Netflix’s latest drama/thriller series Ozark follows a financial adviser, Marty Byrd (Jason Bateman), and his family who are forced to move to the Missouri Ozarks by a drug cartel he has been laundering money for after a high ranking member, Del (Esai Morales), finds out that Marty’s partner had been skimming money from them. Marty proposes that he keep his life, and in return he will launder high amounts of money for the cartel rapidly through the Ozarks, a place where tourist trade is very high.
The series as a whole is quite strong. It’s entertaining, thrilling and has some genuinely good twists and surprises. However, the show conforms to its genre entirely, so there’s a certain lack of freshness to the series, which can take away from the experience. Ozark follows similar tracks as Breaking Bad or Bloodline, fitting alongside them nicely but without offering much more. It’s a thriller/drama about a white, middle-class male anti-hero who’s dealing in the seedy underbelly of America.
That being said, the series is a very dark, brutal thriller with some excellent subplots running throughout the overall series narrative. These are neatly interwoven with strong, creative or rather brutal conclusions to most of the issues. Each character has their own secrets and darker side, which makes them feel more fleshed out, real and provides more to the overall tension of the series.
The performances by the cast are all very solid too, with no one feeling as though they don’t fit or let the series down. Jason Bateman is exceptionally menacing, as we know he can be (The Gift), and he’s arguably the standout performance, particularly as his manipulative, plotting and intelligent character drives the narrative.
His character certainly helps for a more intriguing plot, and his reasoning for doing the things he’s doing (for his family’s safety) certainly create empathy for a character we truly root for, particularly when everything goes against him.
Some of these issues and twists are genuinely great and unexpected. However, some are much too predictable, silly or simply there to add momentary jeopardy which feels unnecessary. If something can go wrong, it does, which becomes annoyingly predictable and old, particularly when a character expresses, “As long as X doesn’t happen, we’ll be okay” and, nine times out of ten, X happens.
As well as this, occasionally a character will do or say something that feels entirely out of their character or unnecessary simply for the sake of creating momentary jeopardy or an episode plot point that doesn’t really fit. Sometimes, albeit, it’s the character’s reaction to their circumstance, but there’s a good handful of moments where a character will do something so out of character or random just for the sake of added tension.
For example, at one stage Marty’s daughter Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) goes out for a swim at night where she proceeds to struggle, despite being a strong swimmer, seemingly drowns, and then comes back up again. This is never mentioned again and adds nothing but a momentary two minutes of tension. Sure it can be argued that it’s a metaphor for the way she/her family are feeling or doing in their given situation, but the event comes out of nowhere and feels pointless.
Despite what may seem like a somewhat bashing or hate on Ozark, the series is actually very enjoyable and very thrilling, but it’s frustrating to see such silly mistakes and poor writing choices in an otherwise great series. Some will say it’s the next Breaking Bad, which I would disagree with. It’s an entertaining, thoroughly tense series from start to finish, but fails to offer anything new with some bizarre writing choices.