Ozark shines light on a seemingly typical suburban family as they move suddenly from Chicago to Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks when shady business takes a sudden turn.
Netflix released all ten episodes of the original thriller drama series on July 21st. The Byrde family uproots their family and moves to a completely different state over the course of 48 hours. It did not take me much longer to make my way through the entire first season, each episode propelling me right into the next.
With that said, I am now re-watching the series at a much slower pace to take in all the nuances it has to offer. Additionally, each episode opens with a logo image of the letter ‘O’ divided into four quadrants each containing a pictogram of sorts, clues to events forthcoming in the episode. If for nothing else, I want to go back and review those clues.
Fast but slow
The story moves at a clipping pace due much in part to a particular deadline with which our lead character, Marty Byrde, has been tasked. Marty has been told he has to launder 8 million dollars over the course of three months. Those three months happen to coincide with the tourist season at the Lake of the Ozarks, which is of some benefit. Meanwhile, a variety of obstacles unfold throughout the season countering any benefits of the busy season.
So, from the outset, we have the first of many dichotomies in the Ozark experience. It is indeed a fast moving story, but you may actually want to pace yourself through the season in order to experience the richness of all the characters and the way their stories intersect.
Ozark is chock-full of facades, from the people to shell companies to inflated business expenses to a beautiful family home priced unusually low.
Marty and wife Wendy (played brilliantly by Jason Bateman and Laura Linney, respectively) are parents to Charlotte and Jonah. While seemingly a typical close-knit suburban family, we quickly learn that there are indeed strains on the family and the marriage of Marty and Wendy.
Characters on the lake that may initially appear to be more like caricatures end up revealing much more complex lives and personalities than you might expect.
With a major plot line involving money laundering, several businesses end up being more or less fronts for the laundering. In contrast, other businesses are full of heart and family history. Perhaps some are both.
Marty Byrde approaches businesses as an “angel investor” for struggling businesses, a benefactor of sorts. But in reality, he wants to use said businesses for the purpose of laundering money through their books.
To complicate things even further, we can see early on that Marty is otherwise a very decent guy, one who cares for his family and perhaps even has some true desire to actually help the town thrive. Bateman’s portrayal of Marty is so nuanced that it is often hard to tell. I am particularly fond of a scene where Marty genuinely comes to the defense of someone being bullied but then also attempts to use the situation for his own benefit as well.
There is absolutely more than meets the eye in Ozark.
Where does reality end and fraud begin? That question is a large part of what makes Ozark so intriguing. Motivations are not always clear cut. Alliances are not always what they seem. The show definitely keeps you on your toes.
All ten epiosodes of Ozark season 1 are available for streaming on Netflix.