What would you not do to save your family? Would you agree to go launder drug money in the sleepy lakeside town of Ozark for a Mexican cartel? Would you lie to the FBI because you were already complicit? Would you start killing if it then turned out you were treading on the toes of local poppy-growers and about to start a narcowar? What would you not do?
It all starts small for the humble accountant from Chicago Marty Byrde (played excellently by Jason Bateman), whose business partner has been skimming from the cartel. Marty only avoids being executed with some very quick talking and fast thinking. He convinces the cartel that he can increase their profits if they let him launder money down in the south. He’s given 24hrs to uproot his whole family and relocate to Ozark. He then has one month to clean $8m – which proves to be far more difficult than he made it sound. But his troubles are only just beginning…
I’ll stop on the plot there, to avoid spoilers. Besides, as you might glean from the above, this brilliantly dark Netflix series (actually, there are two full seasons already available) is about how ‘good’ people can be led into dark deeds by making a series of small and apparently trivial compromises. It is also very much about how the small lies that people tell (ostensibly to protect others) are actually born from a selfish place and inevitably end up hurting people far more than they protect them.
Some might find Ozark too dark, brutal or lacking in a ‘moral centre’, but for me the show rings true. Nothing is black and white. Everything is morally grey. This is today’s world or, if not the whole world, then definitely Trump’s America. The show is satirical, funny, tragic, delightful, surreal and terrifying all at the same time.
Things happen that seem random… except they’re not. The events always come from decisions made by people. People sometimes make their decisions in good faith, only then to realise they’ve made a mistake. Other people make their decisions in deliberate bad faith. Who tends to win out?
The random events reveal themselves to have been planned throughout. There is genius at work in the writing of Ozark. The twists and turns are surprising, shocking, awe-inspiring and disorienting. We question reality and hold tighter and tighter as we feel it slipping through our fingers. Insanity and the loss of control are but moments away. We dare not look away in case we miss something vital to sense and survival. Utterly compelling. Go watch it. It scores 9.5 out of 10 from me! (Not 10, because I’m scared what that would mean.)