Ozark (2018) reviewed

I’d been streaming Ozark for some time and have wrapped up the viewing early this week. The series derives its title from the Missouri Ozarks, where a family of four converge to launder money. Jason Bateman stars as Marty White, with strong support from Laura Linney (Wendy Bryde), Julia Garner (Ruth Langmore) and other talented actors. Three seasons have been completed, each numbering ten episodes. These individual eps range from 52 to 80 minutes. Ozark’s theme and premise have been compared to Breaking Bad and Narcos. The programme is one of Netflix’s most popular shows. The series is currently in production for its fourth and final season.  

Season 1 (2017)

The first thing you notice about the show is the perpetually overcast weather. Perhaps this is always the case in the Missouri Ozarks. The second thing you’ll grasp is the show’s unusual intro, featuring a big letter O with the characters z-a-r-k within. The latter four letters are always different images. The series starts in Chicago, where Marty lives with his family. He owns an accounting firm and launders money for the Navarro cartel. Del, a lieutenant in the organisation, pays them a visit. He understands that Marty’s workmates have been stealing money. He kills off the entire firm, but Marty gets a deal: he has to launder $500 million in five years. Marty is able to walk away with the promise of being a ‘washing machine’ in the Ozarks.

He then sells off all his assets to pay back the $8 million which his pals have nicked. He also learns that his wife is unfaithful to him, which ends badly for her lover boy. Having moved to the Ozarks, Marty immediately takes stock of his new surroundings. By season’s end, he manages to be a silent partner in a few legitimate businesses. These include a strip club, a funeral home, and the Blue Cat Inn. Shortly upon arrival, he meets Ruth Langmore. Initially, the lass is intent on terminating him and running off with the dough, but cooler heads prevail. She then becomes Byrde’s right-hand. While initially confused about the sudden move, Byrde’s children get the low-down on their disguise.

They meet the Snells, who grow poppies. The two sides clash, as Marty’s expansion threatens the Snell’s bread and butter. Charlotte, Marty’s kid, hangs out with Wyatt, Ruth’s cousin. Marty acts as go-between as the cartel tries to make a deal with the Snells. However, things take a deadly turn when Del insults the latter. This all transpires as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) keeps tabs on the Brydes. Agent Petty even manages to get some snitches against Marty, but his investigation makes little progress.  

Season 2 (2018)

The second season introduces a new party into the equation: the Kansas City mafia. Marty believes that a casino would solve many of his problems. However, he has to have a few things fall into place before the magic can happen. He needs senate approval to open a new casino in the state. The Brydes then have to deal with a lobbyist in his glasshouse. His clout per se could swing the voting in their favour. Through a bit of blackmail, cajoling, and some blind luck, the casino gets approved. In the aftermath though, a state senator falls on his sword.  

Ruth’s father, Cade, is released from prison. He soon becomes a headache with his vices, demands, and domineering personality. Later in the season, Charlotte lets it be known that she wants to emancipate. The family’s drama tires her, and she wants out. We are also introduced to Helen Pierce, the cartel’s in-house lawyer. She is the main negotiator this time between the cartel and the Snells. Marty manages to secure the land from the Snells and they become dispensable.

As a side note, the Snells almost got their operation outed. Wendy helped burned the poppy field. However, the Bureau team managed to find bones from plantation. By swapping these fragments with the Snell’s ancestors, the cartel was able to get them out of trouble. At season’s end, Marty devises a plan for his family to retire from their business. Once the casino is up and running, he intends to bring his family to the Gold Coast. However, Wendy nixes this plan and convinces him that this scenario is the best possible one. Wyatt, unsure despite a uni offer, learns from Ruth that she’s responsible for both his father and uncle’s demise. He becomes fed up with the family and leaves. Agent Petty is killed, and Cade Langmore gets his comeuppance.

Season 3 (2020)

Following the explosive end to season two, the latest instalment sees the Byrde family thriving with their new casino. However, with great progress comes great challenges. The FBI audits the Byrde’s casino and lingers in their business. Charlotte reneges on her emancipation demand but dictates that her parents attend counselling. The couple therapy is a farce with Marty secretly paying off Sue Shelby to side with him during discussions. When Wendy counters with her own bribe, Marty gives Sue a lump sum final payment to keep mum on their illicit dealings. Soon, she is going about in a luxury sportscar. This doesn’t bode well with Helen, who has her eliminated. A Kansas mobster attacks Ruth. She is furious that Marty wouldn’t terminate her assailant. Wyatt becomes involved with Darlene Snell.

We are introduced to Erin, Helen’s rebellious teen daughter. Erin lives with her father and brother in Chi-town. She eventually learns about her mother’s disguise after Ben confronts them. The latter develops a relationship with Ruth but soon relapses. Without the right routine, he morphs into the Incredible Hulk. In effect, the season reminded me of early Six Feet Under. Billy, Brenda’s brother, was just as difficult as Ben. He also dated Claire Fisher but, soon after, became unravelled. The latter half of the third canto was heartbreaking. It also shows that Wendy’s a toughie, as if that wasn’t obvious enough. She has also been in direct contact with Omar Navarro, the head honcho. Throughout the third instalment, she has been championing the cause of expansion. Her desires to purchase a second casino has courted trouble during the aforementioned counselling sessions. The end sees three main characters going to Mexico to meet Navarro. Only two of them will survive.

Compelling

Acting-wise, Julia Garner shines with two Primetime Emmy’s. Meanwhile, Bateman has found his mark as part-time director. He earned himself an Emmy for directing. Critical acclaim has met all three seasons. Some of the actors have grown on the show, including the Byrde children. Throughout the series, the eye-catching Ozarks are featured. Characters have even made use of boats to showcase the lush greenery and serene waterways.

The programme’s humanity is what appealed to me. The characters have their own quirks and flaws, and you could well relate to them. Though the eps are around an hour in length, there’s fairly a lot of going on. You wouldn’t feel the runtime. The fourth season would be fourteen eps altogether. These will be divided into two parts of seven eps apiece. I’m glad I walked into Ozark. With a balanced mix of impassioned drama and compelling action, the series lives up to the hype.

Rating: 4.55/5

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