Basement Medicine

“Ozark” puts the South in your mouth

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In the social media-driven era we currently live in, it’s rare for a television series to slip through the cracks of the relentless internet hype machine. From the moment a new show is announced, it is seemingly dissected from every possible angle—from the cast to the directors and producers, and even the channel or streaming service it will air on.

Yet somehow, Netlfix’s 2017 release of is original drama series “Ozark” did exactly that, coasting under the radar of worldwide web. Sure, there were trailers so be viewed here-and-there, but it was a far cry from the level of publicity we are accustomed to getting jammed down our gullets for every new release, especially from a streaming service.

Admittedly, I was skeptically intrigued at first. “Ozark” appeared to be a retread of the “Breaking Bad” template. An unassuming protagonist with a normal life is thrust into the world of cartel crime and is forced to use his intellect to save the lives of everyone he loves. Although hardly an original plot, I’ll watch anything that evokes the name of one of the most successful and critically acclaimed shows of all-time (as well as my personal favorite).

Upon closer examination, “Ozark” is so much more than a cheap knockoff. Once you remove yourself from the surface similarities, the show shines through incredible character development and cunning plot twists, all the while maintaining a sense of “Breaking Bad” nostalgia.

The series revolves around Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman), a Chicago financial planner who relocates his family to the Missouri Ozarks following a failed money laundering scheme involving a Mexican drug cartel. A master of manipulation and the ultimate bullshitter, Marty convinces the cartel that his new home is lucrative enough for him to atone for his sins by “cleaning” $500 million in five years. If he doesn’t, then he and his family are dead.

To do so, Marty and his wife Wendy (Laura Linney) must gain control of as many legitimate businesses as possible to cycle the money through while avoiding the detection of the FBI. Both are highly intelligent people, but the plan was truly a dire, last-ditch effort that neither are prepared to actually execute.

Predictably, the Byrde’s struggle to gain a foothold in the Ozarks as the pressure from the cartel continues to mount. Marty is ceaselessly scheming but can never seem to satisfy the demands of his criminal overlords. Becoming increasingly desperate, he eventually is forced into partnerships with some of the more felonious locals.

These partnerships usher two key families into the plot of “Ozark”—the Langmores and the Snells.

The Langmores are primarily petty criminals, rarely involved in anything too heinous, but always seeking easy money to get them out of their impoverished lifestyle. Their de facto leader is 19-year old Ruth (Julia Garner), who is one of the most powerful and dynamic characters in the series and quickly entrenches herself within the Byrdes’ enterprises.

The Snells, on the other hand, are a founding family of Osage Beach whose authority over the area’s illegal activities make them a force to be reckoned with for the Byrdes. Depending on how they’re approached, the family could be a tremendous ally or lethal adversary. Just be sure to call them hillbillies, and not rednecks, the difference is life and death to the Snells.

As the Byrdes battle to keep their money laundering act afloat, they must navigate through their hazardous new relationships, drifting ever further from their former morals. How can they possibly pull off their plan for the cartel? Even if they do, will they ever actually be free from the cartel’s rule?

With the Aug. 31 release of its second season, “Ozark” now has 20 episodes available on Netflix, all with a runtime of 60 minutes plus. The inaugural season is quite the ride, and the enthralling madness only escalates during season two.

“Ozark” currently has a rating of 8.3/10 on imdb.com from over 75,000 user reviews.

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“Ozark” puts the South in your mouth