The concept of survival at any cost is a common theme for many crime series, but few series manage to pull it off, like the four season run of Ozark. The Netflix original managed to hit hard every new season, delivering a twisted story of crime, betrayal, family and death that made it one of the best shows the streaming service has ever released. With the tight four seasons, Ozark stands as what is possible with a vision, a good cast, and knowing when to end things to ensure you never get tired of the concept.
Ozark follows Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman), an accountant who has some less than savoury clients, who finds himself on the wrong side of a powerful Mexican cartel when his partner tries to skim some money off the top to live beyond his means. In a last-ditch effort, Marty tries to show how the Ozarks are the ideal place for money laundering, and is now responsible for making this a reality. With a new goal, and his life on the line, he, along with his wife, Wendy (Laura Linney), son Jonah (Skylar Gaertner), and teenage daughter Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) need to uproot their lives and move to the Missouri Ozarks and try to move drug money, all the while keeping up the appearance of simply being respectable business owners.
It is here where Marty first meets Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner), comes into contact with the local drug power brokers, and generally clashes with the town folk they will be forced to live with. With constant threat from all angles, and attempts to escape from the web of crime only dragging them deeper into the muck, Ozark is a show that sets the tone early on, and hammers it home every chance it gets all the way to Ozark Season 4.
When Ozark first hit Netflix, there were a lot of comparisons to Breaking Bad. It offered up the similar concept of a middle class family pulled into a world of crime due to greed and bad choices, but as the series went on, and the characters came into their own, Ozark became a must-watch series every time a new season dropped onto the streaming platform.
Ozark is now finished, with Season 4 just launching on Netflix, and all major storylines wrapped up and the overall show ending on a sombre note fitting for the dark tone. There was a lot to love from the series, including the narrative that remained relatable and human even as the tension and stakes were ramped up from season one to season four. The characters and setting felt close to home, resting much of the stakes on the loss of the people you love most.
This is the true heart of it, and, unlike Breaking Bad it never lost that sense of family. Jason Bateman felt like a great subtle lead, giving Marty Byrde a level of humanity to the character that could have easily been lost in other actors’ hands. Laura Linney’s Wendy Byrde worked well as the mother willing to do anything to get what she wants for her family, showing a sense of compassion and ruthlessness that made her compelling every minute she was on-screen.
Even with so many great performances, Julia Garner’s Ruth Langmore stands as one of the biggest highlights of the show. Her character arc showed the most growth, and gave what could have been a very one-note character a real depth that both gave the show a focal point that even new viewers could latch onto and be swept away by her journey.
Ozark also managed to bring out some amazing antagonists to the table. It is hard with such a big cast, to really stand out from the crowd, especially when they are added and killed off throughout the show’s run, but the team managed to give enough character to each new addition, making them relatable, even as they try and rip the rug from under the Byrde family. From ruthless lawyer Helen (Janet McTeer), to calculating drug king-pin Omar Navarro (Felix Solis), there was always a sense of true menace and brutality from the cartel side of the cast.
“What really sets Ozark apart are the moments of family and heartbreak.”
The Snell family, Darlene (Lisa Emery) especially, also added a level of local threat to carefully laid plans. As each new idea is set forth, it was interesting to see how the show would try and throw a wrench into the gears, and the chaos of the local drug producers made this riveting, and frustrating as the series went on. Ozark is a show that makes it hard to really root for anyone, but the Snell family managed to the right level of chaos to move the plot forward while still making each new episode a journey into just how far people will sink to get vengeance when wronged.
As with any classic crime drama, it is the full cast that makes it all work. The series lives and dies on how well actors make you care, and that is where Ozark shines. The episodes all feel important to the story as a whole, and even as the last few offerings hit Netflix, it was clear this was a show that would not go out peacefully, delivering some of the most brutally heartbreaking moments in the series history. It is easy to see why Ozark has received such favourable reviews up to this point, and with it all out now, why it is the perfect time to jump in.
What really sets Ozark apart are the moments of family and heartbreak. When you are deep in the muck it is hard not to pull everyone you know down with you, and that is just what Jason Bateman’s Marty Byrde manages to do with everyone he knows and holds dear. It makes for compelling scenes, as characters we grow to love are taken down in the wake of money and power that is pervasive in the seedy world the cast of characters finds themselves in. To say more would be doing the show a disservice, since it is the build up and pay off that makes these moments work so well, even as they rip your heart out at every turn.
It is strange seeing Jason Bateman take on such a dark story, and the concept sounds like it should not work, but somehow it all falls into place. From the drug cartels, to the riverboat casinos, Ozark is a four-season series that is some of the best crime TV that has hit streaming in recent years. With a solid cast, consistently great episodes, and a story that will have you screaming at your television as it finally comes to a close, Ozark is easily one of the best series Netflix has ever put out. For anyone that loves crime, and seeing how far a family has to go to get ahead, Ozark is one that should not be missed.