trial and the prosecution got Oszi to testify that this wasn't her first offense. Janka tries to bribe Oszi into revoking her testimony, which offends Oszi enough to tell about it to the prosecution, resulting in the judge changing her opinion on Mira and the process dragging... until Janka has Endre pull some strings in return for moving in with him.
    • Mira thinks Erika Jakab from the police (with the aid of Feri) is working together with human traffickers so she gets herself hurt on purpose to get into the shelter for troubled women they take the girls from. While there she lends a phone to another girl who says she wants to call a boyfriend. This results in the shelter being found out, all the girls being taken away, Mira being narrowly saved by Erika and Erika telling her the girls were actually being brought back from brothels. Feri actually did legitimately save a lot of them... Erika having been one of them.
  • Not So Different:
    • Attila's parents clearly think Tibor is better than Attila, but when we meet him in the first or second episode, he is late for his father's funeral, does a dodgy job cutting corners at construction (making walls literally out of thick foam panels instead of brick or similar), bribes inspectors and spends the small fortune of investment money Attila gives him in a few days.
    • Attila's father was seen as a respectable, if old-fashioned and sometimes stubborn, military man. Come season 2, turns out he did his fair share of shady stuff for the family. Including stealing a 2-part icon from Kharkiv which is invaluable, intending to give the two halves to his two sons.
  • Pædo Hunt: Márk's plan at staying at university boils down to making a recording of the dean and his toddler son, making it look like the dean was having sex with the boy, and blackmailing him with it.
  • Parental Substitute: Endre considered Miklós, the father of Attila, the only father Endre ever knew, whereas Márk considers Endre just as much (in fact, in the beginning, maybe more) of a father than Attila. Both are bitterly disappointed by their respective substitutes, though when Márk asks Attila if Endre ever really loved him, Attila's answer is a firm yes: Endre may have been a ruthless criminal and a jerk, but if he ever loved someone, it was Márk.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Getting revenge on the pub owner who assaulted Mira felt good. The next day though, she finds out the friend who helped her in the revenge got fired for her help and later is forced to admit to Mira's part in the action during Mira's trial as part of a plea bargain.
    • Márk discovers the student union/council is holding back scholarships and grants from deserving students and comes up with the idea of "loaning" the students the money that actually belongs to them, at a 10% interest rate. Next scene he's in, he and the student union members in on the action are in the dean's office and kicked out because the students complained about the high interest rates.
    • Janka openly ignores concerns over her health and the doctor's recommendations about pregnancy in order to miscarry on purpose (as having an abortion would be frowned upon in the small village). Giving birth nearly kills her.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The kids repeatedly give these to their parents, be it Márk and/or Mira giving it to Janka and/or Attila or Bianka to Feri.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: An attitude all too common, especially with Endre, Márk and Janka.
  • Snowed-In: At the end of season 3, a huge blizzard prevents ambulance to arrive to pregnant Janka before she ends up giving birth, after hours of suffering, and nearly dies.
  • Talking Down the Suicidal: The others at the rehab try this with Bianka but fail.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Örs, the neo-nazi, just could not stop antagonizing the Roma gang he and Márk were held captive by even after Márk repeatedly told him to stop.
  • The Un-Favourite: Attila's father clearly prefers Tibor, and in the eulogy said at his funeral in the early episodes of season 1, Attila is not even mentioned. Then again, he was aware of Attila's crime-laden lifestyle.
    • Season 3 reveals it was actually the other way around: Tibor was seen as the failure and Attila was expected to give up to hard expectations.
  • Unproblematic Prostitution:
    • Played straight with Oszi in that she is perfectly aware of the job she will be taken abroad to and doesn't even seem to mind the pimp taking her ID and not giving back (though she is shown visiting later) but she is only fine with it because she has no choice with her background (roma), education (none) or language skills (none). When she visits it seems the job didn't shake her up too much (or maybe it was only what she had been expecting) and indeed it is never mentioned.
    • Averted with the girls who are first implied then confirmed to be trafficked against their will to be prostitutes abroad.
  • Victim Blaming:
    • When Mira is sexually assaulted/kissed by the married owner of the pub she works at and his pregnant wife sees it, Mira tries to explain but the wife says Mira was at fault for "leading him on".
    • Mira is seen holding a presentation about the trafficking of girls into prostitution which mentions the mentality that "they had to chose that job", ignoring that even if they did knowingly start the job, the girls' circumstances left them with practically no alternatives.
    • Non sexual variant: When their old pal Feri flips the car and it catches fire with him and his fiancée inside while trying to wreck the car in a safe way to get the insurance money, Endre wants to try and help but Attila says it's Feri's fault because Feri, being high as a kite at the time, drove way too fast despite Endre and Attila repeatedly warning him to slow down.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Janka cheats on Attila with a rich guy and moves in with him at the end of season 1, then with Endre in season 2 (though she tried with Endre before when they were all young - in fact, she originally was with Endre it turns out). In season 3, Attila cheats on Janka with Barbara.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Endre, Attila and Feri.
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