‘A Man In Full’ Recap (Episodes 1-6) Explained: What Does Conrad’s Story Mean?


The new drama series on Netflix, A Man in Full, which is adapted from Tom Wolfe’s 1998 novel of the same name, is quite entertaining yet superficial at the same time. The plot follows a real estate mogul in Atlanta, Charlie Croker, facing bankruptcy and a takeover of assets while he makes his last attempts to iron out his situation. While the novel dealt with a number of important issues, some of which do find place in the series, the overall treatment would have perhaps been more enjoyable had they been given more depth. Nonetheless, Netflix’s A Man in Full does make for a mostly positive watch for light-hearted entertainment.

Spoiler Alert

What is the Netflix series about?

A Man in Full begins with an extravagant party being held at the private towers of one of Atlanta’s most powerful industrialists, Charlie Croker. With lavish decorations, innumerable important guests and invitees, and a whole band of musicians and a troop of dancers, the party is a terrific celebration of Charlie’s 60th birthday. The man is the owner of a reputed food company named Croker Foods and also has significant investments in the city’s real estate, particularly the landmark building named Concourse. There is no doubt that Charlie Croker is a man in the highest rung of society and is never questioned or cross-checked by the authorities. Therefore, he does not suspect anything wrong when he is called into the Plannersbanc headquarters the very next day for a meeting. Plannersbanc, being a private bank that has a lot of business dealings with Croker’s companies, the man believes the meeting to be any usual one about the current situation of funds.

However, the real reason for the meeting turns out to be completely different, as Plannersbanc has actually had enough of Croker’s unaccounted use of money. The businessman owes the bank about 800 million dollars in loaned money and actually has a total debt of more than a billion dollars, and much of the money is suspected to have been used for personal reasons rather than in any business. One of the bank’s employees, Raymond Peepgrass, who has handled Charlie’s accounts till now and has grown frustrated by his terribly arrogant and disrespectful nature, now facilitates this sudden turn of events. Together with the head of the assets management department, Harry Zale, Peepgrass ensures that Charlie Croker understands the seriousness of his situation. The real estate mogul has to either pay back the entire amount of money in a very short period of time, which is absolutely impossible, or his assets will be seized by Planners Bank, and he will have to file for bankruptcy.

The very foundation of the Croker industry is shaken by this sudden matter, even though Charlie Croker remains as arrogant and confident in his ways as ever. However, he gradually realizes that he is running out of time, and Charlie goes to great lengths to save his business and lifestyle. In this while, Roger White, the lawyer working for Charlie, contemplates leaving the job since he does not want to represent corporations for his entire life but still holds on to the suggestion of his wife. Roger soon faces the most interesting case of his career when Conrad Hensley, an employee at Croker Foods, gets arrested by the police.

How was Conrad made a victim of racism?

Racism is an extremely integral theme in A Man in Full, and the events in the life of one of the central characters bring out the racist nature of the society being portrayed. Conrad Hensley is an operator at the Croker Foods warehouse, while his wife Jill is the personal assistant to top boss Charlie Croker. One day, while out shopping for groceries, Conrad spots his car getting towed away due to the supposed crime of being parked in a red zone, where parking is not allowed. But the man is quick to point out that he had obviously not parked the vehicle there, and there was enough proof to show that a truck parked behind his car had pushed it into the red zone. Conrad is naturally angered and frustrated when the trafficked woman does not pay any heed to his complaints, telling him to take up the matter with the authorities on the next step. He decides to enter his car and sit inside until a resolution is reached, intending to stop the towing, and it is then that two Atlanta PD officers respond to the situation. One of the officers, Michael Smith, is extremely harsh on Conrad, initially shouting at him, then dragging him out of the car and roughing him up unnecessarily. In the heat of the moment, Conrad responds to the aggression by punching the officer in the face, and he is immediately arrested for the act.

