Netflix is cranking out the original shows and series these days. Of course, quantity doesn’t always equal quality. The Ozark TV series on Netflix is an exception. It’s a crisp crime drama, with touches of action and suspense and a healthy dose of black humor. Ozark also has a strong cast. Jason Bateman, who directed several of the episodes, and Laura Linney lead the ensemble of con artists, outlaws, misfits, and wannabes. The series displays a variety of influences, but they’re blended into something original and entertaining.
Marty Byrde (Bateman) is a financial planner in Chicago with a wife, Wendy (Linney), and two children. Events transpire quickly in the first episode, leading Marty to relocate himself and family to Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. Teenage daughter, Charlotte, and tween son, Jonah, do not take the move well.
Of more urgency is the deadline Marty faces. Not all of his financial services were entirely legal. His biggest client – who’s part of a large drug cartel – issues a challenging demand Marty must satisfy to stay on his client’s good side.
This all happens in the first episode of Ozark. We expected a return to stability and slower pace for episode two. It didn’t happen. The complications continue for Marty and family. Every episode includes a step or two forward – a potential clear path to success – and a couple of steps back.
The show is filled with colorful characters. Several start as stereotypical southern rednecks, but show a deeper side as the series moves along. Ozark makes a point of humanizing, showing good and bad sides, of all the characters. It’s a bit obvious, perhaps, but still an important message.
As things go from bad to worse, Ozark throws in a flashback episode. Episode eight goes back in time, but in unconventional ways. It’s a series of scenes, some of them very brief, seemingly jumping around in time, but which, together, provide context for the current situation. It’s surprisingly effective.
Early on, a couple of scenes in Ozark reminded us of The Americans. As the kids come down for breakfast, Marty and Wendy spin a tale about why the family is leaving Chicago. It’s all lies, of course, and Charlotte is suspicious, just as Paige in The Americans starts to see through her parents’ facade. That’s just one example. Shows from Fargo to True Detective appear here in a variety of ways.
There is much more to the Ozark TV series than described above. Ozark has dark moments, tender moments – usually involving the kids – funny moments, and almost no dull moments. It’s full of little surprises, and a couple of big ones.
Ozark was created by Bill Dubuque. All ten one-hour episodes are streaming on Netflix. It’s safe to say there will be Ozark season 2 – with, hopefully, more to follow. Put it at the top of your Netflix TV shows list.
Scroll down for comments…