Netflix Original Series Ozark was created by Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams; both worked together as writer and producer of films like The Accountant (2016) and A Family Man (2016) respectively. It stars Jason Bateman (Arrested Development, Horrible Bosses) as Marty Byrde; Laura Linney (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Nocturnal Animals) as his wife Wendy Byrde; Sofia Hublitz (Horace and Pete, Louie) as their daughter Charlotte; Skylar Gaertner (The Ticket, Daredevil) as their son Jonah; and Julia Garner (We Are What We Are, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) as the southern troublemaker Ruth Langmore.
Ozark tells the story of Chicago-based financial advisor Marty Byrde who also serves as a money launderer for the second largest drug cartel in Mexico. Things get out of control when Marty’s partners steal money from the cartel and the cartel finds out. Because of this, and fearing for his life and the lives of his wife and children, they relocate to the lake region of the Missouri Ozarks to pay back the cartel all the money that was stolen from them, finding it will be a lot more complicated than he thought it would be.
The premise sounds promising, and although Ozark is craftly directed and well acted all around, there is something missing about this show that prevents it from being a great one. The first episodes are slow and some of the characters are not fully developed. It is not easy to see Jason Bateman as a dramatic actor either, not because he gives a bad performance, but because his character doesn’t seem to deviate much from previous comedic ones. Laura Linney, who gives some of the best performances of this show, seems to be a little out of tune with the rest of the characters. The chemistry between them is just not there; is it because they hate each other as a couple or was it just bad casting? The whole family seems incoherent, and the characters we’re supposed to care and root for are not at all likeable; and if you think about everything they are causing to innocent people around them, you realize they’re actually awful people.
Despite the lack of charming characters, the biggest weakness in Ozark is that it tries too hard to be innovative; presenting unnecessary subplots and unrealistic twists to disassociate itself from previous, similar and more successful shows. Sometimes it feels like Walter White from Breaking Bad Nancy Botwin from Weeds had an illegitimate child, resulting in Marty Byrde, who does a decent job, but still lives under the shadow of their parents and will never surpass them in terms of novelty or wit, unable to achieve greatness as long as he doesn’t follow his own authentic path. It is not a waste to time to watch this show; it has its good moments and a big potential for improvement, but so far it’s unfortunately underwhelming.