Thus begins a series of events that glaringly highlight the racist nature of American society, particularly the police and legal authorities. Such an event is not very uncommon, even in reality, in Atlanta, as the city and Georgia as a whole still have racism deeply embedded in everyday life. Back in 2020, when the Black Lives Matter movement spread across the United States, the very act that triggered the protests was unnecessarily excessive police brutality. In the particular context of this series, there can be no doubt that Michael Smith’s clear intention is to hurt and abuse Conrad by beating him on the back only because he can do so. Smith is obviously a white man who has reservations and frustrations against the existence of Black folks, and he evidently misuses the powers that are vested in him through the police uniform. A Man in Full makes matters more complex through the violent retaliation of Conrad Hensley, though, questioning whether his action can be justified.

On one hand, Conrad was made to feel unsafe, along with being hurt and humiliated by the police officer and, later on, even by the tow truck driver, another white man with clear racist beliefs. He admits that his reaction of turning and swinging a punch at Smith was not something that he thought through but rather was an immediate reaction to the situation. After all, both his father and grandfather had faced police brutality during their times, accounts of which Conrad had grown up hearing, just like most other Black men and women in the USA. However, on the other side, violence can never be justified, and so his attack, in self-defense, naturally has consequences. But it is at this stage, during the court trial, that the racism at work against him is all the more evident. The judge overseeing the trial is a bigot who refuses to believe the points presented from Conrad’s side and sticks to the fact that he assaulted a police officer.

The judge sternly tells Conrad’s lawyer, Roger White, not to repeatedly bring up the information that the accused does not have any criminal record in his past. Yet, a past criminal record is often used to harass and falsely accuse Black men and women, where their earlier mistakes are repeatedly highlighted to state them as dangerous to society. The opposing candidate in the mayoral election in the city, Norm Bagovitch, in fact, has a similar political agenda, and it is not hard to guess that people like Smith and the judge, again an aging white male, find representation in the prejudiced Bagovitch. The judge adamantly gives Conrad a prison sentence of sixty days, sending him to the Fulton County jail, which is considered the toughest prison in the state, reserved only for the most hardened criminals. Conrad struggles to survive in jail, especially after he gets involved in a fight with a vicious gang, which the judge tries to make use of in order to increase his sentence term. A Man in Full edits its scenes to have Conrad’s situation and that of Charlie interspersed with each other, with the former being in prison for defending himself from physical abuse while the latter roams around freely despite being bankrupt and using public funds for his lavish lifestyle.

It is only because of Roger’s perseverance and his excellent skills as a lawyer that Conrad gets justice at the very end of the series. When the footage from the bodycams of Michael Smith and the other responding police officers is shown in court, there is no way to deny the use of excessive physical force against Conrad. Although the judge has been ignoring the context of the accused’s action for so long, he has to change his prejudiced ways, which does come off as a bit too conveniently sudden in the series. Ultimately, Conrad is acquitted of all charges and let go, but the harrowing experience of facing racism and utmost fear will continue to haunt him for a long duration in his life.

How does masculinity play a role in the series?

Just like racism, masculinity, mostly in an extremely toxic form, is also an integral part of the narrative in A Man in Full, and it is spread across all the storylines. Starting with the central character himself, Charlie Croker always presents himself as a tough man who never loses or considers losing to be the most undignified event in a man’s life. His choice of words is also directly stereotypical of how a man is considered “rough and strong” by society, as he includes mentions of the male genitalia to mean power. Charlie is hilariously filled with toxic masculinity, to the point of him trying to show off his authority over nature to a potential client by mishandling a venomous snake and then putting up a show of two horses copulating. He is the typical billionaire white American man, with an attractive trophy wife much younger in age and a false belief that he is in demand among women for his personality. It is possible to imagine Charlie’s character as a caricature of Donald Trump, too, based on multiple facets, beginning with the family dynamics, the outlandish claims, and the obnoxious and empty self-confidence.

But it is not just Charlie who is driven by a hilariously petty male ego, but so are the two other white men in the show—Harry Zale and Raymond Peepgrass. Zale mentions, more than once, his desire to beat Charlie in a physical fight, for which he is sometimes seen working out in his office as well. On the other hand, Raymond is also determined to bring Charlie down simply because of the personal humiliation he has faced because of him. Raymond admits that he admires the success that Charlie has amassed, even looking up to the man in a twisted way, but also desires to bring him down, even though he wants to be like the billionaire. The bank employee would have been a similar person as Charlie if he had had the opportunity in life, meaning that neither Raymond nor Zale are actually fighting for what is right against the wrongful spending of Charlie Croker. Instead, the whole matter is about their respective male egos wanting to triumph over each other and about power play and dominance. 

