Amidst all of the headlines being dominated by San Diego Comic-Con this past weekend, was the premiere of a new show on Netflix. Jason Bateman and Laura Linney star in the new show Ozark. The show will likely be compared to similar crime drama’s such as Breaking Bad, however, it somehow is able to pave its own path. There’s a lot to like about the show. Chief among them is the compelling performances by Bateman and Linney. There are also some flaws. Yet, Netflix might have found its own Breaking Bad, even if it isn’t destined for the greatness that show achieved.
Ozark begins with Marty (Bateman) a wealthy financial advisor in Chicago who lives with his wife Wendy (Linney) and their two children. Along with his partner Bruce, Marty finds himself entangled with a ruthless drug lord Del (Esai Morales). When some money goes missing, Del entrusts Marty to launder money for him, or pay the ultimate consequence. Marty moves his family into the Ozarks in Missouri where they begin to entangle themselves in something deeper.
The first thing that you notice about the show is the bleak color palette. There is an overarching sense of dread based on the way the shows various directors choose to shoot the show. Bateman directs four episodes of the show and I really like the way he directs. His episodes are gritty and filled with great tension. I always find that actors have some of the best vision when directing. Bateman wonderfully balances his gripping lead performance with confidence directing.
The acting in the show is superb. Often, the iffy dialouge is lifted by committed performances by the actors. The show is co-created by The Accountant writer Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams who produced The Accountant. Dubuque’s screenplays, he also wrote the 2014 film The Judge, often drift into a bit of cliche territory. That was certainly the case with The Judge. But, he creates characters complex enough and has been fortunate to have had good actors cast in the roles. Dubuque only writes two episodes, but the rest of the shows writers do an excellent job of cohesive storytelling.
The show has a unique setting, and certainly makes good use of it. It is a lot like another Netflix show, Bloodline. Though that show didn’t end well at all, it made wonderful use of its Florida Keys setting. The presence of the type of people you’d find in this community never drifts into them becoming caricatures.
Ozark‘s overall season pacing is hit and miss. The show starts with a bang and drags in the middle a tiny bit. Ultimately, the show has one or two mediocre episodes. There’s some useless character development going forward that really doesn’t matter to the overall plot. To that point, the writers aren’t really sure what to with Marty and Wendy’s overall relationship. It’s the tiniest of plot points that tear them apart and mend them back together. Overall I found their relationship to be a bit tedious and not that interesting. The show also takes some weirdly irrelevant turns. Particularly with the focus of an FBI agent who’s arc is frustratingly complex.
The show ends with an intriguing developing story. This is a very dark show, in some ways darker than some of its predecessors. Ozark often drifts into repetitive narrative lulls but the plot is complex enough and has several directions to go in moving forward. It’s a strong first season for a show that has a high ceiling as far as potential goes. As the plot thickens, the show will ultimately get deeper into what was an already well executed first season.
Best Episode: Episode 8, “Kaleidoscope”
Worst Episode: Episode 3, “My Dripping Sleep”
Season Score: 7.5/10
Conclusion: Despite some forgivable flaws, Ozark is a compelling, dark and complex season of TV that is ripe with potential going forward. In addition, it is aided by wonderful performances from the cast, namely Jason Bateman.