I clearly recall watching the final episode of Breaking Bad, hanging on every single scene in eager awe at what was unfolding before my eyes. The perfect ending to a damn-near perfect story of a man who took a dark downward spiral for his family and in the end, had the lifestyle eat him alive as it overtook him. It was TV at its finest, and though shows have come close (and GOT is in its own category by itself), little has touched the sheer flawlessness of Breaking Bad.
Now we have the Jason Bateman starring Netflix original, Ozark, and it honestly is the best show on TV right now (and I am saying that only ONE season into Ozark). The reason I am connecting the two is Ozark is torn from the same cloth as Breaking Bad (I will expand more on why as the article progresses). But what you have here is the new high tier for Netflix shows, and TV shows in general.
A show SO compelling, it is all but impossible to not binge watch all of Netflix’s Ozark within a day or two, tops. And it deals with the exact same themes that made Breaking Bad so damn watchable. A man who is in over-his-head, trying to keep his family afloat while everything shatters into debris around him. A man who would do anything for his family’s safety (while at the same time, robbing them of every truly feeling that sort of safety ever again).
I am getting ahead of myself as I often do when I am excited to talk about something I love. Here are some very solid reasons why the Netflix TV show Ozark is the best show on TV, Netflix or not.
Think of this as a sort of Ozark Netflix review, minus spoilers.
What is going to be a bit difficult to stride here will be telling you just enough to get you to watch the phenomenal Ozark on Netflix, but to get you interested without ruining some of the aspects of what got me so compelled by Ozark in the first place. But man, I am gonna try. Sorry if this sounds generic, but I am doing that on purpose. I went at Ozark blind and that heightened the experience for me, and I suggest others do the same. But if you need an appetizer to get you ready for your main course, I got you.
The Byrde family is just your normal, everyday nuclear family. A son, a daughter, and two loving (coughs awkwardly) parents who are ensuring they are raising their children as best they can. The patriarch of the family, Marty Byrde, has a bit of a dark life away from his family, laundering money for some REALLY bad people and before we are a half hour into the first episode our boy Marty has a gun barrel pointing at his head while he sits on his knees next to two of his dead co-workers.
That sets the tone for Marty knowing he needs to pull off a miracle to not be put down like a dog. Let’s just say, a big gift of Marty (and why the casting of Jason Bateman was essential here) is that he has a way with words and people. He is smarmy and condescending, but he KNOWS how to get people to react and respond. That “gun to the head” scene in episode one (not a spoiler, happens right away) sets the tone for him packing up his family with no warning and relocating all of them to the Ozarks (for a reason).
Suffice it to say, his family is not happy, and it is not exactly a vacation for Marty, who now essentially has to pull off the impossible (which is making a great deal of money for a very bad man in a place where making money should be easier and more legal than it is).
Now keep in mind, one of the things that also makes Ozark very Breaking Bad like is this is a show where all characters are given as unique and interesting a story and character arc as the main character. Look at the above scene featuring the young son, Jonah, and tell me I am wrong. Genius shit, but more on that in a moment.
First off, we have Wendy Byrde. A woman who, it could be said and will be revealed minutes into the first episode) is not super happy at home. Yes, Marty may be bringing in the cash (at first) but that commitment to his job seems to mean putting his family last, and Wendy feels somewhat isolated and alone because of this. Played with aplomb by the always amazing Laura Linney, Wendy is a complicated character who, at times, has the right to feel how she does, and yet also displays some truly glaring flaws of her own. It is also crazy to see how much she evolves just across the course of the first season as a character.
Next up we have Charlotte Byrde, their fifteen year-old-daughter who QUICKLY figures out something about this move is way off and makes it known she just wants to be back in Chicago and with her old friends (and feeling safe in her own skin again). She can be a pain-in-the-ass, but is it wrong for a 15-year-old girl to want to know what is up with her family? And again, she is a deeper and more complex younger girl than what you get written on most shows. She is not necessarily chasing boys, she is chasing a normal life. And when you see the show, you will understand why she wants it back so badly.
Now we are at the character seen in the clip above who may actually have the most interesting character arc of all, the young son, Jonah Byrde. While quiet and looked at as “socially awkward” initially, his character evolves in such a unique way, and in some odd fashion, he finds himself more at home in the madness of the Ozarks than he did as an outcast among his classmates back in Chicago.
The thing is, do not look at Jonah as the quiet, weird son. His mind is always going to unique places, inquiring and asking questions even adults wouldn’t even be smart enough to ask. He also seems to find a piece of himself in the chaos once it unfolds, and his inner strengths become more and more clear as the (all too short) first season winds up.