Eventually, Raymond also gets romantically involved with Charlie’s ex-wife, Martha, which, although seemingly has some genuine feelings, can also be perceived as an ultimate show of masculine strength. Not only is Raymond in the process of dismantling Charlie’s life and wealth, but he is also overpowering him by sleeping with his ex-wife during the process. Both he and Zale are also interested in taking away Charlie’s property and assets, simply because the billionaire is too emotionally attached to them, and the whole matter ultimately has the feel of two children taking away another child’s toys only to assert dominance. 

Why does Charlie not call out Bagovitch?

The misogyny against women in a world so dominated by men is also something that the series focuses on, although this is done in a slightly more indirect manner. Most of the women seen are believed by the men to be either too helpless or as accessories to their male counterparts, and the biggest exception to this is Joyce Newman, the best friend of Martha Croker. Joyce is a successful businesswoman with her own company and enough agency, and she rightfully despises people like Charlie, who believe themselves to be naturally higher than any woman. It is, therefore, Joyce, who is targeted by Charlie as part of a desperate last attempt to save himself.

A Man in Full also reminds us that any individual can have tremendous flaws and personal agendas, irrespective of their race or identity. The erstwhile mayor, Wes Jordan, is determined to be reelected for the position and uses all his acquaintances as a black man to help his cause. But he then also decides to bring down his political rival, the racist bigot Norm Bagovitch, in an indirect manner. Jordan knew of an incident from Bagovitch’s college days in which he had supposedly sexually assaulted a woman. Since Bagovitch and Charlie were very close friends in college, Jordan makes use of the billionaire to find out about the politician’s vile act and to use it in his campaign. An allegation of this nature would surely end Bagovitch’s career, and he makes use of his connections at Plannersbanc to help Charlie out of his situation in return. 

Charlie always knew that it was Joyce who had faced an undesirable experience with Bagovitch while in college, and he tried to convince her to speak out about it. However, Joyce admits, both to Charlie and Martha, that she did not have any clear recollection about whether Bagovitch had forced himself upon her, and so she does not want to make any official claim like this. She fiercely lashes out at Charlie for trying to take away her agency even in this regard, and her anger is projected against all men who want to make decisions for women, especially to help their own cause. Ultimately, though, Charlie seems to have learned his lesson, and he decides not to slander Bagovitch during the speech. This is seemingly out of respect for Joyce and not the politician, as he agrees that she will speak out against anything that she faces if and when she wants to. This act saves Charlie from becoming an outright villain, and he refrains from politicizing the alleged sufferings of a woman.

What happens to Charlie Croker?

Angry at Charlie’s final change of heart, Mayor Jordan decides to decline the help he was providing with regard to the bank situation, and the billionaire is once again in trouble. However, before this situation can pan out, he learns of a more horrifying truth—that Raymond Peepgrass has just created a private company, aptly named Big Red Dog LLC, in order to buy over the majority shares of the Concourse property. Raymond, who was now the boyfriend of Martha, had presented this idea to her, stating that this would save her from any financial duress in the future even if Charlie went bankrupt, and he was in the process of taking away her shares as well as those of her son, Wally. After learning of this development, Charlie angrily goes over to Martha’s house to confront her, only to stumble upon the rather embarrassing scene of her getting intimate with Raymond. Like almost every other time in this world run by men, Martha is left out of the matter while the two men fight it out, quite literally. Charlie chokes Raymond, and at this very moment, his characteristic stiffness of nerves, apparently caused by stress, gets a hold over him. Charlie suffers a heart attack while choking Raymond, unable to loosen his grip over the latter, and at the end of A Man in Full, both men die tragic deaths. In a final scene intended for humor, Charlie’s newly installed mechanized knee shakes up, reminding him that this sudden death did save him from a lot of humiliation and financial struggle. 

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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