First things first, my usual Netflix preferences are along the lines of Gilmore Girls or Friends. Television has always been a form of escapism from the pressures of university life for me, so I have veered away from the heavier shows in favour of laugh-a-minute stuff. However, at the suggestion of a friend whose opinion I hold in high esteem, I decided to give Ozark a go.
There are two seasons of the gripping crime drama on Netflix, and with each episode being around an hour long there is plenty of viewing material. Ozark was created by Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams and produced by Media Rights Capital. Jason Bateman, who plays protagonist Marty Byrde, took part in the direction of the show, demonstrating the true extent of his talents.
The show documents the Byrde family’s relocation from Chicago to the Ozarks, Missouri, as their lives are turned upside down by the revelation of their father’s money laundering scheme. With crime at every corner, the drama succeeds in avoiding excess at the expense of reality, a vice which I feel many recent dramas have fallen victim to. What makes Ozark so unusual is that the family at the heart of this thriller are so ordinary, so relatable, even though their dubious deeds are laid out plainly from the very beginning. The opening episode had me wondering how I would ever empathise with these devious characters. This is where the true beauty of the show lies; despite the overt flaws of almost every main character, the viewer’s sympathy grows so strong as the episodes go by that you become entirely invested in the outcome. You will find yourself rooting whole-heartedly for the Byrde family, criminality and all.
Without giving too much away, violence and treachery is at every turn in Ozark, but the overwhelming message is one about human nature. One cannot fully hate any character, not even the deadly Darlene due to the emotions provoked by her yearning for a child. At the other end of the spectrum, the production team must be credited for their outstanding portrayal of the devastatingly brave Ruth Langmore, played with great success by Julia Garner. An unlikely heroine, described as ‘trailer trash’ on more than one occasion, she demonstrates selflessness and ambition on an epic scale.
The persistence of Marty and Wendy Byrde as a marriage and as, quite literally, partners in crime is impressive to the very end. Few televised unions have ever been so burdened with obstacles and yet so resilient in the fact of adversity. In fact, Wendy is exemplary of the fact that Ozark is a series for feminists, with strong female leads dominating the story line. For a programme about money laundering, there is a great deal to learn about humanity and successful relationships.
To summarise, this is a commendable series which cannot easily have cliches and labels attached to it. Full of complexity and subtlety, the reader follows closely round each corner of the many twists and turns of this plot, with emotional attachment to almost every character the overwhelming take-away. Despite the sentimentality, trust me and the rules of television when I say that when it comes to the very few truly nasty characters in this story: justice is served! Season three?