Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

“Ozark” delivers on its brand

(Official ‘Ozark’ Facebook Page)

“Ozark” is a tense, yet predictable Netflix original series that takes its viewers through the dreary Ozark mountain regions, as it follows Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman), a money launderer who needs to pay back his debt to a Mexican drug cartel.

At the start of the show, Byrde is portrayed as an average family man living in Chicago. He has a wife, Wendy (Laura Linney), and two kids, Charlotte and Jonah (Sofia Hublitz and Skylar Gaertner respectively). He works a high-income job as a financial advisor and has a house and a successful life.

Or so it seems. In spite of his apparent success, he is worn out and unhappy and has a distant relationship with his family.

These mundane circumstances are shaken up when a man, known simply as Del (Esai Morales), shows up to confront Byrde and the rest of the staff from Byrde’s financial firm. Del represents a Mexican drug cartel and reveals that Byrde’s firm launders money for them. The problem is that Del and his men have discovered that someone from within the firm is stealing massive amounts of money from the cartel. This warrants a termination of the relationship between the two organizations and a swift execution of all witnesses. This includes Marty Byrde.

As Del is about to put a bullet through Byrde’s head, Byrde comes up with a last-ditch business proposition to save his life. He explains to Del that he can make back all of the money that was stolen, plus much more on top of that, by moving down to the Ozarks in Missouri and investing in the businesses there. He derives the plan from a vacation pamphlet that he saw earlier that day.

Del knows Marty is talking nonsense, but he is intrigued and allows Marty to move his family to Missouri to carry out the aforementioned proposal. The rest of the show follows Marty and his family as they try to adjust to their new lives, living in the unfamiliar Ozark region, while under the constant threat of being murdered if unable to appease Del and his crew.

“Ozark” excels in its ability to establish tone through its colors and settings. The show filters much of the world through a limited variety of gray, blue and brown hues. These shades convey a dreary, unrelenting atmosphere that matches the grave emotional state of Byrde and his family.

The setting itself, an untamed wilderness, works well at complementing the nature of the Byrdes’ situation with the cartel. Here there be dragons. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the show is the way that the different characters cope with their situation. While some members of the Byrde family grow detached from the extreme nature of their predicament, others find that it sparks a renewed interest in remaining close to family.

The actors who portray these characters are impressive. Jason Bateman, discarding his usual role as a comedic actor/voice talent (such as “Arrested Development,” “Horrible Bosses,” “Zootopia,” etc.), is exceptional at portraying Marty, a man who has a smart and calculated approach to life, but whose emotional state has crumbled from neglect and stress. Accompanying him as his wife, Laura Linney captures the fierce commitment that Wendy has to her family, while consistently dropping hints that her character suffers from gut-wrenching inner turmoil.

The child actors are competent as well. They give convincing performances that are never at odds with the serious tone of the show. The only issue is that their characters are cut short in the last half of the series. In the first half, they are afforded time to show how they handle their situation and the relationships that they build outside their family. In the second half, their screen time is limited to them providing predictable child reactions to the escalating scenarios around them. It’s disappointing.

The show also has a predictable formula of twists and turns that persists throughout its duration. A pattern of complications, followed by a few moments of reprieve, followed by even worse complications. It’s effective at engaging the viewer but sometimes comes across as repetitive and gives the impression that “Ozark,” while a quality product, is just that, a product—a series meticulously constructed to evoke the greatest viewer response. Despite that caveat, it’s a tense, enjoyable ride with excellent performances from its cast that maintains its delectable aura of eeriness throughout.

Timothy Eineberg can be reached at [email protected].

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