The Invisible Pilot Series Review


A crop-duster, like the one that Gary Betzner flew.

Sophie Stringer, Staff Reporter

Television show The Invisible Pilot, released April 4, 2022 and directed by Phil Lott and Ari Mark, is the perfect 3-part series for anyone who finds disjointed plots appealing. While the description of “disjointed” may be subjective, Arkansas’ Gary Betzner, the focal point of the documentary, seems to have lived a life that epitomized that term.

The first episode of The Invisible Pilot begins with some much-needed backstory about Gary Betzner’s career as a crop duster, why he began taking the drugs that led him down his unlawful road, and how his family was affected by his decisions along the way. Gary was first addicted to Marijuana but eventually begins taking other drugs, too, believing that the United States government is oppressing its people by forbidding drug use. One time, Gary travelled to Miami, took drugs with a few friends, and was subsequently caught by the police. After being shipped back to Arkansas to await trial, he decides that being imprisoned for many years is not a positive experience that he wants to undergo and formulates a plan to avoid it. Gary’s wife, Sally, and two children, Polly and Gary, are initially quite supportive of all of his decisions. Sally helps her husband follow through with his plan, one which the entire audience of this show did not expect to work: Gary Betzner fakes his own death by jumping off of a bridge, committing himself to a life on the lam.

The rest of the series follows the twists and turns of Gary’s life. After faking his own death, Gary essentially becomes a hippie, growing out his hair and airing his grievances of drugs not being legalized. Eventually, he begins smuggling drugs. He meets some of the top drug cartel members and flies their goods back and forth from their respective countries and the United States for them, using his experience as a crop duster. During this time, Gary stays in touch with his family, periodically calling them and inviting them to stay in his Florida home with him. Gary grows to be very wealthy and lives a lavish lifestyle. His lifestyle is startlingly interrupted, however, when the CIA finds him.

The CIA enlists Gary to smuggle weapons to Contra, a place of importance during the Cold War, a place where the U.S. is not supposed to be involved. The story and timeline spirals. One minute the series focuses on the politics of the Cold War and the next Gary’s personal ties to it. Shortly after smuggling weapons for the CIA, Gary is arrested. Confusing plot twists and conflicts ensue. Escapes from prison, challenging the U.S. government in court, and at some point, the separation from his wife, Sally, occur. Describing the plot as “muddled” would be an understatement.

Unfortunately, while Gary enjoys his life as a wealthy and esteemed drug smuggler before being arrested, his wife and kids are forced to keep the secret of his death. After being arrested, his family is able to share the news of his life but not without judgement from those around them. Interviews are conducted with his now-grown kids during various years of their lives, and their progression is shocking. The directors quickly glance over Polly’s confession that she has self-medicated since the age of sixteen. Gary Jr. also gets addicted to drugs around the same time as his sister, and his mother sends him off to military school. During his most recent interview, however, Gary Jr. is living out of his van in his mother’s driveway. Polly explains that she believes that it will take generations to fix the pain that her father has caused his family. Shockingly, the directors continue to portray Gary as a happy hippy, oblivious to the pain that he causes those closest to him.

The Invisible Pilot is a series about a man who gives the audience a look into the life of a drug smuggler, and it is not pretty. The predominant lesson taken away form this series is to not do drugs, as the consequences demonstrated are drastic. This series deserves 3/5 shields. The story was told in a quite confusing way, but the story of Gary Betzner is one that I will not forget, and nor will anyone else who watches this shocking production.