Titular Characters (and RUTH Who Steals the Show)
This is where the Breaking Bad comparison comes back. One of the draws of BB was that EVERY CHARACTER Heisenberg interacted with was interesting and had an (often twisted) demeanor that left you demanding more screen-time for all of them (shout-out to Better Call Saul, the TRUE Breaking Bad successor) and the side characters in Ozark are the exact same way.
While I could tell you about the owner of the bed and breakfast Marty spends some time with who pulls some shit (man I am good at being non-spoilery) to the preacher who may just end up being the biggest problem Marty faces, each character could get their own article, but right now I want to focus on one young woman who steals this whole show. The character of Ruth Langmore. A devilish little thing that knows how to manipulate all around her and doesn’t take shit from anyone (even though she is only nineteen and tiny in stature).
There is a relationship (non-sexual for you pervs wondering) between her and Marty that, at first, is parasitic. She is a thorn in his side, and she seems to be one step ahead of everyone in the Ozarks.
Marty is quick to realize how people can benefit him (they use him and he starts understanding how to use them right back), and he ends up utilizing Ruth’s skills and kind of being nice to her (which is strange and foreign to Ruth, as you will see when you spend some valuable time with her “family”, a father who is a man of extreme power but at the moment, behind bars). But let me tell you, evolving character arc or not, the actress who plays this girl is something to behold. She has an on-screen presence on that is thrice her size, and just like everyone in the Ozarks, you kinda hush up when Ruth walks into the room (or in this case, on-screen.)
Mark my words, much like Stranger Things turned its female lead (Millie Bobby Brown) into an overnight star, the same will (or BETTER) happen to actress Julia Garner, cuz she is a tiny powerhouse (not that size matters).
Rock Bottom to the Top to the Bottom Again
So how do you do an Ozark Netflix review and not spoil the show.? As I’m learning (and doing quite well with so far) very carefully, that’s how.
The other aspect that makes me feel like Ozark is the best TV show out there right now is the fact that EVERY episode has that one moment that kind of changes everything. It seems like every time something happens that makes it seem like the Byrde family just might be okay, another wrench gets thrown into the gears and fucks things up again. Breaking Bad was a pretty gut-wrenching show to watch at times (lots of death and darkness) and Ozark is no different. People die, people get ruined, and the true devils with their darkest motives on Ozark don’t always make themselves clear, which puts a cryptic veil always hanging over the show like the sword of Damocles. At any point, you know it could drop and kill anyone.
It is THAT uncertainty and that constant fear and hope for these characters to prevail that really made me feel like Ozark is, in time, going to be recognized as one of the greats, up there with GOT and BB, without question.
Another quirky fact about Ozark most miss is…
The Show is Intentionally Blue (As in Sad AND As in Color)
This one is weird to include but I noticed it and pointed it out to some friends and people seem intrigued once they notice it (which you can see for yourself in all these clips). Ozark is ALWAYS BLUE. I mean literally, the show is edited with a blue tint to put the feeling of the desolation and isolation of the Ozarks itself into the viewer watching.
You know how the movie The Revenant made you feel wet and cold? Well, the blue tint of hopelessness that hangs over this show like a cloud feels like the reaper himself, and while a “blue” TV show may sound weird, the limited color scale of the show drives home that very ‘blue” feeling.
You know how when you are sad some people say you are blue? Ozark takes that subliminal one step further by making it literal and it works really well here.
This leads us to ONE final point of discussion…..
Jason Bateman Rebooted Himself FTW
While we are always hearing about movie and TV show reboots, did you know people could do it, too? Well, they can, or at least Jason Bateman apparently can.
If you saw the AMAZING movie The Gift, you already saw one of Jason Bateman’s turns from funny-dry guy to power-hungry prick and Ozark is THAT Bateman, 100%, and you immediately realize that this dude was making you laugh weekly on Arrested Development, but that doesn’t ruin this experience. THAT is the sign of true talent, and very few actors can pull it off. Tom Hanks did it (went from Bosom Buddies to dying of AIDS on-screen and it worked, what?). Robin Williams pulled it off by jumping from funny characters to characters like he played in One Hour Photo and Good Will Hunting.
But to get the masses who think of you as “funny” to suddenly take you seriously when you are BEING serious can be a really hard thing to do, and after watching Ozark completely twice, I actually think this is where Bateman shines now (and roles like in The Gift). Don’t get me wrong, he plays a GREAT straight man to his kooky family on Arrested Development, but Marty Byrde is a whole new creature and Bateman nails it.
He also directed the first two and last two episodes of the show (which were some of the best episodes of the first season), further cementing his current presence in Hollywood as one to be reckoned with.
If this article went according to plan, you are already watching the show and aren’t even reading this anymore so I should be able to say anything I want right now and it won’t matter.
I’m pickle Rick, bitches!