Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Ozark Season 1 Netflix Series Review

Ozark (2017-)
Season 1 - 10 episodes (2017)
Watch Ozark on Netflix
Created by: Bill Dubuque, Mark Williams
Starring: Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, Julia Garner, Esai Morales, Sofia Hublitz
Rated: TV-MA

Jason Bateman stars and directs this drama series about a financial planner who flees to the Missouri Ozarks from Chicago with his wife (Laura Linney) and two children to launder money for and pay off a Mexican drug cartel.

This is dark and brooding, showing that whether you're a white collar accountant or a poverty stricken family living in the woods, crime crosses all boundaries. Jason Bateman plays Marty Byrde, stuck in the woods laundering money for the cartel. Nearly every episode has a big moment and we're constantly wondering how will Marty get out of this one. This is a show you can't put down, you have to find out what happens next.
This is going to illicit comparisons to Breaking Bad (2008-13) which was amazing in every regard. From the story to Cranston, it was electric. Bateman doesn't have a lot of range, which isn't a problem unless you're making comparisons. If you're looking for a replacement, this is as close as you'll come.
Watch it.

Breaking Bad  comparisons were inevitable once we were introduced to Marty (Jason Bateman), a middle aged man talking about wanting money for his family and the very concept of currency. He's disappointed with life and wants something more. Surprisingly, Marty is a money launderer. Without knowing the premise of the show, after the first few minutes he seems like a typical discontent middle aged office worker. As benign as he initially seems, he's in to some deep stuff. The first episode puts him on the brink of getting killed, but he manages to talk his way out of it by offering more money laundering. While he appears fearless, I'm guessing it's more apathy.
Bateman is often deadpan, many times I was waiting for an Arrested Development (2003-) reference.  He's so matter of fact and doesn't scare or waver, knowing all the facts in a situation and telling it like it is. These moments of triumph are a lot of fun as Marty explains to would be wrong doers why doing him harm is a bad idea.
Bateman isn't far from his Arrested Development or his Bad Words (2013) (read my review) character. While this role isn't the transformation from goofball dad in Malcolm in the Middle (2000-06) to sociopath Heisenburg that Bryan Cranston managed, Bateman fits the role. He doesn't display a lot of range, but that doesn't hold this back. Marty is a fascinating character that can stare down the barrel of a gun and not flinch, likely more concerned that the air is on and the door is open.
Marty and family move to the Ozarks. His family knows about his crimes and becomes complicit. It's a tenuous relationship as his children are mad for upending their lives and his marriage is little more than a front. They are often a typical family with the issues you'd expect. The money laundering just complicates that. In episode four, when his wife asks him what he did today for the family, Marty replies he bought a strip club. Everything he does is for his family. If the money doesn't get laundered, they'll all be dead. The show is always dark, but regularly interjects bits of humor, generally from Marty.
Marty launders money for the cartel. He tries to invest in local business, often resorting to less than legal means to obtain them. His plan, which the show doesn't detail extensively, is to buy primarily cash businesses. He then notes portions of the dirty money as income since cash can't be traced. The second part of the plan is the 'improve' the businesses. The increased income is balanced by increased expenditure. This way he's still operating at a loss and taxes don't increase. You don't pay taxes when you don't make money. Marty is a numbers guy, making this work is fun for him.
This goes heavy on the rednecks, with Marty forming an alliance with Ruth. She's a teen with plans to move up, but her family is holding her back. If you guessed she'd later have to make a decision between her future and her family, you'd be right.

Episode eight is a flashback episode, that like most shows isn't necessary. It doesn't matter how Marty got started. This robs the show of momentum. While Lost (2004-10) did this to great effect, it was integrated into each episode and built characters. In Ozark it doesn't build character and doesn't answer any questions we needed to know.

Each episode begins with a title screen that includes clues indicating events in the episode.
While I don't have time to binge a show, when I wasn't watching this I was wondering what would happen next. I like Jason Bateman because he plays a similar character in every role. While this isn't Breaking Bad, it doesn't need to be. Comparing the two is like comparing every crime show to Law and Order. It's not justified. Breaking Bad easily rates as one of the the all time greats, but it's still early for Ozark. It's got plenty of threads to pull for upcoming seasons.

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