Now, the story of a wealthy family who lost everything – and the one dad who had no choice but to keep them all alive. Chances are my fellow bingers have found that the quarantine has near-completely sapped our supply of streaming content – but never fear, here’s one that may have slipped under the radar.
Ozark. A stark and dreary name to be sure, matched by the high-contrast blue filter draped over every episode. At times when I find myself switching through Netflix titles, I cannot help but think the writers found a cool-sounding title and crafted a thriller show around it. Ozark is no exception.
If you liked Breaking Bad, you’ll probably like this show. It checks all the boxes: wicked drug cartel, conniving parents, suburban façade cracked clean open by criminality, etc. Television’s quintessential straight man Jason Bateman plays Marty Byrde, the show’s protagonist. Investor by day and money launderer by night, Byrde and his wife Wendy (Laura Linney) work desperately to launder $500 million for the Mexican cartel (oddly the show is based in Chicago for some reason), in the famous Missouri Ozarks, facing off against numerous baddies, Missourian and Cartel both. Instead of Jessie Pinkman, you have the scrappy Ruth Langmore (a local kinky-haired ne’er do well) who kicks off her pro-criminal career with Marty’s help.
The show is dark (literally), and the threat of violence looms large over all the characters. It balances this unsettling tension with a persistent urgency, and the occasional humor.
Like Breaking Bad, the show’s greatest strength is the tension throughout. Oftentimes, Marty is given a very specific time frame to complete an incredibly harrowing illegality. The performances are brilliant as well – Linney shines as the increasingly diabolical Wendy. Bateman appears to have no range whatsoever as an actor, but his stammering routine as the double-talking Marty is so well-executed you can’t fault the man.
The show’s only real weakness is the same as a hundred other shows – a lack of creativity. The shows’ main advantage is the comparison of Breaking Bad before it. As such, it has a laundry list of tropes to refute – for example, the kids find out about the illegal stuff pretty early. But at times the writing feels like it is ricocheting off of the hundreds of thousands of thrillers preceding it, rather than forging its own unique storytelling path. But that’s a minor nitpick, only bothersome to a burned-out senior writing his last OGB article.
In short, Ozark is fantastic, gripping and intense – a smorgasbord for the senses. Log onto Netflix and check it out.