We started watching this on Saturday night. On Sunday morning, the wifey said “Let’s catch an episode” and that doesn’t happen very often. We ended up watching two. On Monday night, we binged the last four episodes over dinner and finished at 1130pm. Ozark is the latest series that made us make plans to accommodate it.

The Byrdes, Marty (Jason Bateman) and Wendy (Laura Linney) and their teenage kids, Charlotte (Sofia Hubiltz) and Jonah (Skylar Gaertner), are, for all intents and purposes, an ordinary family with ordinary lives. Except for the job of Marty, a Chicago financial advisor who also serves as the top money launderer for the second largest drug cartel in Mexico. When things go awry, Marty must uproot his family from the skyscrapers of Chicago and relocate to the lazy lake region of the Missouri Ozarks.

Netflix’s Ozark is not the network’s crowned jewel of crime. I think that title belongs to the staggering Narcos. But Ozark with its muted hues, small-time criminals, big-time wannabes and conglomerate-sized drug lords comes at the heels of it. When we signed off from the series last night, the missus made an interesting observation that it bears similarities with the seminal Breaking Bad. She is right… Walter White’s journey to the Dark Side stems from a wrath against fate, and the world was gifted with one of the most outstanding anti-heroes. But Marty Byrde’s journey down the dark rabbit hole comes from a place of careful consideration and his resourcefulness at self-preservation while playing a numbers game.

Ozark is money laundering 101 and it opens with a monologue that is IMHO the gold standard of beginnings. Jason Bateman under-plays Marty with a quirky demeanour and he is most compellingly watchable when he is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. How he talks himself out of any situation and comes up with cockamamie schemes to suck unsuspecting victims in is a twisted joy to behold. Laura Linney’s Wendy is also his equal and slips into a co-conspirator role with ease and necessity. Her arc sailing from indignation to realisation borders on the satirical. This is a crime series with no good characters, zilch, every character, even the children, is all manners of perversity and vileness, but the cool thing is that you are going to start rooting for the scumbags.

The plot isn’t propulsive but the Byrdes’ wiggling out of impossible situations make for compelling viewing. There are not many weak episodes except perhaps that extended flashback one which examines the characters’ initial motivations and how they become who they are later in the game. That was the only gimmicky episode that pulled the relentless pace at that point to a standstill with not much added value. In terms of characters, I couldn’t stand Charlotte’s whiny nature and her sudden outbursts which sounded like cliches. Her arc just doesn’t feel convincing, but Jonah’s character is refreshing and he is already one step into psychopath territory. The revelation here for me is Julia Garner’s Ruth Langmore, a young criminal in-the-making with an eye out for the future, a fascinating character.

Ozark does a great job of examining the psychology, sociology and economics of crime and feels like a doorway into the nefarious world of drug cartels and money laundering. IMHO it doesn’t hit the top tier which is occupied by ground-breakers like Breaking Bad, The Wire and The Sopranos, but it deservedly resides on the shelf just below that, and that is definitely not a bad place to be in.

Time to check into the last resort and trust me… don’t drink that seemingly revivifying thirst-quenching lemonade offered by the host no matter what.

Rating 4 / 5