Tuesday, August 01, 2017
TV Tuesday: Ozark
Jason Bateman plays Marty Byrde, a seemingly mild-mannered (some might say dull) financial planner in Chicago. Marty normally lives a quiet life, but in the first episode, that gets blown away in a single day. First, he finds out his wife, played by Laura Linney, has been cheating on him, and then he's called out in the middle of the night to answer to Del, the scary head of a Mexican drug cartel, about missing money. It turns out that Marty and his partner, Bruce, have been laundering money for the cartel, and Bruce has been skimming some off. Marty barely saves his own life and his family's lives by convincing Del that he can continue to launder his money from a new location, Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri (this involves some fast-talking and total BS on Marty's part, after Bruce had given him an Ozarks brochure earlier in the day). Del says that Marty and his family must be out of Chicago and settled down there within 48 hours.
And that's where this family's adventure - and nightmare - begins! Marty rushes home and tells his (cheating) wife, Wendy, everything, the house is on the market by morning, and their poor kids - 15-year old Charlotte and younger brother Jonah - are suddenly ripped from their lives and into a stuffed family van heading to Missouri. They arrive to find a depressed region filled with rednecks that relies heavily on summer tourist money. Marty immediately sets out to find cash-based businesses to launder the drug money through, but no one wants anything to do with this fast-talking stranger, until he finally stumbles onto a run-down old summer resort that has seen better days and whose owner is just desperate enough to buy Marty's story of being an "angel investor."
That's the basic set-up, but every episode of Ozark is just chock-full of twists, turns, and surprises, as the Byrde family begins to settle into their new home and Marty struggles to keep his family not only financially afloat but alive. One of the best aspects of the show is the local family of hicks known as the Langmores, who butt up against the Byrdes right from day one. With her father in prison, nineteen-year old Ruth Langmore, played by the brilliant Julia Garner, heads up the ragtag family. She is far more intelligent than her uncles and cousins and also hardened from growing up in the midst of a criminal family. Before long, Ruth worms her way into Marty's business, though her intentions are far from noble. Throw in a local drug business that sees Marty as a threat, a preacher on the water, a dying man in the Byrde's new basement, and an FBI agent hot on Marty's trail, and you have a gloriously tangled and constantly changing plot!
We have watched seven episodes so far of the 10-episode first season (oh, no - only three more to go!), and we are completely hooked on this original show. The actors are all first-rate and completely inhabit their characters. The plot is constantly moving, with surprises in every episode - sometimes the good guys become the bad guys in an instant or the bad guys are suddenly allies! It's a unique and intriguing setting, with the gorgeous backdrop of Lake of the Ozarks and its wealthy summer tourists against the poverty of the locals. Despite its serious themes and nonstop suspense, the show also has a good sense of humor (often dark humor!) that we love and delves into the emotional lives of its characters, too. We are loving every minute of it (as are many of my friends) and hope there will be a season two! I can't wait for my husband to get home tonight so we can watch another episode.
Ozark is a Netflix original program, so it is available exclusively on Netflix.